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Tuesday 30 June 2020

Beers, Boats and Boozers, No.92

From Whittelsey we left and headed for Peterborough.

Whittelsey is well known for it's brick factories and at least three of these chimneys were smoking, and its McCain's chip factory too. We passed out through Stanground Lock and back on to the River Nene. We didn't go out that night but enjoyed the calm on the end of the embankment moorings.

The next day we left for our timed arrival at the Dog in a Doublet Lock and our release down on to the tidal Nene. The lock is named after the pub that was named after a publican's dog who had some sking complaint and so it wore a doublet to keep it warm. We locked down on our own thanks to the lock keeper and he advised us to wait about half an hour so as to get to Wisbech at a good time. It seemed to be just about the start of the fall of the tide when we left.

The water is wide and you get little idea of the speed of the current until you actually get to a bend or a slightly more narrow part.

This is what's left of the Great Northern Railway bridge at Guyhirn. The railway became disused in 1963 and the bridge, or most of it, was removed in 1982. I seem to remember this was the first bend in the river. One or two bridges been to only feature of note otherwise.

As we approached Wisbech the channel narrows and the tide had dropped further so I was wary of the bends by then. The views over the bank were great, making us think of Italian townscapes like Pisa!

We cleared Town and then we were looking for our berth on the Yacht Harbour pontoons. We had our instructions but had to improvise a little in the end. I was prepared to continue to the ships turning area to turn, but the lock keepers advice was solid as turning off the berth was no problem and saved us flogging back against the current.

The day we arrived in Wisbech was Helen's birthday so not only did I get her tidal cruise I also got a brewery tour for her! In fact I knew there wasn't a brewery tour on that day but there are quite extensive gardens behind the brewery, plus a little museum so we walked up the bank in beautiful weather to check out Elgoods Brewery. There is a tea room but luckily for me they also served beer. The brewery was first started in 1786 as a pub brewing its own beer. In 1795 it was North Brink Brewery with 4 tied houses when sold. It was the first classic Georgian Brewery built outside of London. By 1801 it came with 6 pubs and in 1877 when the first Elgood got involved with a partner there were 70 pubs and 21 of them in Wisbech. By 1878 it was an Elgood running the show alone and now they are on the fifth generation, and I believe they still live next door.

You can see that they claim 1795 as the start date. The Family believe in the old tied house system and have about 36 pubs all within 60 miles of the brewery. They have also reached out to the free trade pubs and sell all over the country now.

I like to try a mild when I see them as it isn't that often they are on the bar. This nice reddy black pint, 3.6%, didn't disappoint as although been only low alcohol it was full of flavour. The crystal malts and roasted barley give it a good mouthful and coffee and chocolate bottom notes. The single hop Fuggles and a tang and dryness it the end. Felt nice and rich and something that you could drink several pints of without being filled up, if you see what I mean. The tea room had no cider so Helen tried a Cherry wheat beer beer from that she enjoyed too. The name black god does not come from a fit of depression like Winston Churchill, but the black dog that adorns the Elgood's coat of arms.

Thursday 25 June 2020

Beers, Boats and Boozers, No.91

We had a good wander around Whittelesey that has some impressive buildings

There is a large market square and there has been a right to hold a market here since 1715, and it has only been missing a few times in that history. In the centre is the Buttercross that was built in 1680. It was where dairy products were sold, under cover. In the 1800's it became very run down and was going to be demolished until a local businessman donated enough Collyweston stone tiles to repair it. Since then it has been a bus stop, until the buses routes were altered, and is now a shelter for pedestrians.

This was the Town Hall with the fire station below and was built in 1825. There is a date in red brick on the front but this is the date that extensive alterations took place. The business is now owned by the Whittelesy Charity and house the museum, unfortunately closed when we were wandering about in the evening. We love a little local museum.

The skies looked a little threatening as we walked down London Road that has some very nice houses. In tne distance you can see the Falcon Inn that is probably 18th Century with later additions. On the wall of the pub is one of those spoked wheel signs with CTC that indicate that accommodation was approved for Cyclist Touring Club members. Next to the pub is Paradise Lane which from leading you to Eden, led in days of old to the local cesspit!

The Whittelsey War Memorial has Saint George with his sword and his foot placed on the beaten dragon, very symbolic and also very well maintained.

