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.

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