Sunday, 5 September 2010

More from crete


      we are nearing the end of the holiday, sat in unhelpful near dark in an internet cafe in Agios. On the last day in Chania I found a Craft outlet and had good beer at a bar that has an Asterix theme on the menu but no name (distinguishable by its odd multi-coloured model of an ostrich type bird on the right hand side of the entrance - I kid you not)! We had 4 fantastic days in Paleochora, Portofino still sells Pilsner Urquell and now also Craft bottles at a decent price, otherwise the beer ranges have been poor (but beaches fantastic and sea clear and warm..)

We are staying in Kritsa, and have been drinkiing what turns out to be a Greek beer, Magnus Magister pils, in Castello, as we always do.  We are off to Elounda today to see Dimitri and then Maria in Kato Elounda, and hopefully we'll get some Brinks Rethymnian in Rethymno tomorrow.


Wee Beefy.

Monday, 30 August 2010

A message from Crete

            it seems like about time I posted from Crete, so here I am in Chania, the trendiest and inevitably most expensive Cretan City.

We started in Rethymno on 17th August, travelled to Askifou in the white mountains for 2 days, then onto the high desert village of Anopoli for 4 nights, before rolling up in Sougia the laid back lconic lazy resort on the south coast, for 3 nights.

We got to Chania on Friday 27th and have been staying in a traditional Venetian family home in the old town. This is not rented out on the internet, but an occasionally available property that we have rented through a friend.

The weather has been getting hotter over the last couple of days but was really hot on the coast - mainly it has been humid everywhere.

The beer situation in Chania appears to have deteriorated significantly. No.43 no longer sells any beer, the Metropolitan bar has become a sham cheapo family venue with rolla-cola and fake music, although it does still sell Charma Dark. Bar hippo may not be selling Craft anymore, will be investigating later, Baroro remains excellent with no noticeable change in price. There is one addition to the beer scene with a good range available at a supposed rock bar near where Talos used to be, but none of the places using Charma beer advertising boards seem to sell it, and as yet the only Craft I have seen has been on the South Coast.

Traders report a busy August but I get the feeling that trade was poor earlier on, and the continuing downturn in tourist profits probably drives the inexorable passage towards endless Amstel and Mythos everywhere you go.

There is a harbour front bar which plays decent metal on a Friday and Saturday night so that is an improvement, but overall a low score for Chania - love it as I do, you end up paying nearly double the prices on the South coast for less and less individual venues.

Starbucks was the first indicator that Chania wanted to be anywhere else in the world, and global brands predominate. The final bad news is that the Ouzeri across from Madonna studios has now closed down.

Still, its hovering around 36 degrees and we have a free day before we leave for Paleachora tomorrow so there should be 4 beach days ahead if we want, and hopefully Portofino will still sell Pilsner Urquell.

Hope to get online on the last day otherwise will be back to finally post some details about kafenions when i return - there is a new one ( if that makes sense, perhaps I mean revived) in Chania old town, so will investigate that as well.

Wee Beefy, Chania old town.

Wednesday, 21 July 2010

3 Valleys beer festival

Having somehow contrived to more or less run out of cash half way through the month (its always a bad sign when you need to start adding the number of weeks left before your pay allows you to live again) I was going to spend the weekend of July 17th doing nothing and resting my hole ridden foot in my cumbersome Herman Munster boot that the hospital had insisted I wear.

That was until I got a text from Fluffy.

Yep, that’s right. I have a friend called fluffy (although he amusingly tries to pretend that it’s actually his name for me which clearly, it isn’t).

Luckily, I am not in SMS contact with a feline or silkily pelted dog, instead Scott is his more drinker friendly name and he lives in that London so we see each other rarely, although more recently since a chance conversation with a mutual friend. Anyhoo, his invite to join him at the 3 Valleys festival proved too strong to resist, especially when I saw the beers that might be on.

The idea is simple. Twelve (or perhaps ten) pubs put on special events and or special beers like they are having a beer festival of their own, all of the pubs are in the S18 and 19 area (according to the website) and you travel for free between them all by a festival bus paid for by the pubs.

So, on Saturday me and Chala headed into town and dawdled unhelpfully down to the train station - the idea was that rather than catch the 15.05 train with Scott et al, we would catch the earlier one (which I guessed left at 14.05 but hadn't checked) so we could go to the Coach and Horses in Dronfield and steal an hours drinking on them, on the assumption that we would be home early like good kids and them lot would be out all-night like rapscallions.

Alas, strolling into the station at the exact time the train left we quickly had a rethink and bumped into Scott en route to check bus times. We realised there was probably no point trying for a bus so filled in time before meeting everyone in the Sheffield Tap by buying tickets and gawping at a monsoon downpour whilst chatting to a bloke from Moss Side about his love of multiculturalism and ultra violence.

The Sheffield Tap was busy as usual, with a selection of some beers from the festival (the Coach and Horses is their sister pub) in addition to the usual Thornbridge range. Chala opted to avoid alcohol at this stage and I had a Pollards milk coffee stout, served in a European style strong ale glass and tasting of, well, milky coffee and stout, and ludicrously drinkable at 5%.

In no time we were on the train and then in Dronfield walking to the Coach. There was a blues singer on outside in the marquee along with an extra bar and, somewhat revolutionarily, a real till accepting real money. Plastic glasses mind you.

With it having poured down with rain on and off there was one large table free outside of the protection of the canvas so we dried that off and caught up and got to know each other, whilst sampling the ales. I started with a pint of Williams Bros Grozet, a gooseberry wheat beer which was intentionally and correctly cloudy and refreshing. Chala opted for a demure half of the Hawkshead organic stout which is a fantastic beer.

After a quick Fyne ales beer that escapes me, I recklessly embarked on the first of two halves of Brewdog Hardcore IPA, which is 9, or possibly 9.2%, packed with hops and almost criminally easy to drink. In between I had a Williams Joker IPA to calm things down a little, but my logic - that we would be out for only a couple of hours so could drink like a mentalist - was flawed, as the unfolding events would demonstrate.

Scott and the others ( John, Steve, Trudy, Simon and Amy - just proving that I can recall names ) headed off on the last clockwise free bus to the Hearts of Oak at Dronfield Moor, whilst cannily, realising we had probably reached the best beer pub of the festival route, we opted to stay for an extra 40 minutes to sample more delights.

Chala finished our Coach drinking as another shower enveloped us with a half of Maredsous from the pub bar, whilst I had a fantastic pint of Murmansk Baltic Porter at 7.2%. Leaving for a bus back to the station and then a bus back out to join the gang at the Rutland in Holmsfield, chaos reigned as no-one could agree where the bus would stop.

We saw it pull up outside but there were plenty of people on both sides of the road, so we ran over and made sure the bus was going to turn round at the roundabout and come back past the pub to the station, which it did. What we weren't expecting was that no-one would join us, and that the bus driver, admittedly following his instructions but flying in the face of logic, fair play and a desire to help, simply drove straight past the waving and shouting crowd on the basis that he did not pick up after the pub-side stop.

