Tuesday, October 26, 2021

York's a Corker!

On the day immediately following our beer festival exploits, Amy and I set off on an adventure of a different kind. As part of Amy's birthday celebrations, we had booked a weekend in the fair city of York, a place we'd both visited in the past but not for many years and never together as a couple. The aim was a weekend of enjoying a fantastic city and exploring what it had to offer. We had various activities booked, had plans for shopping and, obviously, a list of pubs that we were determined to visit. But, this trip wasn't just about the beer that those pubs had to offer. One of York's many claims to fame is that it is allegedly the most haunted city in Europe and one of the most haunted in the world. It would have been remiss of us not to venture to the city's haunted hostelries to see for ourselves, not to mention fully immerse ourselves in the history and local lore. Not all of the pubs we visited are known to have any spiritual activity but they each certainly have a character all of their own, which is perhaps unsurprising in a city where thousands of years of history seeps from the very ground on which you walk.

York is a cathedral city at the confluence of the rivers Ouse and Foss. The city has long-standing buildings and structures, such as a minster, castle and ancient city walls.

The city was founded by the Romans as Eboracum in 71 AD. It became the capital of the Roman province of Britannia Inferior, and later of the kingdoms of Deira, Northumbria and Jórvík. In the Middle Ages, York grew as a major wool-trading centre and became the capital of the northern ecclesiastical province of the Church of England, a role it has retained. In the 19th century, York became a major hub of the railway network and a confectionery manufacturing centre, a status it maintained well into the 20th century. During the Second World War, York was bombed as part of the Baedeker Blitz; although less affected by bombing than other northern cities, several historic buildings were gutted and restoration efforts continued into the 1960s.

The city had a population of 153,717 in the 2011 census and is in the Yorkshire and the Humber region. The district borough, governed from the city, had a mid-2019 est. population of 210,618, the 87th most populous district in England.

The word York (Old Norse: Jórvík) is derived from the Brittonic name Eburākon (Latinised variously as EboracumEburacum or Eburaci), a combination of eburos "yew-tree" (compare Old Irish ibar, Irish iobhariubhar, and iúr, and Scottish Gaelic iubhar; compare also Welsh efwr and Breton evor, both meaning "alder buckthorn") and a suffix of appurtenance *-āko(n), meaning "belonging to,” or “place of" (compare Welsh -og). Put together, these old words meant "place of the yew trees". (In Welsh, efrog; in Old Irish, iubrach; in Irish Gaelic, iúrach; and in Scottish Gaelic, iùbhrach). The city is called Eabhrac in Irish and Eabhraig in Scottish Gaelic—names derived from the Latin word Eboracum. A proposed alternate meaning is "the settlement of (a man named) Eburos," a Celtic personal name spelled variously in different documents as EβουροςEburus and Eburius: when combined with the Celtic possessive suffix *-āko(n), the word could be used to denote the property of a man with this name.

The name Eboracum became the Anglian Eoforwic in the 7th century: a compound of Eofor-, from the old name, and -wic, meaning “village,” probably by conflation of the element Ebor- with a Germanic root *eburaz ('boar'); by the 7th century, the Old English for 'boar' had become eofor. When the Danish army conquered the city in 866, it was renamed Jórvík.

The Old French and Norman name of the city following the Norman Conquest was recorded as Everwic (modern Norman Évèroui) in works such as Wace's Roman de Rou. Jórvík, meanwhile, gradually reduced to York in the centuries after the Conquest, moving from the Middle English Yerk in the 14th century through Yourke in the 16th century to Yarke in the 17th century. The form York was first recorded in the 13th century. Many company and place names, such as the Ebor race meeting, refer to the Latinised Brittonic, Roman name.

The 12th‑century chronicler Geoffrey of Monmouth, in his fictional account of the prehistoric kings of Britain, Historia Regum Britanniae, suggests the name derives from that of a pre-Roman city founded by the legendary king Ebraucus.

The Archbishop of York uses Ebor as his surname in his signature.

Archaeological evidence suggests that Mesolithic people settled in the region of York between 8000 and 7000 BC, although it is not known whether their settlements were permanent or temporary. By the time of the Roman conquest of Britain, the area was occupied by a tribe known to the Romans as the Brigantes. The Brigantian tribal area initially became a Roman client state, but later its leaders became more hostile and the Roman Ninth Legion was sent north of the Humber into Brigantian territory.

The city was founded in 71 AD, when the Ninth Legion conquered the Brigantes and constructed a wooden military fortress on flat ground above the River Ouse close to its confluence with the River Foss. The fortress, whose walls were rebuilt in stone by the VI legion based there subsequent to the IX legion, covered an area of 50 acres (20 ha) and was inhabited by 6,000 legionary soldiers. The site of the principia (HQ) of the fortress lies under the foundations of York Minster, and excavations in the undercroft have revealed part of the Roman structure and columns.

The Emperors Hadrian, Septimius Severus and Constantius I all held court in York during their various campaigns. During his stay 207–211 AD, the Emperor Severus proclaimed York capital of the province of Britannia Inferior, and it is likely that it was he who granted York the privileges of a 'colonia' or city. Constantius I died in 306 AD during his stay in York, and his son Constantine the Great was proclaimed Emperor by the troops based in the fortress. In 314 AD a bishop from York attended the Council at Arles to represent Christians from the province.

While the Roman colonia and fortress were on high ground, by 400 AD the town was victim to occasional flooding from the Rivers Ouse and Foss, and the population reduced. York declined in the post-Roman era, and was taken and settled by the Angles in the 5th century.

Reclamation of parts of the town was initiated in the 7th century under King Edwin of Northumbria, and York became his chief city. The first wooden minster church was built in York for the baptism of Edwin in 627, according to the Venerable Bede. Edwin ordered the small wooden church be rebuilt in stone; however, he was killed in 633, and the task of completing the stone minster fell to his successor Oswald. In the following century, Alcuin of York came to the cathedral school of York. He had a long career as a teacher and scholar, first at the school at York now known as St Peter's School, founded in 627 AD, and later as Charlemagne's leading advisor on ecclesiastical and educational affairs.

In 866, Northumbria was in the midst of internecine struggles when the Vikings raided and captured York. As a thriving Anglo-Saxon metropolis and prosperous economic hub, York was a clear target for the Vikings. Led by Ivar the Boneless and Halfdan, Scandinavian forces attacked the town on All Saints' Day. Launching the assault on a holy day proved an effective tactical move – most of York's leaders were in the cathedral, leaving the town vulnerable to attack and unprepared for battle. After it was conquered, the city was renamed from the Saxon Eoforwic to Jorvik. It became the capital of Viking territory in Britain, and at its peak boasted more than 10,000 inhabitants. This was a population second only to London within Great Britain. Jorvik proved an important economic and trade centre for the Vikings. Norse coinage was created at the Jorvik mint, while archaeologists have found evidence of a variety of craft workshops around the town's central Coppergate area. These demonstrate that textile production, metalwork, carving, glasswork and jewellery-making were all practised in Jorvik. Materials from as far afield as the Persian Gulf have also been discovered, suggesting that the town was part of an international trading network. Under Viking rule the city became a major river port, part of the extensive Viking trading routes throughout northern Europe. The last ruler of an independent Jórvík, Eric Bloodaxe, was driven from the city in 954 AD by King Eadred in his successful attempt to complete the unification of England.

In 1068, two years after the Norman conquest of England, the people of York rebelled. Initially they succeeded, but upon the arrival of William the Conqueror the rebellion was put down. William at once built a wooden fortress on a motte. In 1069, after another rebellion, the king built another timbered castle across the River Ouse. These were destroyed in 1069 and rebuilt by William about the time of his ravaging Northumbria in what is called the "Harrying of the North" where he destroyed everything from York to Durham. The remains of the rebuilt castles, now in stone, are visible on either side of the River Ouse.

The first stone minster church was badly damaged by fire in the uprising, and the Normans built a minster on a new site. Around the year 1080, Archbishop Thomas started building the cathedral that in time became the current Minster. 

In the 12th century York started to prosper. In 1190, York Castle was the site of an infamous massacre of its Jewish inhabitants, in which at least 150 Jews died (although some authorities put the figure as high as 500).

The city, through its location on the River Ouse and its proximity to the Great North Road, became a major trading centre. King John granted the city's first charter in 1212, confirming trading rights in England and Europe. During the later Middle Ages, York merchants imported wine from France, cloth, wax, canvas, and oats from the Low Countries, timber and furs from the Baltic and exported grain to Gascony and grain and wool to the Low Countries.

York became a major cloth manufacturing and trading centre. Edward I further stimulated the city's economy by using the city as a base for his war in Scotland. The city was the location of significant unrest during the so-called Peasants' Revolt in 1381. The city acquired an increasing degree of autonomy from central government including the privileges granted by a charter of Richard II in 1396.

