Sunday 31 July 2022


A bit of breaking news to start with (quite literally) as my Good Beer Guide front cover is hanging on by a thread .....

Even more worrying, the binding is slightly coming apart too.  Expect to see a rubber band holding the whole thing together by late October, which is the earliest I can expect to receive the 2023 edition.

Isn't life cruel?  For once, you try to keep your GBG in tact, and it falls apart on its own.  I blame the great drowning incident of Ruan Minor in Cornwall at the end of June, the poor thing has never recovered. 

Talking of poor things ......

I mean the otter, not her

Yes, we said an tearful goodbye to Keane Lewis Otter this month, as he departed for pastures new (British Heart Foundation F.C.) on a freebie.  Primarily a football mascot, when Hull City sold Keane Lewis Potter to Brentford, it didn't seem right to keep him.

Someone on Twitter suggested he'd gone off the rails since ..... 

A sad decline for a promising otter.

Expect a little owl (Martin Junior) to appear soon.

Right let's get down to serious business.  

July has been another cracking pub month, with 51 ticks and 7 (highly dubious) pre-emptives .  The current total is 2323/4500 which is 51.62% of the GBG complete.  

These are heady times at BRAPA towers.  After a few frustrating years where it felt like it was a case of 'two steps forwards, one step back', I'm finally seeing real signs of progress.  We've already gained 299 pubs in 2021/22, eclipsing the record 257 set in 2018/19 .... and like I said earlier, we are nowhere near the 2023 GBG release date.  Staying above the 50% mark after the 'churn' would be ideal.

Otter Inn, Little Corby (my most recent tick, and a good one too if you ignore the opening hours)

As well as finishing Cornwall (if we ignore Tresco .... you can never ignore Tresco), I'm down to 4 in Greater Manchester, 10 in Lancashire which is a real bugger of a county to complete, and 20 in Cumbria after this week's mini break.  Unlikely I'll get Cumbria done in full this year, but I can see it coming down to single figures.  Staffs is going great guns too, problem is I keep forgetting it exists.

Vestry Taproom Freckleton - means I'm down to 10 in Lancs

And I'm eyeing up Kent & South East London as areas I can really make some definite progress in too over August-September. 

Dartford Working Man's Club giving me hope that Kent might actually be quite good

The thing I'm most disappointed about at the moment ..... being so far behind with my blogging.  I'm still writing about Cornwall for heaven's sake.  Might have to do a few 'in brief' catch ups though knowing my word county, it'll probably still resemble War & Peace.  

So which pubs are going into the hat for the year end BRAPA pub of the year award?

1. St John Inn, St John, Cornwall

2. Red Lion, Wheelton, Lancs

3. Vale Cottage, Gorton, Greater Manchester

4. Iron Pier Taproom. Northfleet, Kent

5. Strands Inn, Nether Wasdale

A couple of those were selected with the extremely high quality of their ale in mind, because in July, I had far too many poor quality beers, and I can only think the extremely high temperatures (we got up to 39 degrees in York) must've had a big impact.  Not good though when you are using a book called the 'Good Beer Guide' to select your venues!

When Daddy BRAPA got up in Bombay Brew in Rochdale to get us two ice cold lagers to go with our curries, well it was probably the move of the month.  And if we get many more stupidly hot summer spells like we've done this year, which the climate experts seem to think is nailed on, I may have to rethink my drink choices!

So there we have it, August tomorrow (Happy Yorkshire day!), doesn't time fly?  I'm hoping Lancs and GMR will be fully done before long, and there should be a bit more progress on the Cumbria, Kent & South London fronts.

I'll be back tomorrow to tell you about my last day in Cornwall.

Thanks for reading, Si 

Monday 25 July 2022

BRAPA in ..... DAFT SOULS IN CRAFTHOLE (Cornwall Summer Holiday Part 9/10)

 "Five more, we've only got five more, so go on BRAPA tick, not including the Isles of Sic (sic)".

There have been better football chants written, let's face it, it is Isles of Sil anyway. But this was my early morning mantra as I find myself within touching distance of (mainland) Cornwall conclusion.

The chattiest bus driver to date drops me at Sheviock church with plenty of time to kill before noon pub opening, and I wanted to explore the local church but couldn't fathom the gate on the churchyard, a couple of locals twitched curtains, so I gave up and headed down a country lane in a Crafhole direction.