That may be the case, but the confusion of having 2 clockwise busses leave the station and drive past the pub along with 8 or 9 that only pick up at the same stop and take you back to the start meant that no-one was likely to understand the logistics, and as we boarded the tiny minibus which was to be the next vehicle picking up at the C+H in 50 minutes time, it was clear that guests were going to be dischuffed.

Anyhoo, putting these concerns behind us we set off again past the Miners to the Rutland at Holmsfield, where the others already were, having given up on the Oak on account of it having run out of festival beer and worse ( I realise nothing could be worse, but cant recall the exact details clearly enough to report the problem ).

The Rutland is somewhere I have been many times although not so much in the last 5 years and it was serving a good range of regional brewer’s beers along with Wharfeside Tether and Bays Gold. Perhaps only for reasons of the festival spirit I went for the Bays Gold (although I was given a taste first) when actually I probably from the taste I had after, preferred the Tether. Either way, an unusual beer from furthest Torquay making a nice change.

We moved on next to the Horns where a festival slump befell us once more, the sign outside and the website promised a few guest festival beers but there was only one, a Kelham beer which was off. We all took ours back and swapped it for John Smiths, and retired to the back room to catch up and listen to some music, but it was a shame that with 4 hours to go on the first day of the two day festival they seemed to have run out of festival beer (although they may well have been topped up on Sunday, am unsure how it works).

From here we headed up the hill to the George and Dragon, bathed in bright sunshine as he dark rainclouds moved away for a spell. Inside it is small and the bar was packed. They had two Peak ales and another and I had their Summer Sovereign which was very nice.

On discovering we had 8 minutes spare we opted to have a swift half in the Angel over the road where some of the party had gone earlier, where we found two Abbeydale beers on and a fortuitous fiver on the floor. Alas, as soon as we were served 3 halves of Absolution the bus turned up and, leaving Chala in the loo in the mayhem, we had to neck the lovely beer and run across the road to the bus.

Once on board the passengers regaled the no doubt grateful driver with a series of half remembered quarter length versions of popular songs, most notably show me the way to Amarillo. This wiled away what seemed a surprisingly long jaunt to Totley, whilst simultaneously making the driver pull a Dairylea advert bus driver face. It would have made my day f he'd grumpily said " ther Tony Christie mad them kids ", but alas he did not.

Eschewing the promise or horror of the Cross Scythes ( I don't think I’ve ever been in, but can’t find a single person with anything good to say about it ), we crossed he road and visited the Fleur de Lys, where there was a band on, and I definitely had a pint of Old Peculier. Or maybe more.

By this time its reasonable to point out that I was a trifle refreshed, which meant after a while spent lolling around outside and at the bus stop across the road we finally finished our festival crawl about 21.00 and caught the bus into town.

The group somehow summoned up the energy ad desire to head to the Rutland so we parted and me and Chala headed home on the 52 where, bearing in mind our slightly sozzled state, we were alarmed to find ourselves sat with an even drunker person who was remonstrating with her other half and various items of fixed seating and bus interior fittings all the way to Handsworth.

Overall a great festival idea, enabling us to try excellent Scottish beers too rarely seen in Sheffield, to try some new pubs and revisit some favourites, and not have to pay an entry fee to get in.

Roll on next year!

Wee Beefy and our lass.

Wednesday, 14 July 2010

Walking and supping in North Staffordshire.

Clearly what you need for a yomp in Staffordshire is a Derbyshire Wayfarer...

Well, actually you do, as you are starting just over the border then travelling back into the county to get home. The idea of this walk was that, having missed the pub at Waterfall last time, I was determined to get there, and to do the Ilam walk again, and take Dave along with me.....

The day started manically as I got up later than planned and, having unwisely left myself a raft of tasks to complete, then had to run about like a blue arsed fly in order to get the bus into town at 08.27 and thus meet Dave on time (ish) at the train station.

Having forgotten to do my blood test so not realised I had run out of test strips, as well as having forgotten to put a cautionary dressing on the dodgy part of my foot that I always get blisters on, I arrived at the station to find Davefromtshop wasn’t answering his phone, and that the train at 08.54 was next to leave. Cue chaos.

Without checking the time I despatched Dave to get the ticket which I should already have bought whilst I went to the cashpoint and the loo. On coming out I could find Dave nowhere and wasted minutes circling the area, then was heading to platform 6 when Dave rang to ask where I was – and to inform me that the train had in fact just left.

After this I went to platform 5 instead of 6 then went to P6 to find Dave was on P8 for a train at 09.05 which when he finally met me on P6 we looked at the screen and decided was on P5, only to find when we got there that we had looked at a train at 10.05, leaving us about 4 minutes to get back to P8 and catch the train…

Ealing comedy script followed we sat down to enjoy the journey, but the train was delayed and was about 11 minutes late in Derby, leaving us only 6 minutes to get to the bus station. So we tried to catch a taxi, which he had to book for us since he couldn’t for insurance purposes pick up passengers without a booking. We arrived at the bus station with 2 minutes to spare and ran like lunatics to catch the 108. This arrived on time in Ashbourne, giving us 6 minutes to catch the 42a to Ilam (just inside the Staffordshire border) where, only an unlikely seeming 2 hours 28 minutes after leaving my house we arrived to start our walk.

We set off at a goof pace despite the wearying escapade of our outward journey, walking round the back of Ilam Hall to where I knew from last months trek that the path turned off (despite stil seeing absolutely no indication of this). We found the footbridge and crossed in to the fields and uphill to Rushley farm, then up through the narrow dale of Musden Woods. We arrived in Calton in excellent time to fight our way through a laughable excuse for a path linking Throwley lane to a track from Calton, ( it was bad last time but the netes are 6 foot high now), and out onto a path along the edge of and down into the Manifold Valley.

Once on the Manifold track we headed to the path up the dale to Back O Brook before diverting to Pikelow, and down into Waterfall for our first pub stop at the Red Lion, which we reached about 2 and a half hours after setting off.

The Red Lion is tucked away in the tiny hamlet of waterfall and appears to be the epitome of what a pub should be. It’s open in the evening only during the week, which is understandable since on discussing my walk with about 15 people none of them had heard of Waterfall or nearby Waterhouses. They do Sunday lunches and possibly evening meals and on the bar there are handpumps dispensing M+B Mild, Bass and a guest, this time being Fullers London Pride.

The Bass and mild are regulars, and this demonstrates a good turnover, since mild does not like being on more than a few days. The Bass was served in handled beer mugs which is a nice touch, and served through a sparkler. Despite initial concerns I am happy to report that Bass can be served in this way and still taste fantastic. To cap it all, this tiny pub seems to be full of locals of all ages, enjoying a drink and a chat, and seems to be the meeting point for people from a wide area.

We could have stayed a few hours then simply walked to the main road and caught a bus back to Ashbourne (well, with carefully planning, since there’s only 3 on a Sunday), but we opted to press on.

