Monday, 7 October 2013

Ecclesbourne Amber - five unspoilt Derbyshire pubs.


      I returned late last night from a trip to the Derbyshire. The idea was to head for Buxton, and then out to Elton and finally into Derby. Only one of those destinations was achieved. Luckily, a Derbyshire Wayfarer meant that it was still possible to visit some very good pubs.

Wayfarer to hand myself and Miss N caught the train to Derby and then the Swift to Ashbourne. Ashbourne is now missing the Green Man and Black's Head, since its being turned into a clothes shop. How vital. Mind you, it appears there are plans to install a bar in another part of the premises. Quite what was wrong with retaining the old bar on the right and turning the newer side over to retail is beyond me. Luckily up the road is the Smiths Tavern.

A good range of beers were available and having found ourselves somewhat hungover from a Friday night out at Shakespeares we discussed having halves. Obviously all thoughts of this went out the window when we realised the magnitude of our having to seem like lightweights, and two very agreeable pints of Castle Rock Harvest Pale at £3.10 were purchased. We repaired to the upstairs room to the strains of classical music and slowly started to adjust to the reintroduction of alcohol. The tone was set for the day ahead.

Catching the bus to Kirk Ireton involves comprehending the Cretan style Ashbourne bus station in joke - that is, all buses arrive and leave at exactly the same time. Most buses arrive and change destination, thus leading to "an hilarious" back and forth sprint from one end of the line of five vehicles to the other, many of which don't have numbers or destinations on. Eventually we found the 103 to Kirk Ireton and hopped on board. This bus serves two places, and basically covers most of the same part of the route a bus that leaves at the same time does. Except now there are two buses doing one route with an extra leg. That's called public transport planning that is. Well done.

The Barley Mow was quite full when we arrived, and there were six beers to choose from. We started on pints of Storm Bosley Cloud, and it was OK, £2.80 a pint, but a little tired. Next we had pints of Whim Hartington IPA, until time was called - at 13.50. Gripped by fear I rushed into grab two more pints of IPA. Excellent beer, which considering we had two pints in 25 minutes, was probably a good job.

We walked down to the main road and through Idridgehay past the closed Black Swan (note - turning a pub into a restaurant means you have to be really ace at being a restaurant - since you lose your drinkers trade). From here we went and caught the train from Idridgehay to Wirksworth, for a much needed bite to eat, and then finally back down the Ecclesbourne Valley railway to Duffield. Not a bad price for a restored railway, and a relaxing, gently rocking, scenic journey.

Duffield saw us in the Pattenmakers. They still serve Bass form the jug but their guest ale range seems to have increased slightly since I was there last year. I had a pint of the Nutbrook Black Beauty and Miss N a Magpie IPA, from a range that also included Leadmill and Springhead.

A short hop on the bus and we were crossing the Derwent and walking up to the Holly Bush at Makeney. This National Inventory of unspoilt pub interiors listed pub features a magnificent walk in snug comprising two huge settles which gives access to the bar. Anyone can sit in this small snug but to all intents and purposes its like being sat in a private bar, a little like the one at the Bridge in Topsham, Devon. Here we both had fantastic pints of Pedigree from the jug, and settled down to watch the dark, cosy bar fill up, and to get chatting to some locals. We soon realised that waiting three hours for the next bus to Buxton, having secured nowhere to stay, was probably a bad idea. Having decided that accommodation could be secured in  nearby Milford or Belper, we chose to throw caution to the wind and have a couple more rounds.

Usually my every visit to the Holly Bush requires a clock watching race, but now I was afforded the opportunity to  have a good few beers. So whilst Miss N studiously kept to Pedigree, I went for a pint of the 7.0% Blue Monkey Fat Ape, at a rather reasonable £3.40 a pint. Not an especially subtle beer (unsurprisingly), but it was worryingly easy to drink. Our final round saw more Pedigree and my drinking Thornbridge Raven at 6.6% - and £3.80 a pint. I hadn't realised it was on Keykeg to be honest, but given the mark up the containers seem to attract I don't think that's a bad price.

Down the hill and the King William was doing accommodation, so having secured that we headed over the river to the Mill House which, mercifully, does food til 22.00. Slightly tired after a pint or two the food was just what we needed - obviously accompanied by more beer. Two halves of Pedigree came to £3.10.

Our final beers were in the long homely bar of the King William in Milford, pints of the Whim Flower Power, a lovely hoppy beer to cleanse the palate at the end of a very long day. Details of day two to follow.


Wee Beefy


  1. A grand sounding tour chap, but horrified to hear of the demise of the Green Man in Ashbourne. How the hell has someone got permission to turn that important old pub into a clothes shop? And as you say, surely the newish (and far less interesting) bar they created to the left would have been a much better venue for conversion.

    1. It is a mystery - I used to love sitting in the left hand bar in a comfy leather chair supping something local. Initially I heard Wetherspoons had their eye on it, so am unsure as to what has gone so wrong that it will now sell clothes. The only chink of light is that once the clothes bit is open it may be possible to see how much of the older part of the building remains. Not much of a chink of light however.