Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Where There's a Wil.....

This week's beer-based adventure allowed me to take advantage of a spare afternoon following an early morning work delivery shift. I decided that my time would be well served in a location that was not too far from either work or the city centre as I was later due to meet Amy after work. To that end, I finally crossed off a location that I'd been meaning to get to for ages and set my sights on Wilford.

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.

Image result for beeches hotel nottingham

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.

Image result for wilford green nottingham

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.
Image result for apple tree nottingham

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.

Image result for harvester wilford

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.

 Image result for ferry inn nottingham

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.

 Image result for riverside farm nottingham
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!

Monday, May 9, 2016

An Acre of Ale

On Friday, I had the unusual opportunity to complete a second pub trip in 3 days, something which I'm hoping to be able to do more often, work schedule permitting. My choice of location this time was one of those places where I really didn't know what to expect. The glorious weather was continuing so there seemed no reason not to spend the day out in the sunshine. Following 2 bus journeys, I made the hop over the county boundary, to the town of Sandiacre.

Sandiacre is a town in the Borough of Erewash in Derbyshire. The population of the town was 8,889 at the 2011 Census.
The name Sandiacre is usually thought to refer to a sandy acre, though another interpretation, based on Saint Diacre, is sometimes advanced.
Seven miles west of Nottingham and nine miles east of Derby, Sandiacre is part of the Greater Nottingham urban area, just on the western side of the River Erewash from Stapleford in Nottinghamshire. Sandiacre is adjoined by Long Eaton to the south and Risley to the west. Junction 25 of the M1 motorway lies in Sandiacre, where it crosses the A52 Brian Clough Way.
The Erewash Canal passes through the centre of Sandiacre, and the small basin immediately above Sandiacre Lock (No. 11 on the canal) was once the terminal link of the now-defunct Derby Canal. Situated next to the canal in the town centre is the Springfield Mill, built in 1888 as a lace mill and a reminder of Sandiacre's industrial heritage, now converted into a modern apartment complex. Examples of lace making, engineering and furniture making can still be found today. The discovery of local ironstone led to the development of Stanton Ironworks in 1787. The EWS Toton depot, which lies on the edge of Sandiacre, was a main employer in the town a number of years ago.
Although there is currently no railway station, the town was once home to a terminal on the Midland Railway, and passenger trains travelling on the St. Pancras - Manchester Piccadilly line still passed along the border with Stapleford during 2003-2004.
Transport links to Nottingham, Derby and the surrounding area are currently provided by Trent Barton.
The parish church is Saint Giles Church, which dates back to the 10th century. There is also a Methodist church in the town.
The old village lock-up still exists, situated near to St. Giles.
The 1801 census recorded Sandiacre's population as 405. By 1901, this had risen to 2954, with the 1971 census reporting a population of 7792. The current population is now hovering at an estimated 9000.

The first location on my trip was situated slightly out of the centre of the town, down Longmoor Lane, towards the border with neighbouring Long Eaton. Situated just next to the feature from which it takes its name, is The Bridge.
Image result for bridge inn sandiacre

Operated by the Pub People Company, this is a large family-friendly pub with a massive beer garden that is hugely popular in good weather. It's no surprise that there aren't too many people inside the pub given the weather on the day of my visit. The interior is divided into designated areas with a dining area to the left of the door, a drinking area of high tables opposite the J shaped bar and a pool area, restricted to over 18s, to the right. The bar includes 4 handpulls, one of which features Weston's Rosie's Pig cider. The other 3 provide a choice of Doom Bar, Thwaites' Wainwright and Pedigree. I decided to have a pint of the Wainwright, which looked and tasted excellent, and took a seat at one of the high tables opposite the bar. It was late afternoon by the time I'd arrived in Sandiacre, so people were slowly starting to arrive at the pub following work or the school run. The pub is very much family-oriented and has a nice, relaxed atmosphere. It's a peaceful start to my excursion, helped by the well-kept beer.

Retracing my steps down Longmoor Lane, I now walked back to where I'd got off the bus which happened to be directly opposite my next location. The next 2 pubs are in very close proximity, effectively separated by a side road and a Co-Op store. The first of the these 2, and my second stop for the day, was the White Lion.

Image result for white lion sandiacre
This large two-roomed pub is split into a separate lounge to the left and the bar to the right. Entry to the building is through a central main door and there is a beer garden to the rear. Taking the right hand door when I walked in, I arrived in the bar area, which has a small bar to the left of the entrance, a seating area towards the rear and a smaller, raised area with low benches and round tables. There are 3 handpulls available, 2 of which were in use, offering a choice between Kieron's Tipple (brewed by the landlord) and St. Austell's Tribute. I opted for the Tribute, which was very good indeed and just as it should be. I took a seat in the aforementioned raised area, which also contained a small TV that for some reason was showing Come Dine With Me with full sound. The soundtrack in the pub was rock-oriented, which is always a massive plus, particularly when Bohemian Rhapsody came on!

