Its perhaps not a surprise to regular readers to discover that, having failed to find a closed pub that may not have existed, I consoled myself by visiting several that did. Getting to Stretton on the Red Arrow Derby to Nottingham bus meant I had ample opportunities to sample some cracking pubs - the pain of research!
Stumbling off the train in Chesterfield having had a very refreshing session the night before, I somehow resisted the temptation to visit Coco, but equally, knowing I had 35 minutes to kill before the Red Arrow, it seemed silly not to remind myself why I like pubs enough to go hunting for them in the freezing countryside. The White Swan was a good place to do this, what with it being ace. From an unsurprisingly stellar line up I had two halves, one of Elland Summit from outer space, a 5.5% extra hoppy bitter, and the Otley Oxymoron, a 5.5% Black IPA.
Both were very well executed hoppy beers but I think the Elland edged it because the Oxymoron was so bitter that I could still taste it half an hour later. Not an ideal start, especially with my body cramping and gently shaking as the toxins started to turn my insides to seaweed and picked off drowsy brain cells one by one.
On to the Red Arrow and it soon became apparent that I didn't know where I was getting off - having over shot my stop and disembarked at Mickley I then walked in the wrong direction (clearly not still drunk from the night before?!) and ended up in Higham!
Luckily, the Crown has recently been taken over and reopened by new owners, originally from Mansfield and now returned from Florida, having, one assumes, tired of the heat and annoying sunshine. From a range of Bombardier and Buxton Spa (both regulars) I had a pint of the guest beer. Bumpmill Brewery Heart of Gold is a very local ale indeed - being brewed about 300 yards from the pub on Bumpmill Lane (website). The H.O.G was a very palatable malty but refreshing beer with a bittersweet flavour that went down alarmingly well.
The Crown seems to have changed its identity and ownership every time I visit and the new incumbents have been in only 3 weeks. They are waiting to reopen the kitchen and have plans for a traditional pub menu. They also regularly take Bumpmill beers, having recently had their Ebony and Ivory stout on. Lets hope they make a go of this excellent old traditional pub.
I had to walk back to where I was to go pub hunting because Derbyshire County Council had ingeniously thought that access to local businesses could be improved by scrapping, or at least altering the route of, the 150 bus. So it was a good 20 minutes walk to the White Bear at the top of Ashover New Road. Sadly there were no signs of life, and it didn't look like they were just closed during the day. This remains a pub I've never visited.
Back on the Red Arrow (eventually) I hopped off in Ripley and went to the Talbot Taphouse. Arriving around 15.00 I found it completely deserted, much to my surprise. Mind you this gave me the chance to chat to the barman, and get a few pics. I started with a pint of the excellent Amber Ales stout, 4.0% and £2.80 a pint. This didn't last long so I moved on to a pint of one of the guest beers, Oakham Preacher, at 4.3%, which had a fantastic hop character and was really refreshing into the bargain - another excellent Oakham beer. I finished on a half of the Amber Ales 6.5% "full flavoured IPA" that did everything it said on the tin, but somehow wasn't quite what I was expecting.
My next stop wasn't really on the Red Arrow route (although I could have caught it for the first bit, but you never know where the blasted thing stops!) and having secured directions from the barman and his mate I set off for a rather long walk. Walking along the main street past the Pear Tree I found the bottom of Pease Hill and walked first to the Beehive. Two beers were on the bar, from Woods and Oakham, and I had a half of their excellent Citra before tiptoeing through the fairy lights in the back garden to visit the Honey Pot.
This surprisingly under promoted gem is a real notch in the pubs belt, selling fruit beers on keg and real ales on cask. From a choice of 3, all at £2.50 a pint, I had a pint of the Blue Monkey Monkey (I couldn't see the pump clip, and was assured that was the beers name),which was a light refreshing beer that went down well, as did the conversation and directions, shared with and provided by the barman and the only other customer. Yep. Just one. Come on Ripley! Pull yer finger out!
My next stop was another walk away, this time to the Thorn Tree at Waingroves. I had heard plenty of people mention this excellent pub and this was my chance to find out what the fuss was about - I wasn't disappointed. From a range of 5 or 6 real ales I had halves of the Red Willow Wreckless, and the Buxton Dark Heights, both of which were excellent (and which along with a much needed pork pie came to £4.20). It was warm, friendly busy and sold excellent beer. I get what the fuss is about!
A long tedious trek back to Ripley followed where I grabbed some snap and headed in the Wetherspoons Red Lion for a quick half of Lymestone Stone Cutter, which was a nice drop at a quid, before getting back on the Red Arrow into Derby. Here I intrepidly set out for venues new - I first managed to find my way, mainly based on directions given in the Honey Pot, to the Peacock on Nottingham Road. Noting that time was getting on and that more food was required I only had a half in here, but it was excellent - Hartshorne Apocalypse 6.2% was a revelation, especially since its so rare that I get to try their beers. A fab range and great atmosphere mark this pub out, as does, in my weird world, the fact that the toilets are virtually outside.
A short wander to the Furnace next (are their two Furnace pubs in Derby?) where the plain unassuming frontage rightly beckoned you to an interior of the same merits, but one housing a bar with a10 handpumps. I tried the two new beers from the new Shiny Brewery based at the pub - their 3.9% Launch Pad and 4.1% Golden Man. Its only early days but I really enjoyed the Launch Pad, even if the stronger beer was a bit less enjoyable. And I loved the fact that the pub smelled strongly of fresh hops. A great new addition to the Derby scene.
I managed to get a bus round to the railway stating to check the train times then waited to be let in the Station for an inevitably gorgeous pint of Bass from the jug. I couldn't linger over it alas, as I had to get my train.
Safely back in Sheffield I went to the Sheffield Tap and found to my delight that a Tiny Rebel beer had made its way over from Wales. I had a pint of their Dirty Stop Out smoked out stout, which was a delicious and nicely balanced beer, along with half a Tempest Emanation pale (ish) ale. Two fantastic beers topped off a day of drinking great beer perfectly, although ,my legs are very stiff today with all that yomping around Ripley and Derby.
Next? Bring on the 21st, when I will be back out South Wingfield/Higham way to try out a new pub and a couple of old favourites.