there are two Don valleys in Sheffield. The upper, which as it leaves Hillsborough starts to become the valley of beer, and the lower, which meanders its way to Rotherham past a dwindling pub stock. In between is one of Sheffield's seven hills where Herries Road takes you past Longley and Southey into Owlerton and back to the Upper Don valley. Having recently written about the trail of dead pubs between Handsworth and the Northern General, on Saturday I decided to walk some of that route and explore what the East End and the area around the hospital have to offer the intrepid real ale drinker.
Starting in Darnall with Christingpher our first stop was the Sportsman on Main Road. The Albert and the Sportsman stand next to each other facing a housing estate, defiantly serving customers in an area where almost all other pubs have failed. The Sportsman is run by Paul, and sells two real ales at very reasonable prices. When we arrived there was one beer on, Coastal Sea King at 5.5% - and £2.00 a pint. It seemed silly not to have some..
We settled down in the right hand room where the tellies are and the numerous boxing posters and supped a very easy drinking pint whilst we watched the joyous spectacle of Wednesday vs Leeds. The pub was slowly filling up and a second beer went on, but we didn't get chance to try it. We had a long walk to start, and a lot of pubs to sup in.
We had been aiming to cut across to Tinsley Park Road to visit the Friendship but sadly that was demolished some time in the last couple of years. This would have brought us out near Broughton Lane and could have also involved a visit to Fiery Fred's formerly the Greenland. Alas that also appears tp have fallen by the wayside - there is a photo of the Friendship here.
Instead we headed down Main Road past new houses and abandoned factories and arrived on Worksop Road and the canal aqueduct. Here the scene becomes similarly depressing. There are two pubs the left and two on the right. The first was a cafe after it was a pub and it had been closed for a long time but still boasts impressive carved stonework above the door. Judging by the carving, the pub may have been the Stag or White Hart. Next along is the Cocked Hat - a regular in the Good Beer Guide for many years under the Robshaws, the pub looks run down and is resolutely closed. It is for sale Freehold, but it would be a brave move to try and bring it back to life.
Over the road Fara's has aluminium shutters on the doors and windows and is for sale, while the Britannia also appeared closed but with no indication if it was for let or sale. Luckily, on Attercliffe Road, there is some good news. The Don Valley Hotel reopened a couple of years ago after the former Coach and Horses underwent numerous guises. Now it has settled on being a hotel with a public bar. The bar is on your left and is mall and cosy and traditionally furnished. There are two handpumps, on this occasion both dispensing Howard Town beers.
The Dinting Arches was about to run out so we had pints of Glotts Hop, at £2.60 a pint, and settled down in the busy pub with racing fans and pool players (its 20p a game!) and resident bulldog Bruce, who seems to be in dog heaven moving from table to table to check out the smells and be fussed. The pub is friendly and seems to be doing very well, and they also sell snacks for thirsty pub walkers to soak up their ale. Its the first time I've ever been in, and I don't think it will be the last.
Heading for the Carlton further down Attercliffe Road the familiar roll call of casualties begins again. The regional inventory listed Station Hotel appears to be closed - that said, it doesn't have a for sale or to let sign, and all the pubs on Attercliffe Road have shutters so its difficult to tell what the situation is. The same could be said for the Kings Head and the Horse and Jockey although that looks in good nick so maybe opens evenings only. The only certainty as you head towards town on Attercliffe Road is that the Carlton is the only traditional pub open until you get to the Big Gun on the Wicker.
The Carlton opened in 1845 and used to mark the start of Attercliffe Road. Old maps show the stretch of road from Washford Bridge to the Carlton as Carlton Road - so that may be where it gets its name (the sign depicts a steelworker). Inside the Carlton houses the original bar from the Yellow Lion at Apperknowle, and there are 6 hand pumps. There were two beers on, Welbeck Harley and Cross Bay Sunset. I asked for a taste of the sunset and was told, whilst having one poured, that they didn't usually give tasters since Carling and John Smiths drinkers don't get a taster. That maybe true, but unfortunately as a living product, real ale is subject to numerous factors that may make it taste less than palatable, and also there are thousands of different ones brewed to suit multiple tastes. Anyway, no-one need have worried since the Sunset was one of the beers of the day. I even allowed myself an extra half - the beer was on at £2.50 a pint.
Heading back on ourselves along Attercliffe Road onto Attercliffe Common and Carbrook, there are more skeletons of the areas past - the excellent Adelphi theatre lies abandoned on a dead end side road near Attercliffe liberal club and institute. An amazing looking frontage hides a huge building which did briefly reopen as a club in the late nineties, only to all too soon fall silent again. Across the main road is the Travellers Rest. It looks in OK condition but I can't ever recall it being open since I used to come past in an evening coming back from Rotherham in the late nineties. Christingpher however used to drink there in about 1995 when he worked locally and remembers the pub's long bar and tardis like size. Just down the road, the sign is still on the Greyhound, reopened by Marstons about three years ago, but now an IT company offices.
Respite comes in the form of two pubs at the Broughton Lane and Hawke Street roundabout. The Arena Square is a new build eatery which we popped in out of investigative need rather than desire - they sell Bombardier at £3.00 a pint. Next door on the junction of what little remains of Bright street and Milford street right next to the huge black edifice of Forgemasters, is the former Wards pub the Wentworth House Hotel. Now refurbished, with the bar resited centre right as you enter, the pub sells three real ales, and is opening a restaurant in an extension being built at the back.