We took the right hand lane out of the village with the green and pub behind us heading for Pethills, taking a few turns to bring us out on the A523 at Winkhill. We then crossed the stream and headed along a long straight road and then up a never-endingly steep hill up to the ridge along which the Staffordshire moorlands walk runs, before slowly dropping down into the linear village of Foxt.

With drizzle upon us we ducked into the Fox and Goose to find Three B’s Blonde and Bass and Jennings Cumberland on offer – alas the Three B’s ran out so we had one of each of the other two. The pub has a traditional interior and bar and a number of rooms, with seating outside. There doesn’t look to be a lot of seating for drinkers, with a lot of tables set for diners, but this could not be tested since it was gone 16.00 and few people were in.

We pressed on downhill to Froghall wharf and out into Froghall hoping for a pint in the Station Hotel. Sadly the pub was closed (opening soon said the sign) so we headed down to the Churnet Valley railway and their restored Froghall station. They were just locking up for the day but we bartered to give them a donation in return for using their loos.

We had a short wait for a bus in Froghall, catching it to Alton Towers ( which you pay for, obviously Derbyshire Wayfarer is no use now… ) before transferring and paying once again to get from there to Uttoxeter, which we made in good time – the two journeys cost about £4.00 each in total and took less than an hour.

Once in Uttoxeter we went to the bar in the Bank House Hotel, where we both had Peakstones Rock Brewery Nemesis, which we missed on our last visit, and at £2.80 a pint seemed to be the same price as in 2007. After a brief relax here we walked round the corner into the square to visit the Vaults.

On our last visit the Vaults had been forlorn and closed, but its fantastic Bass windows had caught our eye. Now open again, we were pleased to discover that is a very traditional boozer, with Pedigree and Bass on handpump.

You enter up a short steep flight of stairs and there are tables on both sides with the bar to the let, and a tiny back room with a bar skittles game and another small bar counter. The Pedigree was excellent and the two blokes sat in the front half were both drinking the real ale, from traditional handled beer mugs. Long may the pub stay open.

We pressed on from this excellent location to the rather more rowdy Olde Talbot just to the right of the Vaults as you come out. This ancient pub is large with multi rooms and low ceilings, and was very busy with drinkers inside and at tables outside. Here once again we had pints of Bass.

We went from here to catch an imaginary train to derby at 20.22 – its always best to double check the times since its an hourly service – but having got there only a minute after it left this at least gave us time for a bite to eat. Addressing a more pertinent need first we went to a pub called the Steeplechase – you’ll have to bear with me on this because I can’t remember its actual name for definite, given that we immediately nicknamed it the Clarkson Arms. We had gone in and found the large modern interior markedly empty, and ordered 2 halves of Bass. Sitting down we noted to our horror that dotted around the pub were a few people avidly watching, interacting with and seemingly enjoying the widescreen viewing on offer – which was an old episode of Top Gear.

Hearing 9 people in unison laugh at a Jeremy Clarkson comment about horsepower or engine torque is for me a chilling experience, suggesting as it does, that people would consider the screening of a Top Gear episode from 3 years ago in the same way they would a stand up DVD or live sporting occasion.

Traumatised, we hurried down our beers then went to a Chinese takeaway to somehow contrive to make ordering two chips with curry sauce complicated, and to end up sat at the station with two scalding hot trays of molten curry and chips.

Once in Derby we headed to the Station (Inn) and having passed the entry check were rewarded with somewhat pricey but as always matchless pints of Bass. We stuck around for another half and a chat before heading to the Brunswick, having not been in for yonks, only to find, perhaps not unreasonably, they were closing at 22.30. We still got a pint though – me Hartington Bitter and Dave a Brunswick Station Porter.

I reasoned that no-one else would follow this lead so suggested visiting the Alexandra for our finisher, but they were observing the same hours so we trudged back to the station knowing it was over an hour before our next train. As luck would have it, given our train shenanigans earlier, the Leeds train was running late so we jumped on this and were back in Sheffield, tired and emotional, at a sensible time.

Overall we visited 8 pubs and had a lot of Bass, along with racking up what seemed like about 16 but was more likely only 12 miles of hard slogging.
And as soon as the crater like blister I achieved heals up I will no doubt be off again to the far away corners of the Derbyshire Wayfarer’s reach to try new pubs and fantastic beer.

Wee Beefy.

Sunday, 6 June 2010

Ilam, Manifold Valley and Waterfall

Big lad’s South Peak District yomp.

Despite having got away for the Bank Holiday Monday, I booked Wednesday and Thursday off to go out for a walk, knowing it would be far quieter ( although the ankle biters are loose, so its perhaps half term ) and statistically better weather.

I wanted to start in Ilam, but there are only two buses during the week, one from Ashbourne at 07.30, the second in mid afternoon – both utterly useless to me, although on a Thursday I could get there for lunchtime, but that was too late.

Instead I opted to start in Thorpe, which I got to by taking a train to Derby, a bus to Ashbourne and barely making the connection for the 442. Two hours 25 minutes after leaving my house I was at the Dog and partridge at Thorpe, not bad going considering the changes and mileage covered.

I walked through the village in hazy sunshine before waling down the steep hill into Ilam. I was going to follow the road to Rushley bridge and up to Throwley hall, then head into the Manifold valley, but the road looked an awful long way round, so I opted to find my way across the back of the hall park and up to Rushley, which I managed in spite of some laughable footpath signing, namely that there was none, and there being no visible path.

At Rushley I found a path up through Musden woods, a small rocky wooded dale thronged with endless wild garlic. Despite failing to find an imaginary diagonal path up to Slade House, I escaped onto a road at the edge of Calton and then took a path to the edge of the valley, and followed it to join the Manifold track.

I didn’t stay on it long, as I was soon at Swanlee bridge, following another virtually and then actually invisible path to the farm, before reaching Pitchens farm and heading over the hill ( on a path which was marked but very difficult to see ) on to the lane to Waterfall.

I had hoped to stop for a pint or two in the Red Lion, but alas the sign that greeted me before I turned for the pub informed me that they opened at 18.30 – still, at least they advertise their hours, and I should really have phoned ahead.

Thirsty in the heat after my slog, I headed into Waterhouses, where I found the George on the main road also closed, but did not spot any opening times. I also contrived to miss the bus when it seemed easier to have caught it, before walking past the closed down Old Crown Hotel. At least the shop was open….

I then decided to simply walk along the main road for a bit in the hope of happening upon a likely dreadful, but nevertheless open, roadside establishment, alas the footpath soon disappears and I took a ludicrously steep left hand lane towards Calton. Having wandered off the map I then tried to follow a footpath parallel to the road, but at the very edge of my map I noticed I was near Calton so tried to find another disappearing footpath into the village, which I eventually managed, with some nimble gate clambering.

I headed out of the village and stopped for directions having spotted a bloke doing some work, who not only pointed me towards the main road and a bus stop, but also kindly refilled my drinks bottle, which was much appreciated.

