myself and Christingpher recently bought a Derbyshire Wayfarer ticket ( from the station, because the Interchange doesn't bother selling them anymore) and caught the train to Chesterfield, then walked past numerous closed pubs to New Beetwell Street to catch the bus to Higham. Here we set off to walk to Ashover.
We tried this about five years ago and with no map I managed to get us lost and I think we ended up in Tansley instead. This time I had done the walk before with Davefromtshop and so knew the way. We set off towards the railway line in a very muddy and slippy field, with low cloud and persistent drizzle. We made rather slow progress. This was to be a feature of the walk. Having spent 15 minutes attempting to clamber down, and in my case slip arse first down a muddy bank which we then realised wasn't even part of the path, it took us a while to get to Brackenfield, and even longer to slip and slide and dodge pools of sucking mud out onto the main road.
Soon we were on Stonerows lane and heading through the hamlets in the valley down to Milltown. We went into the Miners Arms - the first time for either of us. Bedraggled and mud covered, this was a noticeable entrance into what is essentially a restaurant with a tiny bar serving one real ale. I went to the loo to get cleaned up and left Christingpher at the bar to order two pints of Marstons Old Empire. A decent start to our drinking at 5.7%.
I am sure the Miners is a lovely place to go and eat but we did feel slightly out of place and once we had dried off a little and finished our pints we walked into Ashover and the welcoming sight of the Old Poets Corner. Inside were about seven real ales, real fires, hearty conversation and comfortable seating. Had we the time, or the money, or means of escape, we could easily have stayed here all day. Christingpher had a pint of Ashover Littlemoor Citra and I a pint of a Blackjack and Hawkshead collab called Manuka, 5% and described as a Belgian Ale. Both were delicious, and dispatched quickly.
Next up I had a pint of the Oakham Citra which was better still, whilst Christingpher tried a pint of the Manuka - pork scratchings were bought and Mr C dried his feet in the fire before returning for a third round. This time I had another Manuka and Christingpher a pint of the Shiny Sorachi dark, with a catchy marmite design for the word Sorachi. I actually like Sorachi, and this was a fantastic beer.
Off next to the Black Swan where a 70th birthday meant only half the pub was available. We went in the room with the dart board and a pint each of the Peak Ales Bakewell best bitter. It was good to get in for the first time in a while, but alas our visit was short as we had to head up to Kelstedge.
I think the last part of the walk gets shorter every time we do it but we were there half an hour before the bus so opted to pop in the Kelstedge Inn. Only three real ales on this time, and if am honest I can't remember what we had a half of each. A very kind lady sat at the bar did however find us somewhere to sit and advised where we should catch the bus.
Soon in Matlock we headed straight for MoCa bar and had a pint each from Blue Monkey. The pub was busy but we still managed to get sat down, initially near the bar and later up the top sat in the window. This was Christingpher's first visit and he really enjoyed the atmosphere, and we spent a goodly amount of time drinking and catching up (possibly buying another beer) before realising we had missed the bus to Derby. There was a two hour wait for the next one so we caught the train to Duffield and went to the Pattenmakers.
The pub still serves Bass from the jug and guests, so we had a pint of Bass each and sat down in the room at the end to eat more pork scratchings and try and work out when the next bus was. The pub was not quite as busy as previously and I didn't fancy any of the guests but it is still a great place to enjoy Bass from the jug.
We finally got out to catch the bus and when in Derby walked round to the Alexandra to have a pint each of the Elland 1872 porter at 6.8%. Alas, in an unrelated event, the beefdozer cometh. In fact, later, when I rose from my chair, there was muted applause, since many thought I had died. Luckily I was compus mentus enough to finish my enjoyable drink.
Alas this snooze meant we missed the very early last train so had to call in a huge favour from Wee Fatha who picked us up about half midnight. Thanks! Despite this somnabulistic hiccup, this was still an excellent day out walking and drinking in some fine Derbyshire pubs, and another great example of why Ashover is such a brilliant place to go drinking.