Wednesday 6 July 2022

BRAPA in ..... THE TAMAR OF THE FEW : Cornish Holiday Pt 2/10

All systems go for my return to Cornish pub ticking .... could this be the year I finally achieve a fully green county?   

It was looking quite promising before I'd even started :

Having been down here each summer from 2017-19, I'd built up a decent base of pubs, so even with a couple of sparse 'lockdown' years, the 'churn' hadn't overly affected me.

But I was conscious that a lot of what I had to do was very wild, very rural, very hilly, very rugged coastline.  Very Cornish!  Like Ross Poldark ripping open his shirt to reveal a Beast of Bodmin tattoo.  But the Beast has the face of Martin Clunes.  Don't have nightmares, do sleep well.

Day One in Plymouth (Devon) had been 'fun'.  But a bit like a pre-season friendly, when you consider Cornwall is my main focus.  A match fitness tuning, morale boosting exercise.  A comfy 6-0 win versus a second string XI.  

But today, here we were at Calstock F.C., Sunday 12 noon, televised, for the first 'competitive' fixture.  (Just wondering how long I can labour this football analogy?)

Just missing a corner flag

In the heart of the beautiful Tamar Valley, from which there is a (highly unreliable) rail service from Plymouth, I had three pubs to tick in the area.  It felt like a good place to spend a Sunday, especially as Sunday is the only day that this first pub opens before 6pm (12-4 for Sunday dinner).

With zero phone signal, I followed the folk who got off the train in front of me, hoping they were village bound.  They were, and in a week of beautiful villages, Calstock was a strong contender for BRAPA's Cornish Amazing Village Award (CAVA). 

With the pub at the bottom of the steep hill (here's a better view) .....

... it was only 11:30am so I had a mooch around, but kept bumping into the same two couples off the train until it got awkward, so I retired to what I hoped was a 'pub garden' on the opposite side of the road full of knackered old garden furniture.  Either that, or it belonged to Frank and Marjorie next door, but no one moved me on, and I sat patiently until noon hoping the pub opened prompt.

It was the door around the corner that opened at Boot Inn, Calstock (2253 / 3816) which delayed my arrival until 12:02.  Tsk, slipping!  A local lady is already at the bar enquiring as to free tables for lunch, and the staff look pained trying to accommodate her.  Their relief at my 'drinking only' request is etched on their faces, I think Bath Gem is the only ale on.  They notice my confusion at the 'Leprechaun's Like Gold or Cash' sign above the bar, and my poor attempts to photograph it, and tell me it is a St Patrick's Day throwback.  "Oh I assumed it had been here centuries!" I reply which makes them laugh a lot more than I'd expected.  "Does it mean you prefer cash, cos I have a (Yorkshire Bank) GOLDcard too?" I ask, but they confirm they prefer cash.  It is a dark, atmospheric sort of place, but with tables kitted out for Sunday dinner, I ask if the outdoor space really does belong to them, which it does, before returning to it.  I won't curse the pub for being laid out for Sunday dining, cos it wouldn't be open otherwise, though I suspect this'd be an even more delightful pub 7pm on a weekday.  Back outside, I realise this is the most I've ever enjoyed Bath Gem, toast Col to the start of Cornwall, and 'cheers' a few passing walkers.  The husbands keep telling their wives "that bloke has got the right idea" which I think is code for "please mistress, can we go in for a drink?"  I return my glass, use the loo, and say farewell.  A good pub to get done.

The climb to Gunnislake (which makes a lot more sense than the two hourly train in my mind) is punishing, especially with the heat rising and not a lot of air.  It makes Eggbuckland yesterday look like a walk in the park.  Mercifully, the pub is on the Calstock side of the village .....

