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.