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Mac of Cygnet

2018 Pub Cruise

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Part 1 (Only 2 parts this year, having visited nowhere near the 128 pubs of last year's marathon)

 

An unusual and rather difficult year, as you will know. This year's cruise didn't start where it usually starts, from my home mooring at Sowerby Bridge, but from a winter mooring on the Macclesfield, and was to consist of a leisurely journey back 'home' by the Leeds & Liverpool.

 

And it was leisurely at first, but as soon as I reached the L&L the problems began. A visit to Liverpool was booked, because I'd never been there on the boat. Well, you know what happened to that! And thereafter I was pursued and harried by closures and restrictions caused by the Big Drought, until I was grateful to pop out onto the Aire & Calder. I finally made it back to Sowerby Bridge after leaving in April 2017, and got a great welcome from Shire Cruisers and the manager at the Shepherd's Rest (qv!).

 

Where I visited a pub on my 2014, 20152016 or 2017 cruises, I've added my comments there for comparison, but only a few repeats this year, at the beginning and end.

 

Some pubs I was looking forward to had closed, or had sadly declined, but the upside is that micropubs are springing up all over the place, and although I've been disparaging about them in the past, they've generally upped their standards, and for the first time a new micropub has achieved this year's top score - see Part 2!

 

Once again I must warn pub diners that my scoring DOES NOT INCLUDE FOOD. I eat out very, very rarely when boating, and not at all this year. My needs are simple - a good pint or two of cask beer, and a packet of plain crisps, and my price criterion consists of these items together. It varied this year from £2.70 (Sam Smith's, always good value) to £5.70 (!!!) - a real city centre rip-off.

 

To remind of my scoring system:

There are 20 points: 10 for beer and 10 for everything else. Up to 5 for beer choice to include one non-national brand or unusual beer type (certain mediocre 'cooking beers' such as Doom Bar and Bombardier are not counted!), and 0 to 5 for quality: 0 and 1 would be sent back - (didn't happen this year) - 2 means wouldn't have another - 3 is acceptable - 4 very good - up to 5 absolutely superb. To make it clear, I'm talking about real ales (cask beers) here. I'm a beer fanatic.

So a score is in three parts: Beer choice+beer quality+everything else. e.g 1+5+7=13 has the same total score as 4+2+7=13, but the first pub has 1 superb beer, but the second 4 rubbish ones. So you can tell quite a bit from the scores as opposed to the comments, some of which may seem a bit downbeat, but often explain why the score isn't higher.

Everything else includes service, staff, clientele, general atmosphere, situation, decor, interesting pictures, special features (eg library!), quirkiness, cleanliness, price, and the presence of live or other music, juke box or fruit machine (all minus) and whether there is a place for drinkers as opposed to diners. And beermats.

You may already know some of these pubs, but remember my conclusions are just a snapshot, as I visited most only once. Some are canalside, but others involved a trek - working up a thirst in this summer's heat. Occasionally I took buses where evening services were available, and once a train to Leeds, as I didn't want to moor in the centre. The CAMRA website whatpub.com was very useful for finding good pubs I wouldn't otherwise have known about (you don't have to be a member to use it). I also consulted the 2018 Good Beer Guide, but the pubs in it were sometimes a disappointment. GBG in my comments means the pub is in the latest (2019) edition.


 

So here we go.


 

Macclesfield Canal

 

VALE, Bollington (several visits) 5+5+7=17 Rather dim and echoey barn but with real fire & own superb beers from across the road. Newspapers provided. GBG

(2015 - 5+5+7=17 Own brewery. Rather dark. Easily the oldest customer. GBG)

(2017 - 5+5+7=17 A bit echoey and rather dark. Beer from across the road, and travels well. Can be very busy. GBG)

WINDMILL, Whitely Green (several visits) 3+4+6=13 Beer much improved, and all local, but still rather soulless with trendy dim lighting.

(2017 - 5+3+6=14 Self-consciously trendy, uncosy open-plan pub with pretentious beer-tasting notes but mediocre beer)

BOAR'S HEAD, Higher Poynton (March 20) 3+4+8=15 Pleasant, light and comfortable with a welcoming log fire but unimaginative beer choice.

MINER'S Arms, Four Lane Ends (March 21) 1+3+6=10 A dining pub except for a small alcove with armchairs and stove (not lit). Not much of interest.

(2014 - 4+2+7=13 Beer poor. Family oriented)

(2017 - 2+3+6=11 Characterless dining pub with comfortable (but cold - stove not lit) lounge with armchairs)

RING'O'BELLS, Marple (April 6, 7 &19) 4+3+8=15 Pleasant canal-oriented pub with interesting decor and odd corners. Proper stove, lit, with ECOFAN! Robinson's, but also guest beers. Not busy on a Friday night.

(2014 - 4+4+8=16 Not a Robinson's fan, but quality good in an interesting pub.)

