Tuesday 31 May 2022

BRAPA is ...... LEYLAND DAFT! Outer Preston Part 3 of 4


My last Thirsty Thursday for quite some time.  

Sad times, but I've purposefully decided not to do anything on Jubilee Thursday unless I have a late change of heart, and work have asked me to work the following two due to 'staffing issues'.

I've agreed to because ya know what, I'm a team player! (Oh, and they're gonna give me a Wed n Fri in July so I'm thinking 'long BRAPA weekend woohoo'). 

It was an early train over t' Pennines, I needed my Arctic coffee to wake me up, squally rain was bouncing off the windows by the time we reached Burnley Manchester Rerd.

The plan was to get to Preston, wait 40 minutes for the Ormskirk train to take me to Rufford, from where I could catch a bus to one of my more awkward outliers, the Eagle & Child at Bispham Green.

Best laid plans eh?  Myself and the five other passengers are firstly told the train is delayed.  And then we are told it is going straight through to Ormskirk, not stopping anywhere else.  Fuming!  I'm already peed off that the other five passengers all amiably chat to each other, but leave me out!  AND they all were going to Ormskirk so were totally unaffected by the announcement.

Time to think on my feet.  Adaptability was a weakness of mine pre-BRAPA, but something I've honed over the years.  

Bamber Bridge is a 12 noon opener, and only a short bus ride away, so I leg it over to Preston's gigantic bus station, frantically texting Preston pub royalty, Matthew Lawrenson, re the change of plan as he's once again braving the BRAPA invasion.

Little do I know, he's nursing a pint in the famous Black Horse, so when he hears of my bus time, he necks what he can and races over, Indy 500 style, just managing to catch the same bus.  I HAD heard a heavy breathing behind me, but had assumed it was the local sex pest.  Preston surely has one.  Matt's lungs have not been the same since Covid, and the run hasn't done him any good, this cough doesn't sound clever.  Question is, would you wanna die in this next pub?

 minimalistic micropubs of minimum comfort, character or money spent on them are fast becoming de rigueur for my quest to complete the 'outer Preston' GBG set. I'm a tad disappointed.  After all, I'd always associated this part of the world with fab boozers.  Beer Box, Bamber Bridge (2222 / 3784) isn't 'rubbish', I just cannot imagine wanting to stay here for a session even if I wasn't a ticker.  Could this really be a Prisoner Cell Block H themed ale we're about to order?  'He Used to Bring me Roses'.  Funny because Prisoner is something me and Matthew both watched and often refer to!  Sir Quinno is the only other pub ticker I know who loved the show.   The landlady seems nice, I'm detecting a much rounder East Lancs accent.  Surely Bamber Bridge is still classed as 'West Lancs'?  Mid at worst.  I have a question for her.  'What the heck has happened to the Brig n' Barrel?'  This is, or was, the other 2022 GBG tick which I noticed ceased to exist as of 6th May.  She tells us it's gone into liquidation, compares it to a former flower shop next door, and suggests they've not been business-savvy enough in the way they've dealt with things.  Interesting!  We sit down, enjoying our ale immensely, but Matthew's cough is getting worse.  At one time, he 'goes to the wall'.  Never a good sign.  I associate 'going to the wall' being like when elderly elephants go into the forest to die.  We get a late moment of drama, as a beer delivery man cannot control his wheely thing and trashes the pub skirting board by the entrance.  'I BET we get the blame' I say to Matthew, when bloke refuses to own up.  Beer Box, if you are reading this, in the words of Shaggy, it wasn't me!

I manage to find a bus which takes us to Leyland (a 1pm opener) so we decide this is a logical next step.  Okay, so it involves talking to a friendly local nutter at the stop, and the bus is delayed and the traffic is backed up because the level crossing is down.

But we soon wend our way, rather painfully around all the housing estates, towards Leyland.  This town is another BRAPA debutant for me.  It has had up to 4 ticks in recent GBGs I've noticed, but only one this year.

