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Tuesday 30 October 2018

Busy Weekend.

Macy the cat and myself have had a few days on the boat moored up at Aston Marina. We did choose the coldest weekend of the year so far but we were snug and warm through out.

Helen had come up trumps in the draw for ticket for the 'Strictly Come Dancing' recording at Elstree Studios so I had delegated No.1 daughter to accompany here rather than meas a). she would enjoy it more than I and b). she lives in London to start with. The process of actually getting in to see the show is arduous and started at 0630 to queue to get the tickets  'validated' as they always give out more tickets than there are seats. The BBC seems to do this at all their shows, I suppose to ensure a maximum audience. This meant to be sure of a seat you had to validate the ticket whilst there was enough seats. Apparently the first in the queue started at 2100 the day before. That task was accomplished at 1030. You are then free for a few hours until you are let in around 1500. People started queuing again at 1300, but my girls turned up at 1445 and were in by 1515. You are then in a marquee until 1715. All your coats are taken plus you have to surrender your mobile phone too. You are then shown into your place and you are there until about 2245. What a day it was. Helen says it was great to see the show and how it all works etc. but she wouldn't go again. She had an email today saying that she had been unlucky in the draw for tickets to the Blackpool weekend show. She did breath a sigh of relief.

Meanwhile I was painting the deck heads (ceilings) in the boat and various other jobs. We got there to find everything was fine. The engine started first time and there were no leaks etc. The heating and water pumps started up and I soon had the stove flashed up and churning out heat. Another job I did was finish off the perspex secondary glazing on the kitchen window. I had done this to all the other windows and it works a treat, not only insulating but preventing the vast quantities of condensation that build up when it is cold outside, but warm inside.

The Sunday morning dawned with a frost, -3deg on the thermometer, but little wind and a beautiful light and just the last of the mist over the northern entrance to the marina.

As soon as anybody steps outside 'Swany' is over to start his begging routine. Can you see the name of the boat. Ahh, poetic isn't it?

Monday night saw a beautiful sunset over Aston Church.

It just got better and better as the sun settled further.

Every day you can see and hear the Canada Geese coming into roost at the marina, whilst not my favourite birds they do make an impressive site and sound as the come in, and out.

Helen went from Hull to London and I dropped her off before coming on here. She caught the train back to Stone on Monday so she has had a night on the boat too before coming home today.

Fingers crossed that all is still well when we get back to the boat in a few weeks time.

Monday 29 October 2018

Beers, Boats and Boozers, 2018. No.12

As it turned out the weather was suitable for us to depart about 1000 in the morning. It did look a little ominous but despite some rain the wind never got up much.

We penned out with a cruiser who was shifting moorings to Glasson Dock. They kindly didn't leave us for dead. We rounded Astland Light just before high water and then found the entrance to Skarisbrook and made the turn easily enough.

The traffic light was green as they have to close the rotary gate once the tide drops so far. There is a real run through the restricted course of the brook.

Any thought that the hard work is now over is put behind you when you realise that there are several loocks and as the tide is dropping it is 'interesting' navigating up to the first non tidal lock.

Here we are almost at the top with the staircase lock. A longer boat has to reverse into the lock as the turn is too tight. At the top we reveresed out into the basin and continued on our way, turning right on the Lancaster Canal proper, heading towards Preston. We moored up at the visitor moorings that are next to the services a little outside Preston.

The next day we caught the bus into Preston to have a look around. It has quite a bit to offer, and is well worth a look if you are this way. After a bit of shopping and sightseeing we deserved a pint.

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We were near the station as I was checking it out for a trip home later in the trip. Opposite the drive down to the station is the Old Vic. It turns out to be a good find. Dating from the late 1830's it has had several names, such as the Victoria and Station, Duck Inn, Victoria and Vic and Station and now the Old Vic. Do you see the recurring theme there? The pub was pretty busy with all ages. There were far too many TV's for me but at the bar I spied at least 6 hand pumps plus a couple of craft beers. People were chatty and the place was quite a Tardis inside so despite being busy there was plenty of room to find a seat.

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I had a pint of the White Rat at 4.0% from Rat Brewery in Huddersfield. It is as it says a pale hoppy beer with a nice mellow taste with a hint of citrus, all for £3-10. I very lovely drink on a warm day.

