Last September I wrote about the history of Wigan Council and their complete disregard for local community assets in their sale of The Formby Hall in Atherton. Today is the final day that letters by the government Planning Inspectorate can be received after they “called in” the process of the sale, re-sale and subsequent proposed demolition of this historic local and popular site.
So it without any shred of surprise but with a healthy dose of irony that today also sees another local town’s asset that comes under the claws of Wigan Council now perhaps the victim of yet more dubious sales practices.
Apart from the above, I shall let the links speak for themselves…
I was asked to write this piece for Manchester Beer Week and figured whereas most of the focus will generally and inevitably be towards the city centre of Manchester, there is a whole metropolitan county erroneously formed in 1974 to focus on and whereas I’ve visited some great pubs in Bolton, Bury, Oldham, Rochdale, Stockport, Tameside, Trafford and the cities of Manchester and Salford my drinking life began and very much remains in the borough of Wigan.
So as the evil claws of Wigan council look to stick their crest on every street sign and strip away any semblance of history and independent identity from those towns unfortunate enough to fall into their dark embrace I’d first like to make some honourable mentions:
The White Lion in Leigh and the Jolly Nailor in Atherton are excellent pubs. Also of note is now the sadly lost Dog and Partridge in Bolton. All have/had a fine range of beers and a warm welcome.
There are many others too but this is written as a piece of history; an ode to the first pubs I drank in and more importantly, still do to this day.
Union Arms, Tyldesley
I find this pub to be quite an unorthodox shape. It is a largish pub, though deceptively so as a central bar (with 2 main bars and a smaller one) services 5 distinct rooms but all are open plan so as not to be cut-off from each other.
Entrance through the main door generally takes me through to the right-hand side of the pub, up a couple of stairs to one of the main bars and a large room with an additional raised seated section, where bands sometimes play. It used to house the pool table (now strangely absent) and a jukebox. When I first started going in the main barmaid (who curiously still does some shifts there) used to whack on 20 free credits, select 3 songs and then leave the rest for myself and my comrades.
From this side of the pub you could then go up another small step to another area of about 4 tables where the toilets are located along with the smallest bar and the staircase up to the landlords accommodation.
Down a couple of stairs and you would be greeted by a small room that kept the table football and lots of football (mainly Manchester United) memorabilia.
This opens up into the other main bar which had a lot more tables and a dart board. Some gamblers and quiz machines were dotted around the pub.
As you can see, bench seating is prevalent in this pub.
The pub served (and still serves) a range of keg Thwaites products and Warsteiner can be counted amongst its lager offerings. After a change of ownership there are now 6 cask lines available, along with the “usual” international suspects.
The Pendle Witch, Atherton
Tucked down an alley from the main town centre, the Pendle is a rather small pub, though a few large alterations opened the pub out while also brightening it up and, along with the ban of 2006, made it less smoky (oddly something I seldom noticed in the Union).
There is a beer garden to the back while the pub consists of one large room, a conservatory and a slightly smaller room where you’ll find a pool table.
There is a jukebox, which due to the nature of most of the regulars will play heavy metal on very heavy rotation. It is a Moorhouse’s brewery pub and their beers make up 5 of the 10 casks on offer.
There is a wide, wide selection of international bottled beers at stupidly cheap prices and these go hand-in-hand with the regularly held bottle tasting events.
The pubs mentioned here are all great example of a public house with a good beer selection, cheap prices, welcoming atmosphere and a wide mix of drinkers; young, old, regular and passing trade but above all they are actually proper pubs.
What does that mean?
For me it is just a place I’d feel as comfortably in as I would my own home. A place for both solitude and friendship and above all, a decent drink. In writing about these pubs I could never possibly sum up just how important they are to me because pubs are more than just a place to that serves beer; they are part of the fabric of my life, integral to communities and they are worth fighting to keep because they are always more than just bricks and mortar.
This event took place between the 3rd – 13th October, over 7 pubs.
