With my ticking of North Yorkshire nearing completion, this was the final time I'd be able to tackle it alone on a Thirsty Thursday ™ before I'm forced to say 'Daaaad, can you drive me to X, Y & Z thank you very much?'.
I'm honing the Thirsty Thursday routine to perfection now. Waking up at normal work time (give or take half an hour, normally 'take'), I do my weights, go for a jog, have a bracing shower, and then undo some of that hard work with a modest Full English, which as you can see, I'm still perfecting .....
And if you don't think hash browns belong on this plate, I make no apologies, I've seen some people have peas on theirs!
Then, I brave the arctic winds and head down to York station. Today, we have to change at L**ds. Always the saddest kind of change.
|The weak lemon drink looms tall over KLO|
As if to accentuate the ridiculously vast area which North Yorkshire encompasses, last week found me practically in the North Sea at Robin Hood's Bay, this week I'm going so far west, I'm on the Cumbrian border.
The plan was always to 'alight' (love that word) at Bentham and walk nearly 1.25 hours towards Ingleton, until some last minute checks revealed that if I instead hop off at Giggleswick, I could speed walk to the village and catch a bus.
I ended up jogging for the most part, paranoid bus might arrive early. Well it did, by one minute. So I was delighted to make it. But in a total pisstakery turn of events, the bus ignores the route shown on Google Maps and heads down in the direction I'd come from, straight past the station! Grrrr.
No harm done, I'm on it.
First thing I see when I get off the bus are a load of schoolkids being debriefed for one of those horrific 'outdoor' activity days involving rafting, caving, abseiling and the like. The kind of things that gives me horrible flashbacks to my schooldays. Whoever said your schooldays are the best days of your life must've led a pretty awful adulthood!
With the Ingleton pub not opening til 2pm, I head 17 minutes out of the village towards the remote village of Thornton-in-Lonsdale. There are some spectacular views as I cross a river, and head directly under a railway viaduct where little condominiums are dotted about.
A sheep baas in my face when I lean over a fence to say 'hi', then an uphill walk through what feels like a wind tunnel, and puffing and panting, I reach the pub nestling prettily next to the church ......
|Incredible sign that either deserves commendation or ridicule|
Marton Arms, Thornton-in-Lonsdale (2041 / 3604) is the name, and in highlighting this one green, I guess you can say I've retired Marton. Sorry. Anyway, I walk into a near empty pub and the lovely landlady greets me, and I order a Handsome Osprey, which is an ale and not a good looking bird of prey if you wondered. I apologise for her being in my 'action shot' of the ceremonial BRAPA pint pulling (how sorry I actually am, you can decide) and she says she didn't notice so we joke about my guilty conscience. She asks if I'm out walking, which I suppose I am, but I casually drop in that I'm ticking off every pub in the GBG, which she seems vaguely tickled by. The only other customers are this trio of gigglers (not sure they are from Giggleswick, but they laugh a lot) and they apologise for blocking the fire. Realising I'm sweating, I tell them to please block it off cos I'm boiling from the walk. "Corr, but we walked here too and we are still cold!" they reply with a giggle, to which I want to say 'you obviously didn't walk as fast as me, ya knobheads' but worried it'd be rude, I simply giggle back and put KLO on the table in a passive aggressive manoeuvre. Their chat is insane. Addams Family becomes Adam Sandler movies becomes collapsed bladders becomes the Data Protection act, in some very fast moving subject changes. The pub itself doesn't quite do it for me. The tinkling lounge music and almost total lack of soft furnishings are perhaps understandable for a pub that's decided it needs to rely on the foodie trade, but it's all a touch open and airy. My ale too, superb for the first half, suddenly hits a wall half way down and is quite vinegary by the end. Giggle trio leave with a cheery goodbye, a fabulous waistcoated camp chap appears "I hear you are ticking off the pubs!" he says. News travels fast in here! After a nice two minute chat, I'm ready to go too. Good folk in here, it really can save a pub can't it?
|No clutching at straws needed, top folk in here|
|KLO less giggly than the gigglers|
I retrace my steps, and then some, down to the main road on where my Ingleton pub is situated. It looks a bit drab and grey, and I see the dreaded 'Eat. Sleep. Drink' sign, a chain that from Mousehole to Upper Upnor, and beyond, has never provided a quality BRAPA experience. Yet ......
With zero expectations, always the best default setting to enter a new pub with, I'm actually delighted with my short time spent in Masons, Ingleton (2042 / 3605) , warm, cosy, infinitely pubbier than the Marton, but with similarly friendly staff and happy punters. Busy too, always nice to see 2pm on a chilly Thursday in early Feb. Ordering my pint of 'Glacier', I comment it seems fitting considering how icy that wind has got over the past couple of hours. The barmaid makes a bold presentiment that we haven't see the last of this winter, and it'll bite us on the bottom quite unexpectedly. She adds that her brother is a farmer, and it is at this time of year, she feels sorry for his little lambs. He often gives her the 'special' ones as pets! By now, I'm hoping I don't looking too impatient for her to pass over my pint, for I've recently noticed a bus I'd not previously noted is heading to Kirkby Lonsdale in about 20 minutes. Suddenly, my original plan to squeeze in one Kirkby Lons tick could become two, maybe even the full three! I settle myself down, where an old local is excitable cos he has just learned that a young stranger has just come back from a tour of Dublin, and demands to know how much a pint of Guinness is. It'd be so easy to get into further conversation here, and relax too much, so I really have to will myself to keep my eye on the prize (the clock and my pint) and shut myself off to external factors (which isn't really the BRAPA way!) Ooof, still it is all gonna be worth it I can have a more productive KL experience. A surprisingly good pub, one I'd recommend.