Owned by the same folk as Preston's Plug and Taps, one of Matthew's go to pubs, so he knew what to expect here at Market Ale House, Preston (2223 / 3784)  , and like the P&T, it was bigger than you're expecting with lots more gents loos upstairs than you are used to seeing in your average micropub.  Two well oiled blokes must've seen our outdoor photo, and ask if they're in it.  I try zooming it but it is inconclusive.  There was an ESB on, but I (probably wisely) talked myself out of it in favour of some Rivington pale.  We sit in the new extension because we can.  The music is non stop Beautiful South.  Matthew says P& T play them wall to wall (woman in the wall?) too.  And Paul Heaton didn't even put money behind the bar in either pub as part of his grand recent birthday gesture.  Ungrateful!  Before we leave, Matthew goes for a quick chat with Jack the owner, who seems impressed with our attempted elaborate crawl.  Matthew pushes the exit door instead of pulls, so gets sympathy from the nice lady who served us.  So at least we ended with a bit of a flourish.  Oh, and the cough is improving.

Always seems funny to me when micropubs do their own tee shirts, like you'd really really have to love a pub to buy one surely?  Or are there tickers who collect pub merch as a sign they've been?

Swerving the ESB

That's because they are embarrassed they're not as good as Yorkshire crisps

Again we manage to locate a bus that takes us to Croston, without having to go back into Preston, walk to the train station, and wait for that dreaded hourly service.

Funny how days work out isn't it?  I was convinced today would be a full on train fest, but here we were spending the best part of the day on a variety of bus routes.  Some are Stagecoach, some are evil little rickety bastards that won't accept your Lancs daysaver tickets.  I hate public transport.  People bang on about the cost of living crisis but public transport is the biggest, cruellest money making scam in the whole country.   It's cheaper for me to get to Kent than Birmingham, what a racket!  I need a pint. 

It looked innocent and genteel enough from the outside, and the pretty nondescript dining-led interior seemed to support that view, as we made our way to the bar at Wheatsheaf, Croston (2224 / 3785), but we hadn't accounted for one thing ..... Mandy!  They're always called Mandy aren't they?  It is my round so at least Matthew can stand back a bit, whereas I got the full force of it.  Well, we walk straight into her telling what sounds like an incredibly filthy story.  Mandy's daughter, probably in her twenties and with marginally less fake-tan on, is acutely embarrassed and keeps apologising to me.  I tell her I've partially zoned out on not caught the start.  Something about a car dashboard, it sounded a bit Gillian Taylforth if you get my meaning.  "Is that your party trick?" a barmaid asks her.  And I won't repeat Mandy's reply, but it has that point I capture the landlady's expression (see below) as she's pulling our pints.  "I have no filter" Mandy adds proudly, as we're finally allowed to escape to a table a long way away.  I nearly tell them that this will be vaguely captured in a pub blog.   The landlady photo would've won Bloggers Pub Photo of the Year, but it was cruelly overshadowed by RetiredMartin who, live from the Channel Islands, picked up the gong at the exact same time with a shot which looked like it was straight out of a Victorian edition of Punch magazine.

I feel the same.  And in my haste, I miss the Titanic Cappuccino. 

Accidental drip tray shot - evidence of my trauma

Could've been Emberesque if it weren't for the proper Lancs folk

KLO wants the squid

And our ability to keep the ticks coming using unlikely bus routes continued as we found a rare one going on to Hesketh, quite nicely timed and I guess I deserve that bit of luck after the way today started. .

The boring shot

And the amazing one

Unconvincing at best, the classic football chant "you don't know what you're doing!" at worst.  That would be my assessment of trying to get served in Hesketh Arms, Rufford (2225 / 3787), though we timed it badly.  A slim angular well spoken gent is complaining that the staff have messed up his food order.  This seems to throw the entire staff into a spin, and the conclusion is there is suddenly no one at the bar to serve anyone else drinks, as they all run off in a foodie direction.  Matthew's round anyway, so being at my most impatient when I'm waiting for a pint, I go for a wander around the pub and take a couple of photos just so I feel I'm doing something!  Copper Dragon Golden Pippin is the surprise selection, a serene golden fruity dream when I used to first see it in my early days of real ale.  They've gone bust, and risen from the dead, twice.  Unsurprisingly, the beer by now has lost all of its 2005 magic.  But the pub itself had some nice nooks and crannies, carpets, genuine old feel, and staff were smiley when you could locate them.  One of the more pleasant pubs to nurse a pint in of today's selection.