(2017 - 3+3+7=13 A welcoming Robinson's pub. Good service, with little rooms to hide in and a handy gun hanging from the ceiling. Quiet on a Friday night - not what it was?)

CHURCH HOUSE, Buglawton (April 22) 2+3+6=11 OK Robinson's pub with good service but awful music, escapable in the spartan games room.

QUEEN'S HEAD, Congleton (April 23) 5+4+7=16 Direct access (steep steps) from the canal. Good atmosphere and service. 5 telly screens. For sale :(

(2016 - 4+4+7=15 Good atmosphere but slow service. GBG)


 

Trent & Mersey Canal

 

RED BULL, Red Bull (May 2) 3+3+6=12 Now an uninteresting Robinson's roadhouse, but with free-range eggs for sale!

(2014 - 4+4+7=15 A home from home, but the parrot has gone!)

BROUGHTON ARMS, Rode Heath (May 3) 4+3+6=13 Marstons. Too busy with meals - had to sit outside on cold evening.

ROYAL OAK, Rode Heath (May 3) 1+3+7=11 More of a locals' pub, further from the canal, so quieter.

HORSESHOE, Lawton Heath (May 4) 3+3+6=12 Large, food-oriented 'village pub', with pretensions, and prices to match.

CHESHIRE CHEESE, Wheelock (May 5) 3+3+5=11 Now the only pub in the village. Good service, but awful thumping music.

OLD HALL, Sandbach (May 6) 5+4+7=16 Magnificent half-timbered mansion rescued by Brunning & Price, with their usual picture collection and impressive interior.

BEER EMPORIUM, Sandbach (May 7) 5+5+8=17 Busy micropub with tiny quiet back room. Good service and extensive range of interesting bottled beers. GBG

LOWER CHEQUER, Sandbach (May 15) 5+3+6=14 Comfortable wood-panelled Joules pub, where the beer quality and general score suffers from being CLOSED MONDAYS.

WHITE BEAR, Middlewich (May 16) 4+5+8=17 Rambling rough-hewn interior with pleasingly random collection of furniture. GBG

OLD BROKEN CROSS, Rudheath (May 17) 2+4+7=13 Unassuming canalside pub with moorings. Bigger than it looks.

SALT BARGE, Marston (May 18 & 20) 3+4+8=15 Another Tardis, with lots of rooms and shabby comfort. Books! Making an effort to promote local beers.

STANLEY ARMS, Anderton (May 21) No score, because no beer! Late delivery the excuse, but no apology.

LEIGH ARMS, Acton Bridge (May 29) 3+3+6=12 Robinson's family-oriented pub overlooking the Weaver. Comfortable, light and airy, but not much of interest and rather expensive.


 

Bridgewater Canal

 

COSTELLO'S BAR, Stockton Heath (May 30) 5+5+8=18 Dunham Massey brewery tap. Superb beers in a light & open not-so-micro pub. Inexpensive and deservedly popular with all ages. GBG

BREWERY TAP, Lymm (May 31) 5+4+6=15 Lymm Brewery outlet. GBG Over-trendy seating and decor. Inexpensive, but loud (live) music drove me to:

BULL'S HEAD, Lymm (May 31) 4+4+7=15 Unpretentious busy locals' pub (Hydes) with a changing selection of mainly Manchester beers. GBG

VINE, Dunham Woodhouses (June 1) 1+4+9=14 The secret pub - no sign, nothing to indicate a pub. A gem of a traditional basic village local. Sam Smiths, so good value, in fact the cheapest this year (Pint of Old Brewery Bitter plus packet of own brand crisps £2.70)

BOAT HOUSE, Astley Green (June 2) 2+3+5=10 Very disappointing Good Beer Guide (2018) pub with poor beer choice and no proper bar for non-diners. And rather expensive. Still GBG, though.

WHITE LION, Leigh (June 3) 4+5+6=15 Busy, friendly inexpensive town-centre pub with several cosy rooms and traditional decor but a VERY LOUD jukebox. Only just on the Bridgewater!


 

I didn't stop overnight between Leigh and Wigan (a long day!), so Part 2 will start with the problems and obstacles of the Leeds & Liverpool in this Summer of the Drought.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


 

 


 

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ADDENDUM

Just a couple to add to the list this year, although not properly part of the Pub Cruise, as Cygnet has been out of the water since October, so both in Sowerby Bridge, but included as both have seen changes:

HOLLINS MILL (formerly THE WORKS), Sowerby Bridge 5+4+6=15 Different name, but still a large, dim echoing barn but with 9 beers and good service.

 

NAVIGATION, Sowerby Bridge 4+3+6=13 A real disappointment. The manager from the Shepherd's rest took over, so high hopes of improvement, but very ordinary.  So it's back to the Shepherd's rest, I think!

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