Another page done, I return my glass with a hasty 'goodbye, thank you!' and can feel the ale sloshing around in my stomach as I run down the road to the nearby bus stop.
Of course, the bus is five minutes delayed. Just enough to put added pressure on my Kirkby L ticking quest.
We cross the border into Cumbria, and just like earlier, the bus doesn't take the route showing on Google Maps and we stop on the side of the road I wasn't expecting, which makes me nervous for getting out of here later!
I decide to get the 'outlier' done first, though in truth, even this pub is only about five minutes walk from the bus stop ......
|Prince Charles gives the stout a sniff|
Orange Tree, Kirkby Lonsdale (2043 / 3606) and there's a real BRAPA trend with pubs called the 'Orange Tree'. First Winchmore Hill, then Baldock, now here. And that trend is, you walk in, and are almost blown away by the interior, and your initial impression is 'isn't this lovely, pub of the year material' but then, as the 27.5 mins creeps away, you find yourself feeling it isn't all it is cracked up to be. This place, with one of the most majestic pub carpets I've ever seen (and I've been in a lot of 'Spoons!) and a series of glorious booths, snob screens, and just really quality dark deep wood fittings, if you're a pub lover like me you're kind of purring at this point. But then, you've got three quarters of the pub laid out for dining with knives, forks, I'm the only customer, the barmaid seems bored, but would rather spend it on her phone than chat. Fair enough, I'm tight for time after all so happy to retreat to the corner. With work chucking out time now upon us, a few people meander in to enquire about bookings, food, have a swift lemonade, but no one stays. I find it all kind of depressing. This should be fantastic. Why isn't it? Perhaps tellingly, someone on my Twitter comments that of a high staff turnover here (and decent folk he knows personally) because the landlady is notoriously difficult to work for. Interesting! It'd explain a fair bit. The ale is good, and I return my glass. She finally looks up and says 'bye'. I tell her "I'm just going to the loo again first ..... sorry, you didn't need to know that!" which at least gets a chuckle. I felt like that was an important way to end my time here.
I actually leave the pub five minutes later than I'd planned, doing my mental maths to try and achieve the other three and still safely catch the bus. Almost makes me wish I was one of those half pint drinkers. Not really, I'm not a monster!
As it turns out, it is all irrelevant. It is 4:23pm. Note the sign ......
.... I realise the pub door is firmly locked, in total darkness, not a soul in sight. Why advertise 4pm so specifically and then not stick to it?
Having said that, after what I'd experience in Woburn the following Saturday, I guess it isn't beyond the realms that some extenuating circumstances have prevented them opening. Either that, or they are slack lazy arses. I guess we'll never know.
In a weird way, I'm relieved. It has taken the pressure off, I could now go to my final Kirkby tick, closest to the bus stop, and relax a bit. Seems weird I know to put a positive spin on a pub closure, especially not on a train route miles from home, but if I'd ever be ambivalent about an unexpected pub closure, this was the time.
The next pub very much was open thankfully ......
Brewery Taps eh? BRAPA history tells me not to expect a lot. Usually chilly, often pongy, a two bit basic one roomer, plenty of metal, seats made out of a thin plank of wood flung across two empty beer kegs. A bearded bloke with no social skills in a thick winter coat, bobble hat and fingerless gloves sells you a pint of unknown murk, illegible beer names handwritten on tiny chalkboards, graffiti on the walls in the closest you'll get to decor, a lock up garage door rattling in the wind letting a draft in, a group of customers huddled together, refusing to complain because they are too cool to feel discomfort, and besides, they can check in three thirds of unique beer on Untappd and that's what they are here for, beer. Nothing else. Beer is all that matters.
So isn't it a thrill when you find a brewery tap like Royal Barn, Kirkby Lonsdale (2044 / 3607). No expense spared, pulling out all the stops, nicely designed, warm, staff who are switched on and friendly, dare I say 'professional'? I'd use the word knowledgeable, but all I asked was where the loos are. Though in Offf the Rails, Four Marks, they didn't even know that! First thing that catches my eye is a weird hologram of a fireplace, and I'm thinking 'what the heck is this?' but the sheer volume of people in here compared to Orange Tree tells you everything you need to know about where the power lies in the Kirkby Lonsdale ale scene. After a couple of minutes thinking 'am I gonna have to perch at the bar for the duration?' I spy a spiral staircase leading up to an additional seating area. I clutch the rope like I'm on an 18th century frigate, and find a table free like it was fated. This place has such echoes of the also fabulous 'Dancing Man, Southampton', you had to commend it. Dim lights add to the atmosphere, and a pair of lads who if you listened into their chat in Rugeley would be discussing 'Premier League accumulators' , where discussing fine dining, chilli nuts and other culinary 'delights'. One of the lads' had these floral trousers on which you had to respect him leaving the house with these on, I hope I would! A dog is snuffling about behind me, oddly transfixed on the staircase, whimpering. I'm imagining it can see a Pirate Ghost. It's that kind of place. But the owner tells me no, he's waiting for 'Mum' to return. Cracking place this, Kirkby Lonsdale had been redeemed in one great pub.
The bus DID turn up on the side of the road I was waiting , thankfully. I told this young lad about my worries, but he was actually quite snooty with me, so it was very funny when he confidently boarded the bus in front of me and the driver told him he was on the wrong one!
I hopped off at Wennington station, and after a 25 minute wait which felt like about 2 hours, my train turned up and took me home via lovely Lds, nice and trouble free.
Four ticks, which even with the failure, was more than I'd expected when I woke up this morning.
See you Wednesday for tales of an overly ambitious day in rural Hertfordshire.