Thursday, July 30, 2015

An Anticlimax in Kimberley

Following the relative success of my recent trips out to the suburbs, I had high hopes for my most recent excursion, for which I visited a place that I have passed through en route to some prior destinations. A fortnight ago, having once again been granted a free Monday, I made a trip out to the Nottinghamshire town of Kimberley.

Kimberley is a town in Nottinghamshire, England, lying 6 miles northwest of Nottingham along the A610. The town grew as a centre for coal mining, brewing and hosiery manufacturing. Together with the neighbouring villages of Giltbrook and Greasley, it has a population of around 6,500 people. There has been no mining or hosiery manufacturing in the town for many years and the local brewery was sold and closed at the end of 2006.
Kimberley is referred to as Chinemarelie in William the Conqueror's Domesday Book. With the accession of William to the throne Kimberley came into the possession of William de Peveril. The Peverils lost control when they supported the losing side in the civil war which preceded the accession of Henry II of England in 1154. The King became the owner of the land. King John of England granted land in the area to Ralph de Greasley in 1212 who took up residence at Greasley Castle and also at around this time to Henry de Grey whose son re-built Codnor Castle on the site of an earlier castle established by William Peveril.
Ralph de Greasley's land passed by inheritance and marriage to Nicholas de Cantelupe who took part in Edward III of England's Scottish campaigns and also the Battle of Crécy. Nicholas founded Beauvale Priory using part of his Kimberley holding in 1343. That part of Kimberley which had become the property of Beauvale Priory was claimed by King Henry VIII during the Dissolution of the Monasteries in the 16th century.
The Priory's land was redistributed by the King and came into the possession of Arthur Capell, 1st Baron Capell of Hadham again by inheritance and marriage in 1627. Arthur was beheaded in 1649 having fought for the Royalists in the English Civil War. Arthur's son was created Earl of Essex in 1661.
In 1753 the land was purchased by Sir Matthew Lamb whose grandson William Lamb became Prime Minister in 1834. The Lamb's Kimberley estates passed by marriage to the 5th Earl Cowper in 1805 and on the death of the 7th Earl in 1913 were sold off in pieces.
That part of Kimberley retained by the Cantelupe's passed by inheritance and marriage to John Lord Zouch who died at the Battle of Bosworth Field with Richard III of England in 1485. He was posthumously found guilty of high treason with his property forfeited to Henry VII of England. John Savage received this part of Kimberley in gratitude for his efforts on behalf of Henry VII at Bosworth. The Savage family sold this land to the Earl of Rutland in the early 17th century. The Duke of Rutland's Kimberley estates were sold in parcels in the early 19th century.

Airships have flown over Kimberley on a number of occasions. The R101 flew over Kimberley during a trial flight on 18 October 1929, the year before it crashed with the loss of most of its passengers and crew during a flight to India. During a bombing raid on the Bennerley and Stanton Ironworks during World War One, a German Zeppelin airship, L.20 (LZ 59) overflew Kimberley. The R101 and the L.20 were rigid airships but more recently, in August 1997 a non-rigid airship advertising the RAC flew over Kimberley.

One of Kimberley's most notable structures is its unusual war memorial, in the form of a rotunda which is used as the emblem of Kimberley School. This secondary school has a catchment area which extends into the neighbouring areas of Nuthall, Eastwood, Watnall, and Hempshill Vale.
On the South side of Kimberley lies Swingate, which has many different walking and cycling routes into the woods and surrounding countryside.
The twin towns of Kimberley are Échirolles in France and Grugliasco in Italy.
Kimberley Brewery has recently been taken over by Greene King, another major brewer in a multi million pound deal which marks the end of the traditional Kimberley Ales as ale brewing will now cease and there will only be a distribution centre in the area.
The Kimberley Brewery has within its boundaries a geological Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI). It is listed under the title of "Kimberley Railway Cutting" as an important location for Permian Gymnosperm fossils. The Permian - Carboniferous unconformity can be found in the Kimberley Railway Cutting.
Since 1974, Kimberley has been part of the Borough of Broxtowe. From 1894 to 1974, however, it was part of Basford Rural District Council.
Recently there has been speculation that the Nottingham Express Tram (NET) want to extend their Phoenix Park tram stop into Kimberley towards Giltbrook Retail Park.

