Wednesday 15 June 2022

BRAPA in ..... CROSSING WITH SI AND DOTTING WITH (DADDY) B. : Tales from Outer Morecambe

If today's quest to 'green' all six pubs in that awkward north western coastal corner of Lancashire was to be a success, public transport had to run like clockwork.  

Silverdale ("you're so northern, you're practically Laaaakes") was the awkward outlier.  I calculated that we had four minutes to change trains at Preston, including a brisk run across a railway bridge.

Trespassers on the line just outside Burnley Manchester Road scuppered my dreams.

Daddy BRAPA obviously saw the anguish in his son's tired eyes, as I desperately scrabbled around in the depths of my mind to work out a way we could still do it.  I can see he's thinking 'let it go, let it go, let it gooooo' after one of his favourite 2013 animated Disney musicals.

"I tell yer what, I'll drive us one day (this summer).  We can combine it with Cumbria, then I can take you to that awkward one in Hesket Newmarket".  I don't deserve Daddy BRAPA.  Legend. 

The blow was further softened by the news that our next changing point, Lancaster, had FINALLY opened a pre-emptive on the station.  Those uphill walks to the Merchants always seemed a bit too far.

A lady in her fifties, possibly a rogue pub ticker, posed in front of the pub sign for a photo just as we were walking up, so I copied her style ......

Tite & Locke, Lancaster must be a shoo in for the 2023 GBG, 2024 at worst.  If a place looks, feels and smells like a GBG entry, it probably will be.  I don't even have to make a candid comment like "this place has got every chance of achieving Guide status" because I've not been given inside knowledge.  Considering how dreadful current GBG entry the Cornerhouse was on my recent visit, I feel confident.  Lancaster pumps adorn the bar, I've always had a bit of a love/hate relationship with their ales, but today, this IPA was bangin'.  Superbly kept.  The Craft Beer Wall might entice you beer lovers more, if I've learned one thing this week on Twitter, there are more beer fans than pub fans out there.  Not for the first time today, we'd arrive into a bar at exactly the same time as a flurry of other folk, sending the staff into a spin.  I'm disappointed the hidden room to the left is dark with posing tables, they could've done something a lot more 'Whitby Waiting Room' with the interior.  On the flip side, the enclosed outdoor area is supremely done.  A really nice space, views of trains and station, but done in a way that you don't feel that you'd ever be part of a commuter scum scrum.  It's a promising start, and I'm totally over the Silverdale disappointment, honest.  Don't cry, it'll be fine.

We decided to start north and work our way south, so Carnforth was our starting point.  I'd done the Snug back in 2013 with friends, and the locals gave us free curry pasties at 11am, a lovely touch.  

After Dad and I made a few obligatory 'Brief Encounter' puns, our required tick was immediately visible from the station.  Or so we thought .....

Oh hang on, this entrance leads you to estate agents / post office.  

Take two ......

Hotel reception desk.  "Are you looking for the bar?" says a friendly staff man.  Yes we are.  "Back out where you came from and around to the right".

Oh okay, take three!

Despite the Junction / Last Drop Inn signage, this is still the Royal Station, Carnforth (2237 / 3799) okay?  99% sure anyway.  The vast array of handpumps would suggest it, as would the quality of the beers.  And a quick scan of the GBG tells me it does refer to it as a 'Junction Bar'.  Phew.  The GBG also describe it as "more basic". Errrm excuse me?  Seems pretty ornate to me .... makes me wonder what the depths of the grand old Victorian hotel look like?  Daddy BRAPA grabs the GBG, final tick on the double page, which means he can do his trademark green dot in the top right hand corner!  Two ladies who lunch are the only other customers.  We are both hungry.  But these are not food smuggling surroundings by any means.  Dad locates a courtyard / smoking area.  Our bus stop is opposite, the bus is advertising Sky TV's new Midwich Cuckoos.  Maybe that adds to the unnerving sense that we are being spied on as we try and smuggle our scotch eggs!  Firstly, slowest hanging basket watering can man EVER wanders around us.  I swear, no one needs to water hanging baskets this slowly.  Then, our barmaid comes outside, peers at us with the pretence of having a cigarette.  And finally, a teenage stable-hand unlocks a Victorian stable door, peers at us, and locks it again, nods and leaves.  Then watering can man returns.  Sheesh, they did a job on us this lot!  Still a good quality tick though and I did get the scotch egg polished off. 

