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Saturday 14th January
RAR 255
COVENTRY'S GBG

Meet at Greyhound, Sutton Stop, 12 noon
Sunday 5th February
HW 55
SNOWDROPS AT ALLESLEY

Meet at The Brooklands, Kingsbury Road, 12 noon.
Saturday 18th February
RAR 256
STATFORD TO WELFORD ON AVON

National Express 460 bus departs Pool Meadow Stand B 11:00am arrives Stratford 11:25am (X18 takes 1 hour 35 mins!!)

The No.27 bus leaves Welford at 3:16pm and arrives Stratford 3:29pm (opposite Maypole)
5:50pm arrives 6:12pm
6:09pm arrives 6:46pm

The X18 bus leaves B439 (Binton turn) at 3:19pm arrives Stratford at 3:56pm. This stop is supposedly 20 mins walk from Welford.
3:49pm arrives 4:26pm
4:24pm arrives 5:01pm
4:54pm arrives 5:31pm

The 6:30pm No. 460 National Express arrives Coventry 7:00pm
Saturday 18th March
RAR 257
WELFORD ON AVON TO BIDFORD ON AVON

National Express 460 bus departs Pool Meadow Stand B 11:00am arrives Stratford 11:25am

The 11:54am X18 bus from Stratford arrives B439 (Binton turn) at 12:07pm
Saturday 15th April
RAR 258
BIDFORD ON AVON TO HARVINGTON

National Express 460 bus departs Pool Meadow Stand B 11:00am arrives Stratford 11:25am

The 11:54am X18 bus from Stratford arrives Bidford 12:11pm
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THE REAL ALE RAMBLERS DO COVENTRY'S GOOD BEER GUIDE PUBS

It has become a tradition for the ramblers to do all of Coventry's GBG pubs by public transport every January. This year there were 14 pubs ionvolved. During our travels it was pointed out by one of the participants that we could not write an account of the trip as CAMRA HQ had sent out a directive that stops branches from publishing articles listing all of their GBG pubs within an area, as this could adversely affect sales of the GBG.

Well, I always enjoy a challenge, so here is my account of the trip, without naming any pubs. We met at Pool Meadow bus station and caught the 11:46am bus to an outer extremity of Coventry where we found pub No.1, which shall remain nameless. It used to stand in the shadow of a colliery, now an industrial estate and it looks out over fields. The beer was good, and after that we walked to the nearest stop on the 701 bus route. This took us to the Tesco/Arena bus stop where we changed to a bus travelling north up the Foleshill Road. This took us to nameless pub No.2, a popular place in an attractive canalside setting. We shall use this route in future years as it is the most direct between the two pubs and is free if you have a network bus pass, £1.20 if you have a daysaver. This pub was packed with supporters of the round ball game as Coventry were playing at home. A good half of Skinners was had and it was so warm that we didn't mind standing outside.

Then a short walk took us to the 30C bus route, which took us in an arcing route to pub No.3, a canalside pub which, although the canal has gone retains its canal associated name. This was my star of the day as it has been excellently renovated and had a range of interesting beers. My only quibble is that the old brewery has been removed from the lounge to make more room for drinkers.

Then we had another short walk to intercept the 10 bus route. These buses run every 15 minutes so we were confident of catching one. So we waited........and waited........and waited before eventually finding out that there had been a fatal accident in Wood End and the buses were disrupted. We ordered three taxis and as leader I waited for the last one to ensure that everyone got to the next pub. Just as the third taxi drew up so did two buses on the other side of the road. I went and had a word with the bus drivers. They were intending to get the service back on schedule, but as our taxi was already there and would still get us to the next pub before the bus, we jumped in the taxi.

We got to pub No.4, a pleasant street corner one with a rather unimaginative choice of beers. Still, my London Pride was excellent. Then it was back to the 10 bus for a short ride to No.5, an ancient half timbered place not far from the City Centre. Here we had a shock as there were only three ales on, not what we expect from this establishment and at this rate they will be losing customers rapidly. The pub was empty when we walked in - such a pity.

