yesterday I headed off for a walk in the old stomping ground of Stannington and Rivelin. Its so easy to get to the Rivelin Valley from Crookes me and Carlos were probably in it every weekend in summer. And winter, come to think. One of the anomalies about the valley though is that there are only realistically three pubs actually in it. And one, the Norfolk Arms which was a good mile up from the Rivelin post office, is now a nursing home.
So in fact this leaves just the Holly Bush and the Rivelin, with a smattering of decent boozers on the higher reaches, namely Stannington and at a push Crookes and Walkley. For reasons of change, I explored the Stannington side, sampling the pubs as I went along.
I started on Stannington Road up from the Anvil where the bus turns into the estate. I toiled up the hill to the Sportsman, which, despite being the first pub on the route, I didn't venture into, even though they used to sell real ale a few years back. I walked up into the older part of the village and stopped off at the Peacock. This Thwaites eatery does still retain a drinkers bar area on the left but to be fair its so hot in there I always prefer sitting outside. Just two real ales on in here but they always sell Thwaites Nutty Black, at £2.80 a pint currently. It seemed the ideal drink since the mild month of May had only just finished.
The Peacock doesn't really implore me to hang around but it sells a decent pint, much like my next stop Minnies, the Rose and Crown. A solid looking pub with a large car park in front and the Loxley Valley stretching out behind it, there are usually 1 or two real ales on here, and almost always Bradfield Brewery beers. This time, the Bradfield had run out, but there was a guest mild! For a traditional Sheffield drinkers pub that was quite a shock, nearly as mush as it being from Caledonian. Mayhem mild was very palatable, but expensive at £1.64 a half.
Moving on uphill and I was glad to find the imposing Crown and Glove open. There's a central entrance and two rooms, with a former dram shop window directly in front of you. Two real ales on here, normally three, and from a choice of Wentworth WPA, (which always seems to be the cheaper option) and Thornbridge Lord Marples, I opted for a pint of the latter.
I sat outside in bright sunshine looking across the fields to Crosspool, supping what was quite a palatable Marples. Its still a sigh beer for me but in comparison with the pale facsimile of itself that WPA has become it was probably the better choice. Mind you, possibly due to Thornbridge's pricing policy and the fact that the pub is owned by a greedy pubco, its price was a little less palatable - £3.35 a pint. Not that there's anywhere much cheaper nearby but that is very steep.
I walked on down past the church and through the fields, now getting a view of the forlorn ruin of the Bell Hagg Inn on the other side of the Valley. Zooming in with my camera there looks to be some sort of work going on, and, as I'd never previously realised, there is a whole other building built below it. Unfortunately nothing is being done to safeguard the road level structure so no miraculous return is pending.
I came out on Tofts lane in glorious sunshine and found the Rivelin busy. Unfortunately the handpumps remain unused and it appears they have given up on selling real ale. A shame for this picturesque local, especially since there's insufficient intactness of layout or other original features to make it worth tolerating a keg beer.
I made my way along the side of the valley as far as was possible, and eventually bit the bullet and headed near vertically back up to Stannington Road, heading for the Anvil. The place was packed and was probably the best pub of the day at that point. Still retaining some signs of its original layout it also has a traditional difference in luxury between what would have been a separate bar or games room on the right, and the larger sprawl on he left.
I had a pint of Bradfield Farmers Blonde, £2.89, a much needed drink served at the right temperature - cool, but not cold. The pub was rammed, and plenty of people had migrated to the handful of seats outside. Inside, as well as the bar room there probably used to be two rooms on the left. The potential division isn't obvious but there is a front and side wall fireplace so I think one per room would have made sense. As you enter there are two doors, further demonstrating the separate rooms, and I assume the first of the rooms would have been accessed from an entrance lobby. Its fanciful speculation I realise, especially not having any actual architectural background, but its interesting trying to guess how it would have looked.
Down to mousehole next and I took the path past the dam and ended up on Hollins Lane at the Holly Bush. I didn't have any great hopes for this pub - its proximity to the latter stages of the Rivelin Valley walk and its popularity with families (as attested on a large canvas banner as you approach) made me fear the worst but actually, what with everyone sat in the sun outside, its quite an interesting old pub inside. The first priority was to sort out refreshments - I had a half of Black Sheep Bitter (the other choice was Hobgoblin) and went and sat outside in the sun trap at the back.
My next surprise was just how pleasant the Black Sheep was. It isn't a classic by any means but it was kept really well and was very refreshing. So much so, that, sat in the sun amid vibrant greenery, with the trees gently swishing above, I opted for another pint.
In the pub, there are two rooms, with the entrance on the side leading to a smaller room and the larger part of the central bar's counter on the right, and a large lounge on the left. There is also a corridor next to the bar linking both rooms to the loos which have quite old doors on them. And the bonus of it catering to families is not only the useful sale of chocolate bars but also a fairly impressive array of soft drinks, possibly aimed at drivers. An enjoyable visit.
I walked from here into Malin Bridge and caught the bus to the Wellington. The walk was all but over, now it was time for a sup. I had a very refreshing pint of Little Ale Cart Harleys Galaxy special, which I was told was not a single hopped beer as I'd claimed (sozzard) but was in fact brewed with galaxy and erm, yer know, the other one, and a hop called I stopped listening. But thanks for the gen! It was also a bargain £2.40 a pint. I took it outside with me and sat in the sun once again, listening to the conversation and trying to photograph the fully unfurled but mostly rolled up, England flag. I failed.
An impromptu visit to the Kelham Island Tavern followed, where I had a pint of Yorkshire Dales Swinacore Pale, a spicy pale ale brewed with Sorachi Ace, and a half of Blackedge Dark. This was so good in fact that, having secured a seat outside in the sun I went back for another. The KIT was absolutely rammed, with a constant procession of punters arriving all the time I was there. Always good to see a pub thriving.
My penultimate stop was the Ship. To my horror the Bradfield Pale from the night before (my favourite Bradfield beer by a distance) had run out. In its place was an equally enjoyable Welbeck Fruit Cascade, which was nowhere near as grim as it sounds. Subtle fruit sits in the background behind a pleasantly hoppy bitter, which was an ideal pint to sup, sat with the sunshine streaming into an initially empty pub. Bliss.
Finally I ended my journey at Shakespeares, sat in the beer garden, supping halves of the Ashover smoked ale and Little Valley Python, a 6.0% IPA. I was joined briefly by Robin who was having a quick bite to eat, and it became obvious during our conversation that it was really the end of my day of refreshments. And so it was that I headed home from here for a much needed rest.
A great day out walking and drinking was had in some old favourites and a few less often visited pubs. Rivelin's pubs were the cheapest on the walk (if you include the Anvil) and despite the Stannington venues being costlier at least they all offered real ale. If you head into Loxley the situation doesn't change, and up the other side of Rivelin all the Crosspool and Crookes pubs sell real ale. So all the more reason to sup in the area.