The city underwent a period of economic decline during Tudor times. Under King Henry VIII, the Dissolution of the Monasteries saw the end of York's many monastic houses, including several orders of friars, the hospitals of St Nicholas and of St Leonard, the largest such institution in the north of England. This led to the Pilgrimage of Grace, an uprising of northern Catholics in Yorkshire and Lincolnshire opposed to religious reform. Henry VIII restored his authority by establishing the Council of the North in York in the dissolved St Mary's Abbey. The city became a trading and service centre during this period.

Anne of Denmark came to York with her children Prince Henry and Princess Elizabeth on 11 June 1603. The Mayor gave her a tour and offered her spiced wine, but she preferred beer. Guy Fawkes, who was born and educated in York, was a member of a group of Roman Catholic restorationists that planned the Gunpowder Plot. Its aim was to displace Protestant rule by blowing up the Houses of Parliament while King James I, the entire Protestant, and even most of the Catholic aristocracy and nobility were inside.

In 1644, during the Civil War, the Parliamentarians besieged York, and many medieval houses outside the city walls were lost. The barbican at Walmgate Bar was undermined and explosives laid, but the plot was discovered. On the arrival of Prince Rupert, with an army of 15,000 men, the siege was lifted. The Parliamentarians retreated some 6 miles (10 km) from York with Rupert in pursuit, before turning on his army and soundly defeating it at the Battle of Marston Moor. Of Rupert's 15,000 troops, 4,000 were killed and 1,500 captured. The siege was renewed and the city surrendered to Sir Thomas Fairfax on 15 July.

Following the restoration of the monarchy in 1660, and the removal of the garrison from York in 1688, the city was dominated by the gentry and merchants, although the clergy were still important. Competition from Leeds and Hull, together with silting of the River Ouse, resulted in York losing its pre-eminent position as a trading centre, but its role as the social and cultural centre for wealthy northerners was rising. York's many elegant townhouses, such as the Lord Mayor's Mansion House and Fairfax House date from this period, as do the Assembly Rooms, the Theatre Royal, and the racecourse.

The railway promoter George Hudson was responsible for bringing the railway to York in 1839. Although Hudson's career as a railway entrepreneur ended in disgrace and bankruptcy, his promotion of York over Leeds, and of his own railway company (the York and North Midland Railway), helped establish York as a major railway centre by the late 19th century.

The introduction of the railways established engineering in the city. At the turn of the 20th century, the railway accommodated the headquarters and works of the North Eastern Railway, which employed more than 5,500 people. The railway was instrumental in the expansion of Rowntree's Cocoa Works. It was founded in 1862 by Henry Isaac Rowntree, who was joined in 1869 by his brother the philanthropist Joseph. Another chocolate manufacturer, Terry's of York, was a major employer. By 1900, the railways and confectionery had become the city's two major industries.

York was a centre of early photography, as described by Hugh Murray in his 1986 book Photographs and Photographers of York: The Early Years, 1844–79. Photographers who had studios in York included William Hayes, William Pumphrey, and Augustus Mahalski who operated on Davygate and Low Petergate in the 19th century, having come to England as a refugee after serving as a Polish lancer in the Austro-Hungarian war.

In 1942, the city was bombed during the Second World War (part of the Baedeker Blitz) by the German Luftwaffe and 92 people were killed and hundreds injured. Buildings damaged in the raid included the Railway Station, Rowntree's Factory, Poppleton Road Primary School, St Martin-le-Grand Church, the Bar Convent and the Guildhall which was left in total disrepair until 1960.

With the emergence of tourism, the historic core of York became one of the city's major assets, and in 1968 it was designated a conservation area. The existing tourist attractions were supplemented by the establishment of the National Railway Museum in York in 1975, the Jorvik Viking Centre in 1984 and the York Dungeon in 1986. The opening of the University of York in 1963 added to the prosperity of the city. In March 2012, York's Chocolate Story opened.

York was voted European Tourism City of the Year by European Cities Marketing in June 2007, beating 130 other European cities to gain first place, surpassing Gothenburg in Sweden (second) and Valencia in Spain (third). York was also voted safest place to visit in the 2010 Condé Nast Traveller Readers' Choice Awards. In 2018, The Sunday Times deemed York to be its overall 'Best Place to Live' in Britain, highlighting the city's "perfect mix of heritage and hi-tech" and as a "mini-metropolis with cool cafes, destination restaurants, innovative companies – plus the fastest internet in Britain". The result was confirmed in a YouGov survey, reported in August 2018, with 92% of respondents saying that they liked the city, more than any of 56 other British cities.

We arrived in York at mid-afternoon, following a very busy train journey of just over 2 hours, which included a change at Sheffield. After a much needed food and toilet break, we negotiated our way out of York's massive train station and headed towards our home base for the weekend, a B&B in an old Georgian townhouse on Bootham in the Clifton area of the city, just 20 minutes walk from the station and a few minutes walk outside the historic city walls. After checking in, unpacking and taking a few minutes to get refreshed and 'de-trained', we decided to head out and dive straight into this wonderful, historic city. We arrived on a Friday and would be staying until Sunday so we already had an itinerary in mind. We a place booked on the York Ghost Bus Tour at 7.30 on Friday evening so the plan was to kill a few hours with some drinks and food, gradually working our way towards where the bus was due to pick us up, which happened to be outside the train station. For reasons that I'll later go into, things didn't quite go according to plan but, nevertheless, it was set to be a fantastic few days. Leaving the B&B, we turned left and headed straight down Bootham which leads to Bootham Bar, one of the historic stone gateways that grants entry to the city proper. Passing beneath this gateway, onto High Petergate, we were immediately entranced by York's narrow streets, exquisite architecture and quirky independent shops. It did not take long for us to fall in love with the place. It helped that our first pub was nearby. Just inside the city walls, the first pub on our list was the Hole in the Wall.

Formerly known as The Board Inn throughout the 19th century, the pub was excavated in 1816 during which a tunnel was found that led to a dungeon-like space where manacles and chains were hung. A hidden tunnel was rumoured to run to York Minster. Whilst this tunnel has never been found, it is believed that the Minster's own prison was located nearby. This is one of the many pubs in York to report ghostly activity. During the aforementioned excavations, a superstitious builder bricked up a corridor after reportedly hearing disembodied footsteps. These footsteps are occasionally still heard throughout the building and a white mist has been seen, and on one occasion photographed, in the bar area. The pub's current name is taken from a window, still in place, through which prisoners had to beg for food. Inside, the premises is certainly atmospheric. The bar is almost opposite the door, with a small lounge area in between. To the rear is a larger space for dining and drinking, with access to a rear beer garden. The decor is very much in keeping with the pub's traditional origins, with beamed ceilings and internal brickwork. The bar itself holds 5 hand pumps, 3 of which were in use on our visit. Our options for our first drink in York were Jennings Night Vision, Wainwright and Ringwood Forty Niner. The Hole in the Wall is a Marston's pub, hence the predominance of beers from their range. I went for a pint of the Forty Niner (4.9%) and Amy chose the kegged version of Hobgoblin IPA. We took our beers into the back room where we found a round table in a booth underneath artwork commemorating the Theatre Royal, which is just around the corner from here. We enjoyed our drinks, discussed our plans for the weekend and had a quick peruse of the food menu. No begging through windows required nowadays! This was already turning into an excellent evening of comfortable historic pubs and the Hole in the Wall had certainly been a good place to start and had piqued our interest for what was to come. The beer was great too!

Leaving the Hole in the Wall, we turned left and continued down High Petergate, approaching the great spires of York Minster which acts as a convenient landmark in the event that you might feel a bit lost. Continuing on, we passed a number of other pubs before we emerged in the shadow of the enormous Minster itself, gothic architecture standing proud. It's certainly an imposing and impressive sight, even if you've seen it before. A quite literal stone's throw from the Minster, in its very shadow, lay our next destination. History abounds at the Guy Fawkes Inn.

This pub is located on the very site where, in 1570, Guy Fawkes, York's most famous son, was born. His original cottage has now been incorporated into accommodation that sits at the rear of the enclosed courtyard garden. The interior of the inn is hugely atmospheric. A small bar in the corner of the first room serves a tiny lounge area, with larger rooms for dining off to one side off of a central corridor. This corridor leads through to the garden which is comfortable and allows views into the restaurant area through mullioned windows. A rear external staircase leads up to more rooms. The decor is timber floors and oak furniture and the pub is lit by candles and gas lamps to add ambience. The small bar has 6 hand pumps, mostly providing local beers. At the time of our visit the options were Black Sheep Riggwelter, Copper Dragon Golden Pippin, Timothy Taylor Landlord, Black Sheep Best Bitter, York Guzzler and Ossett Yorkshire Blonde. I was already wowed by this place and it seemed appropriate to drink proper York beer in a proper York pub so Amy and I both decided on the Guzzler (3.6%). This was served, not just in handled glasses, but in branded handled glasses (available to purchase for £5 each, merch fans) and we carried these through to the garden where we found a table looking into the building which rose up above us. The Guzzler was delicious, far belying its low ABV. It is a refreshing golden ale that boasts dominant flavours of hops and fruit. This is another fantastic pub. We'd been in York for no more than a couple of hours at this point but we were already thoroughly enjoying ourselves. With the history associated with this pub, it's perhaps no surprise that there is a sinister side. A dark, human-like shape has been seen flitting around the place, particularly in the rear accommodation leading to obvious speculation that the spirit must be Guy Fawkes himself returning to his childhood home. What would he make of how he is remembered each November I wonder?