Upsetting church gate


Someone shouts "fore!" so I call back ... "five actually"

Camouflaged Cauli

Down on the gorgeous southern tip once more

It was a humid sort of morning, and when I wasn't evading golf balls to the skull, midges were biting my earlobes.  I felt safer lurking in the pub carpark, despite the ghostly tales.  But where was the flippin' entrance door?  I circled the pub twice, but no clue.

A few staff turn up in cars and wave to a chef in the kitchen slicing a mountain of potatoes.  I try not to look impatient. 

11:58am, right I'm going for it!

I crash through some large double doors by the kitchen, they don't open or close properly, I'm in a sort of reception / kitchen area so the bar takes some finding.  When I do, the trio of staff are very effervescent.  My opening gambit "Where on earth is the main entrance to this place?  I'm sure I came in through a weird kitchen way!"  seems to resonate with them, especially my favourite of the trio who reminds me of a Thicker Necked Megan (TNM) who I used to work with.  Turns out the pub doesn't really have a way in!  Finnygook Inn, Crafthole (2276 / 3839) might sound like a made up pub name but having gone to the likes of Gweek, Vogue, Piece and Mannacan over the years, expect the unexpected from Cornwall.  It is a dullish dining set up, but the guest St Austell is drinking superbly and the fact that the staff are practical jokers is a leveller.  The older lady especially.  She leaves in three days time so obviously has given up caring. When the third barmaid goes down to the cellar for supplies, she follows her, hides behind a door, and jumps out on her, scaring the poor lass senseless.  "It is an addiction I think, I even do it at home now ... I was waiting 20 minutes for my boyfriend to walk past the other day, and when he did, he didn't flinch" she later confesses ruefully.  They are playing on the local pub legend, Silas Finny, a smuggler who was chucked down the well here for bad behaviour and supposedly haunts the place.   When I remark that this is the kind of free entertainment I come to pubs for, TNM admits that when the place is busier, they have to be more professional.  "Yes, I suppose when you've got serious middle aged couples eating £30 plates of lobster, they might not appreciate barmaids jumping out on each other pretending to be ghosts" I reply, and with that, it is time I pushed on back towards the bus stop.

Random Arsenal sticker in the gents.  Former landlord?  Silas reincarnated? Who knows.

From south coast to north coast I travel, via Liskeard and Bodmin Parkway.

I think God/Jimmy Case was finally taking pity on me, as the buses & trains were perfectly timed for once.

Of all the inhospitable parts of Cornwall, I find that Bodmin-Wadebridge-Padstow/Port Issac/ Rock/Tintagel/Trebarwith Strand area amongst the hardest to get yourself around.  

But at least we had a bit of steam train interest, cutting through the outer Bodmin countryside.  Seriously, is there a more obscurely positioned station, miles from anything useful, than Bodmin Parkway? 

A bus finally shows its face and takes me to Wadebridge, which is considered something of a transport interchange and cultural hub around here, creating an illusion of 'perfect place for an ice cream and a little mosey around' but you'd really be safer in Doncaster.

I find it a decidedly miserable and overrated town, less grey n' gloomy than Bodmin but that's not saying much as that resembles war torn Ukraine on an off day.  Just as on my last visit, Wadebridge bus station is full of bored teenagers shooting each other in the arse with pellet guns, whilst cars circle the forecourt and quite brazenly sell drugs out of the window to the older kids.  Whenever I glance up from my phone, I'm given a warning stare like 'keep yer eyes to yourself!'  

Relief when the Padstow bus arrives, and being a sunny Saturday afternoon, it is packed to the gills with tourists over the age of seventy.  I blame that bald bloke off the TV who hangs out with fish for making it overly popular.  

I hop off a couple of stops early to avoid the narrowest and most chocka bloc part of town, and descend a steep street towards the pub .....

