Its a good guess that very few readers will have been to the pub, sunk the "special" in the post title, or indeed have ever been to Wensley itself. For those who have not, a local song proclaims:
"At Winster wakes there's ale and cakes,
At Elton wakes there's quenchers.
At Bircher wakes there's knives and forks,
At Wensley wakes there's wenches"
Songs eh. What do they mean? In this case, perhaps something, but only from long in the past. I hope that has helped you gain an understanding about the local area. Although I doubt it has.
In more recent times, the post the title may raise a few questions - unless you actually went to this pub, which closed in or around 1998. I went in the 1990's having discovered to my surprise that the Crown, a coaching inn with a renown for food (according to Wee Fatha) that stood in the square set back from the road had closed many years ago (seems in the late 1980s). Anybody who visited that pub, as well as this pub in its latter years, would probably be surprised that it was the Red Lion that persisted. Maybe not as surprised as I was by what I found.
Before continuing I am grateful to the National Inventory of Unspoilt Pub Interiors website, a link to which is here , the Wensley Peak District Villages website, an entry by Tom Bates on his "about Derbyshire" website which confirmed some of the pubby facts, and general comments on the tinterweb, for being able to expand on my single and my brother and Ray.L.F's single visit, to the pub. Its always good to find out more about a pub and its history and surroundings.
Wensley, it seems is a name derived from Woden, a Norse God of War. Its not clear how a small village between Darley Bridge and Winster was afforded such a moniker but it is, as am sure you are aware, not the only Wensley in the UK. Wensley Dale, a tiny fissure in the grand landscape, runs alongside the village. Having entered Wensley through that dale, I can safely say that footpaths aren't, and heinous sumps of mud are, prominent features. And prior to a little research, that and my visit to the Red Lion was almost everything I knew about the village.
Winster, Darley Bridge and nearby Elton are beautiful villages with Winster and Wensley sharing some similar features, namely a network of alleyways, snickets and undriveable tracks to link the houses. The other three also boast excellent pubs so its a shame that Wensley no longer has any. Am not sure in fact that other than a post and telephone box the village provides any services to the traveler. It is however well worth a stroll around, or rather along, to admire the architecture. You can always get a drink nearby.
On my visit myself and my companion had got lost following a public footpath from Bonsall Moor and had arrived with muddy hands and even muddier boots. A sign in the Red Lion doorway instructed us not to take our boots off, but to place them into plastic bags before we entered the premises. Am not sure if we did, I think we risked leaving our clodden footwear in the porch and went in our socks.
The interior was, I would assume, 1950's. There was cushioned seating, and coach station cafeteria style steel tables with formica tops. There was a lot of red, and an old Mackeson advert on the wall. Two old couples were in having sandwiches and pots of tea. A glance at the menu showed all sandwiches came with beetroot. Even the beetroot.
My companion and I went to the loos - she came out to ask for some water as there was none in the Ladies, and was passed a bowl of warm water from behind the bar to get the mud off. I ran the trickling cold tap to tackle mine. I can't remember what she had to drink, but I had a can of Youngers Tartan Special, as all the fonts were covered, apart from maybe one. We sat down at a table and briefly perused the beetroot heavy menu before asking one of the couples how far it was to anywhere more, um...foody. Or which served draught beer.
It seems the couple running the pub were not - they were Brother and Sister. The pub was no smoking from 1968 which is in my experience very unusual, and was at one time linked to the farm next door. I took one photograph whilst in the pub and the landlady reacted as if I had taken a bus to Be-elzebub. My excuse of snapping my companion at the time did not wash it seemed. After enjoying our interesting choice of drinks we left, never to return.
Wee Keefy and Ray.L.F visited a year or two after us, and this is the first I heard about the legend that was Milliguin. WK would have probably opted for a soft drink - they did have a working milkshake making machine after all, but Ray.L.F was to try the "special". Milliguin, since you ask, is a half a pint of Guinness and a half a pint of milk in a pint glass. Am guessing you probably have to drink it quite fast because the milk would likely curdle. As something of an alcohol enthusiast and sure this presented no barrier to Ray.L.F. I am not aware that he had more than one however. Having drunk late at night in the Farfield when it was part B&B with guests in their pygamas, am also willing to bet that nothing about this pub seemed strange to him.
This was a very unique pub and one which I was very glad I visited. Its similar, if only in it's unusual idiosyncrasies, to the Three Tuns, when run by Lucy in Hay on Wye, the Sun in Leintwardine Herefordshire, and the Seven Stars at Halfway House in Shropshire. All remnants of a simpler and now seemingly forgotten style of pub.
If any readers know of any unusual, unspolt or just completely unmodernised pubs in the UK, serving beer or milk related beverages, then please do let me know.
With kindest regards