No.6 was a much larger black and white building with a far wider choice of ales, so we were happier. Then a short walk brought us to No.7, not a million miles from the route of the old city walls, for another enjoyable half. Next it was up the hill to No.8 and another half before No.9 where I could indulge in half of Old Peculier. After this we walked through an 'entertainment complex', along Croft Road and up Albany Road to Earlsdon. Here a large black and white pub stands by a roundabout. This was No.10, and after another half we walked over the road to No.11, with another poor choice, Bass and Tetleys I remember. Still, the Bass was in good nick.
From here we walked to the neighbouring district of Chapelfields, where we came to No.12. This was packed and I thought I could detect an Irish influence in the decor. Then on to No.13 which by contrast was much quieter, before the final pub, where we finished on a pint of Sarah Hughes Ruby, whilst a disco - thingy was going on in the bar, a suitably upbeat way to end the evening.

The hardy souls who did all 14 pubs were Gary, Fred, Mick, Louise, Simon and Sher .... Shi ... Shar .... erm .... Simon's girlfriend. Sharon was also in at the end for the photographs, but she only joined us in Earlsdon. After our pint of Sarah Hughes Sharon and I returned home via the chip shop, which I can name; Gabriels in Earlsdon High Street. There you have it, a pub crawl where the only premises named is the chip shop! Can you name all 14 of these pubs in the right order? (a clue : they are all in the 2012 Good Beer Guide!).

LIVERPOOL

Liverpool is a wonderful city with all that culture, especially if you are my age, the pubs and I can also report that the famous scouse sense of humour is alive and well. On our last visit Sharon and I were in Thomas Rigby's late on a Saturday night and the conversation and stories were flowing. In the middle of one story a group of youngsters at the opposite end of the room burst into song. The storyteller went over to them and said "Do yous lot mind shurrin up, I'm tryin' to tell a story". They did as requested and he returned to the table to resume his story, when his mobile rang and the conversation went something like :

"Yes dear No dear Well, maybe Yes dear No dear Look, I'm in Rigby's. I'll be back on Tuesday"
With this the entire pub burst into hysterical laughter. The storyteller disappeared out of the front door of the pub and the fellow next to me leant over and said "Its all right, he's gone to apologise to her"


THE ESTABLISHMENT
As soon as we heard about the Establishment opening, Chris, Lee and I went down to try it out. We were suitably impressed with a fantastic pub that wouldn't look out of place in a great city like Liverpool or Leeds. Then we made the mistake of ordering three pints. We were presented with three pint glasses, all 2/3 full. I have never seen such short measures in my life, so I assumed this was the modern practice of bar service where they use a ridiculously tight sparkler and then keep topping the beer up every minute or so. But no, the barman made no attempt to top the glasses up. So we tried to attract his attention and were studiously ignored, twice. At the third attempt we were acknowledged and finally got our beers. I have no idea why barstaff don't realise that when we ask for a pint of beer we actually want a pint of beer!

Then we went to sit down. At one end of the bar is a raised dais where the judge's high chair stands. We sat down in this area only to be told that the table we were at was reserved. We offered to move to another table in the raised area, to be told that they were all reserved. We were puzzled that so many tables in a bar area could be reserved, so the barmaid took us to a little table in the corner of the dining room where we could sit and drink. A minute later another barmaid came over and told us we couldn't sit there. By this time my temper was getting a little frayed, so we caught a taxi over to Chapelfields to find a proper pub. We settled into the Hearsall, where we found a table and weren't disturbed all night! We had some excellent home brew. And the Establishment - nice pub, pity about the service.
THE REST

The cafe in the Far Pavilion (the old changing rooms in my rugby days) of the Memorial Park now sells bottled Belgian beers, Purity and wine, at a price. £3.95 for a small bottle of beer! Still, its very pleasant to sit on their patio watching the trees and grass, if you can afford to.