I race inside, ahead of a group of young yuppies contemplating a visit, who sound like the types who go punting in Cambridge or destroying Bristol statues.  What a delight the Golden Lion Hotel, Padstow (2277 / 3840) is , an oasis of serenity. Although a few discerning tourists have infiltrated, it is surprisingly locals who dominate.  Horse racing on TV, and everyone has bets on.  A gentle thrum of Saturday afternoon hubbub pervades , so much so that the barmaid looks like she's on the verge of falling asleep.  She could do with a couple of colleagues to jump out at her pretending to be a ghostly smuggler, that'd wake her up.  The Tintagel is on form.  A very tall family walk in and take it in turns to bump their heads on the ceiling.  This is the oldest pub in town so you can hardly look up accusingly at an ancient beam which has been here centuries, but they do.  Cracking pub, and if I wasn't extremely nervous about my next tick, I'd really have relaxed into it. 

I couldn't relax because I was really drinking at the 'last chance saloon' with regards this next tick, my last of the day.  It doesn't open on Sunday, doesn't open daytime, even on a Saturday it is 5:30pm.  There are a handful of buses each day, taking some elaborate route which originates in Truro, you change at St Columb Major, and connect to another bus.  It takes forever.

With no bus forthcoming, and Wadebridge easily the closest town to it, plus £100 of BRAPA Emergency Taxi Money burning a hole in my wallet (cos Launceston taxis are useless), I'm just hoping I can find a Wadebridge taxi.

I told you fate was turning in my favour in these latter stages of the holiday.  Immediately in front of the bus stop, I see a taxi rank with taxi in it and a jovial guy who loves life ferries me across.

"Pub looks closed mate!" he says as we pull up but I say don't panic, I was expecting this.  5:15pm.

I 'entertain' myself by going to the Spa garage for a widdle, a twiddle on the fidget spinners, eye up a couple of potential new mascots, and then try and fathom out where the bus back (due about 18:15) was going to stop.

Contradictory information as per usual, Google said main road, the actual stop suggested it was going to pull into the little side road and do a turning circle.  A local appears from his house, joined by wife and a grandson bouncing a football.  I tell him my predicament.  He says it varies depending on bus driver, time of day and air temperature.  "I can drive you back into Wadebridge now if you loikes!" he says, but I tell him I have to do the pub first but thanks anyway.  Nice man.

I'm delighted to see the door spring open at 17:26, 4 whole mins early, how generous!

Looks more like a unicorn to me

I just manage to beat a local lad and his highly agitated mutt to the front door, and the poor bloke looks astonished, I've broken his 34 year record of being the first customer in.  Welcome to the Red Lion. St Kew Highway (2278 / 3841) and early signs are good, a nicely worn eighties carpet, and a young gent called Jack who might be some sort of bar manager says 'hello' before I've even made it to the bar.  I confess I'm not dining with them tonight, and take my pint (can't remember what but the quality was a tad iffy) to a corner where I can see all.  I can't warm to the place after that, it seems caught half way between restaurant and old locals boozer,  hanging in a sort of purgatory / identity crisis.  Folk are quite watchful, and the early staff promise evaporates too.  Yet the locals are treated like royalty.  The badly behaved dog is called Jack too, and anyone who gives it too much attention is disapproved of.  But how the hell do you get to the loo without at least acknowledging the creature?   An old lady with terrible hair tries to remember the name of her favourite Cornish beach.  A New Zealand Sally Phillips who I think works here but seems pissed off throughout tries to assist with beach names, but ends up declaring her hatred of celery, which doesn't bode well for my new mascot.   A jolly chap called Terry with green cords declares his love for James Bond, and as I warm to him most, it is he who I tell "I'll be back soon if this bus doesn't stop for me". 

I decide to stand on the main road, because if this holiday has taught me one thing, it is that Google is the most trustworthy source when it comes to buses.

Such a fast scary road.  I have to be alert.  My bus races around the corner, bang on time, I hold out a long left arm and am relieved to see he screeches to a halt.

"Point of order young Simon ...." he says when I board, sounding like a hybrid of John Depeche Modem and Clag Monster which is a bloody lethal cocktail, ".... I'd ordinarily turn into the village and pick you up from there".

I say "oh ok" and sit down, just glad to be aboard.  But what a load of betty swollocks this must be, he showed no sign of slowing down for the village slip road turning, and that is IF he could've even seen anyone waiting at the stop from his vantage point which is a bloody massive IF, I tell thee.  


