You left me in Leigh, last time out. Not perhaps my favourite town in the UK to be stuck in retrospective limbo, but that's how the blogging goes sometimes.
The Bobbin had surprised me, my strongest Leigh pub visit to date.
Could our next one match it? Don't be silly!
Weavers Arms, Leigh (2186 / 3749) was your archetypal vast and sweeping town centre booze hole where anything goes. You don't get a lot of GBG entries in this mould, so when you do, you sort of have to roll with the punches. Families, shoppers, old couples eating meals and keeping warm, and a healthy smattering of blokes watching sport. All life was here. In a weekend of £3 pints of beer, cracking to see in 2022, this was the best yet. £2.55, Titanic Steerage, superb quality. Like really really good. I had Steerage in Titanic's own bod bar in Stoke. Dreadful by comparison. AND I get a loyalty card which I gleefully snaffle up out of politeness, not wanting to reveal what a disloyal piece of sh. I am. I still have the card in my wallet, only SIX more pints needed before my freebie. I'd love to pass it around future pub tickers, see if we can reach our target. Imagine the scenes when in the year 2085, a young pub ticker called Simon Roger Junior III gets the 7th stamp and is entitled to a freebie. Oh, and Colin went in too hard in the lager. It was that type of place.
|Oi mate, you've not finished your Doom|
'Now or never if you want to get Atherton done this weekend' says a voice in my head. I always listen to the voices in my head, with varying degrees of success, and 10 minutes later, I was glad I'd made the short bus ride.
Taphouse, Atherton (2187 / 3750) wasn't unlike yesterday's Brewery Tap in Westhoughton. A touch more furnished and comfortable, and a bit more natural light helped. Ultimately though, it was grey and tiny, space was limited due to a healthy throng of blokey blokes, and I had to perch on a side ledge which definitely couldn't accommodate pint, cauliflower, Stabilo, charger and GBG - which I assume everyone takes out of their bags when entering a pub. £3.40 a pint seemed extortionate considering the other prices today and yesterday, I guess my breakfast stout was 4.8%. Delicious though. But I'd implore these pubs to try something braver than a grey or ocean colour scheme, especially in areas like Atherton where the punters and staff are such vibrant characters.
So that was six pubs, and as the bus chugged back towards Leigh, I was starting to feel a bit squiffy. BUT there was no way I could leave the Wigan area without visiting Ashton-in-Makerfield which not only is close to Wigan and Leigh, but begins with a letter A. So I kept noticing it every time I opened the GBG Greater Manchester map section.
I justified it by noting that my ESB in the Parcel Yard is often pint seven, so it can be done!
Another micro of limited proportions, Twisted Vine Ale House, Ashton-in-Makerfield (2188/3751) impressed me with another solid staff effort. Seeing me struggling to find a seat, they pull up a stool at the bar and encourage me to sit there. Quite a rarity. An emotional Wigan man appears. "Oh of course, you've just been promoted, congrats!" I remember to add in my hazy state, before revealing I'm a Hull City fan and mentioning the 8-0 from two years back before he gets in. Wigan fans I've found in the past can have a bit of a 'we're a massive club and hate everyone' arrogance which surprises me, but this guy is sound and am genuinely pleased for them. The only angry person in here is an Everton fan. Understandable. And I'm wittering on about football cos I can't remember much else. Oh, the ale, Fjord by Hophurst. Not sure what I paid cos my card kept getting declined, probably caused by one too many transactions in the day. And you know it is time for bed when that happens.
The next morning, and it was the month of May. Time to check out of Wigan just before the promotion party celebrations got underway.
|Crusty the Pie, who scares poor Colin to death|
I felt I had a few Sunday ticks in me, it was a Bank Holiday weekend after all.
But where to? GMR/Lancs has so many #PubFolk I had to consider too.
Gorton was out of the the equation, as I'd promised John Clarke I'd do it with him.
Rochdale/Oldham was out of the equation because I'd promised I'd give Tandleman fair warning.
Similar situation with outer Preston and Matthew Lawrenson.
Similar situation with Mudgie for a Stockport pre-emptive.
Blackpool area I want to leave alone for Punk Festival weekend, plus hopefully Jane Stuart can join me for some of them.
Blackburn/Accrington area I was doing the following week with a chap called Ian, but I didn't know exactly which pubs he was planning on taking me to yet so best avoid the whole area.
And Stalybridge without Quosh just wouldn't feel right. And where is Quosh anyway. I miss Quosh. #BringBackQuosh.
Phew, what a sociable area the North West is! StymieSi was feeling stymied. Sigh.
I finally decide on a town with two ticks, both open noon.
It involved getting myself back to Manchester Victoria, getting a tram to Bury (AGAIN!) and then a short bus ride to Ramsbottom because let's face it, more efficient than the ELR and as it turns out, there was some kiddies day on today so just as well!