Hogan's is Warwickshire's only commercial cider maker, although in reality it is made at Castlemorton near the Cotswolds. Their cider is very good, I recently came across their Still Cider at the Horseshoes in Nuneaton. They have opened a shop at their site in Haselor, between Stratford and Alcester. I haven't been there yet, but I'm really lookiong forward to a visit, so watch this space for my report.
THE VALE OF WELTON

The Vale of Welton is just north of Daventry and is now our nearest cider farm and cider orchard. The story of my discovery of it goes like this. A few months ago we had Sunday lunch at that excellent pub, the Denbigh Arms in Monks Kirby. On the way home we stopped at Malt Kiln farm shop in Stretton under Fosse, because I think it is the best farm shop in our area - in our recent pork pie competition its locally made pork pie came first. While mooching around the shelves I came across bottles of Vale of Welton cider. I had never heard of it, and whilst I thought it may be one of the giant producers doing a bit of brand engineering, I bought one to try. Back at home it proved to be very fine and on examining the bottle I learnt that it was made 'from cider apples grown in the orchards in Welton, Northamptonshire'. What! Northamptonshire! Surely there aren't any cider orchards or cider farms in Northamprtonshire!
photo of bottles of cider
So I got straight on to the website on the bottle, www.valeofwelton.com and emailed the contact, to be immediately given an invite to visit. The result was a Friday afternoon drive to Welton, just 30 minutes from Coventry. Here, at Home Farm Stables we were greeted by JimMalvern. He explained that the project strated in 2003 with the planting of trees, some of which were Bramleys cookers and some eaters, not beause they make good cider, but because they fruit quickly and would give him some practice with the machinery and process. Planting has gone on ever since with cider varieties and now there are 20 acres and some 1,000 trees.
photo of orchard
The orchard
The amount of cider made has increased every year as more trees come into crop. Last year 2,800 litres was made, which is still well below the excise threshold of 7,000 litres, so at present Jim pays no excise duty. As you may imagine, if excise is levied an all productiuon once you exceed 7,000 litres, Jim's next task is to get well above the 7,000 litres to make it worthwhile. All the bottling and labelling is done on site.

Jim and Chris in the cider barn

Jim Malvern with his cider
The only outlets I know of are the local pub, the White Horse in Welton; a place called the Langtree in Nottingham; Malt Kiln farm shop in Stretton under Fosse and Home Farm Stables itself. I wish Jim all the best i his project and will do all I can to find him an outlet in Coventry. Meanwhile he has a license to sell to the public at the farm, so get over there and buy a crate of 12 bottles for £ 25. I never imagined in all my time of supping in cider barns in Hereford, Worcester, Devon and Somerset that I would one day be supping in a cider barn in Northamptonshire, just 20 miles from Coventry.
THE EARLSDON INTERNATIONAL PIE FESTIVAL

A couple of months ago we went to the annual pie festival at Melton Mowbray. Not only were there pie stalls there, but the Vale of Belvior brewery also had a stall, so a good time was had by all. The champion pie was not a pork pie, as you might expect, but a sweet pie filled with fruit of the hedgerow.
It occured to me that we could do something similar here, as many of the local butchers at least claim to make their own pies. So on a Saturday night we gathered, that is Fred, Sharon, Chris, Jane, Di and Graham the Canadian, alongside six local pork pies. The pies came from ;

Malt Kiln Farm Shop, Stretton under Fosse
Berryfields Farm Shop, Meriden - Aunt Winnies Pie
Tuckeys Farm, Berkeswell. Unfortunately this pie was made by Gainsboroughs, not locally
Earlsdon Butchers (Tims) - Earlsdon Pork Pie
Walter Smith of Shelton Square, Coventry
John Taylors in Earlsdon
The runaway winner with 38 points out of a possible 60 was Malt Kiln Farm. Graham got a little carried away describing it as 'subtle meatiness without saltiness ; absorbent pillowy with all the spiciness you could wish for!' I was alittle more mundane with just 'spicy with good pastry' whilst someone else contributed 'Nice pastry, right amount of jelly, pepper aftertaste'.

So there you have it, these pies were all tasted 'blind', so there was no way of identifying them at the time. Go to Malt Kiln Farm Shop and buy one, but make sure you get the 'LOCALLY MADE' pork pie, which comes in a plain plastic wrap, not one of the more commercial ones.

I should point out that one of the pies was quite disgusting. This was one that I previously had the highest regard for, in fact I thought that it might win, so it came as an awful surprise. I don't think I shall give the name here, but if anyone asks I will gladly tell them. Perhaps we should have given it to consumer protection as it was so bad that some of us wondered if it was really a chicken and ham pie, although I had watched the butcher take it from the pork pie selection.

All of these pies were washed down with copious amounts of Brown Ale, naturally! I wonder if we could repeat this fun evening next year, only this time perhaps in a pub ?

 

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