Tuesday, 31 May 2016

Unspoilt country pubs - a Sunday tour by car


        on Sunday myself and Tash were taken out for the day by Wee Fatha on a tour of some classic unspoilt pubs in Derbyshire and Staffordshire. We started our journey travelling to Beauchief Abbey in Sheffield to meet WF who gave us a quick tour. We then got into the car in bright sunshine and set off.

We were soon heading through Chatsworth out on to the A6 and then down to Darley Dale, through Wensley and Winster via some absurd driving by fellow visitors, to arrive at Elton, and the Duke of York. It was shut. It only opens during the day on a Sunday but arriving at 13.55 it was firmly closed. Despite the maniac actions of drivers in Winster nearby we returned there and got parked to visit the Old Bowling Green pub.

I haven't been here for some time and was glad to find that not only was it open but the bar was open all day. We sat outside in bright sunshine supping a pint each of Peak Ales Chatsworth Gold for me and Tash and a half, of which he had less then half, of Abbeydale Daily Bread for WF. The pub serves food and three real ales, the other being Abbeydale Moonshine, and claims on its sign to be from the 15th century - I think it said 1472. Its slightly modernised inside, mainly to extend the amount of seating, but is still a pleasing old style inn.

Off next on a perplexing ramble via Newhaven, Biggin and Hartington to the Manifold Valley. A beautiful drive along the road and up brought us to Grindon and then finally to Wetton, followed by a trip down into Milldale and up onto the main road before finally heading through Thorpe for Ilam. here we took the beautiful road cum track to Throwley and on into Calton before arriving at Cauldon and the Yew Tree.

I can't remember how long it is since I last visited, maybe three or four years ago, and although the pub still retains its collection of amazing antiques, and still sells there real ales, some things have changed. For a start, although landlord Alan East is still on the premises the bar work is mainly carried out now by his son in law and, one assumes, Alan's daughter. They also now have a card machine - which made our visit longer and more thirsty and of course, more excellent.

I started with a pint of fresh on Burton Bridge Bitter, and bought halves of Rudgate Ruby Mild for Tash and WF.  I then went to buy another pint along with a large for WF and a small for me, pork pie. This took quite some time to eat and both were lovely, as was the Bitter. Having been for a wander round and nipped outside for a look at the garden, I then came back to use my card for a further two pints of the Burton Bridge, one of which I shared with Tash. It was good to spot Alan, standing almost transfixed by his ancient polyphon playing in the entrance. Be it bank holiday Sunday or not, the pub was packed throughout.

Our next stop was in Hanley a 40 minute of so drive away. The Coachmakers was threatened with demolition many years ago, despite its listing by English Heritage and CAMRA as a pub with a historically important interior. Since then the new bus station that its clearance was to bring about has been built, yet the pub remains standing. On our visit many locals were sat on the benches outside the pub and inside the beer range was reduced considerably, being just Bass and Black Hole Black rising or similar, a strong dark mild. I had a pint of Bass , Tash a half and Wee Fatha some of a half of the Black Hole.

We were sat on our own in the front bar room with the gentle hub-ub of conversation in the background and the sound of the barmaid serving customers to keep us occupied. It was good to relax in here, although disappointingly the wall of beer mats seems to have been changed into one painted dark grey. Despite this, little else has changed in this National Inventory pub - including the threat of demolition. Still well worth a look if you have or haven't visited already.

We had been planning on visiting the Quiet Woman but decide instead to return to Elton and made our way back to Alstonefield, then the same way from Milldale and then headed to Parwich. As I had a pressing need we stopped there at the Sycamore. This traditional Robinson's house is still very much part of the village and we had a half for me and Tash, one being Robinson's Double Hop, and a tomato juice for WF.

The pub has three or four rooms and serves fod and real ales, and Parwich is a great place to start or finish a walk in the area. I first went about twenty or more years ago and still enjoy a visit - alas we were heading off for our last stop so did not stay around long.

At gone 22.00 we arrived in Elton to find the Duke of York open. Whilst Tash and WF locked the car and got coats on I ran into the pub to order a pint and two halves of the only real ale on which was Marstons Bitter at £2.75 a pint. As is unsurprising, nothing has changed in the Duke of York since I first visited last century - apart form the main bar duties are now carried out by Mary's Nephew.

I discovered whilst there that at present the were not open Sunday lunchtimes because Mary had been very ll in hospital - there are no plans at this time to reopen Sunday lunchtimes, so its 20.30 til 22.30 (or later) most nights of the week.

The beer was also fresh on here and tasted lovely, so much so that I had another pint, and took Tash outside up the old sloping steps to see the toilets - an unusual feature to have outdoor toilets these days. Inside the fire was lit and the locals were chatting to each other about all sorts of things, and the barman as well. Lets hope Mary gets better soon and we see her behind the bar once more at this fantastic old boozer.

So ended a lengthy drive round five brilliant unspoilt or at the very least old pubs in Derbyshire and Staffordshire. Its difficult to pick out a favourite as all have distinctive characteristics but I think as a group we probably liked the Yew Tree at Cauldon best of all -  a cracking traditional pub that has managed to adapt to modern times whilst losing none of its considerable character.


Wee Beefy

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