Wednesday 29 December 2021


Thursday 16th December would be the final Thirsty Thursday ™  of 2021, and wouldn't it be a morale booster to complete my first county of the 2022 Good Beer Guide before the year was out?  

I turned to my most successful BRAPA county, West Yorkshire, in order to achieve this, having fully 'greened' it every year since 2016.  

I'd put in the hard yards (literally) the previous week on the outskirts of Oxenhope, so tonight's remaining duo should be a walk in the park in comparison.  Both on train routes, even though it is probably easier for me nowadays to get to Newcastle after work than our first location, Todmorden.  

Two to go!  We can do this

A cancelled train meant I needed to change at Hebden Bridge rather than L**ds to stay on track.  Ah, Hebden Bridge, a town I marvel at every time I visit.  It never disappoints.  By which I mean, the stereotype of a town full of ghost loving, hemp weaving, arts and craft centric vegan lesbians is always adhered to.  Purely for my amusement, I assume. 

But surely standing on a train platform for twenty minutes until my connecting service arrives was not likely to yield further Hebby B blog material.  

Wrong!  Try within seconds of stepping off the first train, onto Hebden soil......

A fabulous local lady with felt jacket and a hairstyle that put her anywhere in the age range of 18-66 bounds across me to her red jacketed male friend.  She is carrying a rather splendid vintage antique lamp and a refurbished portrait, which you may vaguely be able to squint at above.  She gives him the old 'show and tell' treatment, laughs a lot, and I eat my mini cheddars, look to the heavens, and thank Hebden Bridge for delivering yet again.

Once on the connecting train, one short stop to Todmorden, they sit across from me.  When the ticket inspector comes down, he comments on the splendid lamp.  To which our red jacketed hero replies "it makes this train journey feel a lot more like the Orient Express".  

He's reached too far, and he knows it.  His lady friend and the ticket inspector fall silent.  I glance across sympathetically, trying to convey an expression which says "nice effort mate, but the lack of support you have received is fully justified".  

They both hop off at Tod in front of me, and disappear down the steps, one of 2021's finest BRAPA cameos complete.

Todmorden is a town I've visited twice before.  My first visit in 2013, was a triumph.  Strangers said hello in the street.  A long walk to an atmospheric craggy valley with gushing water cascading down on each side led me to a cracking dinery pub called Staff of LifeMasons Arms was similarly great, friendly too, I then bought some bottles of stout in a weird pink boutique shop, and the not so good but brilliantly named Polished Knob completed a fantastic Sunday afternoon before the replacement bus home.

But in terms of pub names at least, Tod has gone full 'magnolia' in recent years.  First, 'the Pub' (yawn!) and now an Alehouse!  Where's the originality in naming new pubs these days?  You don't have to go the full Antic 'Wolverine Bumhouse' but a bit of originality wouldn't go amiss. 

I didn't enjoy 'the Pub' last time out, zero friendliness as I drank a decent ale against a damp inner stone wall whilst walkers came and went.  My illusions of Todmorden as one of the friendliest places ever had been shattered.  Could today restore my faith in the town? 

I made hard work of finding the entrance, trying to disappear down a side street and accidentally visit Madam Vanity (oo err)  when it was on the main road.  

Alehouse, Todmorden (1977 / 3540) was a twinkling, slightly kitsch modern affair, not really in-keeping with the clientele braving the arctic conditions with pints and fags on the astroturf out t'front.  "Ey up pal" they all turn and greet me as a push my way through the slightly off putting large glass entrance, fine of course if you like drinking in a night time goldfish bowl!  I receive a warm welcome from the landladies, plus another 'ey up pal!' from the main #Pubman here, stood at the bar moaning to anyone who'll listen about Covid football cancellations.  Happenings at Burnley and Manchester Utd are particularly infuriating him, confirming my suspicions that despite being in West Yorkshire, Todmorden is actually a frustrated East Lancashire town in disguise.  The Ilkley Stout is glorious & most welcome, mine host initially asks if I want to drink it outside!  Hardier than a York softie like me, these Tod folk.  The buzz of local radio permeates the room, and I press myself against the warm radiator, eager to eke out as much warmth as possible.  When a teenage girl arrives, she plonks herself down moodily next to her Grandad, and wraps herself in a blanket to guard against the cold, which causes some mirth.  "You cold?" he asks her, and deserves the sarcastic reply he receives.  Our #Pubman has found a kindred spirit against the odds.  "They may as well scrap the whole Premier League season now!" he barks across the room.  A happy, friendly place, and an experience that went a long way to restoring my faith in Tod as a top town.