If memory serves, this event took place earlier in about March of 2013, but as it stands I went to all 7 magnificent pubs over a very drawn out 12-hour period of drinking and commuting on Saturday 12 October 2013, this was the 3rd and final of my ‘3 different beer festivals over 3 days’ extravaganza.
Take ‘took place’ with a pinch of salt because Allgates pubs regularly rotate guest ales – from a drinkers perspective (especially cask) they are a dream, while the ‘Road to Wigan Beer’ might not be officially ‘on’ any more, the chance of doing your own pub crawl to all 7 is a yearly event of your own making – just plan ahead – and don’t try and walk it or rely on First Bus if you wish to keep relatively sane.
This review will be as much about the pubs as the beers, which I suppose is the crux of the actual festival.
Now if you follow my Twitter feed, you may be aware I spend a good portion of my rants going off on Northern Rail. This Saturday though (and if I’m being honest most weekends, shame they have to mess my working week about so much) they were faultless. Which leaves me sad it can never run this smoothly for at least one week, five continuous days of return journeys. There, the most backhanded, caveat laced compliment I can give to them.
Getting in to Gathurst station sometime around 12.30pm, it was a mere stroll down to the canal, passing a man with a hawk – I shit you not, I wish I’d got a picture, but if ever you’ve seen a better omen to the start of a long day I welcome you up the ante.
6 minutes by bike to the 1st pub The Crooke Hall Inn which means for my pace a leisurely 15 minutes on foot. Oddly the sign pointing the way back to Gathurst suggests its 10 minutes by bike.
I can only assume the sign makers added 4 minutes on for the alcohol induced staggering that may be one consequence of visiting Crooke.
What a glorious site. It screams England in every utopian sense of nationalistic pride even I get once in a while. Even the weather held all day.
I started off the day with Bexar Brewery and their Texan Pecan Coffee Mild (3.9%) and this probably was tied top drink of the whole trek; dark, smooth and with a good clean flavours of, well, work it out from its name.
Late Knights Brewery also tripped my taste buds with their 3.9% Crack of Dawn – a pale ale of very good quality.
Crooke Hall Inn is quite lovely, inside and out – and check out this Should of Lamb
To all intents and purposes this was actually the worst pub to start the crawl on – I mean, there were about another 4-6 ales on the bar, the food, the location – who’d want to move?
(Distance walked: ~ 2 miles)
Well the bar man did look a bit like Sam Tomkins and being as I’m a Centurions supporter and was a man on a mission I needed to get a-walking, so it was back to the train station (via the pub on the platform for a shandy) and a quick 5mins back to Wigan and to visit The Anvil.
It was about 2pm and this place was fairly heaving, a proper town centre pub that I’d been in a couple of times before, but some time prior. As my years have rolled on, this is more the type of pub I like – its very local, but not intimidating – if you’d never been in before, you’d be surprised at what is on offer at the bar. If you get the train you also walk passed the AllgatesBrewery too, which I went up to and pushed my nose against the windows like some kid out of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.
In The Anvil I was served, by a rather pretty bar maid, the Bosuns Whistle (4.3%) from Bosuns Brewing Co. and the Insomniac Stout (4.0%) by The Malthouse Brewery. The latter was a smooth coffee stout, very nice; the former was a nice hoppy, summery and good representation of a golden ale.
Back on the train for another 3 minute ride and 2 minute walk to The Hare and Hounds in Hindley.
Another new pub for me and a jolly nice, fairly small boozer.
The small bar surrounded by the locals.
A sign cheerfully telling me to “not be offended if we ask you if you are over 25” is immediately rendered ironic as I’m served by a very pretty girl who looks to be barely in her 20’s.
Here I had the ever excellent Boggart Hole Clough Brewery presenting me with a to be expect excellent Mud Brawler Vanilla (4.4%). A rich, lightly vanillary porter and my joint No.1 of the day.