Back at Bodmin Parkway, the heavens open and I took a video but because Blogger is shite, I can't post nice videos without a major effort so you'll have to trust me it was all leafy and cascading wonderfulness.  Is it too late to transfer blogging operations to Wix, a much better platform?  Wordpress, well I leave that for the commoners ;)

Right, it was straight back to Plymouth from here.  I'd had it up to 'here' with this holiday by now and was getting grumpy BUT only TWO pubs to tackle on my final day.  The end was in sight, and for that reason, I could still smile, as long as tomorrow was hitch free.


Friday 22 July 2022

BRAPA in ..... KINGSAND QUEENS & HIGHLIGHT GREENS (Cornwall Holiday Part 8/10)

After the rigours of Bude and Launceston over the last two days, I thought I'd keep it local on day seven of my nine day epic quest to get a fully green Cornwall (Scilly notwithstanding due to BRAPA incompetence on day three).  

From a Plymouth base, Cornwall doesn't get much more local than Kingsand.  A quick hop across the water on the Cremyll ferry and a little bus ride, so quite why I decide to take the long route around, you'd have to speak to Former Si, cos Current Si has no clue.  

Perhaps, knowing how things had gone so far this week, I was worried I'd hop aboard the wrong ferry and up in Santander, and no, I don't mean Abbey National. 

All set for day 7

Kingsand was perhaps the most beautiful of all the coastal Cornish villages I visited this week.  It did feel, somehow European, like when you explore the backstreets of Barcelona or Rome.  Narrow streets, colourful houses, just a few local labourers sanding down a door, stray dogs barking and seagulls squawking.  

A lively sort of cove with a large honest face pulls me a pint of Bays Savanna at the Devonport Inn, Kingsand (2273 / 3836) but as I glance around, I realise there isn't much to it as a pub - like so many on the coast all over the UK, it is airy, foody, basic and probably designed with fly-by-night tourists in mind.  With stunning views out to sea and some really warm air (we'd reached July today), sitting on a bench at the front of the pub was a no brainer.  And for a few minutes, contentment washes over me.  This is the most relaxed I'd felt all week.  It couldn't last of course.  Some oldies with dogs perch on a high bench looking out to see, partially blocking my view, but it is only a minor inconvenience.  The real problems occur when a family walking two more dogs stop at their table.  "Ey up Jean, all right Margaret, now then Bill, you reet?" they all crow, in Yorkshire accents of course, ruining my peace.  They even end up Skyping Carly back in Castleford for live baby updates.  Everyone else is oblivious it seems, maybe because they all have dogs too, which start barking and bum-sniffing with the Yorkshire quartet.  And it lasts forever, not just a quick two minute stop and chat.  I resent it more than usual because this experience had all the makings of a calming BRAPA utopia.  But as we know, former Halifax Town player God/Jimmy Case wasn't giving me any freebies this holiday!

Having left the pub earlier than planned as a result of this abomination of the senses, I had time for a swift half somewhere else before my bus.  I opted for the Rising Sun, Kingsand because Cornwall likes putting Rising Sun's in the GBG.

It certainly has a more local boozery atmosphere, the Proper Job was well kept, and as pre-emptives go, it wasn't one of my worse shouts of the holiday.  It was only circumstances that made it a bit of a dreary experience, as I relegated myself to the empty outdoor smokers patio in the absence of any seats that I could see inside.  One of those funny situations, a few people were in, but not busy, but the way everyone was spaced apart was a problem.  This included some old blokes who'd give Sharon Stone from Basic Instinct a run for her money in terms of 'wide leg stance' (which sounds a bit like a cricket fielding position) but you know what I mean.  It wasn't even a small pub, but the layout didn't allow for a lot of appealing seating options.  Oh well, at least out here the kitchen window was open and delicious curry smells were wafting through, and the loos were at hand.  Just a bit boring, no phone signal either, Colin and a bright orange cushion for company.

Back at the week's best bus shelter, I'm soon on that painful winding coastal road once more, stopping every two minutes for idiot tourists with giant campervans.  So glad I don't do these holidays when the schools are out, I cannot imagine how delayed the buses would get.

Antony is a good interchange for Cornish BRAPA ticking (you heard it here first), so it is here that I press the bell and take on the 20 minute downhill walk to the village of St John.

This pub opened at 2pm apparently.  2pm openers make me nervous because they aren't noon openers or 4pm openers.  (THIS is sort the content you come here for, right?)  