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The Rat Brewery was started in 2011 this micro brewery is found at the Rat and Ratchet pub in Huddersfield, but is under the umbrella of the Ossett Brewery but as a stand along micro brewery.

Cross Bay Omega
My next pint was a pint of Omega American Pale Ale at 4.2% it is brewed with four types of malt and four types of hops that gave it a full taste with plenty of fruit tastes with a bit of a spice there too. Another beer with plenty of taste but refreshing on a warm day. It cost £3-30 which seems near normal in this part of the world.

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The brewery was started in 2011 in Morecambe and is named after the the route across Morecambe Bay that was the route for travelers from Lancashire to the Lake District that was led by guides to avoid the treacherous quick sands

Saturday 27 October 2018

Beers, Boats and Boozers, 2018 No.11

We walked down to the River Lock at the end of the Rufford Armto have a look at what we were in for the following day. This is the outer gate with the tide ebbing. It looked like a fair old flow on and it still wasn't low water.

There were two sets of gates one to keep the canal water in and another, outer gate, to keep the sea water out when there are higher than normal tides that may push the inward facing gates open and potentially flood the surrounding land.

Between the two gates the markers show that there can be 13ft of water in the river. That must go with a real rush when it starts to ebb.

This is looking down river towards the Ribble Estuary, and the way we would be travelling, hopefully the next day.

The weather and tide were a bit 'iffy' so we weren't sure if we would be sailing the next morning. So we went up into town for a look around and tried the second pub in the village, named the Village Inn.

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The pub looked like a modern Doctor's Surgery, and without the sign outside I wouldn't have know it was there! Well not quite that bad; but inside it was very plain and stripped back with plain tables and chairs too. It is something that you wont often here me say, and don't tell my wife I have uttered these words, but it needed a few soft furnishings, cushions and the like! There is one large room wrapped around the bar with several areas. There seems to be plenty of food available and the portions looked massive, but they only had two hand pulls on.

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I plumped for a pint of the Cumberland, 4.0% from Jennings Brewery. Jennings started brewing in a village between Cockermouth and Keswick in the Lake District in 1828 by a bloke called John Jennings. His Dad was a maltster before him. By 1874 they needed to expand so set up another brewery in Cockermouth at the Castle Brewery. They were using the well water that had previously supplied the Norman Castle, and still do. In 2005 Marston's bought the brewery, and expanded it somewhat. They brew all sorts of beers there now.

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Cumberland is described as a Deep Golden Ale and is made with English hops and pale and chocolate malts to give it a bit of base It is dry hopped at the end to give it a little citrus after taste. The pint did have a good colour but had a week head and was a bit of a thin. It got £3-00 so a bit cheaper than we had been paying.

The Chip shop was just behind the pub and we couldn't resist the smell so called and bought our tea to eat after the brief walk down to the moorings. We then just had to see if we would be going in the morning as we had been told that it looked a little 'iffy'.

Tuesday 23 October 2018

Beers, Boats and Boozers, 2018. No.10

Our time in Liverpool was up and we had to make our way back the way we had come as we were booked for a passage over the Ribble Link to experience the Lancaster Canal for the first time.

Burscough Junction services, just behind the bridge, has been closed for a while now, but there is still a tap on the Rufford Arm side of the bridge, as well as the Leeds/Liverpool side, plus you can wind in the dry dock entrance before the first lock.

The flat lands of the River Douglas and Ribble are home to vegetable growers, and it is so flat that the wind doesn't have anything to stop it blowing you all over. We had to get very inventive to get off the landing after passing through a swing bridge. It involved ropes to the centre of the bridge etc etc to try to get the stern off enough to give the bow a chance when coming ahead!

Before reaching Tarleton before the tidal section begins you pass through an old disused lock and on to a part of the canal that used to be the River Douglas as it winds to the Ribble. The tidal lock now keep the levels constant.

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About 20 mins walk from the visitor moorings near the tidal lock at Tarleton is the Cock and Bottle. This was how it looked at the start of 2017 before over £1 million was spent on it's refurbishment.