Porky cheddars!

So confused were we by the direction in which the bus was going to Burscough, I took the below photo to help ......

... it didn't, but I was 90% sure we were on the right side, which was the left side.  Though the longer this bus was delayed, the more paranoia started creeping in.  

And the more I needed a wee.  I gambled on rushing back to the pub loos to go again, rushed back to the stop, bus was just coming around the corner.  WOW, I was bloody lucky there.

En route to Burscough, I worked out that if we had a very speedy pint, we could still get the bus back to Preston ......

Luckily, Matthew had been here recently so knew the way ..... down along a canal.  

This isn't the time for amazing action shots Si

Ok, but be quick

A Salopian was ordered in a flourish, thank goodness the barman was poised and ready for us with his steely gaze, unlike the previous Rufford fiasco.  Welcome to the Thirsty Duck, Burscough (2226 / 3788) NOT to be confused with the Thirsty Fish in Bury.  Thirsty Otter next?  A sunny, happy, canalside sort of micro, unremarkable like so many of these Outer Prestons, but did a job, and you can't go wrong with a Salopian in my experience.  It felt like a place to neck a pint and move on, so it worked out quite well, especially as Matthew strategically placed us between toilet and exit for maximum relief!

Delighted to be back at the bus stop ..... but despite our heroics, I soon wondered if we couldn't do this journey back to Preston a little bit smarter?  

Over an hour on a bus (with THIS bladder) when we could instead have a gentle pint in the inviting and pre-emptive looking Hop Vine across the road, and then saunter to Burscough Junction for a quick 27 minute journey, the connection times meaning I could still get the train to York I would anyway?  

No brainer innit when you put it like that!

As soon as we walked in, I recognised the place.  I even recognised the same ale.  "Of course, pub 1657, visited on the 14th December 2019" I muse to an impressed Matthew (not really, he Googled my blog to find out).  This is a cracker.  It was busy at 10am on that freezing December morning with Daddy BRAPA, and the same bustling atmosphere is present today.  No more to say on it unless that if you haven't visited, please do.  Oh, and get it back in the Guide!

But my suburban sportswear went down a treat

And then it was back to Preston, finally making SOME use of the train ticket I'd bought all those hours ago, and a nice uneventful trip back to York.

Join me tomorrow or Thursday for my Month End Review.  The figures are in, there's a 'controversial' announcement, and much moaning about a frustratingly limited first half of June, as I close in on a major landmark.

Take care, Si

Sunday 29 May 2022


Sunday should be a day of rest.  Don't get me wrong, I'm not religious.  I just don't see Sunday as a pub ticking day.  Unless it is part of an epic holiday, in which case all bets are off.

I prefer my Sunday's to be uneventful.  'Cold compress to the head, cucumber slices to the eyes' kind of uneventful.  A chance to reflect that the extra ESB in the Parcel Yard the previous evening wasn't so wise.

Rise at 11am, pop the washing in, do some exercises, water the plants, make a lunch with plenty of fresh veg but never cauliflower, watch David Attenborough talk to otters whilst ironing the BRAPA leisurewear, clean a few surfaces, read a bit of my crime novel, catch up on Neighbours, write a small bit of blog if I can be bothered, make an elaborate late tea, Antiques Roadshow, and bed.  

That's my ideal Sunday.

But sometimes, in extreme circumstances brought about by silly pub opening times in pubs in silly locations with silly lack of public transport, you have no choice but to summon up your Daddy BRAPA and get ticking!

One tick remained in each of North Yorkshire and County Durham.  Only on a Sunday do they open before 6pm.  

First up, the North Yorkshire one, the 12 nooner. 

It didn't look particularly open from the angle we parked at.  A cobwebbed window with a packet of Be-Ro that looked like 1979 vintage had my heart fluttering in panic.  Daddy BRAPA seemed more confident, which is a rarity in these circumstances.