Ignoring the unsettled weather which marred my bus journey to the town, I decided to start at the far end of Kimberley and work my way back through, down the long central road, which is part of the A610. My first destination was a pub which I had heard a lot about in relation to its record for real ale and which sits at the top of an embankment, looking back down onto the main road. First up on this trip, the Nelson and Railway.

Image result for nelson and railway kimberley

This picturesque pub is also a hotel and has a long history, as the building itself is 400 years old. The main door has an outside seating area to either side, including a small wooden smoking shelter. Inside, the narrow corridors encircle the bar, leading to the lounge entrance at one side of the long, narrow bar. This led to some initial confusion when I first entered as the door to the immediate left of the entrance is no longer in use and so my attempts to open it were made all the more frustrating by the fact that the clientele could see my struggle through the glass panel at the top. Not to be deterred, I eventually found my way in. The lunge area is roughly L-shaped with small tables and benches spread throughout. On the way, there are 4 handpulls offering Nottingham Extra Pale Ale, Greene King IPA Gold, Skinner's Betty Stogs and Kimberley Best Bitter, brewed by Greene King to the recipe of the now defunct local brewery which lies nearby. I opted for a pint of the Betty Stogs fro Cornwall's Skinner's Brewery. This was in excellent condition and a welcome way to forget the inclement weather. I took a seat at a small round table off to the side and soaked in the atmosphere of the interior, decorated with bygone photos of the area and assorted brewery memorabilia. I was the youngest customer in the pub by a good 20 years but this wasn't an issue and it was nice to see that the older folk of Kimberley have a good taste in music as Dire Straits and Fleetwood Mac made an appearance on the jukebox.

This had been a pleasant start to the day but, as the title no doubt implies, it would not continue in this vein for long. My next stop was slightly further down the road, up yet another slope. My next intended stop was The Cricketers Rest.
Image result for cricketers rest kimberley

The ease with which I'd located this pub was quickly tempered by the worrying sight of 2 locked doors at the entrance and a To Let sign on the wall above. This is certainly a worrying development for this Greene King owned premises. One can hope that the pub opening hours are such that I was early and that a new tenant can be found to ensure that the premises remains a drinking hole. A future visit may be required to see how things lie.

Next up, back down on the main road through the town was the next planned stop on the list. Set back slightly from the road is The Gate Inn.
Image result for gate inn kimberley

This is yet another Greene King operated property in this particular neck of the woods. The pub is named for its location at what used to a turnpike between Nottingham and Kimberley which, for a fee, would allow travellers to pass through in one of 4 possible directions heading to various destinations. The building itself is contemporary with the turnpike and parts of it may be older. I walked towards the door, hoping for the welcome sight of an open door. Alas, this pub was also closed at the time of my visit! A quick bit of research confirmed that the pub does not open until 4pm on a Monday and Tuesday which seems a bit strange given the all day opening of pubs in nearby areas. This proves the value of researching opening hours in more detail before embarking on a trip of this type. Although frustrated, with the weather improving, I was determined to continue my adventures in the hope of finding at least one other pub that was open.

Hope was to be found at my next location, the Lord Clyde.
Image result for lord clyde kimberley

I was pleased to see that this pub was open, making it a marked improvement over the previous 2. Upon entering, I was greeted by an open plan layout with seating mostly confined to one side and a long booth to the right hand side. There are a few regulars around but the pub is largely quiet. The bar is small and tucked into one corner at the back of the room. I am faced with the choice of 2 beers from an available 6 handpulls. My options are Hardy and Hanson's Bitter and Golden Galaxy, brewed for Greene King in association with Brentwood Brewing Co. I decided on the Golden Galaxy (4.0%), a rich, golden and fruity ale with a nice, smooth finish. I took a seat by myself at a small table, largely obscured from the other punters by a supporting pillar. My pint went down quickly, coinciding coincidently with the arrival of the bingo callers. Taking that as my cue to leave, I headed out with the barman's advice to 'Run, before the bingo starts', ringing in my ears.

