If I'm to get a fully green Lancashire before the next Good Beer Guide comes out in October, I realised I'd have to start tackling a few more outlandish #ThirstyThursdays post haste.
No better place to start than that awkward south westerly corner bordering Merseyside, where one of my letter "A's", Aughton, lay in wait. I like a good alphabeti spaghetti strategy (ASS) when it comes to BRAPA, so if you live in a town in Lancs beginning with the letter A or B, time to batten down the hatches pronto, as I'll probably be invading soon.
'Twas a snowy morning as we crossed the Pennines. Starbotton seemed a long time ago.
I could've probably travelled via Preston, but in a moment of madness, I booked a £60 return ticket to Liverpool Lime St , walked to Central, and took that funny yellow Metro style train all the way to the end of the line at Ormskirk.
Ah, Ormskirk. The town where I nearly spent my University years. Yes, I did so badly in my A-levels, Sunderland rang me to say my services would no longer be required, like a released out of contract fourth division striker. So I had to 'go through clearing'. This involved picking up a chunky UCAS directory, and phoning anywhere that sounded desperate.
Edge Hill College was one of those places .... "we actually prefer to call ourselves a University these days" says the chirpy lady down the crackly 1997 landline. I apologise, and she offers me a place. Cue much relief in the Everitt household and I was allowed to take my dunces hat off and hop off the naughty step.
However, a few days later, out of the blue whilst working my summer job in L**ds, a phone call on a crackly 1997 landline told me Sunderland want me after all! The modern day me would've probably told the dodgy mackems where to stick it, but I had my heart set on the place after a reet bonny open day there, so I accepted, rang Edge Hill to apologise, I think the cleaner answered, and said not to worry.
Anyway, is this a pub blog or my autobiography?
Ormskirk seemed obsessed with these funny little gingerbread men. I don't know if this the town in which they originate. My first pub had one too.
Cricketers, Ormskirk (2136 / 3699) looks a good sturdy boozer on paper, situated at a busy road junction, but it never convinced. Despite being literally seconds after 12 noon, I had to wait for a group of eight students to take photos of the gingerbread cricketer, and giggle a bit. I follow them in through a side door resembling a hotel reception area, where they announce they've booked a table for lunch. There were already plenty of oldies sat down having their orders taken. I shuffle to the bar, half wondering if a 'pubbier' room exists elsewhere, and the guy seems stumped (pardon the pun) when I tell him I just want a pint. 'Can I open a tab for you?' he asks, I tell him I'd rather pay now. I sit at the quieter far end, a pretty bland interior, though the RedWillow is drinking as well as it often does, very well kept. Soon an old lady in a scooter navigates herself into a space next to me, assisted by her husband, we exchange awkward grunts of acknowledgement, and I try and look as anonymous as anyone can with an otter and a GBG on their table. As the dynamic duo's food comes out, that is my queue to leave, I grunt 'enjoy your meals' and shuffle off, via direction of the loos.
|Effortlessly drinkable - good stuff|
|The 'pub' at large|
Time to head out to something a bit more awkward, my one remaining westerly outlier in this area.
An infuriating ten minute bus delay meant that rather than have a speedy 25 minute pint, I'd now have to nurse my drink, perhaps even have a second, due to the hourly bus coming back into Ormskirk.
An old farmer was sat outside with his pint of Guinness despite the icy chill in the air, and the location was deliciously rural .......
But if I was to be 'stranded' in any pub for longer than I'd want, then the Heatons Bridge Inn, Scarisbrick (2137 / 3700) would be it. One of my favourites of the entire month of March, and there were plenty to choose from! A group of old boys in the front bar are having a whale of a time. Just the Tetley's or Wainwright on, it'll do me, I've enjoyed Tets a lot recently and it was superb in here. I take my pint around the corner, to a welcoming area with comfy benches, facing a roaring fire. A fish tank creates a natural partition between myself and the bar, meaning I can smuggle my Keto based snacks without fear of being noticed. Oh, and did I mention KLO got very excited by the sight of fish swimming around? I had to tell him to behave, they are not part of our lunchtime plans! Occasionally, a bloke pops through a mysterious door with a few more logs to keep the fire roaring. We have a few words about the benefits of being warm, and I go back for another half of the Tetley's to get me through to bus departure time, which is due three minutes early according to the live bus times. Cracking boozer this, couldn't be much different from the Cricketers in terms of style.
|Blind sooty - always the sign of a classic|
Back in Ormskirk, one of those pesky gingerbread men was now posing as a travel agent. Maybe there's just the one, and he keeps following me around putting different costumes on, trying to freak me out? Or is that BRAParanoia (actually, that doesn't work, looks like bra paranoia).
Onto my final of the two Ormskirk GBG entries (or so I thought .....)
