Wilford is a village close to the centre of Nottingham. The population is included in the Clifton North Ward of Nottingham Unitary Authority. The village is bounded to the north and west by the River Trent and to the east by the embankment of the now closed Great Central Railway. The now demolished Wilford Power Station was located on the north bank of the River Trent.
Remains of a paved ford, bordered by oak posts, were found in the Trent at Wilford in 1900. The settlement is named as Willesforde in Domesday Book, owned by William Pevrel of Nottingham Castle, who also owned the lands of nearby Clifton. It had a fishery, a priest and 23 sokemen. The land passed to the Clifton family in the 13th Century.
Wilford retained its identity as a village until the later 19th century. Surrounded by woodlands and with riverside amenities such as the Wilford Ferry Inn, the village attracted many visitors from Nottingham. Spencer Hall, the Nottinghamshire poet, wrote in 1846 "Who ever saw Wilford without wishing to become an inmate of one of its peaceful woodbined homes."
In 1870 the Clifton Colliery opened on the north side of the Trent, and the area opposite Wilford became industrialised. By the end of the century the village had changed character, with modern brick-built houses replacing old thatched cottages.
The parish was divided into North Wilford and South Wilford in 1887. The population increased to four and a half thousand by 1901, almost a ten-fold increase since 1801. The civil parish of South Wilford became part of West Bridgford urban district in 1935.
The Silverdale housing estate was built on the southern edge of Wilford on farmland. An adjacent estate, Compton Acres, was built in 1986.
Although I regularly pass through Wilford on my way to and from work or the city centre, I had yet to further inspect what it had to offer by way of delights for the ale drinker. My itinerary for the afternoon would technically stretch beyond the village boundaries but the pubs involved can, for all intents and purposes, be shoehorned in geographically. My first stop is located on Wilford Lane and, whilst it technically falls within West Bridgford, it's close enough to count. I once applied for a job here but today it was strictly pleasure, at the Beeches Hotel.
This stylish and modern establishment operates as a hotel with an in-house gym, spa and restaurant. Downstairs is the object of my visit, Oscar's Bar & Restaurant, which serves excellent home cooked food and a good selection of drinks to both residents and visitors. The bar includes 2 handpulls, just one of which is in use when I arrive. This particular pump is proffering Harvest Pale and this is in excellent condition and tasting just as it should be. I took a seat on a high table opposite the bar and enjoyed my pint, which I had evidently needed as it barely touched the sides! Whilst the Beeches is better renowned for its food, the beer is well kept and they also provide a small number of bottled ales.
Moving on from the Beeches was easy enough as there is a bus stop right outside and plenty of buses that run towards Wilford itself. This meant that it was no time at all until I was on my way to my next stop, situated opposite the main road through the village and adjacent to a Co-Op. Operated by the gastropub chain R&F, and now locally renowned for fantastic locally sourced food following a substantial refurbishment a few years ago, is The Wilford Green Pub & Kitchen.
The interior of the pub is a combination of traditional and modern features, including exposed beams and original artefacts, enclosed in a glass cabinet in the centre of the room. Seating takes the form of tables with normal chairs and bench-like sofas and the tables are all pre-set for dining. The bar includes 4 handpulls, offering a good selection of beers, in this case Harvest Pale, their own Wilford Green Ale, Courage Directors and Bombardier. After a moment's deliberation, I went for a pint of Bombardier and took it to a table near the bar, partially obscured by the aforementioned glass cabinet. The surroundings here are very comfortable and it's easy to see this place being full in the evening, especially in colder weather where I can imagine much use is made of the log fire nearby. The beer was very tasty and it's clear that care is taken over how the beer is kept and this dedication shows.
There was a lot of walking involved for much of the rest of the afternoon and this trek began on the way to the next location. Leaving Wilford Green and passing the Co-Op, I took a left onto Ruddington Lane and followed this for approximately a mile, taking me past a tram stop and a local industrial estate, Upon reaching Landmere Lane, I turned left and followed the road around where I spotted my next destination just ahead. Set in picturesque surroundings on the top of a small hill is the Apple Tree.