I reached Calton Moor Cross Roads with yonks to spare, so sat on a wall opposite the bus stop on the other side and waited for the bus to hopefully pull into the gateway I was sat next to, which it did, nearly an hour later.

Once in Ashbourne I figured I deserved a pint, so had a Pedigree at £2.85 in the white hart, which was a well kept beer, which lasted all of 5 minutes. I moved onto the Green man and had some absolutely brilliant Blue Monkey BG Tips, which was possibly 5.0% but went down like pop.

Having steadied the ship somewhat with one of their own Leatherbritches Dr Johnsons, I had more BG Tips and a meal, before having a dessert – which was a third BG Tips. I then had to fill in 2 and half hours without getting drunk, which isn’t easy at 20.00 in Ashbourne.

Lovely as the town is, its pubs and restaurants only after about 18.00, so I opted to try some new ones, having a half each time to try and remain sober.

My first stop was the Market Tavern, a pub just past the Green man that looks a little like a shop, and has two old fashioned upstairs rooms, and a trad bar room as you enter sporting quite a few handpumps. Here I had a half of a Marston’s beer that was about 3.4%, which seemed quite apt given my intended long wait for the bus.

I didn’t want to be rushing around, but I needn’t have worried about that, since I was aching and tired from the yomp. I went next to the George at the top of the square, where I had an enjoyable half of Burtonwood top hat; whoever it is brews that these days.

I then had a chat an a couple of halves of Bass in the vaults, before trying to find a pub past the bus station, which I did, but I can’t recall its name, and besides it was closed until mid June for a refurb. I returned to the main road, for some reason I didn’t go in the Horns, even though they always used to sell real ale, instead heading to one of the pubs on Dig Street near Somerfield, where I had a half of Pedigree.

My final Ashbourne pub was the Station hotel which also had bass on, so I supped it outside in the warm evening air, before heading for the bus back to Derby.

My final stop overall was the Station, where I had a couple of absolutely excellent bass from the jug, in the immaculate and relaxed surroundings that the Station provides.

All in all, I had some stunning beer and tried some new pubs, and got lost about 3 times, but it was a brilliant day out – I will now have to do it again with a companion, and no get lost (and go on a Saturday when the red Lion is open).

Wee Beefy.

Monday, 31 May 2010

Bank holiday escape 2010

With a weekend of crappy painting behind me, and with the suggestion of sun in the wild west, me, Koof and WF headed over to Glossop and up the big hill of unending traffic jams and out onto the motorway heading towards Milnrow and Oldham.

I had asked WF to keep the destination a secret - little did I know it was a mystery to him as well! We arrived at the Puckersley Inn at Shaw near Oldham in time to walk in for a pint, Koof opting for a half of Lees bitter and me a pint and WF a half of Brewers Dark. Last known visit was the 60's confirmed WF, but this was not the pub he had intended us to visit - that was on a hill visible from the M66 (or similar) and was, perhaps, nearby....

Much fannying later and we still had no idea what or where the magical hostelry was, so headed over the moors to Rishworth and down into Ripponden to visit the Old Bridge Inn. This was the first time me and WF had visited in the day, and only the second time we'd found it open after an initial stop in 1994, when there were 7 handpumps and no pump clips. All was on display this time along with some good foreign lagers, Koof and WF opted for Oldershaw Caskade and, myself a pint of Osset Excelsior.

We supped the beer by the river and then popped back to the car for lunch, away from the flies, before taking a relaxing stroll along the river, ending, somewhat incongruously, at the car park of a factory, where the path seemed not to carry on. We walked back admiring the scenery and then headed on towards Sowerby.

At Sowerby Bridge we found the Rams Head closed as usual - the last time we had visited was the same time in 1994 as the Old Bridge, so we headed down to Sowerby Wharf for a look around, and to watch the interesting spectacle of 2 narrow boats getting through the locks on the Rochdale canal together. We also nipped in the Moorings, a sprawling eatery in old warehouse locating at the wharf, which had an admirable number of beers on, alas all from major brewers - we all had Taylors landlord.

On to Hebden Bridge, where we toiled lengthy to find a parking spot before securing a space and heading to Moyles bar, a unique real ale venue in that its unashamedly contemporary, but good at sourcing and selling an interesting range of beer - me and Koof had the Slater’s Monkey Magic and WF had the Little Valley transition, which like all Little Valley beers was a smidgen cloudy, but no worse for it.

WF went to move the car and me and Koof walked up the canal to Stubbing locks and up onto the road and the Fox and Goose, which, in a stroke of luck, was having a beer festival.

Tickets sourced we made our way in no particular order or assignation through Bridgehouse bitter, Leydens Chestnut Mild, Kendal something, St Austell Tribute, Atlas 3 Sisters, Brass Monkey Baboon, Berrow Topsy Turvey, Ballards Wassail, and Howard Town Dark Peak.

Beers were supplemented by sensibly priced sausage rolls, cheese and onion pasties and pies, and all was consumed sat in the tiny back room, admiring the extensive and haphazardly stowed pewter jugs. Suffice to say there was much snoring on the way home, but overall a highly enjoyable way of spending a bank holiday.

Wee Beefy.

Wednesday, 12 May 2010

Peak Forest Revisited


                    Back in April I wrote about my walk from New Mills to Kettleshulme, and the pubs I encountered along the way. Since then I have done a shorter circular version of the walk with my Brother, and yesterday, a longer version with Davefromtshop to try some different pubs and different parts of the route.

We started at Strines Station and walked briskly up to Strines village and followed a track up to the canal. I had walked this section a few years ago and it was closed before Newtown because of subsidence, so I was hoping to get all the way through and see some new sites.

We made good pace and were soon inhaling the sweet aromas from the factory at Newtown, before heading through the marina and on to Buxworth, for just gone 12.00. We headed in to the Navigation, a large canal side pub at the tramway and canal interchange.

On the bar were 5 beers including Landlord, Robinson's 442 and two milds to choose from. I had Springhead drop of the black stuff and Dave had Howard Town Milltown mild. Both were excellent and in good condition, so having somewhat demolished them, we opted for a half of each others choice to finish.

We left in bright sunshine, which had accompanied us all the way so far, and followed the track at the side of the A6. This, I think, is the Peak Forest tramway trail, which comes out at the bottom of Whitehough Head lane. We followed the road up at pace, overtaking an enormous group of ramblers as we did, so that they didn't beat us to the bar at the Old hall inn.

Once again the Old Hall didn't disappoint, with 7 beers to choose from, from which we chose pints of Buxton Dark Dales, a fine tasty dark beer which genuinely seems to gave a distinctive flavour shared with their Spa bitter - perhaps its the water ?

We also had a pint each of Brass Monkey Tamarind Mild and Bollington bitter, which was a bit cloudy but tasted fantastic. Suitably sated, we headed up the hill over the A6 and started our ascent of Eccles Pike. Noticing a bank of death black clouds behind us, we sat down in the sunshine for a short sandwich stop, which we managed to have without seeing a spot if rain.

