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Monday 31 December 2018

Beers, Boats and Boozers, 2018. No.24

After our visit to Whitchurch is wasn't very far to out next stop, but passing through some lovely countryside. And to top it all the weather continued magnificent.

This is something you have to be prepared for on the the Llangollen Canal, sitting behind another boat not travelling at your preferred speed. It can become very tedious, especially if it is chucking it down with rain, or freezing cold, but with the warm sun and beautiful countryside it was not so bad.

Our next stop was Ellesmere, and as the name may suggest there are several meres in its vicinity. Nine to be exact. You first past Cole Mere, the only one you can walk right round, and a boat club venue in the summer, then comes Blake Mere (once called Black Mere), that has a good reputation for fishing. It is always tempting to moor here overlooking the water but we like to be in the sun for the panels. However we resisted the shade on this hot day and continued onwards. The meres were created at the end of the last Ice Age when the excess water gathered.

Ellesmere Tunnel adds further interest to the trip and we were lucky as we didn't have to wait for on coming traffic through the one way working tunnel.

We found a spot on the dusty moorings on the mainline, before the junction. Good job we didn't carry on expecting to find a berth down the arm, as there was no room. Once tied up we went for a walk into Ellesmere. In 1792 the Ellesmere Hotel was called the Royal Oak and it was here you could say that the Llangollen Canal really started. On 10th September 1792 at this place the fledgling Canal Company opened its books for investors at 12 noon. By dark over £1 million had been pledged that meant that the dream started to become a reality. I'm so glad that they managed to get it all as far as they did.

I'm not sure who owns the warehouse at the end of the Ellesmere Arm but it seems to get in worse repair each time we pass this way. With a load of house being built in the field behind some use should be found for it to ensure its survival.

We also had a walk past the Mere that is the largest of the meres in the area and has been awarded a Green Flag. It is lovely to promenade around its edge and with a cafe and restaurant there is time to pause and sit too. Apparently it is 19 metres deep.

The Old Town Hall in Ellesmere was given by the Duchess of Bridgewater in the 1830's. Due to the marshy land it had to be built on 30' long wooden piles. The ground floor was the market until another building was constructed. The Assembly Room above was also used as a Mechanics' Institute, a museum and a cinema before the Council gave it up in 1966. Just to the right you can see a wooden door and I spotted a sign to a pub called the Vaults and decided to investigate, as it sounded a perfect place on such a warm day.

As the name implies the micro pub is in the undercroft of the Town Hall Building and has no windows other than in a small courtyard at the rear where the loos and a small seating area are found. The lack of windows does not detract however as the warm brick colours and lighting are engaging. On a warm day the place was cool, and the Land Lady, Tracy Brown, assured me that it tookm little heating in the winter due to it being underground and brick being a good insulator. The Micro Pub has been opened at weekends at least from about September 2017 and with partly secluded seating areas it is a great venue. Apparently it had been the store room for the building, a chapel and a store for coffins too. The Micro Pub managed to win the Shropshire pub of the year in November so they must be doing something right. The pubs pricing policy is that all the beers are £3 a pint. Some may lose them money and some gain, but everybody knows where they are with single point pricing.

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Chapel Brewery is a micro brewery with a 1 barrel plant that was set up by Ken King after 30 years of home brewing. When he retired as a music teacher in around 2013 he decided to pursue his hobby and set up a mirco brewery in some redundant farm buildings near Ellesmere. He sells mainly to places less than 25 miles away, so qualifying for Locale status in the pubs. In November 2018 Chapel Brrewery's Incarnation won the People's Choice of beer at the Shrewsbury Beer Festival. I tried a pint of the Crypt, 4.2%. It was very hoppy but had a little soapy taste at the end. I also tried a pint of an Amber Ale, 3.8% that I have forgotten the name of that had a nice sweet after taste but was a little 'thin' for me with little head on it. I look forward to trying more of their beers to find the right one for me. I will return to this pub, and indeed we did on our way back down from Llangollen.