The train takes me a few stops closer to home, where I alight at Brighouse for the 'big one'.  The geography of the town immediately comes back to me, crossing the river, past the petrol station, turn left onto the main drag, where the pub is smiling back at me, all sort of blue and foxy.

To be totally truthful, I'd seen the 'craft beer bar and bottle shop' sign and thought 'ey up, here we go again, modern GBG craft city!'  But I was wrong, and so are you.  Crafty Fox, Brighouse (1978 / 3541) has deceptive depths, both figuratively and literally.  It has a warm beery atmosphere, plenty of friendly eyes briefly rest on me, but it is still reassuring to see one of my favourite #Pubmen I've met through this whole BRAPA schtick, Chris Dyson, propping up the bar, acknowledging me.  He's chatting to a friendly looking chap with a surprisingly odd name I can't remember like Denzil, Ermintrude, Golly or Fonzy.  Chris offers to buy me a pint, I ask what is drinking well, he says the Neepsend Blonde.  I love not having to make beer decisions.  #PubMan.  I go for a wee, surprised how large this place is, including a spacious upstairs area where two ghosts are playing Connect 4.  Back downstairs, Chris spots a father/son duo he knows (apparently, there is an entire army of brothers who all go out drinking together, like a pubby version of the 80's kids show Johnny Briggs crossed with Peaky Blinders).  Chris tells me this Brighouse/Elland corridor is even more his domain than Halifax.  When I comment that he knows everyone, he says not true, but as if to prove me right, a blousey lady scurries past, being pulled along by a daughter and five dogs, and tries to enlist Chris is some local activity.  Our two new drinking companions miss a bus (due to my wonderful company), but scurry off later to Nandos and/or another pub / bus (it was hard to hear in these busy acoustics!) so I pass the Chris the Green Stabilo and GBG, and he doesn't hesitate, completing the tick with the confidence of a seasoned Daddy BRAPA style ticker. #PubMan  It is fitting Chris should do the final greening this year, without his Halifax pre-emptive knowledge, there is no way I'd have done Meandering Bear or Kobenhavn ahead of time.  And like Leon Foster in Ponte Carlo last summer, it's always nice for the leading men to get their BRAPA glory moment!   The final piece in this joyous 35 minute session happens when Chris introduces me to Georgia, bar manager extraordinaire, not barmaid or landlady (I explain I have to get it right as I've got in trouble before!)  She is the daughter of the owners, making it a family run affair - suddenly this warm homely atmosphere make perfect sense.  I've seen it before.  Like at the Wonston Arms.  A good pub always starts with good people, and the customers take their cue from this, and although it is a subconscious thing, raise their own standards accordingly, like actors in a good stage production or a football team lifted by a sudden roar from their own fans.  But hey, I've wanged on long enough, this is almost turning into a thesis on pub culture so I'll stop now.  The only fact that matters ..... West Yorkshire : completed it mate.  

I hop back on the train, home via L**ds, pull out the Good Beer Guide, and for a few moments, I admire the fully green sight of West Yorkshire, feeling all self satified.  

That is, until I refresh my Twitter feed and Mr Martin 'RetiredMartin' RM Taylor replies to tell me he completed West Yorkshire ahead of me, a matter of hours ago.  Gah!


Ta for reading, and join me tomorrow, for the 'happy part' of a two-parter in and around Tamworth.