Monday, 29 October 2012

Stalwarts and starlets of the South Yorkshire pub scene


    on Sunday, despite promises of dreadful weather, and the fact that Christingpher was coming for tea and considerable alcohol the night and morning before, I rashly agreed to go for a walk. We planned to find the source of the Don, but that's a bit disingenuous since it appears that its beginning is around the grains moss area, the nearest settlement being White Gate near Hade Edge.

So myself and Mr P conceded that having thought originally it sprang from Dunford Bridge we'd catch the bus there and walk along the Trans Pennine Trail as far as our hollow legs would carry us. Luckily, Mr P had escaped the chains of a temporary ban on alcohol so was keen to utilise a facility or two along the way.

We started off on the novelty joke train line between Sheffield and Huddersfield, where although our train was vaguely on time we heard the one coming the other way had broken down. Par for the course in my experience. We alighted at Penistone and caught the 21 bus to Dunford Bridge via a tour of local villages. On the way we passed the Victoria Inn at in the middle of nowhere. I can't say as it looked like its still trading, and if that's the case is a shame. I went there in the late nineties with Wee Keefy for a pint of well kept Tetley, from a landlord who must have been late seventies in vintage then.

Dunford bridge of course has definitely lost its most important asset. Some time around 2005 or so the perfectly fine as it was, GBG listed Stanhope Arms was purchased and turned into the destined to fail "Stanhope Restaurant and Bar" with inevitable results. Its now a theatre company premises. Still, there is at least a phone box in Dunford so you can't say its without facilities....

Speedwell growing near Thurlstone

We made brisk progress in rain and mist following the Don, sometimes with views, often with none, occasionally spotting the sun trying to shine through the knitted grey quilt of cloud. Soon we were  opposite Millhouse Green, and shortly after departed the trail to walk onto Manchester Road and visit the Huntsman at Thurlstone.

I have only ever been twice, both times at night, so it was nice to have a daylight visit, alas this brightness also coincided with almost half of the village arriving at the same time to order drinks and Sunday lunch. At first we appeared to be in a queue down the bar in the narrow pub, and that was working out well, even though the lady serving stopped to serve a regular at the other end, but he may have been there already. Finishing his order another couple arrived and went to the opposite end of the bar to us. And then ordered 5 lunches and a round of drinks.

I would assume the barmaid noticed they had only just materialised but to be fair to her she was rushed off her feet - something made obvious by her getting half of our 3 drink order wrong; but what exactly the hell did the woman waltzing at at the other end of the bar think we were doing stood with no drinks in our hands and wallets at the ready?

As we were getting served a local came to say goodbye to someone and pointed out that we had been waiting nearly 10 minutes to get served before she pushed in. I do like a shared dislike of ignorant queue jumpers!

When we finally got served the beer was excellent. Mr P eased himself into drinking with a pint of Tetleys which he reckoned was one of the best he'd had for a long time, whilst I had a pint of Acorn Quantum and Geeves Coco Canal. There were three other beers on offer including one from Slightly Foxed brewery.

We managed to find a seat and set about warming up, drying off (dressing for th outdoors whilst still drunk inevitably leads to cold), and savouring the brilliantly kept beers. By now the maelstrom of customers had dissipated, and we could have walked up and got served straight away, but you need the co-operation of other punters for that. They bought soft drinks by the way....

We walked into Penistone next and failed to find some shelter to have our dinner. In the end we picked the least wet bench under a tree to consume our pack up - I think my lunch tongue sandwich, Polish kabanos and wasabi peas was an eclectic, if mildly preposterous combination, neither enhanceed or ruined by having rain and leaves blown in my face mid-chomp.

Alas we hadn't time to hang around so bypassed the delights of the Wentworth Arms (former GBG entry now to let) and ploughed on towards Oxspring. Here we also missed out the Travellers on Sheffield Road and continued towards Silkstone Common. It was just gone 16.00 when we saw a sign off the trail for the station so we decided, given the distance to Dodworth, to get off and catch the train back. As it was the bus came first so we caught it into Barnsley - nicely demonstrating why it would have been foolhardy to walk to the Ring Of Bells and back to the Station as I had planned.

In Barnsley I persuaded Mr P that we should call in at the Old No.7 (above) .This was our first visit, and we weren't disappointed. An unusually long pub with a pleasing topping of handpumps on the bar, we had about 6 Acorn beers to choose form plus a couple of guests. I had a pint of the excellent Acorn Tangerine Dream that I'd enjoyed at the Sheffield beer fest, and Mr P a pint of the Herkules IPA - although interestingly, if anything the Tangerine was hoppier. The two pints came to a creditable £5.45, not a bad price for strongish beers.

Passing the time I wandered back for a half of Gorlovka (£1.50) and then noticed that Mr P had found the beer menu. And what a delight! Loads of Brewdog offerings, plenty of American exotica and, whilst its important not to base your appreciation of a range on one bottle, I was tingly with joy to spot the amazing Petra Brewery Columba wheat beer from Corsica. I didn't see the bottle prices but I know I will have to go back.

We caught the train to Sheffield next, when it finally turned up, 20 minutes late that is, and Mr P went home whilst I popped in the Sheffield Tap for some expensive if delicious ales. There were 3 from Hawkshead, 2 from Fyne Ales plus Thornbridge and possibly Tapped, but I didn't check. From the fabulous selection I chose a pint of Dry Stone Stout from Hawkshead, and a half of the 6.9% Fyne Ales Sublime Stout.

Obviously I got spanked for the cost - even considering I had a pack of crisps, it came to £6.45. That didn't matter so much though when you consider how fine the ales were. The Hawkshead was erm, well ironically "sublime", and the Sublime was, ironically, dryish, but not too much. In fact, both were excellent beers, but the Hawkshead was incredibly good. A brilliant choice from which I could have drunk a lot more.

So, a cold, tiring, and refreshing day seeking out some excellent pubs, but most refreshing of all, not a duff beer was to be had anywhere. Top marks to all the pubs for their cellar skills.


Wee Beefy

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