In what would become one the holiday's themes, an ultra friendly barmaid greets me at Rising Sun Inn, Gunnislake (2254 / 3817) one of many Rising Sun's I visit in the coming week.  She asks if I'm out for a walk, so that leads me into a full BRAPA rundown.  I moan about the hill out of Calstock, and when I mention Chilsworthy is up next, she tells me that is up a hill too, followed by an evil laugh!  "When you are writing your blog, you can say our pub is best because it isn't up a hill" she tells me.  Not sure that really works because it is stuck between hills, so in a way, it is worse, but I don't tell her that.  I sit behind a bald man who screams 'pub owner' (not literally, just the cut of his jib) as a local at the bar chats to him about coal and Russian submarines, even though he didn't ask.  Eventually, he says "I'm just grabbing some potatoes and going upstairs" in the most rural Cornwall pub exit yet.  That means the bloke at the bar starts chatting to me, having earlier heard my BRAPA manifesto.  We get taking Google Maps, GPS and whether map reading is a dying art.  The pub layout is a bit unconvincing, a big gap of nothingness, loos outdoors when I was sure they'd be in that space.  Later in the holiday, I'd bump into this same bloke in Launceston and learn that the pub has recently moved the bar and changed the layout, which hasn't gone down that well with the regulars!  Still, a lovely pint of Dartmoor IPA, I'd caught my breath, and now for the Chilsworthy climb.  'Livin' on a Prayer' starts playing as I'm about to leave.  'Woahhh, we're halfway there!'  They should've played this in pub 2250.

I should've had the Dartmoor Legend, because she was a legend

Colin : obsessed with a bald head

Interior didn't fully convince but nice enough

Not quite sure why I looked up train times for later, but I did, seconds after leaving the Rising Sun. Paranoia probably.   And I'm glad I did, because ......

.... they've only bloody gone and cancelled not only the 16:11 I was planning on getting, but the next ones too, meaning the 14:11, coming up soon, is my last train of the day!!

Not fancying trying to get a taxi around here, and with no Sunday bus service, I make the tough decision to turn my back on Chilsworthy for now, and head back to Plymouth while I can.  I'll tackle Chilsworthy another day (a pain but maybe I can combine it with the Devon tick at Bere Ferrers).

The first of many times this week I'd be let down by dodgy public transport.

Oh well, I had a bit lunch on the train back (strawberries, chicken and eggs, and some salt n vinegar popcorn crisp things, with some Robinson's Orange in a reused Oasis bottle!) and plotted a revised pub plan 

Being Sunday, my options were limited so I decided to keep it local i.e. around the Plymouth area, glad I'd saved a couple yesterday, whilst just across the water was Turnchapel, another one of my 'aborted' ticks back from 2006 or 2008.

I head down to the Barbican, the weather is glorious, the water glimmering with sun, boats strewn across the harbour, tourists in fake Raybans eating Mr Whippys,  you could be in Monaco (well, not quite, Plymouth isn't Monaco, like at all). 

The boats are timed badly, and I need a wee, so I decide to go for a Plymouth tick before heading across the water.

I remember facing the Fisherman's Arms, Plymouth (2255 / 3818) on my 2008 trip and thinking "sorry Fisherman's, I'd love to go in, but don't have time" though I can't recall exactly why I didn't have time.  A bit like the Minerva yesterday, it is bulging with a tourist throng although there is room to swing at least half a cat.  In my haste to get served, I push in. "I'm just serving this lady, then I will be with you" articulates the chap behind the bar like he thinks I'm some kind of young hoodlum, which looking at the clientele, is probably about right.  I turn to apologise to the lady.  I can't hear her over the din, but she makes a few jokey comments in a Yorkshire accent.  Another theme of this week, Yorkshire people everywhere!  Not just northerners, but Yorkshire.  If I had time, I'd try some deep analysis into what it is about Cornwall that turns the Yorkies on so much.  Maybe Devon is full of Lancastrians?  We'll see in 2023.  I'm soon regretting my apology, it is one of those rounds "oooh one more lemonade, oh and a bag of crisps, oh what flavours, oh and errrm a red wine for our Jim, oh, hang on, can I have a glass of water I'm parched, yes ice would be luverly".  Despite the atmospheric interior, it is too full so I join a more locally crowd on the benches out front.  "I call it my window to paradise" a bloke keeps repeating to anyone who will listen, regarding the view down to the harbour.  "Thanks for the cupcakes!" a departing family tell a local man in flowery shirt.  "I don't want any sexual favours in return" he strangely replies (bit inappropriate!)  I later find him in the loo, I'd walked the wrong way, got laughed at by the locals, so he is being sympathetic, and still doesn't want any sexual favours.  Finally, back outside, a man formerly of Gillingham comes to chat to me.  He needs to burp so he walks down to the end of the lane, burps, returns, and tells me because he is a gentleman, he's done it out of earshot.  I say it is a good job he didn't need to fart.  I knew this was North Kent humour, and he's loving it.  He directs me back towards the harbour, and with a handshake, we say farewell.