Absolutely dreadful

Our view and distant Mr Hanging Basket

Nine legged spider light

Sure Col's smile gets broader in the pubs he enjoys


I had the white one with the sun on, Dad had Odin

Interesting sideways ticking (showboating, or worried about smudging?)

Note the Daddy B green dot in top right (adds value to GBG when I auction it on eBay for £5,000,000 next year)

The bus took us towards Morecambe, I had the presence of mind to buy a Day Ticket, Dad obviously goes free.  We had a tick to do en route.  

Hest Bank seems a gorgeous spot, you can see a canal and the sea in the same view.  The canal is below walking level.  And the pub is situated superbly at the level crossing ......

Pub of the day for me, Crossing, Hest Bank (2238 / 3800) a nice way to bring up a landmark of sorts.  Some places just ooze class, they draw you in, and hold you there with invisible woollen mittens - or so it feels when you've had a few pints anyway.  Like all the best pubs, it takes its lead from a superb owner - chatty, full of life, charismatic, but not too in yer face.  The ale, needless to say, is spot on.  I'm on the 'Hotel Barrinfornia' from Glamorgan, because the name tickled me, Dad's gone Durham Jarrylo but is disappointed it is more full bitter than pale.  He's been here before, with #MummyBRAPA on a walking holiday.  He's sad that two ladies are sat on 'HIS' table, with the best view of the trains whizzing past, though we get the second best one in the room just around the corner.  The steps down to the loo are uneven, so be careful if you visit.  I'm trying to have a nice long loo session, if you know what I mean, but TWO men are waiting outside, wishing this pub had unisex loos like other micros!  "What the hell is that?" says the owner, noticing Col balancing a beermat on his head, before adding "does he want that beermat?"   We tell him about our forthcoming pubs, and what we've just done.  "We all support each other around here .... one little community .... we hate cliquey and try and be welcoming to all" he tells us.  Well, the formula is working.  As the song goes, such an enormous sense of well being in this place.

Although it is tougher on the old bladder, it is important to stay on the next bus as it chugs all the way through Morecambe and onto Heysham.  Our furthest point south.  Jeez, I'd forgotten how long Morecambe was.  The Peter Crouch of Lancashire towns. 

Ah, Heysham, it has been a while.  2003-2005 in fact.

When the Punk Festival used to be held at Morecambe pre-Blackpool, I used to stay in a Heysham caravan with Sister BRAPA and a couple of mates.  Now this really was basic.  I once lit the fire with a match stuck to the end of a banana with a piece of chewing gum at 3am.  It was the only way.

Although the covered mobility scooter offers hope, the location of this next Micropub ties in with all the crummiest Micro ticks I've done i.e. situated in a row of shops / small businesses.  Brough in East Yorkshire and Blythe Bridge near Stoke spring to mind.

We wander in and the contrast in atmosphere between here and the Crossing couldn't be much starker.  Watchful, quiet, perhaps it is a Heysham thing but we are hardly welcomed into the bosom of the Bookmakers, Heysham (2239 / 3801), oof.  Suddenly, we're both wondering if the landlord in the Crossing's comment about cliquiness was a coded jibe at this place, considering he knew it was next on our list?  To be fair, a man with tree trunk tattooed arms recommends me a 5% Marble Lagonda with such passion that although I wouldn't normally go 5% at this stage, I don't wanna go against the big lad.  We creep over to the front of the pub, though two mad blokes are face timing their mate very loudly behind me. "You had a shag then maaaate, waheyyyy?" they keep asking him.  Relief when they buzz off.  We occupy ourselves by playing a game of "guess who the covered mobility scooter belongs to".  Dad suggests the lady, but when she starts dancing around the pub, he has fresh doubts.  Still, that doesn't prove anything.  Who can forget 'benefit stick lady' at the bar of that Whitby pub who, having told everyone how disabled she was, on dropping her phone and purse onto the floor, did a full fluid one movement pirouette like an Olympic diver to retrieve said objects!  The ale is good, but this was easily the weakest pub today.

The bus meanders slowly back into Morecambe, and yes I do have a soft spot for it (not quite as much as Blackpool) after those 2001 and 2003-5 festivals.  Rita's Cafe.  Buying my yellow Doc Martens.  The Midland Hotel.  Mr Blobby World.  The Platform, Dome, the 20 minute walks to the Carleton.  Taking dodgy beer back in Davy Jones Locker and the staff refusing to change it.  Oh happy days!  