I had one final stop planned on my so far mediocre exploration of Kimberley. Situated at the other end of the town in its own large plot, is The Stag Inn.
Image result for the stag kimberley

This is a traditional stone built inn dating from 1737, with 2 bars, both of which have low beams, wooden panelling and settle seating. The appearance of the pub already had me hooked and the emphasis on advertising real ale even more so. The only thing preventing me from a pint or 2 to bookend the day was.......the opening time. 5pm. This was not the ending I was expecting to my trip. I'm not ashamed to admit that the issues with opening times is insufficient research on my part. However, The Stag not withstanding, there is a large preponderance of Greene King in this small town, echoing nearby Eastwood in that respect. Overall, Kimberley had been a disappointment but that doesn't mean that I'm not prepared to give it the benefit of a return trip in the future. The Stag alone will not escape my attentions that easily. I can't help but wonder whether areas like this would benefit from longer opening hours but it's obvious that pubs like this survive by knowing when to open and when they are more likely to attract passing trade. In general, Kimberley was one of the more ale deprived areas of recent trips but, who knows, perhaps a return on a different day, at a different time, will yield more fruit. Kimberley has had the once over so we'll see how it stacks up in the foreseeable future. Until next time.

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Eastwood Bound

For my most recent ale trip, I decided to take some time, on an unsettled but not unpleasant Monday afternoon, to investigate the town of Eastwood, famous for it's association with D.H. Lawrence but less known for its ale and pubs. Mondays certainly seem to be a good day to head out for me at the moment and this had the added advantage of being significantly closer to home than my previous excursion out to East Anglia.

Eastwood is a former coal mining town in the Broxtowe district of Nottinghamshire, England. With a population of over 18,000, it is 8 miles (13 km) northwest of Nottingham, and 10 miles (16 km) northeast of Derby, on the border between Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire. Mentioned in Domesday Book, it expanded rapidly during the Industrial Revolution. The Midland Railway was formed here, and it is the birthplace of D. H. Lawrence. Eastwood is one of the few places where the distinctive dialect of East Midlands English is extensively spoken.
"Eastwood" is a hybrid place-name, formed from Old English Est, for "East", and Old Norse Þveit /ˈθwt/, for "meadow", "cleared meadow", or "clearing in a wood." This is a common element in English place-names, often found as "Thwaite". "Eastwood" might mean eastern clearing, possibly originating as a Viking-age clearing in Sherwood Forest.
There is some evidence to suggest that the land around Eastwood was occupied in the Middle and Late Palǣolithic periods. Stronger indications of later settlement include fragments of characteristic Bronze Age pottery, weapons, and dug-out canoes, which are now preserved at Nottingham Castle, and at the University of Nottingham.
The location of the settlement is due primarily to the availability of rich agricultural land, the proximity of the River Erewash and—most importantly—the extensive and easily mined coal deposits. It is mentioned in Domesday Book as Estewic, part of the fee of William Peverel:
In Estewic [Ulfketel] had 4 bovates of land [assessed] to the geld. [There is] land [...] It is waste. William [Peverel] has the custody of it. [There is] woodland pasture 3 furlongs long and 3 broad. In King Edward's time it was worth 5 shillings.
— Domesday Book
During the Anarchy, the 12th century civil war between Stephen of Blois and supporters of Matilde, the mother of the eventual king, Henry II, Peveral's son, William Peverel the Younger, forfeited these to the Crown in 1155. The estate, called the Peverel Honour, was eventually divided, and much of the land around Eastwood was granted to the Greys of Codnor Castle.
Tenant farming prevailed throughout the Middle Ages, whilst common pasture was mainly used for grazing.
When King James VI of Scotland became King James I of England in 1603, Eastwood had a population of about 170, and it remained a small village until the 18th century when, in 1779, the Trent Navigation Company opened the Erewash Canal. This was one of the first man made waterways in England, with locks at Beeston linking Eastwood to the River Trent and Nottingham, and its arrival led to a rapid expansion of the local coal mining industry. Other industries soon followed, including framework knitting, corn milling, pottery, brewing, rope making and brick making.
The town expanded rapidly during the Industrial Revolution, and in the 19th century it experienced the greatest increase in population density of any parish in Nottinghamshire. By 1880 the population had increased to 4,500. Factories were built to accommodate the new industries, land becoming available for them as the rural population moved to urban areas. This industrialisation of the countryside was only restricted from the early 19th century, when, somewhat belatedly, the effect of the Enclosures began to be felt in Nottinghamshire. In a local manifestation of this period of upheaval, marchers of the Pentrich Revolution of 1817 passed through the town, and were met by soldiers at nearby Giltbrook: the residents of Eastwood boarded up their houses and hid in the woods.
In 1832, a historic meeting took place at the Sun Inn (built 1750), which resulted in the creation of the Midland Counties Railway, and the construction of a line from Pinxton to Leicester. Industrialisation continued with the opening in 1868 of Moorgreen Colliery, and in 1875 the demand for coal resulted in a railway station in Eastwood, with services to Nottingham on the Great Northern Railway.
D.H. Lawrence was born there in 1885. Although the local area is mentioned in many of his novels, it is especially featured in The White Peacock, against a backdrop of industrialisation. There were ten coal mines, or "pits", within easy walking distance of Lawrence's home, and the overwhelming majority of the local male population were colliers. Although the coal boom ended during Lawrence's childhood, Eastwood continued to expand, Nottingham Road and its feeder streets became established as a shopping area, and in 1908 the local Urban District Council opened its offices. However, few jobs remained outside what remained of the coal industry. Most women were housewives, and boys were desperate to reach the age of fourteen, when they could start working in the mines. In the early 20th century, trams provided a new means of transport between Nottingham, Ripley and Heanor. Lawrence lived next to the line, and described it as the most dangerous tram service in England.
Eastwood coal, metal castings, rope, wire and agricultural products made valuable contributions to Britain's war effort during the two world wars. In the Second World War, Eastwood supplied soldiers to the Sherwood Foresters Regiment. A memorial on Nottingham Road commemorates Eastwood residents who gave their lives in both world wars.
In 1946, the coal industry was nationalised, and the new National Coal Board acquired Eastwood Hall as their Area Office. This later became their National Office, and was the location for several crisis meetings during the national Miners' Strike of the 1980s. At the height of its production in 1963, Moorgreen Colliery alone produced one million tons of coal, but the last coal mine in the area closed in 1985.
In recent years, tourism has become increasingly important. Lawrence's birthplace is now a museum, and a painted line on the pavement, called the "Blue Line Trail," guides visitors around eleven sites of local interest including three of Lawrence's homes. The trail was the first of its kind in England, the concept being based on the Freedom Trail in Boston, United States.

