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Tuesday, 24 September 2019

Pubmen Assemble in Preston

Firstly apologies and acknowledgements. I can't believe that it is a whole month since we did the trip to Preston which has been reported on by Pub Curmudgeon here and here and by Retired Martin here, here, here, here, here, here and here. (No, I don't know how he keeps on blogging so much and so often!)

I also have to acknowledge the title of this entry and accredit Cooking Lager with the first recorded use of the phrase "Pubmen assemble" in a reply to Pub Curmudgeon on 3rd May 2019 - link.

Now, down to business...but I don't really have much to add that hasn't already been covered.

This was my first 'proper' visit to Preston and I was impressed with the quality of the pubs on offer (but less appreciative of the 4.2 miles walking required to get round them all!)
The Old Vic
This was the easiest pub to find as it was just up the slope as you exit Preston Station. My train was on time and the pubmen had already begun to assemble. A pleasant, proper pub to start the day off on the right foot. Then it went downhill, literally!

The Continental was quite a walk away from the Old Vic, fortunately (for me) it was downhill all the way and, apart from the unscheduled detour into (and out of again) the main Royal Mail Sorting Office car park, it was a pleasant enough stroll.
The Continental
This pub is down by the banks of the River Ribble and the railway bridge over it (both behind me). The Continental may be a destination pub for the real ale aficionados (it hosts regular beer festivals), I personally, didn't think it was worth the detour. It is a pleasant, airy pub with a good beer selection and a lovely looking garden, but not my favourite pub of the day.

Having walked downhill to The Continental it was now time to make our way through the park (a very pleasant green space leading down from the town [sorry, city!] to the river bank.) The slope down to the pub had been gentle, but the last part back up through the park was quite steep for some of us old codgers!

It was at this stage that the micropub/crafties split away from we 'traditionalists' who were headed to The Wellington for some much needed sustenance as well as beer.
The Wellington
I liked the pub, but the service wasn't up to much. Firstly, there was only one cask ale on (which I didn't fancy, so it was Carlsberg for me!) and our food order took well over half an hour to reach us despite there being hardly anyone else in the place!

Moving on and it was a Sam Smith's pub next - the Olde Blue Bell. Just as we arrived, the breakaway group were leaving!
Olde Blue Bell
I have mixed feelings about Sam Smith's pubs. I don't really like OBB so I had their own lager which was fine, but it's their pubs that I'm not so sure about. They certainly fit the description of being 'proper pubs', but to me, the Olde Blue Bell felt a bit sanitised with the standard Sam's wallpaper and a fairly regimented pub layout. Basically, it didn't have any of the quirks that I expect with proper, old pubs.

The next place on the itinerary sounded like a proper pub - the Guild Ale House.
Guild Ale House
It was, instead, a micro! However, as micropubs go, this is one of the better ones with pleasant seating and an interesting interior.

Moving on, it was quite a trek to the next pub on our list. As we walked past a very busy working men's club a man exited on a mobility scooter and headed in the same direction as us. He didn't make it to the pub, though. His interim destination was a mobility scooter showroom where he pulled off the pavement and studied the shiny new machines (with all the bells & whistles) before driving off with a wistful air dreaming of an upgrade.

Soon, we reached The Moorbrook where we caught up with the rest of our tour party.
The Moorbrook
By now my recollections are beginning to get somewhat hazy!

Next, it was back towards the centre and the Vinyl Tap.
Vinyl Tap
As the name suggests, this is dedicated to playing music on vinyl only and, although it looks like a proper pub from the outside, inside it is a cross between an 'old school' record shop and a micropub. The Killers first album playing while we were there, but I'm not sure if they were taking requests!

Next was The Market Tavern Tap...the pub that couldn't afford a signwriter!
The Marklet Tavern Tap
Another proper boozer, but inside wherever a sign had said 'Tavern' it had been crossed out and replaced with 'Tap' handwritten in chalk (seemingly)! It is a good pub, though.

Finally, we arrived at the Black Horse which was quite lively (well, it was almost 7pm on a Friday evening!).
The Black Horse
Fittingly, we finished our day off with a gem of a pub populated with young folk as well as old codgers and the full range of those inbetween. After a final pint here I headed back off to the station in a pleasant alcoholic haze and was home before 11pm.

Another superb day out and my thanks go to the people who organised the itinerary and everything else that goes into these Proper Days Out.

Thursday, 5 September 2019

#264 The Bell Inn, Lower Heyford, Oxfordshire : 1998 to 2019

This is another in the new series of pubs that we visited during Emma Jane's sojourn in the South that we've returned to in recent times. At least, this time, I remember our first visit.
It is quite rare that I remember visits to pubs from almost 20 years ago, but our first visit to The Bell on the evening of Thursday 3rd September 1998 is an exception. The Oxford Canal is a very rural waterway and it tends to meander away from many villages. So, when we arrived at Lower Heyford, we expected to stay in the one pub all night. Unfortunately, we arrived at the tail end of a wake which had occupied the pub and the kitchen was closed for the evening. After taking advice from the locals, we had a pint and moved on to 'The Sausage Pub' (Horse & Groom), but I'm not sure whether we walked or got a taxi!

After a few years we returned, on the evening of Sunday 22nd August 2004.
This time, I have no recollection of the visit as we travelled back from Oxford. It appears that the signage had stayed the same, but that the ivy had been cut back somewhat!

That was the last time we ventured further south than Banbury on the Oxford Canal until this year.
This was a lunchtime stop on Sunday 28th July 2019 and the first thing I noticed was the lack of ivy. Also, the signage had been replaced and it is now The Bell Inn. Apart from that, I don't think it has changed much in 21 years (even the telegraph wires and TV aerials are the same!) The Sunday lunch was very good as was the beer (whatever it was - I don't take notes!)

Interestingly, the canal view from the road bridge has probably changed little more than the pub.
Oxford Canal, Lower Heyford 1998
Oxford Canal, Lower Heyford 2019