No sooner had I walked through the doors at Tap Room No 12, Ormskirk (2138 / 3701), I realised I'd made a potential boo-boo. I recognised it, or at least I recognised the shape of it and the old fashioned bottles behind little grills on the right hand wall. I asked the barman if this place used to have a different name. A distant look came into his eyes and he confirmed this place did in fact used to be called the Hop Inn Bier Shop which I visited as a pre-emptive in 2013 on an 'O is for Ormskirk' day as part of 'Si's A-Z Aleway Adventures' - the precursor to BRAPA. It made the GBG in 2015. Now, a bearded young lad was sat in MY former seat and I glared at him, reckoning he probably was a schoolkid when I visited last. I perched on a high stool opposite and Johnny Rotten's Elvis snarl captured my mood perfectly. Funny thing was, the refurbishment was a lot nicer than the old place, redder, warmer more homely. It felt a bit too 'wine bar' back then. And the Thirst Class was drinking well. A smiley old couple with a dog proved this place wasn't just for the Ormskirk yoof, I guess, as time goes on and I do more pub ticks, I'll have more incidents like this. I suspect it happens to the Martin Taylor's of this world quite regularly. Never mind, it didn't feel a total waste. Onto the next!
|You're in my seat you monster!|
|More pub than wine bar|
|Friendly doggie duo|
|Throwback to my 2013 visit, sadly no pictures of pub visit seem to exist|
The beauty of pub ticking is you just cannot predict how things are going to go.
I'd never have believed you, if on the train over, you'd popped up and said 'Si, you are going to enjoy something called Tap Room No 12 much more than the Cricketers, even though you've actually been before!' And then I'd be like 'why are you on my train mate, it makes no sense'.
Back on the train towards Liverpool then, and just a couple of stops to a place called 'Town Green', where if you stride it out at some sort of pace, you can reach today's key BRAPA tick in Aughton in around 20 minutes.
High on my agenda for quite a while now, Stanley Arms, Aughton (2139 / 3702) was a very satisfying tick to get done, and it helped that it was the only real challenger to Heatons Bridge for pub of the day, though probably just falling short. One of those rarities that have much food going on, but somehow manage to retain a pure pubby hubbub, the carpet of course being a great help. All life was here, as I peered into a gap between jolly bar blocking 'scousers' (the accents seemed stronger here but being in Lancs, they may resent the allegation). An army of beautiful barmaids all fight over who would be first to serve me - or at least, that is how my 3-pint brain decided to view it, the Neptune Ezili is drinking fabulously, and I sit at a small table in the main area, witnessing the strange way everyone was sat on bar stools, and how busy the kitchen was for 3pm on a Thursday. My phone signal was close to zero inside so I couldn't check how long I needed to give myself to walk back to Town Green to catch this train. Better not be tardy. Down the hatch! Glug, glug. glug.
To make matters worse, seconds after leaving the pub, the sky suddenly went very dark and a huge hailstorm started. I realised I'd given myself just about enough time to catch this train. But I end up stopping and chatting to a lady out walking her dog about the weather, as we Brits love to do. It cannot have been more than a thirty second chat, but I soon found myself have to jog intermittently to make this train. Puffing and blowing, I race around the corner for the station, and make it with one minute to spare!
It'd be nice to be back in York for reasonable o'clock, what with work the following day, so if I was to have a pint in Liverpool, it'd ideally be something close to Central or Lime Street.
Four ticks were needed in the city, three of them fitting the 'close to Central' description, the closest being this .....
I've not got a lot to say about Head of Steam, Liverpool (2140 / 3703), it was functional, cavernous, the staff were efficient, and pop punk from the early noughties echoed around the place. I wondered why, at work chucking out time, it wasn't even remotely busy. I'd ordered a Ossett & Roosters Coconut Porter, well kept n all, I don't dislike coconut like a lot of people, but this just had that weird Sorachi taste which I can't abide in beers. Cat piddle. Despite having never tasted cat piddle. I've lived with enough cats, one blind, many scared of their own shadows, who like piddling in inappropriate places, so yes, I would consider myself something of a Cat Piddle Connoisseur - which funnily enough is the name of the new Antic pub in St Helens opening 3 hours a week. Head of Steam's used to excite me in the early days, well I liked the one in Newcastle & Durham at least, and Huddersfield, but the more recent ones like Hull n Sheffield, and now this, sort of leave me cold. Though the new L**ds one on Park Row I do like. Anyway, I've waffled enough in the absence of anything constructive to say. Story of my life.
So that was all very fun, a nice 'foot in the door' on my Lancs Thirsty Thursday quest.
I will be back same time tomorrow to try and make sense of a 9 pub epic in Windsor, Clewer Village, Maidenhead, Reading & Caversham. Don't expect great levels of detail or insight!
Take care, Si