Well that is the last blog for 2018. We didn't seem to be away on 'Holderness' as long as previously, and I don't feel that we did the miles etc of previous years. How ever I will be summarizing last years statistics as well as the usualy breakdown of costs etc. That should be interesting, especially for me!

I would like to thank the people who have visited this site over 32000 times this year. I hope you will stay with me. I wish you all the very best that you could wish for, for you and your family. 


Wednesday 19 December 2018

Boats, Beers and Boozers, 2018. No.23

We then moved further up the Llangollen Canal and stopped near to the Whitchurch Arm.

It wasn't too long before arrived at the bottom of Grindley Brook Locks. There was a little queue for the first few but we were soon at the 3 lock staircase. I love the lock house at the top. I have always wanted a wrap around stoop or veranda.

At the back of the High Street is this reminder of a time gone by. The site extends through to the High Street where there is a double frontage. One side was the Alexandra Hotel and the other an ironmongers with a central arch between. The hotel was built in 1904.

St Alkmunds Church is well worth a visit. It was built in 1713 after the previous one had fallen down!

I was fascinated by this monument as regular readers of this blog may remember that I was born on the anniversary of the Battle of Trafalgar so I have an interest in all things Trafalgar, Nelson etc. It seems that Lieutenant John Good La Penotiere (That is a bit of a mouthful) brought back the news of Nelson's victory, and death in his little vessel HMS Pickle. There is a replica that is seen in Hull regularly. When I was still at sea my company even named a new ship 'Pacific Pickle'. Not the normal naming style, but did mean there was always something to talk about. He was given a reward of £500 and Lloyds gave him a sabre, as depicted in the tablet, worth £100.

Another of the pieces in the church that make the church well worth a visit.

Somewhere else that is well worth a visit in Whitchurch is the Old Town Hall Vaults pub. It is a Joule's Tap House that has been a pub for a long while after it had been built in the 1830's as a merchants house. It was called the Back Street Inn at first as the lane was called Back Street Then. It later became gentrified and changed to St. Mary's Street and the pub became the Corn Market Inn. In 1862 inn the right hand bar, which was the family accommodation at the time, Sir Edward German was born, obviously not with the title, that was earned when he became a famous composer! Joules's pubs are all very nicely done out with lots of wood and boards plus signs etc. The best thing though is the staff as I have never been in a Joules pub where the staff were not friendly and knowledgeable and interested. It is a about a 25 mins walk from the Whitchurch Arm Junction with the Llangollen and the town and a pint here make it all well worth while.

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Joules is one of my favourite beers and as I right this we are moored not far away from their original brewery in Stone, Staffordshire. Beer started to be brewed in Stone, at the Abbey by Monks in the 16th Century and continued through until 1749. In fact Joules had an intense rivalry with Bass, and outshone them for a good few decades. They were the first to export to America, and were on the Titanic when it was lost. Joules won more accolades than Bass beers. The red cross trademark was the fifth beer trademark in the world in 1867. It is based on the sign of the cross made over each barrel by the original monks.. To differentiate from the Red Cross Charity the brewery always place trade mark either side of the cross and never place it on a white lorry. Bass managed to buy a controlling interest in Joules and quickly shut the whole thing down. This obviously caused a lot of ill feeling in the area. In 2009 the right to brew Joules and use the trade mark was enough to make the Joules beers become independent once again. Oh yes with a name like Joules you will be pleased to hear that the Joule, the unit of energy, was named after a member of another branch of the family.

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The new brewery was specially designed to brew the Pale Ale that was the beer that brought fame and fortune to the name in the 1900's. 4.1% of pure joy. I have never had a bad pint of this beer, probably as I have only seen it in their own pubs and they really look after their beer. They only use the water from their own bore hole, which is actually on the same strata as the brewery in Stone, but now in Market Drayton! There is a lovely creamy head when it is pulled and it has a biscuity malty aroma. The first sup is like nectar with the malts giving it that sweet caramel taste with a slight bitterness. It really is gorgeous. It was so good, I had another one! It was £3-50 and not during happy hour.

