Wednesday, 27 May 2009

Moss Valley's disappearing pubs


please find below news on the pubs between Eckington and Coal Aston. This was written over 12 months ago, and its likely a few changes have happened since then - it may be worth looking on the web to find out the fate of the Black-a-moor, which I understand is open again ( but you never know )

Heres a quick guide to....Moss Valley’s disappearing pubs

When Wee Fatha moved to Westfield in 1992 it gave me a handy excuse to drink real ale in pubs around the Moss Valley. I still regularly walk in the area, and recent visits show that much has changed, notably the pubs. Comparing the number of pubs selling real ale in the villages around the valley then and now, indicates that few of the changes have been for the better.

At the Eastern end of the Moss Brook, a lot of Eckington’s pubs sold real ale, including the White Hart, next to the Church. This large pub had a traditional taproom and lounge and sold Youngers No. 3 and Best Bitter. Its subsequent closure for conversion into a retirement home mirrors the fate of many pubs in the village, and a steep decline in the availability of real ale. A recent CAMRA survey showed only the Bird in hand selling real ale, (although on their website, the Mossbrook claims to sell Pedigree) whereas previously you could find it in the Angel, Duke of York, and Prince of Wales, not to mention the 6 or 7 pubs further up the hill.

Following the brook into the valley the nearest refreshment is in Mosborough. Like Eckington, in the Nineties finding real ale in Mosborough was easy, whether at the British Oak, Queens, Royal Oak, Vine, or at the Alma on South street. Nowadays this is the only Mosborough pub that I know of regularly selling real ale. Situated overlooking the valley the Alma is a small back street pub currently selling Tetley’s. There is another handpump but it doesn’t seem demand can sustain another beer at present. The Alma was previously pub of the month, prior to Wards closure, and its good to see that he pub still has decent beer and retains its traditional layout.

On the opposite side of the valley are Marsh Lane, and Middle Handley. When the Devonshire Arms there closed in 2006, with the George on Lightwood Road having been demolished for housing, things looked bleak, but the Fox and Hounds continued to sell real ale and, from only selling John Smiths, the Butchers started stocking local guest ales. The Devonshire Arms reopened in 2007 and all looked positive, but 12 months on things are less certain. The Fox and Hounds has been packed on my last 2 visits this year and sells 1 or 2 real ales, Thwaites Double Century and Adnams Broadside over Easter. However, I have not found the Devonshire open in the last 6 months and the Butchers now has a lease for sale sign outside, and also appears closed. Hopefully this will not be a long-term situation.

Heading back into the valley the Bridge at Ford continues to serve food and offers 3 real ales including Stones and Lancaster Bomber. I visited 3 times last year and the beer was always good, and little seems to have changed over the years.

From here, you could head into Ridgeway where there are two pubs. Last time I visited the Swan sold real ale, but I’ve never been in the Queens Head or Phoenix at High Lane. Alternatively, you can walk through Birley Hay to Troway, and the Gate. Wee Fatha and I always used to visit with trepidation, as all too often we’d slog up the hill only to find the pub wasn’t open. Twice last year I found the pub closed when I ‘d have expected it not to be, so I was concerned that the Gate may have shut permanently, but I needn’t have worried. The present incumbents seem committed to keeping to their advertised hours, and over Easter I found the pub packed, and selling Theakstons Best, Jennings Golden Host and McMullen IPA. The pub doesn’t do food so they need to be busy, and the unreliable English weather demonstrates how difficult running a small country pub can be – visiting in torrential rain just days after Easter there was just 1 customer in the pub, and only 1 room open. The real ales were still well kept though, and now that I know to get in well before 15.00 I can see myself visiting many more times in the future.

Climbing up the steep hill to Snowdon Lane you’ll see the Blackamoor, a pub that has seen many changes since I first visited, including a spell hosting beer festivals and serving up to 4 real ales. Since then I have always found real beer on sale - Kelham Island Pale Rider, Bass and Pedigree on three separate visits, but by October last year nobody at the pub seemed interested in serving customers when we visited. Unfortunately, perhaps as a result of constant tinkering and makeovers, the Blackamoor is currently boarded up. If it reopens I hope that, although they’ll undoubtedly have to serve food, the pub will concentrate on being good at both dining and real ale.

The valley is now behind you and it’s easy to rejoin it and follow the paths out to Jordanthorpe, but there are plenty of pubs if you head south into the Drone Valley. Follow any paths across from the Blackamoor and you reach Apperknowle. The GBG regular Yellow Lion closed in the last 5 years, and although its bar still lives on at the Carlton in Attercliffe there’s little indication now that there was a pub on the site at all. It’s not all bad news though, as the two remaining pubs, the Barracks and Travellers Rest now serve an improved range of beers, with food available at the Barracks. I visited the Travellers at Easter, where there are up to 5 beers available, sampling the Bradfield Irish Dexters and Brown Cow. This small pub gets very busy in summer, but like the Barracks offers excellent outside drinking.

It’s a short walk from here to Coal Aston, where there are buses into Sheffield and 4 pubs, although as far as know only the Cross Daggers sells real ale. Head down the hill however and you can call at the Miners at Hundall. I first visited in 1993 and the pub displayed Youngers signs and livery, although none of their beers were on sale. Now the pub has two handpumps dispensing Taylor Landlord and a guest, this time Bradfield Blonde. The pub also does food.

Continuing past the pub you come out at Unstone Green. The Fleur De Lys in Unstone also used to proclaim that it sold Youngers, which it did. Nowadays I hear it no longer sells real ale, and walking past on Easter Sunday en route to the Coach and Horses in Dronfield the pub was closed - perhaps the reintroduction of something worth drinking could make it viable to open during the day?

Overall this area of North East Derbyshire has lost a lot of real ale venues and a lot of pubs altogether, but the variety and accessibility of hostelries means that in spite of spiralling costs, there will always be pubs for Moss Valley walkers to drink or eat in.

Manchester, Holmfirth, High Peak and other articles to come soon.

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