It was all about the man peering at the sign in the above photo at the Ramsbottom Royal British Legion (2189 / 3752), my second RBL of the weekend, my third 'first pub of the day weirdness' in a row. "What is this place? Not a YMCA is it, ho ho?" he asks me. I explain I've never been here before but being a CAMRA club, you might, just might, need to show a CAMRA card to get in. But he mistakes CAMRA card for 50p off vouchers. "I tell ya, I was in Wetherspoons t'other day, drinking that Brewndoggle , really strong. But I tell ya a beer you'll never have heard of, Banana Bread. Tastes just like banana! You couldn't write it!" Finally, he tells me he'll come back another day with his CAMRA card and I'm quite relieved! I wander in, a few people say 'ow do' and the landlady and I have a chat about Jarl / Yarl . I'm surprised to see a man to my right ordering half a Carlsberg. Can't be him can it? He wanders over to the group of locals. "A toast to Queen and country!" and he makes them all stand. Can't be the same chap. But then he starts talking Banana Bread beer and I realise it is! The locals seem a bit mystified. I can't believe he's not come to sit with me, but I thank my lucky stars. "I'm not a local, I live in Harwood!" he says at one point. After then after wittering on about whether or not he should have half an Ossett White Rat for ages, he goes to the loo. But stops to look at every poster etc on the way, asking questions about each one. When he disappears, the lady in the group pipes up "You can't say anything about him .... me might have mental issues or something!" and the blokes are all like "aye, fair enough". #WokeRamsbottom2022. The nutter, sorry, bloke with potential issues returns, and asks me why I've got such a large rucksack and am I off camping! I knew I couldn't avoid him forever. Drinking my last third of Jarl quickly as I can, I try and explain pub ticking in the briefest possible terms, say cheerio and make a quick retreat.
|Don't let him see you Col, we'll never get away!|
|Jarl in Sam Smith's, what a time to be alive|
Just around the corner, my remaining Ramsbottom tick (I did Irwell Brewery Works Tap on the day it opened and we were served by Pete Waterman!) has considerably less to talk about .....
Northern Whisper Ramsbottom (2190 / 3753) does absolutely nothing for me. The young lad who serves me looks bored, and is delighted to finally have a customer. Nice chap, I chuckle when I see a Dad's Army Putin themed beer and say I best have it in the circs, as I told you I'm a bit of a sucker for novelty ales and/or bright shiny comedy pump clips. As is so often the case, this ale doesn't live up to expectations. £3.50, it was £3 in the Royal British Legion. I consider staying in the main bar area and maybe chatting to him, but it is so cold, gloomy and metallic. So I make my way up some steps into the raised area where at least two red leather settees add some comfort, though it feels like an afterthought. The emptiness only serves to amplify the silence. That was almost poetic. The large window behind me looking out into the town makes me nervous, what if our old mate appears? He doesn't. In fact, no one does, and after a quick pee, I dash for the bus back to Bury.
Back in Manchester, I've used the tram ride to identify two more pubs I'd like to get done before the train back to York.
First up, on a different Metro line, I take myself to Firswood.
It is uncomfortably close to Chorlton-(s)cum-Hardy for my liking, and sure enough, I find myself following a lady who could be anywhere between the age of 20-60, dressed in tweed, sporting a hair net, down an impossibly pretty leafy street before coming to this booming main road. The pub still has a 2020 style Covid outdoor tent up at the front, blocking a decent photo opportunity, but we must crack on ......
Hillary Step, Whalley Range (2191 / 3754) makes me feel old, bloody old, everyone must be 25 or younger, surely. At the bar, woman on the same side of the bar as me starts talking to me. "How are you today?" Maybe people around here are really friendly, maybe I'm being chatted up? But then I realise she's serving me! She confirms to the barmaid behind the bar what I want, asks me to pay now, says I can add a tip if I want (errrm, before I've even had a sip of beer or sat down? ) and they'll bring my drink over, which finally arrives about five minutes later. What a peculiar set up! And what a 2020 throwback. At least Colin is quirky enough to fit in with this crowd. He gets a few amused glances, the folk seem genuinely nice, but no one is brave enough to engage! And it certainly does remind me of all those identikit Chorlton micros I did in my early BRAPA days. The Mild is drinking superbly, I'm asked if I want another, but my time here is done.
One pub to go then, and after a bit of jiggery-pokery at Deansgate, where in the absence of a station toilet, I find a secluded railway arch, manage to go, but then disturb a mother duck with 2 ducklings underneath her. Looked a rare breed too, not your common Mallard, but I didn't hang around!
Return trip to Urmston, now what was that blog title that Matthew 'SeeTheLizards' Lawrenson said I should use?
All I hate about pubs under one roof, but an excellent pint. That'd be my summation of Barking Dog, Urmston (2192 / 3755). It put me in mind of one of those 'Big Smoke' houses they have in London. Big, spacious, echoey, a chaotic amount of kids, pushchairs, prams, visiting dogs. The acoustics are dreadful, as is the decor, especially THAT wallpaper. Puke! Imagine waking up to that every morning. I'd die. It feels a bit grimy too, my table is sticky, the toilets ain't healthy. The staff are proper weird. Three of them squashed into a tight space behind the bar. When I order my drink, the lad trying to serve me has his progress halted by the other lad who gives him a comedy dig in the ribs and then tries to trip him up as he steps towards my selected handpump. BANTER! Weird, slightly unprofessional banter. I decide best thing to do is lean forward, chuckle, try and join in, but this is a closed shop. Bell Inn in Reigate styleee. Staff vs customers. The young lady behind the bar is even worse. I don't see her move in my entire time here. She just stares out into the room, sullen expression, serving no purpose. When I ask where the loos are, she merely points and grunts. How the hell this place manages to keep such a good pint when you take into account all the other evidence is quite the little miracle. 'But Si' I hear you say, 'tell us what you really think'.
Back in Manchester, time to pop into my NW Parcel Yard AKA The Bull's Head for a quick one?
Alas, no way in at the front. "But fear not", I tell a father & son having the same problem as me, "we'll have to go round the back", as I remember my most recent visit with Daddy BRAPA.
But no way in at the back either, despite knocking! We're being ignored. Finally, some people appear. "Last orders, they're chucking everyone out now" they explain. It's only 17:50 but fair do's, Sunday n all that.
Instead, I get coffee and wait for the long painful train ride back to York, stopping at places it wouldn't normally like Mirfield, Greenfield, Marsden and plenty others! Engineering works or something.
That was a very long blog, gold star if you read EVERY word.
Take care, Si