I'd BRAP'd here before, the Eric Bartholomew 'Spoons'  and the Royal are still in the GBG, but I had two new ones to do.  Firstly, a few minutes walk from the station .....

A Dee-liteful place.  Thanks people of my generation!

No sadly, that wasn't the tick.  The truth looked plainer.

That's more like it!

Morecambe Hotel, Morecambe (2240 / 3842) was an interesting one.  It was apparently built before Morecambe itself, which is very clever isn't it?  Being the notorious fifth pint of the day, I couldn't afford to overthink that particular thought!  Lincoln Green Marion was served by a man who looked like he'd seen a ghost sat at the corner of the bar.  The table we sat at was one of the prettiest pub tables in BRAPA history.  The worst two being at the Nightjar, Hebden Bridge, and Major Tom's Harrogate, if you wondered.  It was a rootsy sort of place considering all their concessions to modern bland bollocks. A screen showed clips of Morecambe F.C. in their more successful seasons including the unmistakable bald head of underrated legend Kevin Ellison. And these clips were interspersed with grainy black and white footage of Morecambe seafront in 1901 which was interesting viewing.  Bit of a schizophrenic type of place, but not 'arf bad. 

A 21 minute walk along the seafront and slightly inland took us to an area of Morecambe called Bare, close to the next station down the line called Bare Lane.  This pub was recommended to me pre-lockdown in Windermere's very interesting Baa bar ......

Talk about timing your arrival wrong!  Having been quiet all day, the guv'nor later told us at Little Bare, Morecambe (2241 / 3843) everyone had just arrived together, and we were last in line.  'These things happen, it is absolutely fine' we said as he profusely apologised about five times.  Such a people person, no surprise that this is the pub that came closest to pushing the Crossing at Hest Bank for the overall 'pub of the day' crown.   He obviously fosters a fabulous atmosphere (without selling Fosters), full of jolly locals, it perhaps lacked a bit of depth and softness of the Crossing but again it is one of those where photos alone don't do it justice, you have to be immersed in the Little Bare's little space to appreciate the full extent of the atmosphere and charm.  No idea what brand of murk I was on, but sixth pint of the day these things don't matter to me.  Nine ticks until the half way point, I am getting there (albeit painfully slowly so far in June!)

The threat of replacement buses had been our 'elephant on the high street' on all day, part of the reason we didn't want to be too ambitious re Silverdale earlier.  

Thankfully, a small group of locals were hovering about Bare Lane station looking for it, otherwise we wouldn't have had a clue where the bus was due to pick us up from.  

It whizzed us to Lancaster, pain free, and a train took us effortlessly down to Preston.

SO much time before our train to York, this was potentially dangerous.  Only one thing for it, show Dad what excellent form the Black Horse is in of late.

It might the current day double pronged strikeforce of Titanic Plum Porter Grand reserve and Robinson's Old Tom (the Bannister and Warboys of ales), but the sparkling heritage interior seems to glimmer with more gusto than ever before.  I've known since 2003 that this pub was something special, but only these last few months I'd put it up their in the echelons of best pub ever visited - and this was even without SeetheLizards present today.  Dad got stuck into the jukebox - "no, not ABBA, please Dad no!", though Blur and Suede really hadn't been cutting it.  Another thing I love about this pub, you can be as anonymous and left alone as you like, or you can find someone to chat to at the drop of a hat.  Represents Preston perfectly I feel.  We got chatting to a couple opposite.  And it was no surprise that Dad told me, a few days later, the BBC Website did a top ten historic pubs and the headline photo was the exact bench we'd been sat on!  Wonderful.  Not everyone agreed on Twitter, someone even suggested there are better 'pubs' within 200 yards, though I suspect these folk put more stock on unusual beers than the buildings that house them.  Each to their own I guess!

So that was that.  And up to date on blogs for the first time in months, though with my pathetic June total of 9 ticks so far, it is a bloody good job.

And the situation doesn't get much better as work are again asking me to work my #ThirstyThursday.  Craft cans in my pants whilst restructuring SONIA loans?  Who's gonna know?  

But Saturday, Daddy BRAPA continues his recent run of form with a chauffeury day around a county I'm determined to finish in the next few months.  

See you then, Si 


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