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And here we are today (2018). The old function room has been turned into a dining area and it has gone up market to gastro pub style. However it is nicely done and with separate areas so as if you just want a drink you can find somewhere quiet. The food did look good and there were plenty of waiting staff too, maybe could do with another person behind the bar though. The pub is Thwaites and the in connection with Fayre Inns.
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As can be seen Thwaites has been brewing for over two hundred years and from their brewery in Blackburn since 1863. They are closing that brewery, if not have already and are moving out to a new purpose built brewery in the Ribble Valley. They are one of the few brewers to still have dray horses and they are going with them too. They have sold the rights of their beers Wainwright and Lancaster Bomber beers to Marstons in the last few years.
I had a pint of their Original Best Bitter 3.6%, £3-55. A bit pricey but being made with marris otter malt it had a nice malty taste with a good bitterness on the tongue.

I also had a pint of Tarleton Tickler 3.8% that is brewed specially for the pub by Thwaites and was still £3-55. It turned out to be a good session ale that looked good in the glass and the taste lasted well in the mouth too.

All in all a nice pub to walk to for a pint but especially as a celebration for the start of, or the return from, the Ribble crossing.

Thursday 18 October 2018

Boats, Beers and Boozers 2018. No.9

Our week in Liverpool was nearly up but we had a stroll round the Pier Head area. It was in this area and Mann Island that I took my Efficient Deck Hand certificate and Lifeboatman's 'Ticket, rowing around the dock in far from ideal weather, a young apprentice among the old lags. I was more worried about failing those than sitting for my Master's 'Ticket years later.

On the Pier Head are several memorials to seamen, including the engineers lost, to a man, of the Titanic. This is dedicated to the Merchant Marina in the wars. A body that a much higher percentage of people than any other branch of the armed services, but got little credit for their sacrifice. In fact they had to produce a lapel badge for them as they were being branded as cowards as they weren't in uniform. 

This carving is on the opposite face of the plinth. It is also interesting to note that this monument was not dedicated until 1998!

Plying her trade on the river is the 'Snowdrop' that has been painted in a form of dazzle painting that was to commemorate the camouflage scheme that was used on warships in WWI to try and break up the profile and make them harder to spot. Obviously they weren't these bright colours then, just greys, black and white. 

This memorial is for the 1400 crew members who were lost whilst belonging to the Royal Naval Auvillary Services, Merchant Navy men who were under the auspices of the RN. It is interesting to note that this memorial was raised in 1952! I have never really understood why our nation holds the Merchant Navy in so little regard, especially when 97% of everything comes by sea!

Our last Liverpool pub visit was to the Lady of Mann. It is named after a former Isle of Mann ferry that sailed for the Steam Packet Co. In fact there were two of this name, the first from 1930 to 1971 and the second from 1976 to 2005. The pub is down through an archway by the side of another pub, the Thomas Rigby, who was a wine and spirits merchant, into the courtyard. I believe the building housing the 'Lady of Mann' was some of the warehousing for the wine and spirits. The pub lacks a bit of character after a refurbishment but is pleasant enough. The courtyard is shared with the other pub and is always busy on warm evenings.

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Although the pub is an Okells owned establishment I tried a beer form the Tapped Brewery. They are from Sheffield and actually brew the beer in the refurbished First Class waiting room on Sheffield Station. There is a great  boozer to go with it and if ever you have to change trains there make sure you don't catch the first one, or maybe even the second as they have loads of hand pulls and bottled beers from around the worlds. They started brewing in 2013 and have a 4bbl plant that provides over 1000 pints in one brew. You can watch and smell the beer being made two or three times a week.

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I had a pint of Mojo at 3.6% for £3-20. It had a really lovely head on it and was almost yellow in colour, and is called a crystal pale ale. It is full of mosaic and citra hops that give it a crisp fruity taste. It is a little 'thin' for me, but a lovely drop on a warm evening or almost like a palette cleanser. It is called Mojo as it is supposed to get your mojo working!

Tuesday 16 October 2018

Boats, Beers and Boozers 2018. No.8

The best advice I can give when visiting any new town or city is always to look up above the shop fronts as you walk around. There are usually loads of interesting things to see, and these days most places seem to have largely the same shops anyway!

 This mosaic mural was on Castle Street and depicts a nautical scene. On the bottom right you can also see the signature of the designer Frank Murray in 1889.

The building that the mosaics embellish is the British and Foreign Marine Insurance Co. Ltd. With the flag of St. George of England and the Liver bird of Liverpool

On the other side of the door is this Venetian themed mosaic. The mosaic was completed by at the same time as the building in 1889 by Antonio Salvati who started his workshop on the island of Murano in the Venice Lagoon in 1859, and it is still there.