Operated by Mitchells and Butlers as part of their Ember Inns estate, the Apple Tree is an open plan gastropub with carpeted floors and comfortable furniture. It serves the housing development of Wilford Hill and is near to the Compton Acres estate. The bar is equipped with 8 handpulls, 5 of which are in use, and 2 of which are used to advertise upcoming beers. Available to choose from at the time of my visit are Everard's Tiger, Brains Rev. James, Ember Inns Pale Ale (brewed by Black Sheep Brewery), Tribute and Rudgate Dick Firkin. I decided on the Dick Firkin but this proved to be a mistake as it tasted unmistakably vinegary and would not settle clear. I wasted no time in swapping it for a pint of the much more delicious Tribute. It was a shame to have to swap the beer but the staff were happy enough to change it and occasionally things like this happen. The Tribute was more than enough compensation though.
I retraced my steps in order to reach the next stop on my itinerary. Upon again reaching Wilford Lane, I crossed the road and headed for the premises that stands immediately opposite, in this case the Wilford Farm branch of Harvester.
The name of the location reflects its previous use as a farm and the building still maintains the outward appearance of a farmhouse. Internally, it is divided into 2 distinct areas, with the primary dining space to one side and a smaller area designated for casual drinkers on the other. The bar is opposite the entrance and is well stocked, including 3 handpulls, 2 of which are in use and both offering Greene King IPA. Whilst not my normal choice, it is very well kept and goes down very well after my long walk between pubs.
The next part of my journey took me into Wilford village proper, which sits either side of a main road that runs directly down towards both my next location and the local tram stop. Situated almost opposite the tram stop is the very attractive façade of the Ferry Inn.
The Ferry Inn is operated as part of the Chef & Brewer chain of the Spirit Pub Company, recently the subject of a takeover by Greene King. The pub first opened as a tavern frequented by city gentry in the 18th century and is named after the ferry that used to run through. The history of the site goes back to the 14th century with the building originally being a farmhouse, part of which is incorporated into the current structure. By the 18th century, the farmhouse had transitioned into a coffee shop to meet the demands of a public keen on meeting in coffee houses; locations described by Charles II as places where people 'met and spread scandalous reports'. The Ferry Inn began its pub life around this period with the name of the Punch Bowl, though changed its title, to reflect the often tempestuous and occasionally fatal ferry journey which was often used as a means for moving around the city. The Church of St. Wilfrid, which lies 300 feet from the pub entrance, dates from the same period as the farmhouse and is an impressive Grade II listed building, notable for its spectacular pointed arch doorway and memorial stained glass windows honouring Nottingham poet Henry Kirke White.
The pub has retained lots of traditional features including exposed beams, wooden floors and an olde worlde charm. The bar lies opposite the entrance and the premises has a split level layout with a designated restaurant style dining area down a short flight of steps opposite the bar. The bar itself features 5 handpulls, offering on my visit a choice between Directors, Doom Bar, Shipstone's Gold Star, Marston's Pedigree and Greene King IPA. I opted for a pint of the Directors and took a seat at a high table near the bar, on a long, covered bench. In addition to the delicious beer and the history mentioned above, I knew a couple of other things about the Ferry Inn. The first is that the general manager is a friend of mine called Dan who I haven't seen for a long time and was able to have a brief catch up with. The second was that the pub suffered from a poltergeist outbreak in the early 1980s. Glasses were periodically thrown from the bar and strange knocking sounds were prevalent until an exorcism was carried out in 1982. The Ferry Inn is certainly a pub worth visiting. It's comfortable, friendly and welcoming and the beer makes the trip more than worthwhile.
The final location on today's list was another that falls slightly outside of the defined Wilford area, situated as it is on the north side of the River Trent, as part of the Riverside Retail Park. When I first moved to Nottingham, the building in question was operating as a Harry Ramsden's but for many years since has been known as Riverside Farm.
This family-orientated pub and carvery is very popular with both diners and drinkers with the interior divided into 2 distinct areas. The right side of the bar serves as the public bar and the left side is used for the carvery and general meals. The bar also includes 3 handpulls, with a choice of Abbot Ale, Greene King IPA and Old Speckled Hen. The Speckled Hen proved to be a good choice as it was well kept and delicious and served well as a good bookend to what had been an interesting day's exploration.
Following my pint here, it was time to make my way back into the city centre to meet Amy. My afternoon exploring the pubs in and around Wilford had been an intriguing one. This area is often overlooked but there is no reason not to visit the drinking establishments here. The beers are well kept, the pubs are welcoming and if, as I did, you pick a day of good weather to make the effort, you'll certainly enjoy what's on offer. The ease of reaching this particular area is another advantage that will definitely make a trip to this part of Nottingham worthwhile. What are you waiting for? The beer won't drink itself!