yesterday I was out in that Derbyshire with my friend Miss M to wander about on hills, and accidentally roll up at a pub beer festival or two. Inevitably this meant that the initial "walk" element didn't go to plan, since we opted to eat and drink. Lots. And lots. Of food and drink. Instead of walking the last bit of the walk.
The festival in question was the Barley Mow at Bonsall. An ever popular stop at any time, nestled against the hillside overlooking the hen racing circuit, or car park, this is a great place to pop in for a pint and a warm when on a winter walk. Except, it's not supposed to be Winter, it's meant to be Easter. And whilst the snow had clearly disappeared from the roads in Bonsall, up on Bonsall moor it was like another world.
Someone had obviously cut through the 3 foot of snow covering Bonsall Moor Lane with a tractor, because there were gouge marks all down the sides, never mind the huge piles of snow created by scooping out the mass that filled in the space afforded by the lane. We only saw 4 cars on our walk from Winster, one which was heading down an ominous snow covered track to Slaley, only identifiable as a road by the sign, the others large 4 wheel drive vehicles which came up behind us on a section of road where the snow was piled so high at the sides that we couldn't even have climbed out, so had to jog to the nearest low bit to let them pass.
We tried valiantly to cross Bonsall Moor but at every field edge was a 5 foot wave of drifted snow, often obscuring the small gaps in the wall which denoted where the path actually went. After missing one such opening and then retracing our steps before finally losing site of the path altogether, knee deep in drifts that were solid enough in places to take even my weight, we admitted defeat and walked, well, fell and swam through a tumult of ridged snow back onto the road. Suffice to say on arriving at the pub we were ready for a pint. Handy then, that there were over 20 to choose from at their Bank Holiday beer festival.
The pub gets the sun til mid afternoon at this time of year and after slogging and toiling we were briefly tempted to sit outside but instead we got a table near the door and sat drinking our beers. Miss M had a pint of Dark Star APA, myself a pint of TSA Rok IPA. The Rok was nice enough, but I think I had the poorer of the two choices.
Next up was half a something frightening made with apples for my companion, and a pint of the APA for me. Granted,a beer festival is supposed to be a great opportunity to drink new beers but not all the range was available and the APA was on fantastic form.
The beers seemed to be stillaged somewhere in the back so that left the maximum amount of room for a succession of walkers, most with dogs, locals and curious sightseers to throng around the bar and the fire at the end making their way through the ales on offer. We soon needed food, and luckily managed to order just in time - sausage and mash with peas and mushroom and onion gravy. Probably one of the largest plates of food I've seen in a while. And all that filling matter inspired us to have quite a few more drinks. This was a farewell to walking, and an introduction to rural taxi provision.
Between eating and leaving we also tried pints of Abbeydale Dark Side of the Moonshine, Upham Punter, Salopian Rhapsody and Blue Monkey Sanctuary which is far far better on draught that it is in bottle - much better balanced. The beer list for the festival, which runs until Monday, can be found here although that is a link to a Facebook photo - if it doesn't work, other detail are on their website .
I heartily recommend a visit to the Barley Mow, even if there isn't a festival on. Its a real community hub which sells tasty pub food and real ales, and has quirky events like the World Hen Racing championships to keep things interesting. Friendly hosts and a good mix of customers is a great recipe for a good pub. So it's well worth an alpine hike across Bonsall Moor, or, as we neglected to remember, there is a bus service up until about 17.30ish. We passed the bus leaving in a taxi...
More news of Easter/Winter pub visits coming soon.