I was bowled over by the Fubar (4.4%) from Tiny Rebel Brewing Co., (1) because I’d heard a lot about them and (2) because according to the booklet it wasn’t supposed to be in this pub, but I’m not about to get worked up about this welcome surprise which as the notes said, was all over the place with regards taste, but in a good way.
It was then time to leave this lovely little boozer and do THE trek. Disheartened that no buses operated along the route I set out like Captain Oates.
It turned out to be a near 6 mile round trip to The Victoria
I got there only to hear them talking about how busy they were last week when Allgates had organised a bus around the 7 pubs and that how all the beer they had got in for the festival had all ready been emptied.
I settled for one of Allgates own Napoleon‘s Retreat (3.9%) which I’ve had and enjoyed before and sat down in the rather large and luxurious village pub contemplating just what I had done and what I was still about to do.
Back on the train to disembark at Atherton (Bent) and walking (1.3 miles) into Tyldesley (Bongs) to visit a pub I’ve been a fair few times called The Union Arms.
Full Nelson (3.8%) by Two Roses Brewery was finished off by a man who was in massive need of a light ale and got just that. A Swift (3.9%) by Trumans Beer was another good stab at a golden ale, as was the Golden Rivet (3.7%) from Bosuns Brewing Co..
Sadly I’d got to The Union just after they’d stopped serving food, but I can tell you then do some great stodge, which has saved my beer days/afternoons/nights out a few times. The pub itself is set on many levels with the bar in the middle and a very good jukebox. Its another welcoming ‘locals’ pub (a theme it would seem).
Now here is were First Bus decide to mess me about. A number 12 service that would have taken me to Atherton and then on to Leigh would make good value even after 8pm for a day saver given the length of bus rides I still had to do, but it merely chose not to turn up. So walking (1 mile) it was into Atherton to visit another familiar place to me in The Jolly Nailor.
The Nailor is a rock pub in the best sense. A rock pub that is actually clean, late closing, usually with very loud, live music and of course a large range of ales.
By the time I reached here I was flagging, not solely through physical exertion but also the need for another dark ale before I succumbed to a golden ale coma.
Nothing doing with regards dark stuff; a Citrus Burst (5.3%) from Alchemy Brewing Limited certainly perked up the taste buds with a fruity IPA hit, but the real find was again from Bexar Brewery and their Rye (4.0%). An IPA of sorts, but bitter and sweet and red in colour and very, very different. These people seem like one to hunt out more from.
Another walk to a bus stop and up roles a belated 12 service, but its not going to Leigh, its going back to Manchester. I’m not walking another step, I can’t, but here comes the 582 which will get me to The WhiteLion and eventually back home again.
As I write this the White Lionis slated to do food on Fridays & Saturdays, but I settled for a few packs of Seabrooks (the best crisps, just) and a fair few beers to celebrated doing all 7 pubs.
The White Lion is another pub I’m familiar with, a middlish-sized pubs full of welcoming locals of every strata, well whatever possible different strata inhabit Leigh. Here I had a Cockleroy Black IPA (4.8%) from Alchemy Brewing Limited, black IPA’s always flip my head and this was no exception. More stout like (malty) than any other other black IPA I’ve had, so by default its the best I’ve had so far. The London Particular (4.0%) by Ha’pennyBrewing Co. was a red brew full of sweet and malty flavours, and the Star (4.3%) by Portobello Brewing Co. was a good fruity bitter to end the night on.
So there you have it:
7 great pubs.
10 miles walked (give or take)
That’s a walking distance of 5.29e-13 parsecs Star Wars fans.
I was left to finish off the 3 final drinks and read about all the beers I hadn’t had chance to try.
I also resolved to get the sodding Allgates arranged bus next time.
That or hire a chauffeur for the day.
Thanks to all the brewers I got to sample, to all those I sadly didn’t and especially to all at Allgates and all the staff at every pub.
Same time. Whenever. Forever. Our pubs are always there, we just have to use them.