As tempting as it was to stay here for another, we had another well-known York target on our list. Leaving the Guy Fawkes, we turned right and continued down High Petergate until we reached a small square where we turned right. A few yards, and a left turn, further on saw us reaching the Shambles, York's world-famous medieval shopping street with it's crooked buildings and its myriad of independent shops. We made our way down this utterly picturesque street, making mental notes of everywhere we'd be popping into over the weekend before we turned out attention to a building that sits opposite the Shambles, squatting almost menacingly. It was now time to visit one of York's most (in)famous and most haunted pubs, the legendary Golden Fleece.

The pub itself is believed to date back to at least 1503 and it is believed to be one of the oldest pubs in the city. A former coaching inn, it was owned by a former Lord Mayor of York, John Peckett, and his wife Alice, in the early 18th century. Rebuilt in the 19th century, the building was Grade II listed by English Heritage in 1983 and is next to Herbert House, Grade I listed building (now a gin shop) which has a first floor jetty incorporated into a side passage of the pub. Despite the narrow frontage, the pub is deep with a small front bar connected to a larger rear bar by way of a narrow corridor which also includes the toilets. The higgeldy-piggeldy and disorientating layout is due to the building being constructed on stilts without any proper foundations. This has led to leaning doorways, low ceilings and uneven floors over more than 5 centuries of use. Upstairs there are 4 accommodation rooms and a separate room used for functions. I once stayed in one of these rooms, the St. Catherine's Room, and experienced some very odd events, not least of which was a distinct dislike of having my back to the bathroom door and hearing the sound of somebody moving around in the bathroom when it was definitely empty. We were both very excited to visit here, so much so that we would ultimately come back every day of our visit, but more on that later. Amy had never been here before and she was immediately blown away by the feel of the place. The atmosphere is relaxing and comfortable whilst the pub is full but you sense it takes on a completely different feel once the punters leave. The Golden Fleece has two bars, both with 5 hand pumps, and beers doubled up across both bars. Our options here were Theakston Old Peculier, Hobgoblin Ruby, Doom Bar, Hobgoblin Gold and Landlord. Amy procured us a table in the window of the front bar area, looking into the room, whilst I procured the drinks, an Old Peculier for me and a ruby Hobgoblin for Amy. We could feel the history in this place and the atmosphere is certainly unique. Whilst the pub does certainly play on its reputation, with photos of the team from Most Haunted (who investigated here) on the walls in the corridor and framed pamphlets on famous York hauntings, it's clearly done business no harm. What is this reputation? The Golden Fleece is claimed to be home to at least 7 distinct hauntings. A Canadian airman who died in one of the bedrooms during the Second World War, either through falling from a window or hanging himself, is still seen in the room in which he passed and occasionally on the street outside. The spectre of a young boy is often seen in the bar area. He died here after being trampled by a horse outside and customers often feel the sensation of a small hand trying to pick their pockets. One of the most commonly seen apparitions is that of 'One-Eyed Jack', a highwayman carrying pistols who is seen throughout the pub. The upstairs bedrooms have their own ghostly tales. The Minster Suite holds stories of crying children and a moving bed. In the Shambles Room, people have felt the sensation of someone sitting on the bed and witnessed strange lights and, in 2008, a couple left in a hurry after witnessing a candlestick move along the fireplace, apparently guided by a dark shape behind it. Dark figures have been recorded in St. Catherine's Room and this is also where Yvette Fielding heard a disembodied laugh in her ear during the Most Haunted visit. This room also boasts a room that was bricked up for 200 years for no known reason. The bricked up room is now the aforementioned, sinister feeling bathroom. Lady Alice Peckett has been seen in the room that now bares her name but has also been seen in the pub after midnight and in the Meadery room. The downstairs function room lays claim to the image of a lady running through the wall screaming as if being chased as well as the phantom of a dog. Whether this latter spook is linked to the dog skeleton that was discovered under the floor during renovation work is uncertain. It was once a custom to bury dogs or cats in the foundations of buildings as protection against evil so perhaps this dates back to this time. Needless to say, with all the reported activity, the ghostly spirits at the Golden Fleece outnumber the ones for sale behind the bar! We spent some time here enjoying our very well kept beer and some delicious fish and chips before we decided to make our down towards the station for the ghost bus tour.

Following an approximate walk of about 20 minutes or so, over the river Ouse via Lendal Bridge, we arrived with plenty of time to spare before our scheduled 7.30pm slot. This meant, of course, that we had time for another drink. Our chose destination was right next to the station entrance and actually partly inside the station itself. The only Good Beer Guide listed pub on this trip would be the York Tap.

Opened in 2010, this is a conversion of the old Victorian tea rooms at the train station. The interior design is spectacular with an ornate ceiling, Art Deco-style stained glass windows, terrazzo floors and stained glass ceiling domes, all complimenting a round central bar that serves both sides of a large room. The entrance through which we come is next to the station entrance proper with another entrance on the station platform. It is very busy when we arrive, perhaps due to the time of day and the pub's location but we do at least have plenty of time to peruse the impressive bar with its 20 (?!) hand pumps, 18 of which were in use. The selection was wide with 16 beers and 2 ciders. The full available list during our stay was as follows: Vocation Pride & Joy, Bristol Beer Factory Independence, Bristol Beer Factory Rewind, Atom Quantum State, Bristol Beer Factory Fortitude, Triple Point Dusk, JW Lees Craft Pale, Thornbridge Market Porter, Half Moon Old Forge, Thornbridge Astryd, Thornbridge Lord Marples, Thornbridge Brother Rabbit, Timothy Taylor Boltmaker, Timothy Taylor Knowle Spring, Lilley's Mango Cider and Lilley's Gladiator. With so much choice, it took me a little while to decide but I finally settled on Pride & Joy (5.3%) from Vocation out of Hebden Bridge, This is a flavoursome IPA packed with citrus hoppiness and a hint of sweetness that gives way to a mellow aftertaste. After a few minutes, we managed to find a table a short distance from the bar on raised leather seating and sat to kill some time. However, it was then that our plans went south. Amy found an email, in her spam folder, from the ghost bus company, cancelling the night's events due to staff injury. We were very annoyed and frustrated. Finishing our drinks, we went to the allotted pick up place and spoke to the driver who confirmed what we'd been told but also said that, if we rang up first thing, we might be able to rebook for the following evening. We endeavoured to do just that but, the question now was, what do we do with our Friday evening? We eventually decided that we would head back towards the B&B but stop off in a couple more pubs to round off the evening. After all, why not? 

Retracing out steps, we once again crossed the river at Lendal Bridge but this time, instead of continuing on, we crossed the road and turned right, onto the street known as Lendal. On the right, we quickly identified our next port of call as being from the list. We now took a trip to Lendal Cellars.


Reached down a flight of stairs, the Lendal Cellars is located underground and stands on the site of part of a medieval Augustinian Friary. The friary was founded during the 13th century before being subsequently suppressed during the Dissolution of the Monasteries in 1538. Walls dating to the 14th century were found during building operations that converted the cellars into a pub, along with the uncovering of an adult human skeleton. In the 1800s, part of the building was sold and works revealed earlier remains of Roman walls and Roman drainage. During the early part of the 18th century, the Oldfield family owned most of the buildings in this area and were early developers of a wine and spirits business. Remains of their stone wine bins and cask thralls are now covered by fixed seating. The layout of this pub is effectively two barrel vaulted brick ceilings with seating throughout and a long bar, divided by a brick wall. Of the 8 available hand pumps, 4 were in use when we arrived, giving us a choice between Leeds Midnight Bell, Lilley's Strawberry Cider, Abbot Ale and Greene King IPA. I went for a pint of Abbot, Amy opted for Aspall's Cyder and we found a seat in the first vault which, like the rest of the pub, seemed fairly quiet. This is another intricate and imposing sort of place, made more so by the low ceiling and the feeling of being detached from outside due to the underground location. Given this, and the prior use of the site, it's perhaps unsurprising that witnesses reported ghostly monastic figures in the seating area, usually glimpsed briefly before disappearing as the witness turns to get a better look. I can also confirm that, whilst the beer choice was not the best, that the Abbot was in very good condition. 