From here, it was on to the next pub, a literal stone's throw away and similarly named. This one was the Red Lion.
Image result for red lion sandiacre

Situated at the crossroads in the town, the pub features 2 red lions, one either side of the main doorway. The pub was refurbished in 2015 and now boasts gold, black and red décor to the front. There are two areas to the pub, both served by from a bar that sits roughly in the centre, with a wall to the front side and the pub kitchen area to the rear. There are quite a few locals in at the time of my visit and the landlord is setting up what is either a DJ or karaoke station. The pub also features a few TVs, showing Sky Sports News, some with sound. There are 2 handpulls on the bar, only one of which is being used on my visit, featuring Old Golden Hen. This is very well kept and goes down very smoothly, probably helped by the hot weather. It surprised me to learn that the pub is dog friendly and one canine visitor is particularly noisy but very cute!

I had a couple more pubs to visit before I headed back to town and these weren't too far away either. The Bridge is definitely an outlier in terms of walking distance! Leaving the Red Lion, I turned left and followed Town Street, which runs adjacent to the canal until, a couple of minutes walk away on the right, is The Plough.
Image result for the plough sandiacre

Owned by Mitchells and Butlers, as part of their Sizzling Pubs estate, this is a large pub that backs onto the Erewash Canal. The main entrance leads to door further doors. The left entrance leads to a bar area with a pool table, dartboard and TVs whereas the right leads to a more family-orientated dining area. Both are served by a bar with a long dividing wall connecting both sections. The rear garden leads onto the canal and the front area has parasols and large picnic tables. There is also an ample car park at the front and a smaller one to the side. Each side of the bar includes 3 handpulls, making 6 in total and these are doubled up, so offering two of each of their beers. On this occasion, the beers are Everard's Tiger, Wadworth 6X and Dorset Brewing Company Citrus Maximus. It's been a while since I had a pint of Tiger so it didn't take me long to decide what to drink here. The Tiger was at its best and a testament to what is a very good quality beer. Another surprise was in store for me here when I discovered that a mate of mine, Fletch, was now working here. I hadn't seem him since a mutual friend's wedding over a year before so it was nice for the chance of a brief catch up.

The Plough was slowly beginning to fill up with evening drinkers and there were already a large group of labourers enjoying a well earned pint after a hard day. I had one more pub to visit and, as much as it would have been nice to stay at this comfortable pub, I knew I had to go the distance. I turned right upon leaving The Plough and followed the road ahead until it split. I then took the left hand split, onto Church Street and found my final destination nestling at the top of a small incline. My last stop on today's adventure was the Blue Bell.

Image result for blue bell sandiacre

Situated in the older part of Sandiacre, and opposite the old 1660 village lock-up 'for drunks and stray animals', the pub has recently been refurbished. The entrance leads into the bar, where dark wood and beams are used to create a relaxing olde worlde atmosphere. There is also a stove fire, which is in use in the winter months. The rear of the pub offers seating away from the bar and a conservatory that includes a pool table. A large blue bell hangs outside the entrance to the pub in the car park. 3 of the 5 handpulls are in use, one of which features Rosie's Pig. The other 2 offer a choice of Tiger and Adnams Ghost Ship. I decided on the Ghost Ship, which was delicious as always. I took a seat at a small table, near to the fireplace whilst I reluctantly restrained myself from saying hello to a very friendly Labrador that was trying to get the attention of every passer-by.

My wanders around Sandiacre had been a good way to spend a few hours and all without taking me too far away from my bus stop back to Nottingham. When the time came to wend my way back, a few minutes walk was all it took and the bus was with me in a couple of minutes. What were my overall thoughts about Sandiacre? It was certainly a friendlier place than I'd been concerned it would be and the pubs all had a friendly atmosphere. In terms of ale (the reason I was here), things are positive. Whilst the range of beers is limited, due to the nature of the pubs and the community, there is no doubting the consistency and quality of the beers that were on offer. There was not a bad pint all day and it's not often that that can be said in smaller towns like this one. The increased emphasis on real ale nationally, particularly where it affects community pubs, is no doubt one factor in this. The rest of it can no doubt be put down to the hard work and effort put in to ensure that real ale is as good as it could be as its resurgence continues. Sandiacre surprised me immensely. A barren acre? Not a chance!