The pub is currently only open Thursday, Friday and weekends unless there is an event on at the Arena but will resume more traditional hours when the restaurant opens. There is a small room with a lovely fireplace on your right and the main room is straight ahead offering a variety of seating areas, before you come to the extension and a corridor at the back housing the loos. The house beer is rebadged Thwaites Original and the two guests were Bradfield Belgian Blue and a hoppy Blonde ale from Rat brewery. I'm quite partial to a Belgian Blue, as well as to a good news story, and the saving and resurrection of the Wentworth House, a boozer since 1833, is just that. They are on Twitter as WentworthHouse1 and post their opening times on there, so check before visiting.
Carrying on up Attercliffe Common the former Pheasant across the road is a sad tale. It changed its name to the Stumble Inn around the time the arena opened (as did the Railway on Broughton lane, see below) but was still a traditional boozer for many years, selling Tetleys and featuring a Yorkshire drinking corridor and a wonderful unspoilt snooker room at the back, complete with a sink for the steelworkers to wash their hands before playing a game of snooker. In a grim chain of events the pub was bought and turned into an Indian Restaurant by a new owner who claimed the "brewery" - one assumes he meant pubco - had stipulated that it must not reopen as a pub. Unannounced work and a reluctance by English Heritage to attach any importance to the interior yielded inevitable results. Another lost regional inventory pub - there is a link to an article in The Star about the whole sorry affair.
Further on along Attercliffe Common we popped our heads round the door of the Carbrook Hall pub. This supposedly haunted old building has a beautiful panelled room on your left as you enter, but sadly, also has a very long bar with no handpumps on it - it used to sell Bass in the nineties. Or maybe Stones... the lack of anything worth supping meant we only had a cursory glance, but there is a picture and article here with some interesting info.
We backtracked again next to visit the Noose and Gibbet on Broughton lane, walking past the short stretch of tiled wall that marks the outline of the front of the Enfield Arms. The Noose and Gibbet was original called the Railway, and also known locally as the Top Common. It also changed its name briefly to the Stadium, and was known for a while as Ronnies, but now has the novelty name Noose and Gibbet despite not being built on or being the nearest pub at the time to, the spot where Spence Broughton's body was gibbeted. Inside its dark and the harsh lights don't carry so being in around 16.00 when there is nothing on at the Arena is a lonely undertaking. No real ale here but we opted to try some keg Bradfield Blonde for research purposes. It was £2.60 a pint, and nearly, but not quite, as grim as the pub.
Leaving the lower valley we headed along Hawke Street to Brightside and past the Sheffield Arms up to the Ball on Upwell Street. This large former Bentleys pub has been licensed since 1825. It appears that the pub was original at 66 Upwell Street and now at number 70, the suggestion being that this is a 1910 rebuild of the original. Inside it has very high ceilings but little, if any, original fittings to speak of, although the left hand side which I understand has a snug, was closed. No real ale, but we opted for halves of Magnet on keg at £2.65 a pint anyway. An interesting picture Sheffield link shows the Ball incongruously looming in the background next to Brook Cottages in Old Grimesthorpe.
From here on its up over the hill to rejoin the Don and Christingpher departed at Page Hall, whereas I detoured slightly to visit the Sportsman on Barnsley Road. This former Whitbread pub currently sells real ale - Doom Bar when I visited, and was friendly if not particularly busy. I met Mr P for a quick half in here before I caught the bus up Herries Road to visit the Devonshire. This is a large Greedy King pub set back from the road (and thankfully near a chippy since this was turning into a long day) and has three real ales on. Of interest was the 7.2% Double Hop Monster which was GK's take on a strong IPA. I can't say it was in particularly good nick but at least this was an interesting change from GK IPA and Old Speckled Hen.
After a long tedious trek down Herries Road I arrived in Owlerton and out on to Penistone road, through the Wednesday ground and round the corner to the last stop on my Don to Don trek, the Riverside bar and pub on Leppings Lane. Being where it is, I was surprised to find the pub almost empty - apparently fans stream in before and immediately after the match but then head off through Hillsborough, so the pub usually shuts quite early Saturday night. Alas my journalistic vigour was impaired somewhat by this stage so I never did ask when they actually open...
The pub is the upstairs part of the building with a balcony overlooking the ground and serves two or three real ales and bottled Yorkshire lager from the Cropton/Great Yorkshire Brewery. It is furnished traditionally and has plenty of old beer and brewery memorabilia on the walls - its easy when you are there to see the same hand at work refurbishing the Wentworth House, which is owned by the same person. On this occasion I had a pint of Belgian Blue, one of the last few barrels knocking around in Sheffield, and which I enjoyed in another pub I was visiting for the first time, but envisaged visiting again.
Having reached the Upper Don valley this is of course the starting point of a bibulous wander into town through the valley of beer but to be honest I'd had enough walking and libation by this time, so got a tram into town to meet up with Miss N. Obviously we went for a pint - but that's another story....
You can potentially see some photo's from the crawl here assuming you have a Facefriend account.