Departing Lendal Cellars and back into the autumnal night, we walked straight on, now heading down Stonegate. Our aim was to head back to the B&B now but I couldn't help but point out another pub that I felt we had to visit. Our final pub stop of the night would be the Punch Bowl. 

One of the oldest pubs in York, dating from the 1600s, the Punch Bowl is now a Nicholson's establishment. Inside, there are 3 rooms, a small one to the front with seating in front of the bar, another to the rear with banquette seating and long tables and a third room off to side. Toilets are located in a rear corridor and the three room are linked by a narrow passageway. One bar serves both of the first two rooms. The mullioned windows and Tudor exterior make the pub feel homely and there is a TV mounted on the wall above the fireplace in the first room. 4 hand pumps are located on the bar. On this occasion, we had a choice between Nicholson's Pale Ale, Black Sheep Best Bitter, Abbeydale Moonshine and Doom Bar. As Moonshine is one of my absolute favourite ales in the whole world, my decision was instantly made. Amy settled for half of Doom Bar and we sat at a small table, closest to the bar and enjoyed an old episode of The Chase on the TV. As well as the beer and the, always fantastic Nicholson's decor, we were drawn instantly to the food menu, in particular the specialist pies. We resolved to return here for lunch the following day. It would have been rude not to eat somewhere that was serving one of my favourite beers. As homely as the pub felt, there is more happening here than good service. The number of ghosts is almost as numerous as the number of hand pumps. The ghost of Isabella, a 17th century barmaid during the building's time as a brothel, haunts here. She was beaten to death by a disgruntled patron and her ghost is still allegedly heard screaming and running down the stairs and from room to room, trying to escape. Another sad shade is that of a former landlord who perished in a fire and is often seen walking the route of the old cellar steps where he tragically met his demise. The final member of the ghostly trio is the Grey Lady, believed to have taken her own life after her lover was unfaithful. She is said to roam the pub looking for unfaithful men in hopes of taking revenge on the man who wronged her. Vowing to return to the pub tomorrow, we left the tragic spirits and our empty glasses behind and continued down Stonegate. After a brief detour to buy cans of beer from the amazing House of Trembling Madness beer shop, we wound our way back to the B&B where we rested and recuperated in time for day 2.

Following a hearty full English, we were up and out on Saturday. Our first activity was a thoroughly entertaining trip to York Dungeon before we set our sites on pubs and shopping. We first made our second visit to the Golden Fleece, where we managed to perch at a high shelf next to the bottom bar. We sat there, drinking beer and reading the articles about local ghosts on the wall in front of us. During this period, Amy distinctly felt a light touch on her back, as if somebody was trying to get into her back pocket. It only happened once but it seemed unusual that that would happen in this exact location. More weirdness would follow the next day when we came back again. We next attempted to get some shopping done in the Shambles but it was chaotic and very busy so instead we decided that we'd come back first thing in the morning to make sure we were at the front of the queue for the Harry Potter shop. We did have a browse in a couple of independent shops and again decided that we'd pop back tomorrow. Our first new pub of the day, was next on the agenda. Heading back to the end of the Shambles, we kept walking until we found Goodramgate and our next stop, The Snickleway Inn.

This Grade II* listed pub sits next to the Wealden Hall, which it was constructed at the same time as. The oldest part of the building is the front, which dates back to the 1500s. A wing was added in the 17th century and this was altered in the 19th century, when the building itself was refronted. The whole interior is timber-framed as can be seen extensively in the walls and exposed beams. The building has been a pub since at least the 18th century and was known by many names including the Square and Compasses, the Mason's Arms, The Board, The Joiner's Arms and, more recently, the Angler's Arms. The pub took on its current moniker in 1994. The name is a deliberate misspelling of the local word 'snickelway', a term for a small alley or jitty, changed to avoid copyright issues, Internally, the pub is a hodge-podge of rooms, with a central bar area and a snug to one side, down a small step. Beer memorabilia, bric-a-brac and old pumpclips make up much of the wall decorations. The small, angled bar has 6 hand pumps and we were happy to be able to choose from 5 of these. Our options here were Roosters Yankee, Rudgate Ruby Mild, Revolutions New Rose, Rudgate Valkyrie and Theakston Best Bitter. Having not seen much Rudgate beer thus far during our trip, I went for the Valkyrie whilst Amy went Beavertown Neck Oil. The Valkyrie (5%) is an American style pale ale, brimming with citrus and tropical notes but with a distinctly earthy backbone. We sat at a table in the snug area, tucked away from the main bar but able to people watch out of the window. This is a strange little place. I liked it here, with its old world charm and stripped back character. This is yet another pub that claims the title of York's most haunted. The most well-reported of its spectres is that of a young girl. She has been most frequently seen sitting on the stairs watching customers come and go and the landlord's now deceased cat was known to purr around the legs of an unseen figure. The story goes that the girl was tragically knocked down and killed by a cart delivering beer and has taken up residence in the pub outside which she passed. Two different spirits have been reported in the bar area. The first is that of an old gentleman, who enters through a wall, walks across the bar area, takes a seat and immediately vanishes. An investigation has determined that there was once a door in the area through which he enters. The ghost of a man in Elizabethan clothing is also seen behind the bar, usually first thing in the morning or after closing. Despite bar staff regularly reporting sightings, his identity remains unknown. The tragic ghost of Marmaduke Buckle haunts the upstairs restaurant that bears his name. He was born crippled to a wealthy family but was tormented relentlessly by his peers until he took his own life by hanging. He is sometimes seen looking out of the window and is blamed for the mysterious opening and closing of doors and the flicking on and off of lights. Another ghost is only identified by the strong smell of lavender that suddenly appears without warning. As lavender was once used to disguise the smell of decaying bodies during the plague, perhaps there is a link to this time period. The finally entity here is neither tragic nor friendly. The cellar is home to something that regularly turns off gas taps, often with significant force, and throws objects and tools at members of staff that go down to fix the problem. Clearly, there is a myriad of activity happening here.

Back in the world of the living, and Amy and I had finished our drinks and wanted to squeeze in another new pub before we returned to the Punch Bowl for food. Our chosen spot required us turning back on ourselves and making our way back down Goodramgate to the Old White Swan.

This is another Nicholson's pub, occupying a site that was previously 4 individual houses grouped around a central courtyard. This explains the unusual changes in floor and ceiling level in the various rooms. A seated courtyard area to the front of the pub leads through to the Georgian dining area on the left, Tudor bar straight ahead and the stagecoach bar to the right. All three areas are served by a single bar that abuts onto the wall next to the entrance. An outdoor smoking area lies to the rear. It being a Saturday, we were not surprised to see that the pub was busy with almost every table full, barring a small round one by the door. Having surveyed the beer options, I quickly got seated whilst Amy sorted the drinks. 7 of the available 8 hand pumps were in use, with a choice between Wainwright, Black Sheep Best Bitter, Purity Mad Goose, Doom Bar, Nicholson's Pale, Fuller's London Pride and Leeds Pale. On this occasion, Amy and I both went for the Mad Goose which was very good indeed. We were pleased to get a table here as it made it much easier to appreciate the layout of the place with it's multiple rooms, original features and exposed beams and brickwork. I do appreciate the effort that Nicholson's go to in looking after their pubs without detracting from the character of the original buildings. Of particular interest is an old fireplace in one of the rooms, which is the scene for a decidedly seasonal haunting. The tale goes that, in the winter months, when a fire blazes in the grate, a group of four gentlemen in colourful clothes and riding breeches materialises as if warming themselves over the flames. They are said to be very jovial, will be heard laughing and joking and disappear as quickly as they arrive. 

We decided it was food time now and, as promised, returned to the Punch Bowl where we were lucky enough to get the last remaining table, Following a delicious, and very filling, lunch of pie, mash and peas, we felt rejuvenated and it was time to move. Also located in Stonegate, almost opposite the Punch Bowl and with a sign that stretches between building across the street, is another iconic York pub that we had to visit. Our attention now turned to Ye Olde Starre Inne.

