Thursday, 2 February 2017
#210 Cheshire Cheese, Wheelock, Cheshire : 1987 to 2016
Our first visit to this classic 'proper' pub was on the evening of Saturday 11th July 1987. Of course, back then it was just considered to be a normal pub, nothing particularly out of the ordinary.
Waiting outside are the fine, upstanding members of the crew of Emma Jane for that two week trip that took in both Worcester and Middlewich. As far as I recall the interior of the pub was pretty much the same as it was on all subsequent visits.
Our next visit was only four years later at lunchtime on Wednesday 24th July 1991 as we moved Emma Jane from her northern mooring at Adlington to her new home on the southern Grand Union Canal.
The outside had been given a thorough makeover, although the signage appears to be unaltered. 'Dusty Bin' has been installed by the local council by the lamp post.
With Emma Jane being "daarn sarf", it took another eight years before we returned to the Cheshire Cheese.
This was on the evening of Saturday 4th September 1999 at the midpoint of our trip that took us along the Caldon Canal for the first time. The Cheshire Cheese had been repainted and was no longer a Tetley's pub, but was now run by Hydes - a fact that almost certainly passed me by at the time!
We were back again three years later on the evening of Thursday 12th September 2002; a stop that hadn't been expected from our original journey plan.
Our plan had been to visit Chester for the first time in a number of years, but a lock failure at Beeston Iron Lock meant that we needed another plan. Wheelock was one stop along the way to revisiting the Caldon Canal. Essentially, the pub was unchanged, but for the first time the adjacent car park had been refurbished with a patch of grass and a sign for the new Italian restaurant.
Another three years passed and we were back at lunchtime on Thursday 25th August 2005.
On this trip we did make it to Chester after passing through Wheelock; the Cheshire Cheese was unchanged.
We returned, again somewhat unexpectedly, a year later for an evening stop on Saturday 2nd September 2006.
Our original journey plan had been to visit Manchester using the reverse route of our 2000 journey, but it soon became apparent that we'd fallen way behind on the schedule and, once again, we needed a new plan! On this occasion we took our first ever trip on the Anderton Boat Lift and Wheelock was a stop-off on the way home.
The Cheshire Cheese was unchanged, but Di Venezia was no more, being replaced by The Old Mill restaurant.
After a spell of three visits in five years, we didn't return to the Cheshire Cheese until the lunchtime of Tuesday 16th August 2016.
This trip was, essentially, a repeat of the 2006 journey, except it was on board the new boat Peggy Ellen and we'd started from Kings Bromley rather than Lapworth. We used the Anderton Boat Lift again and spent a bit more time on the River Weaver before heading back home via the Trent & Mersey Canal.
The Cheshire Cheese had undergone a subtle exterior redecoration and re-signage with the hanging baskets having disappeared. (A Cask Marque sign had also appeared by the entrance.) 'Dusty Bin' is still there, now at a more jaunty angle and The Old Mill is now Barchetta Italian restaurant.
We were pleasantly surprised to find the pub open on a Tuesday lunchtime even though we were the only customers. As the landlord explained (once we got him out of his garden), he might as well be open for any passing trade (like us!) because he can still do other stuff whilst keeping an eye on the bar. Sandwiches for lunch and a couple of pints to fortify us for the afternoon's exertions were just what the doctor ordered...and the pub took in an extra £20 - £30 that it wouldn't have if it had been closed like so many others do!
It is good to see that such a 'proper' pub as the Cheshire Cheese has survived whilst the other two pubs in the village (Nags Head and Commercial Hotel) are now closed. Hopefully it will be there for many years to come.