Not impressed by my pushing in

Some bloke's "window to paradise"

Getting away from the crowds

Funny how it was in focus at the time, but not now I'm sober

Yet another thing I tried to do on my 2008 visit, but had no idea where to get the boat from even though my football friends Christine and Original Colin (not a cauli) had gone across.  Instead, I walked to a pub called the Blue Peter in Plymstock which was nice but I've never seen in the GBG since BRAPA began.  I then met them back at the Admiral McBride, another pub I hardly ever see in the GBG nowadays.

Life seems to much easier with a smartphone doesn't it? 


The boat landed in a place called Mount Batten with a horrific looking gastropub, it was like a 25 min walk to Turnchapel, but no worries, a bus was on hand to shuttle me across.

Turnchapel had a real Cornish village feel to it, like Calstock, Fowey and Mevagissy rolled into one.  I found the pub, lurking down one hill, and up another raised bit ......

The man you see above has a bit of a laugh with me about his moment of BRAPA fame, ends up getting a vintage polaroid camera out of his bag, and starts chatting to me about cameras.  He's lovely, but I'm against the clock so wish him well, he's a bit lonely cos his mates said they were coming down and haven't showed up!  Boringdon Arms, Turnchapel (2256 / 3819) I believe is my only current GBG tick in a Devon place other than Plymouth and Torquay.  The pub is quite sparse, the total lack of customers in stark contrast to the Fisherman's.  A nice bar but not a whole lot to admire, but the young couple who seem to run it are fabulous, she is a great people person and gives me a taster of the Wadworth Burnt Orange ('Charred Sunny Delight' might be a better description) and is genuinely really welcoming.  Mr Bori is chuntering cos a lady has put her flyers/artwork on the bar without pub permission.  The music is very eclectic, and I wouldn't be surprised if Matthew 'SeetheLizards' Lawrenson was hiding in a cabinet somewhere with a pair of headphones and an old TDK and cassette player instructing the staff "now, play The Shaggs 'Philosophy of the World, that'll really freak BRAPA out".   The Monks, Crazy World of Arthur Brown and Link Wray follow.  Herb Alpert and Bernard Cribbins certainly up next.  The Burnt Orange improved, and I left right on schedule for the bus feeling like this pub had been worth the effort!

Back at Mount Batten pier, some salty dog plaques on the ground really spoke to me from a BRAPA perspective .....

(..... until I developed a dry cough on my final day and nearly carked it in the night)

(Hard to put it all in one Tweet, I'll save it for the blog)

Back in the Plym, I had one remaining tick and it was also in a Premier Inn-ward direction.  What a marvellous way to end the day.

Ah, a pub name change to confound the pub tickers!  Previously Pub on the Hoe, now Gipsy Moth, Plymouth (2257 / 3820) possibly due to everyday sexism in beer, you just can't be calling people hoes nowadays.  I was thinking 'ey up, I hope this isn't another Brass Monkey' (see yesterday's last pub) but I was impressed with the vague but not overdone nautical theme, and a welcoming, all smiling, mainly youthful crowd.  A few old blokes sat at the bar, occasionally going over to stroke a lady's dog who they blatantly fancied, because they went all dewy eyed and no one asked to give Colin a cuddle!  In fact, my only gripe would be the sheer amount of doggie love in here.  Complimentary roast potatoes and gravy sat on the bar, a quick reminder it was a Sunday.  I had one, went pretty well with the Summerskills, but didn't wanna push my luck.  I nabbed a good spot facing the bar, and even wondered if this place was a 2006 tick I did called Sippers.  Similar nautical multi-levelled approach, but that had even more character and a quick Google told me it is now 'Salumi Bar & Eatery', how sad!  But overall, a positive note on which to end. 

So there we have it, Plymouth done and I can finally green up a bit of my Devon map .....

Well, it is a start!

I bought some food, and then as the sun set on a glorious summer's day, walked along Royal Parade, under the crotch of the weird giant, and back to my hotel. 

VERY early start on the Monday (Day 3), but it would all be in vain in my silly Scilly quest.  And then my GBG got waterlogged.

Join me for tales of that, possibly on Sunday now as I'm having a day of recovery (with red wine) tomorrow and then getting back on the northern pubby horse.

Til we meet again, take care.  Si 


  1. Have they STILL got those silly arrows on the floor there ?

    Cornwall is oddly easier than Devon, isn't it ?

  2. Super early morning read but those trains what a killer. I’ve stayed in the train carriages behind Bere Ferrers station (excellent). I thought the GBG pub a mile or so down the road was quite plain at the time.