alas the above title makes this seem like I am 9 years old, and have been to the beach with a bucket and spade and a worry free unembittered cloud of relentless optimism bubbling above my brow. Alas its not like or about that. This is Britain. Its cold. I am middle aged. I am not in the least bit optimistic about any attractions I visit. I am woefully unexcited about almost everything i undertake. Except going to the pub of course which is usually tremendously rewarding...
So it was we set off, Wee Fatha at the wheel, Chala in the front, me discarded in the back like a pile of coats or other underutilised ephemera, heading out through the Peak District to the magical land of the Cheshire Plain and to our first stop at Lindow Common for lunch. It had seemed recklessly optimistic to head out through the peak District on a Bank holiday weekend but despite the sunny weather it was quiet. Perhaps everyone knew something we didn't? Perhaps it would be suddenly cold and wet at dinner?
Well luckily, sat on the common overlooking Black Lake, it wasn't that cold, although we were instantly besieged by swarms of tiny confused insects, with whom alas I have an unrivalled reputation as a great tasting snack. In fact, by the time we reached our first pub I was still feeling the aftereffects of my being nibbled, so was looking forward to a beer to distract me.
The Railway, Mobberley
This was my first trip to one of the Mobberley pubs all three or four of which I understand sell real ale. The railway is, appropriately, situated near the station, and is a rather interesting building that seem to have its back to the road and its side is where you enter. There are lots of very small windows at different levels, and a set of steps up to a back entrance, helping to reinforce the impression that its back to front. Am sure if you head left from the entrance you'd find the front.
Inside is evidence of many small rooms, not completely retained as such but divided up similarly to carriages to create separate cosy areas. The bar is on the far left as you enter and the loos at the end. The bar is quite low and sports four handpumps, on this occasion selling Black Sheep Bitter, Wincle Waller and Dunham Massey Big Tree bitter. I had a pint of the excellent Wincle Waller (a brewery that only missed my 2012 top ten because I hadn't bought any this year) and WF a half of the Big Tree.
One rather disappointing anomaly in what is quite a traditional pub is the sighting and volume of the TV. It is right next to the bar, stood at which with a trailer for terrifyingly important sport on, neither myself or the person serving could hear each other.
I don't mind a screen taking up a specific area of a pub if there is something important on (and there was I admit) but the screen is situated in the middle of the pub. As soon as the coverage started the whole pub became a sea of gawping and gasping and groaning - the pub practically became the fixture. I don't get that at all.
Anyhoo, on the bright side, the food seemed popular, and there were many people eating in the areas free of screen, and the Wincle Waller was truly excellent as I had expected - I could easily have had another had we not been off to our main destination next.
Not as reliable even as pubs...
That place was Arley Hall near Northwich. We had checked the website for details of opening hours to check which dates it was open, our visit fell withing those dates and we had postponed our visit by a week to avoid last Sunday's deluge. However, being a predictably calamitous Beefy clan day out, the hall was, naturally, shut.
Seemingly, this was all over the website, and besides, the gardens were open. I checked the website in mid April (as late as the 18th). There was no mention of the hall being closed, and it was a wedding - did they book last minute (on potentially the busiest Sunday of the year?). Either way, its on there now, but announcing the closure surely long after knowing it was to be shut and expecting everyone to check the website the day before they travel in case you have taken a decision to close on one of the weekends people are most likely to visit, is a bit backwards. Am over it now though....
So after our brief but comparatively expensive visit we headed off to the village of Great Budworth. Much like some of the gems of the Cornish coastline, Great Budworth is one of those quintessentially English villages that attracts visitors in their droves, and crucially, it has a pub.
The George and Dragon, Great Budworth
The George, appropriately named in terms of perceived English patronage at least, is an odd shaped pub sitting near the top of the village at a junction diagonal to the church. It has a distinctive wrought iron sign, a half brick half plaster exterior and a large tall porch with a peaked roof. I am going to naively described this as Flemish in style, but its not really. Its more likely an amalgam of styles.
Swan with Two Nicks, Little Bollington
We had been hoping to squeeze a quick half in at the Tunnel End, Dutton, but it was Chala's day out and she was getting hungry, so we took a rather bizarre route (what WF rather incongruously described as "the old roads", meaning a bewildering series of back lanes, endless direction changes and needless detours that would look like a childs scribble if plotted on a map) to Little Bollington next to the entrance to Dunham Massey Country Park.
What I like about the Swan is that it sells Dunham Massey beers on draught - usually two or three, and also, that it sells good food. Not too expensive, nothing needlessly pretentious, in sensible sized portions, and even though last night it was heaving and packed full, we didn't have to wait too long for our food. Meals average out at about £10.50, alas am unsure of the beer prices as they went on the tab.
Better still, last night they had two brilliant Dunham Massey ales on, including one of my favourites. I had a pint of the Dunham Dark and WF a half of the the same. The beer is even better on draught than I expected, bearing in mind its excellence in bottle conditioned form. Also, they had on the 7.5% Dunham Gold, which I tried a half of - this was a little more rounded than in bottle and all the more enjoyable for it.
So this was an enjoyable bank holiday weekend trip out, and it didn't rain (just looking at a showery scene outside my window now...) and despite predictions wasn't especially cold either. We also got to try some good pubs and some excellent local ales on the way round. Time and money well spent