And as I approach the village, I remember thinking 'nothing has gone wrong yet today, so what is the betting this pub won't be open?'  Paranoia had set in.  Hold that thought.

The pub comes into view, a cheery chap who has a St John's sweatshirt on and screams 'I'm the guv'nor' (not literally, that might be intimidating) declines my kind invitation to be in this photo:

His first words to me, totally out of context, "1600."  "What?!" I cry.  My heart sinks.  He explains he means the year it dates from, NOT the opening time.  Phew!  I wish people wouldn't do that kind of thing.  He leads me through to the bar ......

Now THIS is a pub.  St John Inn, St John (2274 / 3837) slightly reminiscent of the Bush Inn Morwenstow from yesterday, but this is a touch cosier and more joined up like the Blue Peter at Polperro.  Bass is the beer (take that Botus Fleming!) so we chat on legendary beer itself - something I've learned to do quite comfortably since I hit my forties, and then we move onto BRAPA and his story of reviving this pub from the dead, eight years ago.  Mrs St John who'd been creaking around upstairs like a friendly ghoul comes down to join in the tale of them both working hard full time jobs, but doing this place up on evenings, weekends, at times with no heating, water etc.  But they had a dream, including Bass which had been on in here back in the fifties and he's proud to have back on now, and wow haven't they achieved a lot in a short space of time?  There's a camping/glamping area out back which she takes me out to see.  Marquee too.  They've not got a chef yet but they take me to see the most intimate gorgeous dining room in a pub I think I've ever seen.  I've never been one to encourage dining in pubs, but here, it'd be a waste not to add it in.  I let him do the GBG greening, as they've really enhanced for me what would've been a great pub experience anyway.  Best this week? 

That is one of the true joys of pub ticking, finding an unlikely gem in a remote location that you've approached with zero expectations because it doesn't have a pre-existing reputation.

Back up the hill to Antony, and again with time to kill before the bus, let's pop to the village pub for a quick pre-emptive half.

The Carew Arms, Antony is in many ways the antithesis of the St John Inn, a harsh, bright shiny metallic dining pub with plasmas and high tables galore.  It achieves in one important way however, a fantastic reception from the barmaid which has been one of the more pleasing themes running through this entire Cornish holiday, and all others.  Don't believe the doubters.  Cornish people are good people and don't 'hate outsiders'.  Four trips now, I can only think of one GBG pub where I've had a full on 'this is a local pub for local people' style reception.  I decide to opt for a keg stout from St Austell called Mena Dhu which I keep seeing all week and has piqued my curiosity.  Decent drop, Carlsberg glass didn't help.  Barmaid reassures me with some timely local bus knowledge, a few chef style folk come over and give Colin a sniff around the florets, and that was that.

If you are surprised with how smoothly today had gone so far, don't worry, moment of BRAPA lunacy to follow.

It isn't that I wasn't concentrating.  I was painfully aware that the buses were speeding down the road, two were due at similar times, and I had to avoid the 70 going back around the corner to Kingsand, and make sure I get the 75 in the direction of Crafthole (real place, promise). 

The 70 appears, I'm about to stick my hand out, realise, wave bus on, driver smiles, jobs a good 'un.

75 appears a couple of mins later, full of schoolkids ugh, but that's another trope of a BRAPA holiday.  I'd been told by the kind barmaid in the Carew that there wouldn't be many schoolkids on this service.   And at least this bunch weren't as rowdy as the Southampton lot, no hair bobbles flicked at my earlobe today!

So imagine my surprise, when at the Lower Tregantle turning, we continue down to Kingsand.  Noooo, I just don't understand it.  My Crafthole tick is in tatters. 

As we get out to some remote middle bit called Millbrook and Insworke, I ask the schoolgirl with metallic mouth next to me just what the bloody hell this bus is doing.  Understandably, she looks a bit terrified but confirms I shouldn't panic and we will end up at the Cremyll Ferry after this.  The lady next to us confirms this, she is going over to Plymouth with Scruffy the dog.  I thank them both and feel a bit more relieved, though I need a wee, but Scruffy's owner says there are public loos near the ferry.  She then tells me "you were in my pub earlier.  The Rising Sun in Kingsand!"  Small world.  Especially in Cornwall. 

I glance up at the bus when I get off.  It says 70, not 75.  So presumably I got the wrong one!  I'd actually prefer it to be a result of my own stupidity than the buses doing something weird again.