Having clawed our way up onto the road, we headed off down toward the Hanging gate, taking a new shorter route, down the side of the hall farm and coming out directly opposite the pub and the road to Combs. We nipped in the Gate for an important trip to the facilities and had two halves of Theakstons best - not a bad price at £2.50 a pint. The Hanging gate is a large roadside food pub, with a single real ale, but it seems to have been on on the occasions u have been in, and I think the pub opens all day everyday.

Heading on into Combs, it seemed unlikely we would make it before the Beehive shut, but since my initial visit I have had to readdress my opinions of the pub.

When I visited with my Brother and our friend, we had parked in Combs and walked a circular route, ending up back in the afternoon, tired and soaked and wanting a pint. No friendly lady behind the bar this time, instead the landlord. He had already barked at some people wanting to sit at one of the numerous empty tables with reserved signs on after he'd started puling our pints, at which point we started looking round for where we might sit down.

I asked him politely if there were any non-food tables we could sit at, and he grumpily snapped “they’re in there - and they're all taken“ before walking away from us. Puzzled by his lack of ability to be friendly or polite we went outside to find the tables soaked by the rain and the umbrellas inconsiderately down.

Having dried off somewhere to sit I went back in to use he loo, and spotted an empty table in the drinkers area - so grabbed my brother and our mate, but my brother was nearly finished and opted to sit in the car. We got in to find the table taken, so opted to perch on some stools, with our drinks on one of those pillar shelves, which are just big enough to pt a drink on.

Given that it was nearly 17.00, it seemed unlikely that so many parties (I think there were 7 empty tables with reservations) would be turning up just minutes after our arrival - after all, what other reason could there be to prevent us sitting at such a table? Given the mardy tone of the host we did not enquire if we could sit at a reserved table, which is a shame because it would be nice to know why we were not, allowed, since that was no doubt the case.

The tables did have place mats and knives and forks, but no cloths, so just how damaging would it be to wipe the tables once after we had sat and had our drinks? Instead, given that the landlord fronts the business and his behaviour is rightly a barometer for what the pub thinks of its none food customers, I have decided not to bother going in the Beehive again, until someone with customer service skills and retail logic takes over.

So, back to the walk this time, we did not even walk round to see if the pub was open, but took the path that cuts out the corner. This skirts the end of the reservoir, which looked very low, and then heads through field to a tunnel under the railway and out on top the lane at Spire Hollins.

After a brief 5 minute stop trying to persuade a lamb to go back under the gate it had come out from under, we were soon on long lane crossing the hill, and getting drenched in persistent fine rain.

We got to the Shady oak at about 16.00, there was Marstons Burton Bitter, Wychwood Hobgoblin, Jennings Tom Fool, and their Snecklifter, which we both had pints of whilst the landlord kindly let us dry our coats on the radiator. After a relaxing stop we headed up to Elnor lane and then followed it down into Horwich end, where you join a path following the Goyt, into Whaley bridge.

This comes out at the Cock inn, so we popped inside and found it selling 3 real ales, including the Hatters mild, so we had a pint each of that. The Cock isn't perhaps the most prepossessing pub from the outside, Robinsons new livery has started to appear throughout their estate but has not reached this pub yet. Inside is classic Robinsons decor with lots of wood and carpets ( rarely do you see stone flagged floors in a Robbies pub.... ) and comfy seats. The pub had also invested time in decorating the interior, most noticeably round the bar, which was a contrast to the appearance outside.

We then headed up to the Shepherds arms for pints of Jennings mild, and finally to the Goyt, which I have never previously been to before, in the network of tiny streets near the canal basin. No mild on here unfortunately, but a good selection of beers, including Golden Pippin, which we each had a half of. This pub retains a tiny snug next to the bar and two separate drinking areas, and seemed quite busy. Its nice to know that the pub looks to be doing OK because the nearby Navigation Inn is closed or the lease is for sale, and the Jodrell Arms has steel fence panels around the entrance.

After filling up on some chips we caught the bus to Bridgemont (actually just the next stop) and visited the Dog and Partridge, which has a range of about 6 real ales on. Another supporter of the mild magic campaign, they had Coach House gunpowder mild, which we had pints of. We also tried halves of the Wincle brewery Wibbly wobbly, which is quite an unusual find, and a cracking beer to match. The dog is another traditional pub, with a small dining room at the back, a traditional dark wood bar, and comfy seating - although be warned, try not sit in the comedy seats in front of the bar - you might never get out....

Finally, we caught the bus to Newtown and walked down to The Rock in New Mills, for a further pint of hatters mild and a chat with the locals, before wearily walking to the station for the train home. There was still time for a last pint though, as we went to the Sheffield Tap for a pint of Raven dark IPA from Thornbridge, and to try halves of their new Lumsdon and Seafortth beers.

Overall we visited 10 pubs and all but two of the served cask mild, and all maintained a range of at least 2 real ales to choose from. The route is very flexible so can be changed to incorporate other parts, such as starting at Chapel en le Frith and walking from there to Whitehough, then heading to Buxworth and following the canal to Whaley bridge, and the continuing to follow it to Bridgemont and Strines, visit Strines two pubs and the pub at Brookbottom near the station, and then following the trail along the valley back to New Mills.

Whichever route you take, there's plenty of good beer, pubs, views and routes to enjoy along the way.

Wee Beefy.

Sunday, 11 April 2010

Big lad walks the High Peak Canal


A week of dry warm weather had been predicted, so I booked a day off and headed out towards the Chinley/New Mills area for a yomp.

I started at New Mills, having walked up the hill towards Newtown station to join the Peak Forest canal.

I noticed en route that the North Western, a Robinsons pub near the station, had not only closed, but been turned into flats. I had been a few times when filling in time waiting for a train, they always seemed to have cask Robbie’s Mild on, and maintained a traditional interior layout of different rooms.

No doubt the loss of another old interior will have been softened by the money made on the deal, which is weird for Robinson’s, since they own a number of pubs on the National Inventory.

I walked along the canal in the sunshine, and took the left fork just before Whaley Bridge towards Buxworth basin. The Navigation wasn’t yet opened so I missed the chance of a pint,instead I headed on following the river and the canal, before heading up Jane Lane to follow the Buxworth to Chinley road.

I soon found the turning I wanted, which heads down to a large works and then very sharply uphill into Whitehough. I got to the Old Hall Inn at 10 minutes before opening, but cheekily went in since the door was ajar, and asked if it was OK to be served, which it was.

The Old Hall has, I think, 7 handpumps and a cider pump, this time dispensing JB West Sussex cider. I went for a pint of Brampton Stout first, although I it was perhaps the strongest flavoured beer on offer. Having worked up a slight thirst it didn’t seem to last long so I moved on to my next pint. This was a fantastic Marble W34, apparently the weird name reflects it being a trial brew.
This was an expectedly hoppy beer at 4.7%, and was a nice way to prepare for the slog up the hill that awaited me.

