at the end of January Wee Fatha and Wee Keefy and Tash and me were set to go to the folk night at the Royal Cottage. Alas, a surfeit of snow and potentially treacherous moorland conditions between Buxton and Leek meant we were denied the opportunity. Instead, a few weeks ago we decided to visit on a Saturday night.
We left Crookes with snow on the ground - not much, just a smattering, but enough to warn of potential issues further ahead. As it was, the only issues were not directly weather related, as we later found out. The snow was thick but piled high alongside the road from Longnor to Royal Cottage. There was that eerie blue white haze that lightens the countryside when it should be dark, that you only find when all is awhite.
We arrived at Cliff;s at 20.15 and found the light was not on. The upstairs light was though, and as we and another customer pulled our cars off the front we noticed Cliff stood at the window. We decided he would probably open later and so headed to a new pub for us, just down the road.
The Olde Rock Inn at Upper Hulme is an old but I suspect much extended pub just off the A53. We parked in the car park avoiding snow and pools of icy water, and walked tentatively down the road and over a small roadside stream into the brightly lit pub. There were two real ales on the bar, Bombardier, and Peregrine pale from Peakstones Rock Brewery. All of us had a pint, except WF who stuck to a half.
We sat at a large table in the bar room and watched a steady stream of punters turn up and sit down before moving to the tables for eating to do just that. The food looked like it was served in massive portions, and smelled lovely. We didn't want to stay though as the Royal Cottage awaited.
Except it didn't. Cliff was still upstairs and the lights weren't on downstairs. And despite the obvious arrival of two other cars, the situation did not change. So we headed off to Earl Sterndale.
The Quiet Woman pub was softly lit and Ken had cleared the snow outside the front porch. All we had to do was safely deliver WF with his walking stick to the porch. This was quite a lengthy process but we were soon inside. As we arrived a customer said to Ken "right you've got customers, I'd better get off". Its not clear what impediment we posed, or what indeed he and Ken were discussing, but as soon as the two pool players in the back room left about 21.30 there was only us in the pub.
WF, Keefy and Tash all had pints of Jennings Dark Mild (WF a half of course) and I supped rather quickly a pint of Brakspear Oxford Gold. So nice was this beer that I was up for another long before anyone else, as well as buying a Wrights pork pie. Ken often says that he is only busy the first weekend of a month but I was surprised how quiet the pub was for a Saturday. Admittedly people ay have thronged in earlier but it was closed as soon as we left around 23.00. Having written about two favourite pubs closing this month, I hope I won't have to write another post about the Quiet Woman. Get out there and use it is what I say.
We had at least one more round of drinks, Ken lit the fire and we chatted amongst ourselves, and in total I dispatched 4 pints of the Oxford Gold which was on good form. As ever, the Quiet Woman reminded me of the value of unspoilt traditional pubs in that area, many of which have been lost. Am sure the Royal Cottage will be open when the weather improves, and we can do the whole trip again soon, and get to both pubs.
Heres to another Saturday night in North Staffordshire.