Accessed down a passageway, this is allegedly York's oldest licensed in, established in 1644. During the civil war, it was used as a makeshift hospital following the Battle of Marston Moor. The landlord at the time was paid by Prince Rupert to look after the wounded men but this often meant the amputation of severely damaged limbs without anything approaching adequate pain relief. A portion of the pub was set aside for those soldiers who required bullets to be removed or limbs amputated. The screams of these men would have been horrific and, such is the impact of this trauma on the building, the screams are occasionally still reported to be heard. A much less gruesome remnant of the past is that of an elderly lady who is seen walking the stairs. She tends to only be seen by young children. The more unusual ghosts of two black cats have been seen scampering and playing around the pub. More than once, a patron has reached out to stroke them only to find nothing but air where fur should be. Something more nondescript, known as 'the thing' lurks in the main bar. Whatever it is, it seems to only be seen by dogs. They are known to awaken or suddenly stand to attention to engage with something that only they can see, and react hostilely to whatever it is. One poor canine in the 80s even attempted to attack the 'thing' only to render itself unconscious against the wall. Inside, there is a large main bar, three separate rooms of varying size and three outdoor drinking terraces. When we arrive, it is very much standing room only, so we make our way over to the bar and find a place to stand, more or less right next to the glass collection area. There are 8 hand pumps on the bar, of which 6 are in use. This is a Greene King pub so most of the beers are from their range but there is some variation. Here the choices were Ainsty Ales Cool Citra, Black Sheep Best Bitter, Landlord, Abbot Ale, Theakston Old Peculier and Greene King IPA. Cool Citra (4.4%) from local brewery Ainsty Ales, immediately jumped out at me, especially given my fondness for the Citra hop. This turned out to be a citrusy delight and went down far too easily. 

We left Ye Olde Starre in good spirits. The day, and the weekend in general, was going superbly. We had managed to rebook the ghost bus tour for that evening, albeit at the later time of 9pm so we had quite a bit of time to kill. We decided to head back to the B&B for a chill out before going out again later. Once again, we were tempted by House of Trembling Madness and went back to the B&B with yet more cans, as well as some sweets from a nearby specialist sweet shop. After a couple of hours of chill time, we headed out again, our intentions being to find another couple of pubs to bide our time in before the bus tour. The first of these was one we had walked past a couple of times by this point. Situated on High Petergate, on the way to the Minster, we decided to stop off at the Eagle & Child. 

Opened in 2015 in a building that was formerly a restaurant, this pub is owned and operated by Leeds Brewery. Downstairs is a smart, modern, open plan space with minimalist decor, low, scrubbed tables and fairy lights. Upstairs is a dedicated restaurant space as well as access to the toilets. The bar sits to the right hand side with tables opposite and to either side. There are 8 hand pumps on the bar, 4 of which were available for us to choose between. Our choices were between Leeds Best, Leeds Pale, Turning Point Lucid Dream and Brew York Tonkoko. As tempting as it was to go for one of the Leeds Brewery beers, the Brew York was jumping out at me and I couldn't resist. Tonkoko (4.3%) is a coconut, tonka bean and vanilla milk stout. It's dark, smooth, sweet and decadent. In short, it's bloody wonderful! It's my firm belief that Brew York have never brewed a bad beer and this just cements that opinion beyond reasonable doubt. We sat out of the way of the bar, at a small table and watched people, and their dogs come and go. This is certainly a cosy place to spend some time. 

With a bit of time still to go before the bus tour, we decided that it made sense to find somewhere in close proximity to the station so we wouldn't have far to walk. Making our way back in the direction of the station, we found a little place tucked off down a side street that looked like it would do for a quiet Saturday evening pint. We had now reached the Corner Pin. 

Located on Tanner Row, the Corner Pin is a 400 year old, Grade II listed building that has retained much of its period charm and original features. The front is the traditional side, which includes 3 connecting rooms around a bar, as well as a modern conservatory section that opens onto the beer garden. The bar contains 3 hand pumps, of which 2 were in use when we walked in. The options were Bombardier and Hobgoblin Gold, the latter of which I opted for. The pub was very quiet at the time of our arrival, so we set up shop on a banquette opposite the bar and under a television. Despite being off the beaten track and tucked away, this is a welcoming place with lots of nice features and a relaxed atmosphere, at least until an argument broke out between half of a party of 4 on a neighbouring table. We stayed here for a couple of drinks, taking advantage of the good service and well kept beer, before we made our way over to the station to board the ghost bus. This was an excellent activity that I would recommend. After an hour or of ghost stories, sightseeing and hilarity, we were dropped back off and headed back to the B&B, via the local takeaway.

We awoke on Sunday with heavy hearts, knowing that we only had a few hours left in this marvellous city. After breakfast, we checked out and headed out early, ensuring that we could get some shopping done in the Shambles before it got too busy. We hit the Harry Potter store, a couple of independent trinket shops and even bought some local gin before we were due at the Jorvik Viking Centre for our slot. Following this, as we were in the area, we ended up back at the Golden Fleece for a couple of beers and some food. We also had another odd experience. We were sat in the top bar area, at a table immediately in front of the door, which looks across the room to the opposite. In a case on a shelf, is a human skull, minus the lower jaw, of a local woman who was executed in the 19th century. Both Amy and I are positive that the skull subtly moved whilst we were sat there and was facing in a slightly different direction when we left to when we arrived. It would soon be time to make our way to the train for the journey but we did manage to squeeze a final pub in on the way. Located on a small square on the corner of Finkle Street, off of Davygate, is the Roman Bath.

This pub is named after a Roman archaeological site that is located underneath it. An extensive bathhouse complex was discovered and is now a museum which can be visited for a small fee. The interior has been decorated with images and designs reflecting the history, with a mural of Roman bathers and an artificial Roman style column. The pub consists of a single room with a bar slightly off centre to the left and toilets to the rear. There is also access to a beer garden through a door to one side. Seating is scrubbed wooden tables spread roughly around the perimeter of the room. There are 2 hand pumps which, whilst we were there, offered a choice between Fuller's London Pride and Hobgoblin Gold. Having not had London Pride so far that weekend, I decided to round off the trip with it and it turned out to be acceptable enough. We found a table near the door whilst we finished off our final drinks of the trip. The Roman artefacts aren't the only things that are said to remain of this place's history. Long before the bathhouse was found, buildings on this site were home to odd noises that sounded like running water, splashing or the sound of burst pipes, with no obvious source. Persistent searching by the previous owners turned up nothing. Only when the bath site was discovered, and linked to the fortress that stood just north of here, was an explanation offered. Local rumour has it that the sounds, now thought to be ancient Roman bathers, are still heard from time to time.

And that was that. Our stay in York was done. And it had been fantastic. Not withstanding the history and folklore of the pubs, and the city as a whole, York has cemented a place in both of our hearts. It's quite likely that this will go down as our favourite place to visit and we will definitely be coming back. We had an amazing time, did some amazing things, found superb pubs and drank great beers. Places like York are where history comes alive, not just in the museums and attractions, but out on the streets where the history was lived and continues to be lived. Did we get to all the pubs we wanted to? No. Did we find new things that we never got a chance to do? Yes. We will be going back? Absolutely. Overall verdict? Brilliant. There's not much more to say. 

Wednesday, October 20, 2021

Bowled Over, or a Sticky Wicket?

The time had finally come! After 2 years of waiting, one of the biggest and best beer events in the UK made it's triumphant return last week. In the wake of a successful event in 2019 and last year's scheduled event cancelled for reasons that, by now, should not need explaining, the air was thick with excitement at the return of an iconic event that unites beer and cider drinkers, old and young, seasoned and fresh in 4 days of frivolity, entertainment and, not to mention, plenty of superb beers! Of course, I speak of the one and only Robin Hood Beer & Cider Festival!

As well as seeing the festival return, there was much eagerness to see how things would pan out in yet another new location. With the change of layout of Nottingham Castle following the recently completed refurbishment, and the backlog of events at the Motorpoint Arena, this year's event took place at a venue that is not only iconic across the land but a notable landmark for the city of Nottingham itself and one that already draws thousands of fans from near and far, sometimes very far. The chosen venue for Nottingham's legendary beer festival was the similarly legendary Trent Bridge Cricket Ground, scene of a significant number of historic moments throughout history. 

Trent Bridge was first used as a cricket ground in the 1830s. The first recorded cricket match was held on an area of ground behind the Trent Bridge Inn in 1838. Trent Bridge hosted its first Test match in 1899, with England playing against Australia.

The ground was first opened in 1841 by William Clarke, husband of the proprietress of the Trent Bridge Inn and himself Captain of the All England Cricket Team. He was commemorated in 1990 by the opening of the new William Clarke Stand which incorporates the Rushcliffe Suite. The West Park Sports Ground in West Bridgford was the private ground of Sir Julien Cahn, a furniture millionaire, who often played host to touring national sides.

In 1950, an electronically-operated scoreboard was installed at this venue, then the world's largest at any cricket stadium.

Trent Bridge has a history of hosting football matches. Notts County Football Club played their important games at the ground from the 1860s, and moved there permanently in 1883 when Nottingham Forest left. However, games early and late in the season had to be played elsewhere due to the cricket and Notts County finally left in 1910, moving to Meadow Lane.

Trent Bridge also hosted an international match, England beating Ireland 6–0 on 20 February 1897.

Despite its renowned history in the annals of sport, it remained to be seen what one of the country's best known sporting venues could offer to a rather different sort of event. Enter myself and Amy, who took on the arduous task of attending this year's festival, in the interests of research, not only to continue an annual tradition but also to compare how this change of surroundings would benefit, or otherwise, the whole beer festival experience. You are all very welcome!