For such a small town, Eastwood has a surprising amount of history associated with it, which adds a bit more context to the surroundings that I found myself in that day. My journey began, truth be told, just outside the town, in the small neighbouring village of Giltbrook, known now for the presence of an IKEA store on a large retail estate. The name Giltbrook is believed to come from the old English name "Gylden Broc", which means golden stream, or brook. This relates to the brook that runs from the fields to the north of Ikea, and then continues under Nottingham Road at Giltbrook, and under the Ikea entrance, finally flowing into the River Erewash. Notable events include Giltbrook being the end point of the Pentrich rising where a small force of soldiers: twenty men of the 15th Regiment of Light Dragoons ended the rising. Some streets have been named after the ring leaders, with names such as Brandreth, Turner and Ludlam being used. My first destination was the sole remaining pub in this village, (the nearby New White Bull having sadly closed), The Hayloft.

 Image result for the hayloft giltbrook

The Hayloft takes it's name from its status as a converted farm building. This conversion is very much in evidence in the interior, with its high beamed ceilings, exposed woodwork and expansive layout. It even features an upstairs area that contains a pool table and dartboard. The bar is roughly opposite the main entrance and is of an L shaped construction. The pub has just opened its doors at the time I arrive so it gives me a little bit of time to peruse the offerings. The bar includes 6 handpulls, 4 of which are in use. Available on the day are Timothy Taylor Landlord, Sharp's Doom Bar, Castle Rock Harvest Pale and Blue Monkey Monkey Puzzle. Being a big fan of Blue Monkey and their beers (the brewery is situated on the nearby retail park), I had instantly made my decision. At 4.2%, Monkey Puzzle is a golden/blonde ale with a well balanced taste, a smooth finish and a hoppy aroma with some dryness on the tongue. It's certainly a very refreshing and tasty way to begin the day's festivities. I took my time to admire the internal architecture at the pub as I enjoyed my pint. I have been to The Hayloft once in the past, many years ago, before it was taken over by it's current owners, The Pub People Co. I enjoyed it then and it is a pleasure to be able to visit again. There are rumours that the pub is haunted but, frustratingly, more details of this alleged spectre are not forthcoming.

With my first pint safely washed down, my journey continued with a walk into Eastwood proper, up the main Nottingham Road through the town, a road that is steeper than it first appears to be. At least it's easier to work up a thirst on the trek uphill. My next destination is tucked slightly off of the main road, next to a small Sainsbury's supermarket. This is the Greasley Castle.