Leaving Whitehough behind, you cross the A6 and head uphill before taking a lane on the right and following a track up onto Eccles Lane, which follows the contours of the shoulder of Eccles Pike. It’s a hard slog, and the path isn’t particularly good, but the views back to Chinley are impressive.

Once on Eccles Lane I rounded the edge of the Pike and started making a gradual descent down the other side towards Tunstead Milton. I could see my next destination bathed in sunshine ahead, that being Combs reservoir (I did wonder if this was a spelling mistake, since this is clearly the spelling of “combs” which you use to comb your hair. However, the road sign says Combs, so it must be correct…. ).

Making my way down through the fields was quite easy, although not having anything unhelpful or foolish like a map meant a couple of slight detours to find stiles. The path brings you out after a really marshy walk by a stream onto Chapel en le Frith golf course. The waymark points straight across, so I walked in a straight line, noticing posts along the way, before I lost the line of the path.

A quick trawl through the brush at the edge of the course revealed a low waymarked post, and I popped through the boundary hedge and out onto the main road. Here I saw the Hanging Gate at Tunstead Milton (or Cockyard, not sure which), so nipped in for a look. There is 1 handpump dispensing Theakstons best, but given that this is ostensibly a food orientated pub, it’s better than no real ale at all, and not too bad at £2.50 a pint.

I pressed on towards Chapel next and took the right hand road into Combs. I got to the Beehive earlier than expected, just in time to order a chip butty with my beer. The Beehive is also another food orientated pub, and I have only ever been during the week, and every time it has been packed out. They must have good reputation for food – it’s certainly mentioned on their website, and is sensibly priced and comes in generous portions – but it’s probably less well known for its beer.

The beer is not cheap, but for a pub that doesn’t even allude to real ale on its website three beers is good going – Bass, Copper Dragon Golden Pippin and Three B’s brewery Honey Bee were on offer on this visit. I opted for a pint of Bass, as well as half of the Honey Bee.

I had anticipated leaving before 15.00 in order to keep up with my desired timetable, so I was pleased to be making time in leaving at 14.40. I took the lane at the left of the pub and headed towards Spire Hollins farm. I carried on up the steep hill to a wide junction, where the tarmac road turns left to a dead end and a track heads off right.

This is Long Lane, which takes the most leisurely available route over a dip in the hills to drop down into Fernilee a couple of miles later. The track is well worn and quite stony in places, but affords fantastic views back to Combs and the reservoir and Eccles Pike.

Aware of the time limit set by the last bus from Kettleshulme, I pushed on and made good time, joining Elnor Lane on the other side then cutting diagonally down to come out at the Shady Oak at Fernilee.

This is a large roadside pub which had closed down a couple of years ago, luckily its now reopened by its present owners, and doing food and good real ale - a sign outside mentioned Marston’s Burton bitter for £2.00 a pint, so I went in with high hopes. I noticed that Jennings Snecklifter, one of my favourite beers, was also on, and without pushing it ended up getting a pint of that for £2.00 as well. The landlord is intending to have one beer on at a time at £2.00, but had kindly extended the deal for me rather than have beer in the lines going off. At present the pub is open all day and offers a lunch service for groups, such as preparing a buffet in advance for walkers. Perhaps unwisely I had two pints of Snecklifter, but I knew I had to get off for the final slog.

Almost opposite I picked up a lane and then a track into the Goyt Valley, and then tried to find the quickest route up the maze of paths to get onto Ling Longs Lane, which loops between Taxal and Overton Hall Farm. Having had minor problems negotiating the farm at the Sitch where the only path which seemed to take you anywhere ended up at a locked gate, I joined the Midshires Way and walked up the steep hill to Overton.

The next part is a very, very steep scramble uphill to Taxal edge, after which you start dropping down towards some woods and can head up to Wingather Rocks. On this occasion, I turned right before the woods and to a farm on Taxal Edge. This brings you (likely panting and breathless, after the ascent) out on the road to Clayton Fold.

I headed right for what was quite a long way (longer than I remembered) before finally reaching the hamlet of Clayton Fold and heading down the lane (unsuitable for motor vehicles the sign warns, but if you have a 4X4 or an old banger it makes a nice route into kettleshulme) past the farms to come out at the impossible tight junction next to the Bulls Head.

Kettleshulme is lucky in having two pubs that sell good beer to choose from, and its proximity to the lane end makes the Bulls Head a good first choice. There were two beers available, Storm PGA from nearby Macclesfield and Weetwood Old Dog bitter. I understand the Weetwood is a regular, and given its not a beer you usually see in Sheffield I had a pint of that. The Bulls Head is a steadfastly traditional looking pub outside, with Boddingtons signage, and inside it retains 3 drinking areas in 2 rooms, and has a lot of comfortable fittings and furnishings. It was a relaxing setting to enjoy my beer, so I sat in the bar looking through the sloping doorway at the pub dog soaking up the last rays of sun poking through the windows.

I had arrived in Kettleshulme a bit earlier than planned at 5 to 6, so had time to visit the famous Swan Inn, purchased by locals after it faced closure and conversion to private residence.

There was Marston’s Bitter and a honey beer on offer, along with Wylam Gold Tankard from Northumberland, so I went for a pint of that. The second half of the bar area was filling up with diners an it looked busy, which is good to see bearing in mind its brush with extinction. It retains 3 rooms – that’s if you count the immensely tiny snug next to the end of the bar as you enter. Either way it’s a great pub, offering good beer choice, and along with the Bulls Head, makes kettleshulme an enjoyable village to visit.

All too soon I had to leave and catch the bus into Whaley Bridge, once at which I went to the White Hart on the bridge at a crossroads before Horwich End. I only stopped for a half of Old Peculier from a range of 2 or 3, not least because I was feeling a little tired by now.

I still had time for a pint in the Shepherds Arms on Old Road, a fantastic Marston’s pub also retaining its individual rooms, with a small bar room dispensing 6 real ales, mainly form the Marston’s W+D range. The guest on this occasion was Holts Sixth Sense, which I had a pint of.

I then caught the bus to New Mills Newtown and walked down to the Rock Tavern overlooking the valley and the trail to the millennium walkway. I got a well kept pint of Robinsons mild, and although not heaving, it was good to see a good mix of people in for a chat and a drink.

My final stop came after returning to Sheffield, when, for reasons that now seem a spot unclear, I went for a final drink in the Sheffield Tap, where I had halves of Thornbridge brewery Seaforth and Kipling, before sloping home for a kip and to try and ignore the burning pain in my feet.

Overall the walk is somewhere between 14 and 17 miles, and features three main hills, but is full of spectacular views, pubs to enjoy and if necessary, for instance at Tunstead Milton or Fernilee, the chance to abort early and catch the bus. All in all, a very enjoyable Cheshire and Derbyshire slog.