In common with the past few years, we decided to attend the festival on the Thursday, in the hopes of trying to explore the festival site and try some of the more unusual beers before things got too busy, whilst also hoping that said beers had not already been polished off during the previous day's session. Getting the bus to the stop outside the council house, we crossed the road and, prebooked and pre-printed tickets in hand, made our way into the cricket ground through a gated entrance that brought into the main concourse. This is the area where the majority of the beers were located with the main stillage bars and brewery bars tucked under a covered area and a small number of food and merchandise stalls, as well as a smaller stillage and key keg bar spread along the concourse in the direction of the central clubhouse. First impressions were that the site was considerably more compact than in recent years, perhaps not surprising given that the festival was restricted to the hard standing areas with no access allowed onto the hallowed turf of the cricket ground. 

Clutching the tokens we were given upon entry, we next turned our attention to procuring glasses to aid with the beer consumption. Due to a supply issue, there were an extremely limited number of branded glasses specific to this year's event, however the hard working folks at CAMRA had managed to round up some from past events. Drinking from glasses branded with 2018 and 2019 respectively (back in the old times), felt decidedly retro. Speaking of drinking, it was high time that beer was had. Our first stop was the Castle Rock brewery bar, the first one that we came to entering the covered area. I wanted to show my face and introduce myself to the staff working there as I've recently become a Castle Rock employee and it seemed like the decent thing to do. There was certainly an excellent choice of beer in both cask and keg available and I got stuck straight in with the DDH Citra (5%), a strong, hazy pale ale with fresh and juicy notes from the Citra hops. Long time readers will know of my love for that particular variety. Amy went for one of their keg beers, specifically a collaboration with Attic called Tuck Shop (5%), a cloudy IPA with rhubarb and custard that tastes for all the world like rhubarb and custard sweets. We'd certainly made excellent choices to start the day off with and it wasn't long before we needed a top up. Amy suggested we have a wander further down the concourse to explore the site a bit more and also locate the KeyKeg bar as there were a few beers listed that caught her eye. Before we made our way over, I chose my next beer. From Beat in Stourbridge, I selected Jungle Drum Machine (5%) as my next beer. This is a pale ale hopped with Mosaic, Simcoe and Ekuanot for a very juicy flavour. We sauntered over to the KeyKeg bar where Amy was disappointed to discover that Brew by Numbers' Gose Solero had run out. However, the back up plan was Blackberry Gose (3.7%) by London-based Orbit and this went down very well indeed. Whilst we were at this end of the concourse, we decided that we would briefly explore the clubhouse, take a look out over the legendary pitch and generally have a bit of a look around. I must confess that this was the first time that I had ever been to Trent Bridge. Whilst I'm not really a cricket fan, I take a passing interest in England test matches, particularly the Ashes, and events such as the Cricket World Cup. After a few minutes immersing ourselves in the history of Trent Bridge, we made our back outside. We decided that now would be a good time to buy any extra tokens that we might need, before the day got busier and the queues got longer. There were two main hubs for token buying. One was central to the main marquee and another was a small hut at the very far end, right near the clubhouse entrance. We reasoned that this would be the quieter area so stocked up accordingly and got right back to the beer!

During our initial walk around, I had identified the 'Nano Bar', a bar that focused specifically on small batch breweries. I picked out Chick Weed Revenge (5.5%) from Ilkeston's Urban Chicken to be my next target and I'm very glad I did. This is another murky pale ale but livened up with a dash of mango essence. The overriding flavour is very much like mango juice and it certainly belied its ABV! Already by this point, the bars seemed busier, perhaps amplified by the smaller size of the site. Things were generally flowing quite nicely though and it was clear from the faces we saw, that people were very glad to be back and able to enjoy an event of this sort. It was time for a change of a style of the beer front. I decided to go for a darker beer for my next option, much earlier in the day than I otherwise would have done. I found the perfect choice on the Blue Monkey brewery bar, which sat at the other end of the main marquee, opposite the stage. Amy and I were both instantly drawn towards the Guerrilla Chocolate Amaretto (4.9%), which had apparently been the brewery's most popular beer of the day by that point and it was only early afternoon! This did exactly what it said on the pump clip: a deep, rich stout with flavours of chocolate and almond aromas. 4 beers in and already a contender for beer of the day! I would also hop back and forth between beers from local breweries and further afield throughout the early stages of the day. The next choice on my list was chosen effectively for the name alone. With Halloween on the horizon, a beer called Hocus Pocus was impossible to ignore. Brewed by Loddon in Dunsden, Oxfordshire, this is a dark ruby old ale that is both rich and smooth. Despite the increased foot traffic and the general closeness of everything at the site, we didn't find it too stressful or intimidating negotiating our way around. By and large, any crowds were small and not swarming which meant that we didn't feel unsafe at all. We also found a rather good spot to stand, over to one side, where a large concrete block acted as a makeshift table or chair depending on what was required. Another useful thing we noticed is that, whilst there weren't any more toilets than normal, they were definitely closer to the action, and more accessible for any attendees that weren't as mobile. It was time for us to mobilise to the bar again. Another dark beer was next on the agenda for myself and I settled for Dead Man's Fist (5.5%), from Chapter out of Sutton Weaver in Cheshire. This was another excellent beer; a smoked porter with the fiery addition of black pepper. It was certainly a treat for the palate and I needed something lighter afterwards to take the edge off. Amy liked the sound of Navigation Brewery's Elephant Gun (3.5%), a salted chocolate mild, whereas I went to the other end of the spectrum, both style-wise and geographically by selecting Outlaw King (5%) from Loch Leven brewery in Kinross, Scotland. Amy's choice was very chocolatey with an added saltiness and sweetness. My beer was a golden ale, infused with honey and resinous hop notes. The honey was very subtle with the earthy hops to the fore but the whole thing worked together really well. 

Another wander was called for now so we headed back down the concourse, taking everything in. Following a brief chat with a couple of Amy's work colleagues, we found ourselves back at the KeyKeg bar where Amy got some of Vault City's Mango Session Sour (4.7%), which ticked all of the boxes and was very very good indeed! I was once again tempted by the name of a beer, this time from the smaller stillage bar. I just could not ignore a beer called Mariana Trench (5.3%), especially when the brewery is Weird Beard from Hanwell in London. This pale is brewed with NZ Pacific Gem and US Citra hops, combining for massive fruity and tropical hop flavours. Not quite as deep, and definitely not as existentially terrifying, as it's namesake but definitely a beer worthy of a glass. Our leisurely wander back to the main marquee saw us arrive back at the Castle Rock bar just as Amy's beer ran out. How's that for impeccable timing? In its place, Amy went for the Passion Fruit Sour, one of the available KeyKeg beers. This was a complex beer with hops and tropical fruit up top before an underlying sourness kicks in. As we were digesting these beers, we decided to hover by the stage in preparation for the entertainment starting. After a few minutes delay to the scheduled start time, we were told that the planned opening act had been forced to cancel due to Covid. However, the acts planned for later would still be appearing with another performer stepping in to fill the gaps. Whilst we waited to see what this would entail, it became beer time again and time for me to go back to drinking local. Navigation Brewery had their own regular bar and it was here that we returned so I could indulge myself with their Grapefruit Pale (4%). As expected, this is a light, hazy beer with flavours of grapefruit and citrus. By the time of our next beer, the entertainment had started, with resident drag queen Zanda lip syncing to some absolute classics. As the notes of Country Roads, Take Me Home faded, the Nano Bar was calling again. This time, I went for Return of the Hop Monster from RBA, based in Oakwood, Derby. This is a 4.8% New England IPA with Amarillo and Citra hops, delivering a fruity, citrusy punch. Amy went for something a bit darker, opting for The Legend of Q (7%), a strong, dark ale with chocolate hints, brewed by Q Brewery from Queniborough in Leicestershire. 

Our day was well over halfway through by now and we were having a great time. The atmosphere was relaxed and fun, the beers had been great and everybody seemed to just be thrilled to be there. We had noticed one thing though: we were starving! Slightly behind the main concourse, where there was a smaller crowd, we found a stall selling pork cobs with apple sauce, which would be just the thing to get us back on track. Considerably fuller but with our glasses emptier, we headed back to the action. My next choice was more of a traditional style. You can't enjoy complicated beers without paying homage to their original forms. For that reason, I had a go at Foreman's IPA (4.8%) from County Durham's Consett Ale Works. This is a full flavoured, nicely rounded IPA that is a true testament to the style. By this time, a larger crowd had gathered at the stage as Zanda carried on with her set. The crowd joined in with rapturous, although not necessarily in time, renditions of songs by Queen, including Bohemian Rhapsody because obviously, before Zanda wrapped up with Gypsies, Tramps and Thieves and cleared the stage to allow the next act to begin setting up. I was back into my stride now and the singing had dried out my throat. To wet my whistle, Halton Turner from Birmingham had just the thing, in the shape of Whiplash (5.4%), a golden amber beer with an intense finish that was equal parts hoppy and fruity. The time had come for more stretching of legs so we made another circuit of the site which, by now, was much busier than it had been first thing until, inevitably, our glasses were empty. Refill time. I've waxed lyrical here before about my love for both Bristol and its beers and so it would have been remiss for me not to have one of their delicious options. Bristol Beer Factory were the go-to on this occasion and, more precisely, their Entourage (5.1%), an IPA single hopped with tasty, tasty Citra. 