Tuesday 18 December 2018

Boats, Beers and Boozers, 2018. No. 22

As I write this we are sitting on the boat at Aston Marina, for a few days visit before the madness of the run up to Christmas etc.

We left Stoak and continued down the Shropshire Union. We saw the Air Beluga overhead on the way to and from Hawarden airport. The shuttle around the European factories collecting the parts to put together at Toulouse. In the UK we make the wings and undercarriage. There are 5 of them going round. The wings for the new Airbus A380 are too big for this plane and a new type, an A340 will be seen in the skies in 2019. (Unless BREXIT gets in the way that is).

We stopped in Chester for a few days and actually visited a few pubs, but for some reason I made no notes about them. Most of the 'black and white' buildings are actually not original but they do make a nice setting for a shopping street scene. Chester is a very nice place for a stop over but the 'high street' is suffering like most places.

We had an extra half day in Chester as the Queen and Meghan were visiting the city to re-open the theatre. There were plenty of folk wanting to see them and we got a spot where we could just about glimpse a part of them, before we repaired to the boat and set off up the staircase locks and out of the city

It really looks like this lock is allowing access into the estate of Broughton Road Water works, that were built between 1851 and 1853. The buildings are Listed and have undergone a £12mil. refurbishment. Not bad for a place that started in Roman Times.

We left the boat in Tattenhall Marina for a week before resuming our trip south. Here we are passing Beeston Castle that has a great view of the countryside

Beeston and Tarporley is an interesting place and after getting fuel from Chas. Harden's we had a walk around. These deer are farmed and look good on the hill. Underneath are the old oil storage tanks from the War.

Our objective was to 'do' the Llangollen Canal before the height of the season and were pleased to see no queue at the foot of Hurleston Locks that take you up from the 'Shropie' unto the Llangollen.

We moored up near Marbury and walked into the village to visit the Swan there, and have a look round the village. The Swan has been there since the 1700's but by 2106 was very run down and needed a lot of money spending on it. When it reopened in 2018 it is a lovely pub with plenty of different spaces, nothing too precious and all very comfortable. Obviously to make their money they have to attract people from far and wide and the 'Build it and they will come' seems to have worked, with a steady stream of cars pulling up. The food looked nice and there were 5 hand pulls to choose from.

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Slater's Ales was set up in 1995 at the back of the George Hotel in Eccleshall by a husband and wife team. It was then called Eccleshall Brewery. By 2004 they had grown their trade so much that they had outgrown the original premises. They started a brand new brewery in Stafford using their experience to set it up how they wanted. They changed their name to Slater's Ales at the same time. They have continued to grown and have doubled their staff since the move.

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I tried a blonde beer at 4% called Top Totty. It was a good choice on such a warm day as the pint had a lovely mouth, nice and thick, a good head and smelt fruity and flowery and that is just how it tasted. It slipped down a treat. It was £3-65 which is high end for us, especially so when we found out it was 'happy hour' too.

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The brewery was set up by a young lad straight out of University with a little experimental kit. It the time the american revolution of keg beer was running and he was inspired by it. He wanted a big kit to be able to experiment and from around 2011 he managed to set himself up. He is from the village of Mobberley and was used to drinking cask beers but was inspired by the new beers. They are still expanding and have opened two of their own bars, one is Knutsford and one in Stockport.

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I tried the Whirly Bird at 4% and a pale bitter. It was nice and fruity with a nice after taste of bitter. £3-50 at happy hour prices.

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The surroundings were so pleasant and the evening was so wonderful it was hard to drag ourselves away, so we didn't and I had another from the Warrington brewery Coach House. They were set up in 1991, the same year that the large Greenall's Brewery closed. Coach House can say they are the largest brewery in Cheshire.

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I had another lighter beer the blonde at 4.1%. It was nice an fruity and the hint of grapefruit was definitely there. A great beer to finish on. We will certainly head back next time we pass, and stop for a bite to eat as a special treat. Lovely price but a little expensive, but well worth the walk up from the canal. Take care on the road back to the lock.