Ferry time then, and yet again, I've failed to do a pub on the agenda, and like Tresco, Ponsanooth, Chilsworthy and South Petherwin before it, my remaining ticks are getting spaced out, making life harder, and three pubs a day is now often all I can achieve!

Scruffy on deck

Might be Plymouth

I think we drop a young lad at the Barbican, and then the ferry does a weird semi circle and drops the rest of us at Stonehouse, where years ago I lost my hat in a great pub called the Artillery Arms and a nice man chased down the street to return it.  

I realised I was now going to have to do something a bit outlandish from here to salvage something from another tough day, it was already late afternoon / early evening, and I'd only got two ticks.  Where does the time go?  And I never wanted to be back in Plymouth at this time.

A bus and a long train ride take me right down back to our old mate Redruth.  Let's have another stab at Ponsanooth on the U2 bus seeing as it only opens 5pm and is my furthest west pub remaining .......

19:21 when I arrive, but at least the pub is open this time.  Welcome to Stag Hunt, Ponsanooth (2275 / 3838), the most water damaged of all my Cornish ticks after the GBG leaky water bottle incident.  Outer Truro/Falmouth/Redruth LOVES sticking a random pub in the GBG that hasn't been in since the 70's if at all.  I seem to do a different one each time I'm down here.  It is a pretty old skool sort of place for all the evening 'reservation' signs, though these seem more to do with a forthcoming quiz night than dining.  Blind Sooty charity tin, and a Labrador attached to an old farmer resting its chin on the table are signs you are in a real pub.  Treen's always seems a safe pair of hands beer-wise down here, and the Sunbeam drinks better than Banks's Sunbeam in recent years.  I ask the guv'nor if he'd rather cash or card.  "Or green shield stamps - ho ho ho" he laughs so I laugh, but I'm thinking 'what the hell is a green shield stamp?'  Something from the olden days maybe?  A staff member who looks like a tattooed Mrs Punch keeps eyeing Colin with great curiosity.  I keep smiling, hoping she'll ask but she might have some Cauli-phobia because she keeps her distance until he's back in the bag!  Only then does she talk to me, can't remember about what, but it wasn't cauliflowers. 

Tricky water damaged place to go and get a result

Don't scare the barmaid Col

My mood - reflecting on a Crafthole fail

Wave to Blind Sooty

The U2 bus does what it should and turns up on time, and soon I'm back in Redruth.

Redruth being Redruth, I have an hour here before the next train to Plymouth.  Typical!  Time to check out the only other cask ale selling pub in town:

Red Lion, Redruth gets generally more positive reviews than the Oxford Inn I visited a few days ago, and whilst it is true that there are no pissed up Barry White enthusiasts, or one legged huggers in here, I felt less relaxed here than in the Oxford.  I was more sober today though.  The lad who serves me barks in my face, in a friendly way.  When he signs into the till , it transpires that one of his colleagues has amended his name to 'Cunt'.  Red Lion banter of the highest order!  It is lively around the pool table, the smiliest customer is a young Rekorderlig drinking woman in a Newcastle Utd top.  Of course, a holidaying Geordie family appear from a space/time vortex somewhere just south of Byker and congratulate her.  She says something about liking the colours black & white I think!  You can go off some people.  "I'm not chubby, I'm Gigantamax" says the tee shirt of the largest pool player.  I think it is Pokemon humour. The loos of course are squirrelled away behind the pool table in the far corner and I have no desire to explore.  Seems an odd pub to have their own branding and merchandise, but that seems to be the case.  It's a pretty rough n ready boozer, but obviously a happy community pub.  Still, I'm not feeling the need to stay for a bonus half.  If anywhere in Cornwall needs a micro, I'd say it is Redruth.  

Back at the station, our old mate Hector the cat is out on the platform, trying with some difficulty to reverse out of a kennel cos he's eaten a few too many Dreamies ......

And then it was back to Plymouth.  Another slog, more slow progress, but three pubs at this stage is valuable and leaves me with only six mainland Cornwall pubs to do in two days.  Which would be easy if you were in say, Surrey or Derbyshire. 

Until next time, where we get back to Crafthole and I do arguably my hardest tick of the week, good night and have a lovely weekend.  Keep it pub.