The next band were now on stage. A four-piece from Nottingham consisting of a guitarist/vocalist, bassist, drummer and saxophonist/multi-instrumentalist, they did a good job of keeping people in the fun zone with a mix of their own songs and covers. We were flagging slightly by now but still had a couple more beers in us. I was intrigued by the program description of the next been I chose. I'd already been drawn to Flying Gang, from Ponteland, Northumberland, by their brewery and to the beer Prince of Pirates (4.7%) by its description as a 'tasty stout'. Upon closer inspection and consumption I can confirm that is a) a stout, and b) very tasty. I was definitely back into the dark beers by this stage of the day and my penultimate choice continued the theme. The epic sounding Beowulf from Brownhills in the West Midlands managed to lure me in with Black & Blueberry (4.5%), a dark ale finished off with a dose of blueberries. It was dark, sweet and delicious. As we watched the band wrap up on stage, we had a decision to make. One more beer. But which beer? My mind whirred. Do I stay on the dark, go completely off-piste or select something from the program that jumps out at me? Ultimately, I went back to the program and decided to finish the day on something lighter. Hwgga, a brewery from Llandrindod Wells in Wales, have a beer called Shaky Bridge (5.1%), an unfiltered pale amber ale with added caramel. Like a dessert to wrap up a particularly filling meal, it was the perfect digestif. We ummed and ahhed about what to do next but decided that we would now call it a day. We wound our way back to the exit and the bus stop to begin the journey home. 

So, the big question is, how did the beer festival hold up at Trent Bridge? I've hinted at a couple of the key points further up. The overall area in use was much smaller which means the whole festival felt much more compact. There were fewer brewery bars but this was offset by the sheer quantity of beers available (more than 1000 at last count). The toilets are more easily accessible and easier to find and, in general, Trent Bridge is easier to get to on public transport, especially when compared to the Motorpoint Arena. All in all, it was a good day out, as it always is but I, for one, would be interested to see what the long term plan is regarding hosting the beer festival. I do feel that this year's event would have benefited from more space but I also appreciate that due to the proximity of the pitch, and the need to keep this in perfect condition, that this may not have been viable, particularly if the weather had been bad. The most important thing, of course, is that the festival was able to go ahead at all and for that we should be mightily thankful to CAMRA, Nottinghamshire County Cricket Club and the local councils for making it possible, as well as to all the brewers, breweries and volunteers who helped ensure that beer was there to be had and that people had a good time and felt safe. As to whether this is an ideal permanent solution as a venue, the jury, like so many Aussie batsmen at this venue, is definitely out. 

Wednesday, September 15, 2021

An NG12 Quintet

Hello again friends! It feels good to be able to post again not so long after the last time and fingers crossed I'll be able to continue to do so on a regular basis. Last week, taking advantage of some much needed annual leave, Amy and I decided to tick another belated location off of the pub excursion bucket list. Our initial plan was to tackle the village of Keyworth, where Amy grew up but, we reasoned, as we had all day to spare and the public transport links are good, that we may as well take in two neighbouring villages as well and take advantage of both the local bus route and some glorious, if not unseasonal, September sunshine. It also meant that we were staying well within the confines of our home county and so weren't too far from home. 

We set off to Nottingham city centre first and made our way to the bus stop we needed, to catch the handily monikered The Keyworth, operated by Trent Barton and normally resplendent in a fetching shade of purple. After some confusion about the actual bus times and a longer than expected wait, we were finally on our way. Research had indicated that all of our planned stops were well served by bus stops in the near vicinity or a short walk away and, around 20 minutes or so later, we found ourselves disembarking at a rather nondescript bus stop by the side of the A52. The first village on the agenda was the village of Tollerton.

Tollerton is located just south-east of Nottingham. The population of the built-up area in 2011 was 1,544. It was estimated to have risen to 1,655 in 2019. We had to turn slightly back on ourselves to access main road into the village proper. Reaching this road, Stanstead Avenue, we turned right and followed the road to the very end where our first location sits in an elevated position at a road junction. Our day would begin in earnest at the Air Hostess. 

Named in reference to the nearby Nottingham Airport, the Air Hostess is a post-war pub that first opened in December 1966. Formerly an Everards property, the pub is now community-owned after locals bought it from the brewery in 2019. A major refurbishment and remodelling followed and the newly improved pub reopened between lockdowns in July 2020. The work associated in redecorating the pub saw it recognised with an award from CAMRA in their 2020 National Pub Design Awards. The present layout has expanded on what was once a roughly 'T'-shaped interior on a corner plot. The toilets are just inside the entrance door with a lobby-style space leading through to a bar and lounge area which has been expanded to allow TV sport and pool. A large, spacious patio area is accessed through partition doors, as is a substantial beer garden which sits at road level and contains picnic style tables. We arrive shortly before midday, which is handy as the pub opens at 11am Monday-Saturday and are immediately greeted with the sight of a group of local women, manoeuvring suitcases. The manager quickly reassures that they would be leaving soon as they were awaiting the arrival of a, quite frankly awful sounding, 'party bus' which would be taking them away for the weekend. It wasn't initially clear as to why he felt like he had to clarify this. Maybe it was the fear in our eyes! We approached the bar and perused the offerings. I was immediately thrilled to discover 7 hand pumps, 6 of which were in use, offering a decent choice of beers. On the day, the options were Blue Monkey Primate, Timothy Taylor Landlord, Brains Rev James, Fyne Ales Jarl, Black Iris Endless Summer and Hop Back Summer Lightning. Seeing as we were staying local for the day, I decided I would begin with something local and opted for the Endless Summer from Basford-based Black Iris. Amy chose Aspalls draft cider, which came in a very cool chalice style glass, and we headed outside to the patio area, taking seats under a large parasol so we could better peruse our surroundings without too much UV exposure. This is certainly a cracking place to enjoy a beer in late summer sunshine. And what a beer it was too! Endless Summer (4.5%) is golden colour with citrusy aromas and aftertaste and a gently bitter finish. Amy's cider was very crisp and refreshing and we both agreed that this had been a great choice for a first stop. It's clear that the pub is very much a focal point for the village and the community and the staff should be very proud of what they've achieved here. It's wonderful, the beer and service are great and it's also a perfect vantage point to observe the normalities of every day village life such as, the 'party bus' women taking photos with the driver of a local community bus or people doing yoga in the grounds of the Methodist chapel opposite (neither of these things is made up). We genuinely could have stayed all day here but, with genuine sadness, we had to move on to our next stop, although we have already decided that we'll be returning here for food at a later date!

Retracing our steps back to the bus stop, we only had a few minutes to wait until the next bus came and were both rather miffed that, when it arrived, it was the normal purple livery but a less impressive orange. This had been the second time in two buses that we'd gotten one that wasn't the normal colour. Thankfully though, this did nothing to affect the journey and a very short few minutes later, we had arrived in village number 2, with pub number 2 almost opposite. Our attention now turned to Plumtree. Plumtree is a village and civil parish in the borough of Rushcliffe, Nottinghamshire. At the time of the 2001 census it had a population of 221, increasing to 246 at the 2011 census. It is situated 5 miles south east of Nottingham, between the villages of Tollerton and Keyworth. Some of the farming land around the village is owned by the Duchy of Cornwall (Prince Charles, the Prince of Wales). The parish church of St Mary has a Norman tower on Saxon foundations, which were found when the tower was rebuilt in 1906. The nave is of 13th-century date. The north aisle was rebuilt and extended with stone from Nottingham's medieval Trent Bridge in 1873. Edward Hagarty Parry (1855–1931), an association footballer who captained Old Carthusians F.C. when they won the 1881 FA Cup Final against Old Etonians, is buried in the churchyard.

Plumtree Mill was a two-storey wooden post mill mounted on an open trestle raised on piers atop a mound. Derelict by 1907, it was burnt down c. 1930. The mound is still extant. The manor of Plumtree was held in medieval times by the Hastings family, who secured Plumtree as part of their offices as Chief Steward to the Crown. The family continued to hold Plumtree for several centuries. In 1637, Edmund Hastings Esq., a descendant, had extensive property dealings with John Levett, a York barrister, who had married Hastings's wife's Copley family niece.

Directly across from where we disembarked, at one of the two bus stops in the village, is The Griffin Inn. 

