It's good to be back! Let's face it, it's been a while. By my calculations, it's been almost exactly 11 months since my last entry and things weren't exactly ideal at the time. However, whisper it gently, things now finally look like they might be moving in a positive direction which means that, after so many months and so much time spent in limbo, there may be some semblance of actual normality that resembles how things were in the before times. Given the length of time since I last ventured any distance for the purposes of 'market research', you'd be forgiven for thinking that I'd go completely overboard and fire myself off to a long distance destination in celebration. I'm pleased to confirm that this is absolutely not the case and, instead, I've stuck to the veritable tome of locations that I've had planned for trips in future. This means that my first trip in almost a year was to a location considerably closer to home. Regular readers of my exploits will be aware that I am a huge fan of Derbyshire, the neighbouring county to which I reside and it was to this area that I would be breaking my fast. First, a disclaimer: the title of this entry is something of a misnomer. Whilst I would indeed end my adventures in Draycott, my day would begin in the adjacent village of Breaston.
It was more than two weeks ago, August 6th to be precise, that I decided to finally make my way out to explore the pub and real ale scene in areas beyond my proverbial backyard. I have no shame in admitting that I felt like a child at Christmas. I was brimming with the same sense of excitement, coupled with expectation and nerves, that would normally feel. It felt superb to be out again and exploring. The day in question was a Friday and the weather was rather unsettled and, as will become clear, it became apparent that I'm very much out of practice. Word to the wise: if you're relying on public transport to get you to places, make sure you've got your timings right. It's all too easy to get on the wrong bus and end up going halfway to your intended destination before going in a loop and coming back again. Check the front of the bus! After circumnavigating Long Eaton twice (twice more than anyone should have to), I finally realised my mistake, disembarked and, an hour behind schedule (as much as there was one), arrived in the first of two locations for my afternoon out. I had arrived in Breaston.
Breaston is a large village and civil parish in the Erewash district, in the south-east of Derbyshire near Long Eaton and close to the M1. The population of the civil parish as taken at the 2011 Census was 4,455. Breaston was mentioned in the Domesday book as belonging to Henry de Ferrers and being worth four shillings.
Originally an agricultural village, Breaston has continued to grow for centuries until it has reached its current size, separated from neighbouring Long Eaton only by the M1 motorway.
Breaston today is mainly residential. There is a church (St Michael), a primary school, a Methodist chapel, three pubs (still named as they were in 1846 - The Bulls Head, Chequers Inn and The Navigation Inn); a medical centre and a comprehensive range of shops, including a Co-op, located in the centre of the village around the church and the village green. The green (known as Duffield Close) is said to be one of the largest in the country and an annual May Day Fete is held there. If foreshadowing is not your forte, the aforementioned pubs will feature heavily in the following narrative. Upon arrival in Breaston via the Trent Barton Indigo, I got off at Breaston church and immediately headed up Risley Lane in search of my first stop for the afternoon. At the end of the road, slightly elevated above street level, I found it. My day's activities would begin at The Navigation Inn.
Originating from the 18th Century, The Navigation served the Sandiacre-Derby canal which is now a footpath. There is a grassed area abutting the pavement which includes picnic style tables and a large beer garden to the rear. Access is from a side staircase or a street level entrance to the front. Inside, there is a small bar area with split level seating to one side and a snug style area opposite the bar. A restaurant area behind is accessed via a corridor that also leads to the toilets. Seating takes the form of scrubbed wooden tables and banquette style benches. Both areas are served by a small central bar upon which are 4 handpulls. When I arrive, the pub has not long opened and I am one of two customers, which gives me plenty of time to assess my options beer wise. My choices are between Wainwright, Draught Bass, Timothy Taylor Landlord and Marston's Pedigree. I opted for the Landlord (4.3%) and took a seat at a round table opposite the bar. It may have been the feeling of euphoria from being on a pub excursion for the first time in many months but I'd be willing to go so far as to say that the Landlord was on par with the best I've ever tasted. It certainly didn't seem to last very long!
Before I knew it, it was time to proceed further into the village. Exiting through the side door and down the stairs into the car park, I retraced my steps onto Risley Lane and followed it to the end where it forms a junction with Main Street. In the shadow of the church stands a pub that I had already passed but would now investigate fully. Next up, the Bull's Head.
This moderately sized Marston's pub benefited from a significant refurbishment in 2013 but still managed to retain some of its original features as a traditional village local. Inside, a small drinking area near the bar is flanked by a restaurant style space and a carpeted area for families with young children. A quieter, lounge style area is behind the bar. I arrived at lunchtime and the pub was moderately busy with families and locals. The bar holds 4 handpulls, of which one was in use during my visit. The Pedigree (4.5%) that was available was very nice indeed. This place certainly has the friendly atmosphere and service you would expect from a community pub and would ultimately turn out to be the busiest venue I visited throughout the day, no doubt helped by it being lunchtime on a Friday.
Leaving the Bull's Head, I turned right and continued along the main A6005 road, passing the church on my left. After a couple of minutes walk, my next stop and my final Breaston location, was in sight. I had now reached the Chequers Inn.
Draycott lies around 6 miles east of Derby and 3 miles south-west of Long Eaton. Draycott is part of the civil parish of Draycott and Church Wilne. The population of this civil parish was 3,090 as taken at the 2011 Census.The meandering course of the River Derwent forms the southwestern boundary of the parish.
The route of the Derby Canal can still be traced across the parish. Trains on the Midland Main Line pass through the village but Draycott railway station is now closed. Elvaston Castle is nearby. The name Draycott derives from resembling words dry coat, as the village resides north of both the River Derwent and Church Wilne, a reservoir. In particularly rainy season the village used to flood, hence the name 'Dry Coat'.
A prominent local family, which took its name from the village, included the eminent Irish judge Henry Draycott (1510-1572).
Draycott was once an industrial town, in which the Victoria Mill was based.
Built in 1888, the mill shut down in 1970 but the building is intact and has, like many old mills in Derbyshire, been converted into flats.
Upon my arrival into Draycott, which is largely centred around its main street and, what appears to the casual observer to be an inordinate number of flag poles, it did not take long at all to reach the next stop on my tour. Next up the Olympic hotel.