Thankfully, what I hadn't realised that this was a pub in reverse.  The front was the back, and the back was the front.  

Some departing American tourists with a distinctly Milwaukeean air about them chuckled at the above photo, and we entered Lord Nelson Inn, Appleton Wiske (2220 / 3782) , the relief was palpable.  This was the second time I'd finished North Yorkshire.  But even better, I'd completed all four flavours of Yorkshire (North, East, South and extremely bitter .... kidding!) for the first time ever.  I order a beer with a tragic grey Canarf Wharf cityscape on the front, point this out, and one of the many lively ladies working here asks a man "what we doing ordering ale from That London?"  She needn't worry, it's a classy drop.  I survey the scene.  A lone local lady is eating Sunday dinner, she looks like she's done here every Sunday for the last 30 years.  It is an unpretentious honest sort of pub.  Stained glass windows, a deep green carpet, and a pleasing shape, which manages to partially obscure the slightly irritating family with dogs and twild strewn across the floor like a tripping up accident waiting to happen.  This is Daddy BRAPA's first outing with me since THAT Gillingham day, but he and Mummy B have been low-key ticking Gwent on holiday to make me jealous.  They've bought me a holiday souvenir, Brecon the Sheep (nickname Breckie).  He's no Baba Toure, but I introduce him to Col.  Sunday Lunch Lady looks intrigued but her mouth is far too full of Yorkshire puds and roast potatoes to vocalise her opinion on these peculiar pub mascots.

Swooping back in, fresh from Gwent, to claim the decisive tick

Onwards towards rural Teesdale, close to where my Auntie lived before her controversial big money Lancaster transfer.

We're both dying for a wee by the time we arrive and consider driving onto a secluded peeing point because Dad reckons the pub is closed.  Uh oh, it is gone 3pm so it should be open by now! 

But don't panic, Dad has done exactly what Simon Dewhurst did in Braughing yesterday and was looking at the wrong door.  

Full bladder, brave face

The loos are just beyond the end corridor, slightly outside, at the Red Lion, Cotherstone (2221 / 3783) like so many of the best pubs in the country, so we can relieve ourselves before entering the bar area.  Problem is, on returning from the loos, the demanding pub cat Kevin tailgates us.  I'm glad I mention this fact to the owner, because he says some dogs are due in soon so he best get Kevin outta here!  I'd be banning the dogs instead if this were my gaff, but dogs are popular with the masses.  I'd been imagining him (the guv'nor, not Kevin) to be more long in the tooth and loud than he is, a sort of old farmery character who opens the pub on limited occasions under sufferance to appease villagers and walkers.  But he's actually quite young.  Smiley, switched on, engaged, but not a loud bolshy character.  Despite the mild weather outside, it is freezing in here and the roaring fire is most welcome.  I guess that just shows how sturdy and thick the walls of this old building are.  It is a fabulous place, and isn't long before a smattering of tourists, much anticipated dogs and colourful local characters join us.  The Aysgarth Falls is a fine drop, the carpet is everything you'd hope for, and I'm so glad we (well, Daddy BRAPA) made the effort.  Three counties done in one weekend, will I ever beat that in my BRAPA lifetime I wonder?

Big Kev

That's a pub!

It is the final day of the Premier League season, so the journey back is spent listening to the latest scores coming through.  "C'mon you Burnleyyyy, ohhhh Burnley why are you so bloody useless" comes the cry from the BRAPA-mobile.

5pm, and second half kicking off time as we arrive back on the outskirts of York.  Time for a final celebratory pint?  I think so.  Our go to pub, the Fox is the chosen venue, my favourite York pub.

Fat Cat Milk Stout

We choose to sit outside, because once more it is warmer out than in.  It is so quiet and peaceful for a Sunday afternoon.  Everyone must be watching the football.  Even the traffic passing on the road outside sounded muffled.  It reminded me of when we ticked the Admiral Rodney in Criggion, and no one has ever said that before.

A most productive weekend, thanks Daddy BRAPA, thanks Simon D.  Which county will fall next?  Place your bets now!

See you back here on Tuesday for Part 3 of our outer Preston tetralogy.  

Bye for now, Si