Recorded as a public house since 1855, the Griffin reopened in 2019 after a long period of closure, following a change of ownership and an extensive refurb. It is a large, elegant brick building at the village crossroads and features white painted eaves and window surrounds. The interior is open plan with wooden floors and modern decor with the bar directly opposite the main entrance. To the left are two small lounge areas with the right leading to another lounge area that leads to a rear restaurant. There is a function room upstairs and an enclosed walled garden to the rear contains marble topped tables, hedges and trees and a constantly running water feature which creates a lovely ambience. Lighting is tangled in the trees and there are ground level spotlights to illuminate the foliage in the evenings. The bar features two hand pulls which, at the time of our visit, offered a choice between Shipstone's Original and Bateman's Gold. I opted for the latter whilst Amy decided on a pint of Beavertown Neck Oil. This again seemed like a great place to sit outside and observe the comings and goings. Once again, this is a place that I cannot recommend enough! The service was excellent and the food that we saw being taken to other customers looked sensational. This is another pub that we've added to the list for a future return visit! But what the beer, I hear you cry! Fear not, I had not forgotten. Batemans Gold (3.9%) is also known as Yella Belly Gold but has been rebranded following a legal case with another brewery over copyright and naming rights. Legalities aside, this is a very nice session beer. Pale golden in colour with a good balance of sweetness and bitterness and a fruity aftertaste. Plus, it came served in a handled glass! We thoroughly enjoyed our drinks sat in the comfortable garden which I can assume is rammed to bursting in the summer months or pleasant weekends. Soon, it was time to make a move again, not least because the rushing sound of the water feature was making me need the toilet. So, once again, we made our way back to the bus stop which, as a quaint side note, is next to an old fashioned red phone box that has been converted into a lending library. Plumtree might not be the biggest village but there's a lot to like here. 

In another few short minutes, we were on the bus again, passing through Plumtree to arrive at our final stop where the final trilogy of pubs is located. We had finally arrived in Keyworth.

Keyworth is located about 6 miles (11 km) southeast of the centre of Nottingham. It sits on a small, broad hilltop about 200 feet above sea level which is set in the wider undulating boulder clay that characterises the area south of Nottingham.

Keyworth is twinned with the French town of Feignies. Keyworth is first mentioned in writing in the Domesday Book dated 1086, though recent archaeological finds have discovered Roman artefacts in the parish outskirts suggesting human inhabitation of the area as far back as 800 AD. Keyworth originally developed as an agricultural community with the great majority of its inhabitants being farmers and field labourers. Later, frame-knitting gave rise to local employment and expansion in the 1880s.

Listed buildings in the village includes two grade II barns dating from the 17th century, one late 18th century house built in the Regency style, two early 19th century cottages on Main Street, and two grade II Former framework knitters' workshops.

In the early 20th century the Midland Railway came through Plumtree from Nottingham Midland station & along the north east of Keyworth, giving the village an accessible rail route throughout the railway network, though this luxury only lasted about 70 years. The station at Plumtree was open for passengers from 1880 to 1949.

Significant expansion took place throughout the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s with Keyworth effectively becoming a commuter town for Nottingham. The population has been falling slightly in recent years.

A fuller account can be found at the website of the Keyworth & District History Society.

Once again, it turned out that our next location was also in close proximity to a bus stop. Getting off near a small parade of shops, we made our way to The Keyworth Tavern.

This brick built community pub occupies a corner plot and was first opened by Shipstones on December 1st 1966. Extensively refurbished in 2013, it was under Punch ownership from November 2017 until it was taken over again in March of 2018 since when it has been operated by Pub People. Inside, there is a spacious and airy lounge to the left and a carpeted dining area to the right, both served by a curved bar that sits against the far wall. The 4 handpulls on the bar offered an interesting choice of beers with the options of Bombardier, Welbeck Abbey Kaiser, Beermats Hazmat and Sharp's Doom Bar. I'm a big fan of the beer from Winkburn-based Beermats so the Hazmat was an easy choice for both of us and we took our pints (and some crisps) to a table opposite the bar where we very quickly made friends with the pub's aging dog. The Hazmat (4%) is a refreshing session IPA that pours pale straw. The flavour is mango with a tropical aroma from the use of Mosaic hops. There is a crisp, citrus aftertaste which is very good indeed! I'd been wanting to visit Keyworth for a while. Amy grew up here and any previous visits have been fleeting so I was looking forward to properly exploring the place and having an insight into Amy's early life and see some of the places that she's told me about in the past. Amy actually briefly worked at this pub, many years ago, but for whatever reason the manager stopped giving her hours. It's their loss!

After several unsuccessful attempts to get the dog to come over again, and with our glasses empty, it was time to head to our next location. First though, we walked a way around Keyworth with Amy pointing out prominent locations from her youth, such as her old house and the houses that her grandparents lived in as well as her old school. It was really nice to share the nostalgia and put images to the stories that Amy had told me, as well as reminisce about my own childhood, growing up miles away on the south coast. Having walked a roughly circular route that took us past the local church, we arrived at the central market place and turned left. Walking past some 17th century tithe barns towards the older end of the village, we located our next destination on the right and across the road. We had now arrived at The Salutation.

The Salutation was recorded as a pub in the Nottingham Sessions Roll as far back as 1675, making it the oldest pub in Keyworth and quite possibly the local area. It is a white-washed rendered building with black surrounds on the windows, doors and fascias. The interior is divided in two by a central bar with one area laid out for diners and a separate dining area on a higher level to the left. There are TVs mounted on the wall in the rear section and a dartboard on the back wall. A sympathetic refurbishment in 2016 retained many of the original features, including the low timbered beams, fireplace and panelling. 8 handpulls occupy the bar, divided into two banks of 4, one on each side. At the time of our visit, just 2 of these were available with a choice between Fuller's London Pride and Doom Bar. I plumped for the Doom Bar whilst Amy selected a bottle of Tiger from the fridge behind the bar. We took our drinks from the very friendly and helpful barman and headed back down to the lower section. We were both quite hungry by this stage so took advantage of the food menu to order a BLT and chips each which was not only reasonably priced but very tasty. The Doom Bar was in perfect condition too, making it the perfect food accompaniment. This is certainly a friendly and welcoming community, although there appears to be a little bit of industry rivalry as the barman was telling us that they've had unwarranted bad reviews from visitors from the other pubs in the village. At his request, I left a positive TripAdvisor review. There really is no need for review bombing people, whether they're your rivals or not. As well as the food and drink, this pub certainly had the best music selection as we were treated to some Bon Jovi from the sound system. 

Stomachs full but glasses empty, we had one final stop before our bus home. Leaving the Salutation, we reversed our route back to the market place but this time kept walking, making our way down a hill. Upon reaching the bottom, our final destination stood in front of us, next to what had once been a vets but now appeared to be a private house, and opposite a small Sainsbury's. Our magical mystery tour of the NG12 postcode would conclude at the Pear Tree. 


The pub that is now the Pear Tree was opened by Home Brewery as the Fairway on 2nd August 1963. A substantial refurbishment and extension in 2015 saw the name changed and the ownership passed to Red Star Pub Co. The interior is open plan with seating areas to both left and right as you enter and the bar directly in front. There is a small snug area in one corner and outside boasts a substantial garden and a marquee for inclement weather. The flooring is part carpeted and part wooden and flagged and there is an overall modern feel to the pub, enhanced by the use of wood on the walls and artefacts throughout. This is by far the busiest pub of the day when we arrive. With it being late afternoon on a Friday, a large proportion of the clientele consists of labourers who have finished for the weekend. The bar hosts 4 handpulls but just one of these is in use. Wainwright it is then! Amy went for a pint of Inch's cider but would soon regret this as she didn't enjoy it at all. We took a seat to the side of the bar, under a window and perused our environment. The pub is certainly welcoming enough and there is music playing, in the former of reggae remixes, from the speakers. The beer is OK. Wainwright isn't too bad normally and on this occasion there isn't much to report. It isn't terrible but it doesn't blow me away. It is, simply, good enough. Our day out was drawing to a close but first, a cautionary tale. When using a pub toilet, always check that you can lock the door. Otherwise, you spend an awkward few minutes holding the door shut with your foot. Our time in Keyworth completed, we left the Pear Tree and got the bus from the stop right outside. We then enjoyed a brief bus ride past all the places we'd visited that day, before we finally arrived back in Nottingham.

So, what's to be made of our day out? It was great! By and large, it was a thoroughly enjoyable way to spend an afternoon, not least because I was spending it with my favourite person in the world. The trip proved that you don't have to travel far outside of Nottingham centre to find some cracking drinking holes and whilst they were certainly all very different and on different levels with regards to the experience, it certainly was worth the effort to make the journey. Village pubs, as I've said on more than one occasion here, are the heart and soul of a community and through them we can know their people. Try it. You might find you actually quite like people.