Image result for greasley castle eastwood

This strange shaped building, with its rounded frontage and wedge-shaped roof, is named after a Medieval fortified manor house which once stood nearby and the ruins of which have been incorporated into existing farm buildings. The interior of the pub is laid out as a traditional street corner boozer, with seating confined to the edges of the room and a small snug-like area at the end of the long bar. The pub itself is Greene King run and marketed as a traditional ale house. 6 handpulls are on show, with 4 in use, offering Hardy & Hanson's Kimberley Bitter, Abbot Ale, Nottingham Extra Pale Ale and Old Rosie cider. I opted for a pint of the EPA, which was in excellent condition. The landlord of the pub owns a very friendly border terrier which decided to keep me company on one of the sofas in the pub whilst I drank my pint. He even posed for a photo before he was summoned away.

My next location was located in the centre of the town, next to the library. This was another Greene King premises, The Wellington Inn.

Image result for wellington inn eastwood

This a rectangular building that sits side on to the main road. The interior is fairly standard with a curved central bar and seating scattered throughout, including a couple of booths in one corner that separated from the rest of the pub by a central partition. 2 of the 3 handpulls are available offering a slim choice between Old Speckled Hen and Greene King IPA. The Speckled Hen is well kept, which is always a bonus. I took a seat near one of the aforementioned booths close to a shopping trolley filled with patio umbrellas. My day in Eastwood was going ok so far and even though the ale choice hadn't been expansive, I'd certainly experienced worse in other locations.

I had high hopes for the next destination as it was a trusty Wetherspoon's. I find that, if in doubt, a Spoons can always be relied upon for a decent range of (usually local) ales at reasonable prices. This particular one carried on the Spoons habit of being named for local historical interest this one being The Lady Chatterley.

Image result for the lady chatterley eastwood

Named for one of D.H. Lawrence's most famous and most controversial creations, The Lady Chatterley is a relatively recent addition to the town, having opened in June last year. It is a fairly narrow, glass fronted building with a smallish, slightly curved bar near the entrance and sitting spread out throughout the ground floor and moving towards the rear. All of the 12 handpulls are in use and the choice is exhaustive. Available for the drinker's delectation are Mellors EPA (brewed for the pub by Lincoln Green brewery), Springhead Roaring Meg, Falstaff Rosa Bonheur, Barcelona Pale Ale (part of the international collaboration series), Flipside Franc N Stein, Oldershaw Pilot, Doom Bar, Adnam's Broadside, Abbot Ale, Greene King IPA, Sandford Pear Shaped and Old Rosie. I decided on a pint of the Pilot (4.0%), named for the distinctive hop variety used to brew it. This is a crisp, refreshing, golden beer with a soft bitterness and summery notes of lemon, spice and marmalade. It certainly went down very nicely!

I had one last stop to make before my journey home and it was to a pub at the western end of the town, The Sun Inn.

Image result for the sun inn eastwood

The pub sits at the centre of the main road gyratory which itself is built on the site of an ancient crossroads, looking out across the countryside. The building dates from 1705 and is known for the meetings in 1832 that saw the birth of the Midland Railway and its association with DH Lawrence. The pub itself features in his novel Sons & Lovers and several of the features that are mentioned have been maintained and add to the culture of the place. This is yet another Greene King operated site and it relatively empty at the time of my visit with the exception of a few regulars. The bar is square and broken up by supporting pillars at each corner. The 3 handpulls offer Abbot Ale, IPA and a limited edition brew Churchill IPA. It was the latter brew that I decided to have a go with and it wasn't a bad decision. Brewed for charity especially by Greene King, it has a good balance of sweet malt and clean bitterness from the combination of Challenger, Pilgrim and First Gold hops. The addition of Styrian as a late hop gives tropical and citrus flavours. I took my thoroughly enjoyable pint and pulled up a table opposite the bar. Gentle persuasion on the part of the bar staff saw me take part in my first and second ever games of Sticky 13's, which I lost on both occasions but only just.

My day in Eastwood had been enlightening and had given me an insight into how the real ale scene looks in the Nottinghamshire outskirts. Aside from one or two, the majority of the pubs seem to be tied to Greene King, which I can't help but be disappointed about. Despite this, the quality of the beer, if not the quantity is not to be sniffed at and it is at least good to see that every pub in Eastwood is offering real ale to some degree. As long as this continues and the quality doesn't deteriorate, there won't be too much to complain about in the long term.