Next, details of a few real ale gains in my local area, and I promise, part 3 of the Wales trip.*

*Update, several years later - I never got round to part 3! Sorry about that....

Tuesday, 9 March 2010

Big lad goes for a walk.......

Hello, here are the details of some White Peak pubs and beer.

Now that its, erm, well winter still I suppose, me and Dave decided to go out for a walk and visit some new pubs, and a couple of old favourites. Luckily, despite three solid months of snow and rain, we picked a day when the sun shone and it felt warm and spring like to go for our yomp.

It’s perhaps diligent to point out that whilst a walk it may have been, the main traverse finished in the afternoon, allowing us to spread our net further. It still made me and Davefromtshop sweat and nearly pass out and so was no doubt good exercise.

We started by catching the latest version of non-integrated public transport, the TM Travel 218 to Bakewell - or Buxton, depending on what you read and who you know. We were going to Bakewell so didn't care, but Buxton bound travellers were less impressed, especially since about 3 buses leave for Buxton or Bakewell at the same time, so it’s crucial you know which to catch. Instead of having a PMT ( yes, that was their catchy name ) coach taking you from Sheffield to Hanley in Stoke straight-through, you now need to catch 3 buses, the first 2 of which almost certainly don't connect.

Anyhoo, I digress, we were in Bakewell on time and set about our walk, heading up to the school and then taking the left hand lane towards Conksbury and turning off to Over Haddon. We walked up a lane that becomes a surfaced track up to an estate near the school, the precipitous steep ascent reminding us that there was exercise ahead, and almost all the first part of it walking uphill.

Once at the school we followed the road and admired the views looking out across the valley and guessing where the path across Haddon fields might have come out. At our first turn in the road requiring a decision, inevitably got it a bit wrong, what with my defiant yet simultaneously stupid anti map crusade being in place. I mistook the road to Over Haddon on our right for an earlier one and carried on downhill expecting to find it.

Seeing time creeping on and knowing the road ( especially if you miss it ) was likely a spot further round, we set off across the fields looking ahead to spot the white of the Lathkil Hotel ahead. Several unlikely seeming sightings followed, and only when a larger path traversed the field in front of us did I look right - to see we were 20 minutes downhill from the Hotel and had gone too far.

Spirits undampend we headed up the path along the side of the dale and were at the Lathkil Hotel for 11.20, a bit later than planned. The Lathkil, as well as having been in the GBG for ever and won countless awards, has the sense to open for morning coffee at some early time, meaning the gar opens at 11.00. We strode into the bar which was drenched in white sunlight to find the fire lit (although we didn’t need it () and 4 real ales.

Me and Dave both had pints of Whim Hartington Bitter and sat down to admire the view and catch our breath. Within a short space of time we were requiring more beer and took the bar staff’s recommendation that we try the Whim Schnee Weiss, which was fantastic.

As we continued slaking and trying not to get too heavily involved in talking shop, the time came for a last one, and although I wanted to try the Storm Brewery Red Mist the wheat beer was too good so we had another pint of that. At this point my primitive limbic brain began to suggest that there was a bus about 13.00 so we should wait for that and go to another pub by bus, but we were determined to drag our considerable forms around on foot at least as far as Monyash.

This unplanned but not surprising long stop at The Lathkil meant I abandoned my careful plan to walk to Youlgreave then Monyash, and instead we opted to walk along the lane along the top of the dale and then follow a path along the side and into the dale into Monyash. We set off at good speed about 12.45 and reached Haddon Grove, where the path takes you dale-wards and the road goes to join the main drag into Monyash.

Following the path through the farm we arrived at the edge of Lathkil dale overlooking a side dale and the sheep track that lay ahead. We followed this precariously until we dropped down onto the head of the side dale, and decided that we should continue our precarious tiptoeing along the top side for a bit longer. Where the path seemed to diverge down into the dale itself it looked somewhat off putting so mindful of the time we headed up a path out of Lathkil, then over a hill and out onto the main road for the last 10 minutes into Monyash.

Dave predicted we would make it to the pub at 14.35, conveniently securing 25 mins for a pint before the bus. I can't let him gloat at how close we came so will instead point out that we arrived at 14.33, making him erm, miles out.

We ordered pints of Bradfield Blonde and Dave went to wash his face in the gents whilst I snapped some rare empty Bulls head photos.

At 15.00 we went outside and saw the bus - which is really a school service - waiting outside, so got on before being whisked away for a brief tour of White Park plateau villages, with a load of admirably well behaved bairns. Having deposited the last ones at Flagg the driver then finished his route and dropped us outside the Duke of York at Pomeroy.

This was a new pub to us both, no doubt passed an endless number of times, an isolated, large roadside Robbie’s house selling Unicorn Bitter. Despite our odd time of arrival there were a few people I, and the sight of someone having their food made us hungry. We knew we had a good hour here so made the most of our time by having a look round, taking pics outside and then ordering what was probably the nicest chip butty I have had in years.

The landlord was friendly and chatty throughout and although the Unicorn was a tad chilly it was in good nick and we ended up at time to leave without realising it. We caught the 42 into Buxton and sought out the Old hall hotel, a second new venue.

This is a large and very old building with stylish 1920's style polished wooden revolving doors at the entrance, and then a brief walk through corridors to the tiny bar at the back, where there are 2 real ales on, and you have to ring the bell for service. The main attraction was the promise of Buxton beer in Buxton, and we weren’t disappointed - the Buxton Spa was on. At £3.00 a pint it might have wanted to be a smidgen stronger and maybe a bit more adventurously flavoured, but the surroundings were nice, and by hotel standards it was a surprise to see two real ales on in what is probably not a renowned stop on the Town's drinking circuit.

After this we headed across the park ( scene of dreadful inebriated confusion in the past ) to another hotel - this time GBG regular Ramsays at the Buckingham Hotel. There were about 6 beers on and we had halves of Deverentino Medusa and Howard Town Ramsays ale. The Deverentino beer was bit limp and lacked flavour , it’s a brewery that seems to promise much but doesn't always deliver, which is a shame because the beer styles are very interesting.

The Howard Town had a bit more bite, and this whetted our appetites for 2 more halves, this time the weaker Howard Town Longdendale Light. Careful to finish with some light still remaining we headed up into the Market Square to check the bus times and found a 66 to Chesterfield in situ.

Naturally the diver was happy for me and Dave to stand half on and half off the bus for 5 minutes unravelling the possibilities of our route, but having learned that there was no longer a 67 to Chesterfield from Tideswell late on we opted to travel all the way to Chesterfield in search of more local beers.

We alighted at Brampton near Morro's and Dave used his somewhat eclectic directional ability to deliver us safe and sound to attractions including a dead end behind some garages, a housing estate, a patch of grass, and a path to some bungalows. Luckily we returned to the main road to find where he had been when he and his friend parked up to visit the Rose and Crown, before leading us up Victoria Street West and round the corner to our destination, 1 minutes walk from where we started.