On the opposite side of Castle Street is this lovely building now with Cafe Nero gracing the street level. It was built in 1892 as the Adelphi Bank. I love the decadence of having terracotta on the ground floor and bands with the stone. And niches with statues! I wish I had taken a good picture of the big bronze outer doors as they depict sets of  brothers such as Castor and Pollux and Achilles and Patroclus, as adelphi means sibling in Greek.

The lovely old brick building, that would have been quite a tall building in its day, is now dwarfed by the new developments at Mann Island. It was the pumping station that kept the Mersey Tunnel dry, and also the ventilator to allow the smoke from the steam engines using the tunnel to escape. The tunnel was built in 1882.

Just a couple of doors up from the Ship and Mitre from the last blog is the Excelsior. It is named after a Liverpool sailing ship. It also has a bit of pedigree for being next to the 1960's Headquarters of Higson's the Liverpool brewers. Inside has been modernised, but in a fairly stripped back way. It is not a pub to come for the decor, although pleasant enough. Unfortunately the TV's always on mar things for me. The reason to come to the Excelsior is the beer from the Casque Mark pub. There were six hand pulls on when we dropped by.

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I had a pint of the Dark Spartan Stout 5% at £3-20 by the Parker Brewery. It was a real treat, black and thick with a nice creamy head. There was a beautiful malty flavour with chocolate and coffee notes. A meal in its self.

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The Parker Brewery is, as the name implies, run by the Parker Family from a micro brewery not too far away in Bank next to Southport. It was started up in 2014, and by the end of the year had expanded and moved premises to a 5 bbl plant. The beers are all named after tribes etc. I will definitely look out for them as if the others are a good as this then they will be worth the wait. They can be found in around 12 pubs in the Liverpool, Ormskirk, Southport, Formby area, including the Hopvine at Burscough and the Ship and Mitre down the road here.

Saturday 13 October 2018

Boats, Beers and Boozers 2018. No.7

One of the reasons we had come to Liverpool was to go and see the Terracotta Army exhibition. Helen had booked tickets well in advance as they were a bit scarce. We did hear that they did hold a few back for everyday for people who turn up first thing

We had a little time to wait until our timed entry so we called into the Central Library next door. What a magnificent space the central atrium is. It did make me think of the new Central Library in Birmingham.

It must have been fantastic to dig and come across a sight like this. Mind you, by all accounts, there is a large part of the site that is still to be excavated so maybe many more folk will get to see something like this again. They must have looked so much more impressive when they were still colourful.

 This wonderful four horse chariot was discovered in 1980 and is one of two that were buried. It is bronze with sliver and gold embellishments. It was highly decorated and coloured. It is the type of chariot that the first Emperor would have toured round his unified kingdom. It was buried with him so that he could continue his journey in the after life. It is also said that his body was brought back to the capital in a similar, with an open cart of salted fish behind to hide the smell of his decomposing body!!
Not far away, on Dale Street, near the entrance to the Queensway Tunnel, is the Ship and Mitre. It was built in the 1930's on the site of a previous coaching house. In fact the name comes from previous names of the pub, the Flagship and the Mitre. Downstairs is all wood and seems like you are in an old wooden vessel. Upstairs the function room retains a real Art Deco feel. There are 12 hand pulls at least usually on, plus loads of ciders and hundreds of bottled beers.
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The pub brews their own beer using Stamps Brewery equipment in Crosby. They supply the pub and one or two other outlets. They changed the name from Ship and Mitre to Flagship in 2016.
I tried a pint of the Lupa that has citrus peel and Styrian Wolf hops. It was a bit too sweet for me but would make a great introducing beer for newcomers I think.

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I had a pint of the Flagship Lupa 3.8% at £3-00. Citrus peel is mixed with Styrian Wolf hops to bring a sweeter beer but it was a little too sweet for me, but would be a great beer for an non beer drinker to try.

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A pint of Silhouette was much more to my taste. 4.5% makes it much more of a mouthful and £-20. It is a dry Irish Stout that was presented with a great head and full of roasted malt flavours and was like a meal in a glass.

There is plenty of pub grub available and is plentiful and quick. The staff are friendly and knowledgeable and any pub goer would find something to like in here. It is one not to miss off your list of pubs to visit in Liverpool.