Still, it was worth the tour, and we compensated with two pints of Impey Dark from Brampton brewery, the tap of which the pub is. So excellent was this beer that I had another whilst Dave tried a Tryst brewery bitter, before we had Brew Co Midnight Stout and then 2 final pints of Impey dark. The helpful bar staff secured us a taxi to the station and we were on the train with time to spare. Just in time on arriving back in Sheff to catch a bus rather than invest in a taxi and arrive home safe and sate and sloshed.

All in all our Oliver reed fitness diet comprised walking about 7 miles but maybe less, and drinking 12 pints, the very best of which by a mile was the Brampton Impey Dark.

It might not be a healthy walk but it was bloody enjoyable.

Wee Beefy.

Friday, 5 March 2010

Some Sheffield pubs you might not know.....

Sheffield pubs recent visits.

When not traipsing around Derbyshire or the rest of the UK I am very lucky that here in Sheffield we have some excellent pubs, selling fantastic beer, and some retaining interesting original features.

Since December I have visited a few new ones, seen one close down and visited some old favourites. Here are a few that should appeal to real ale and real pub fans...

The Hallamshire House, Commonside.

This is a former Wards pub selling 3 or 4 real ales, with two large games rooms, an old fashioned snug and lounge, all laid out in different rooms, just like they should be. If you visit on a match day then its fair to say you may only have the corridor or the snug to sit in, but overall its always been possible to grab a seat and be in your own world.

I went in on a December Saturday and was pleasantly surprised to find that the Sheffield brew Co beers were £1.60 a pint. There was a good range, two Sheffield BC, 1 Kelham Island and another.

We got sat down in the snug and noticed just how cosy the size of the rom made it. Looking at the fittings we admired the tiled fireplace and he old Wards leaded windows and the bar, which is a traditional design, quite long and open on 3 sides. We soon got chatting to a couple sat under the window, and discovered that they had been visiting for decades - always a good sign, since this often indicates that rash changes have been avoided.

There was an FA cup match on featuring one of the minnows, and people were thronged in the back rooms, but we were ensconced in this tiny room and enjoying its comfort and the friendliness of the regulars.

We only had time for a few pints but it was a nice haven away from the busier student orientated pubs on Crookes where we had just been. I don't know if beer is always such good value but even if not, I would warmly recommend a visit. The important retention of traditional separate room layout means that if a quiet cosy pint does not attract you and you want to be in front of the TV watching a match, you can also do that. And if you got bored, you could always try the closed Shop just opposite.

The University Arms, Brook Hill.

I have been visiting this pub ever since it opened to the public a few years ago, having previously been the 192 Club owned by or certainly open for, the University. Inside is a gleaming dark wood fitted bar which looks like it may have been there ever since it opened.

There are snob screens to break up the main seating area, with a tiny semi-private seating area next to the far side of the bar, along with a conservatory and beer garden. There are 4 real ales and foreign draught beers and bottles, as well as inexpensive light meals at dinner and evenings.

The pub has bands on at weekends form time to time, and also has a rather eclectic collection of blues played in the background. Thornbridge Brewery seem to be the main payers - their Wild Swan ids a mainstay, along with guests from local breweries.

The toilets are located off a corridor on your right as you enter - it’s quirky that they are housed in a very large high ceilinged room, where old tables and chairs go to retire, and reminds me of school toilets for some reason. This adds to the feeling that you are in a private venue that hasn't altered very much over the years, although it’s worth pointing out that it would appear to have been refurbished quite recently and is clean and bright throughout. Don’t forget that they don't open Sundays.

The Sportsman, Main Road, Darnall.

I read abut this pub in Beer Matters, having passed it a couple of times and noted that it and its next door neighbour boozer the Albert were now the only ones of 5 or possible many more pubs on main road heading to Darnall.

It’s fair to say that it doesn't look like a palace; there's no up and coming or large brewery bank rolling this pub, but then there's none of the annoying preoccupation with gimmicks and branding that come with it. The other plus point is the fact that the landlord has made an effort to get a varied range of beers and lagers and other drinks at sensible prices, making this probably the cheapest place to drink for miles.

On a recent visit they had Harviestoun Engine Oil (4.5%) and a light Springhead beer of similar strength, for £1.80 a pint. There was Leffe and Hoegarden for Chala, at nearer supermarket prices, and pool at 50p a game. Had it been a Marston's or Greene King pub it would be £2.50 or more a pint, £1.00 a game of pool, a corporate jukebox at 2 songs for a pound, and there would be a raised floor for the pool table, upstairs toilets and faux olde-worlde bar fronts and seating.

The pub has a central entrance into the bar with a door on the left leading to the games room. There is a side entrance on the left now disused, that would have taken you straight into the games room - although this may have been the bar or Tap room, with the room on the right originally being the lounge. The gents are entered from both rooms, so there are two ladies loos, one on each side. The pub therefore retains a classic traditional two room layout, which is good to see.

It’s quite difficult to ignore the fact that this is a proper working men's pub where people don't mince their words - I think if you were of a nervous disposition or allergic to swearing you might not like it. However, the fact that it survives and appears to do well relies on the regulars and latecomers like us going in day in day out and spending cash.

The mark up on the ale might be a little less than in other pubs but its competitive pricing encourages you to drink more - or at least that's my excuse.

The Masons Arms, Carson Road, Crookes.

I only visited this pub for the first time last week - having grown up in Crookes and been there of drinking age ( ish ) for 3 years, and visiting regularly.

The Masons is off the main road and seems to have fluctuating fortunes based on info supplied by my Brother and other friends living in Crookes. I heard discouraging things about it being unfriendly and a boring old mans pub when I was 18 ( put me right off then, but wouldn't so much now ), and decided that I owed it to myself to go have a look and a few games of pool.

We went in the room on the right which houses the pool table and the darts, it sounds like there’s a telly in the other room and that seemed a bit noisier later on, but we didn't go in. The loos are along a passage running behind a bar, and there’s some space on the front for outdoor refreshments.

On the bar there were 3 handpumps, with Black Sheep Best, Copper Dragon Golden Pippin and another more ubiquitous option. We all wanted the Pippin but unfortunately it ran out, but the landlord was at pains to make sure we got a replacement, which is good to see.

We enjoyed a few games of pool and a rather, ahem epic game of darts (none of us can play, and we took an hour to get from 301), along with several pints of very well kept Black Sheep.

The pub was quiet but Sunday nights are awkward to call, we were allowed to finish our game of pool and sup up at a sensible speed before we had to leave. Its difficult to get a sense of a pub in a couple of hours on a Sunday night but I saw enough to convince me that I should go back and try the Pippin and maybe even learn how to play darts.

With the possible exception of the University Arms, these pubs might not be familiar to readers of this blog, but it shows that in addition to established high quality award winning pubs, Sheffield has traditional back street boozers and quirky watering holes to suit a wide range of people.

And just to somewhat devalue that statement, my next posts should be from Wales, Bradfield, Cheshire and Staffordshire and the Peak District.

Seizure, Yan