Whittelsey is proud of, and famous for, the Straw Bear Festival. This is my be a corruption of straw bower. It took place traditionally on Plough Tuesday. This is the day after the first Monday after Twelfth Night! A man is dressed in straw and along with a keeper, paraded around the town dancing and begging for gifts at houses etc. The costume would be ceremonially burned the following day. The custom died out in the early 1900's, maybe thought of as begging, but was revived in 1980 by the Whittelesy Society. The parade now happened accompanied musicians and traditional dancers. Concerts are held in the pubs and a barn dance or a ceilidh are also held. The tradition now takes place on the second weekend in January.

Off the Market Square is the George Hotel, with St. Mary's Church in the background. The hotel was built in the late 18th Century and was much altered in the mid 19th. On the left hand end was even more of the Grade II listed building but when Station Road was widened they took away a shop and the coach entrance to the rear. The place is now a Weatherspoon's and has acres of space in several little rooms, now interconnected. 

I tried a pint from Redemption Brewery. They are based in Tottenham, North London and have been brewing since 2010. Andy Moffat and Sam Rigby started out with a 12 barrel plant but soon need to expand into a 30 barrel set up. They aim to create modern beers that are a twist on the traditional but with no compromise with ingredients.

I had a pint of their Hopspur, 4.5%. With a name like that I was expecting a very fruity hop laden pint, but it is a brown, or amber beer tending to the bitter side. However when you first get it to your face there is a definite citrus whiff. The first mouthful was a nice thick mouthful of sweetish beer, then comes the coffee or biscuity malts and to end an almost pine like finish. Lots of taste and a nice thick beer on the tongue. Thoroughly enjoyable.

Tuesday 16 June 2020

Beers, Boats and Boozers, No.90

We left Cambridge in the afternoon after a further wander about and head down the Cam and back to the Great Ouse. We stopped off over night at Ely where we moored up about 20:00, and then off first thing to head up to the Little Ouse to explore that waterway. Unfortunately the weather was not very good, overcast and drizzly with a cool wind.

The Little Ouse has very few points of interest along it so it was real excitement to see a bridge, and watch a vehicle go over it too. It is a very narrow lightweight bridge called Redmere Bridge

This is the head of navigation for us, and as far east as we can go. The navigation does extend for another half a mile but the lock is only 35' long. The next day we walked into Brandon down a tree lined footpath called Victoria Avenue created for Queen Victoria's Jubilee. The town has been linked to flint knapping since the stone age as Grimes Graves are close by and the buildings make full use of the raw material. It was also a rabbit skin processing town that employed 400 women in the trade.

We headed back to the Great Ouse and had a lovely quiet mooring that evening and the next day the weather once again faired up. The next day we were once again at Denver Sluice for the passage across to Salter's Lode Lock and back on to the Middle Levels. Tide time was late afternoon and we were the last to cross. By the time we were at Salter's Lode the tide was just on the turn making it a little awkward getting in, but no drama. As we were last through we were allowed to overnight on the lock mooring before setting off early the next morning.

Once again we were lucky to find a space at March. We had wanted to look round the little museum on previous visits but it had been shut. This time we stayed the next morning to have a gander, and it is well worth the time spent. Lots to see.

This end of the Middle Levels is made up of separate waterways, and each have a different character. Here on the Old Course of the River Nene we pass from the eastern to the western hemisphere with this Centenary sign provided by the Rotary Club of March. It isn't going to last until the next one mind.

We got to Ashline Lock and you can see here the old lock that was altered in 1998/99 to be inline with the Middle Level route for longer boats. We are now on the Briggate River. Not far past are some moorings at Whittlesey Leisure centre and there was room for us. 

We had a walk into town and headed to the Boat Inn on Briggate. You can see the bridge over the waterway to the right and it is very near the 90deg tight turn too. The pub is said to originate from the 11th century. It was a brew pub until 1874 and was brewing up to 210 gallons at a time. It was entertaining dealers, travelers and drovers at this time, as well as watermen on the navigation that were using the nearby quay. In 1874 the brewing equipment was sold as the pub had been bought by North Brink Brewery in Wisbech that had started in 1795. For some reason landlords did not seem to stay as for the next few years it was up for let. The North Brink Brewery was finally bought by the Elgoods Family in 1878 and is still owned and run by them. The pub we visited was somewhat run down, but everybody was very friendly and we had a good chat. There was a poor choice of beer on hand pull though.
I Tried a pint from Heritage Brewing Company. They are based in the William Worthington Brewery that then became the National Brewing Centre in Burton upon Trent. Steve Wellington joined up with the museum to start up a micro brewery but later the plant was enlarged to a 25 bbl unit and the brewery and bottling plant were used. They aim to preserve methods, styles and recipes of old and have been credited with saving Worthington White Label beer. They obviously use the famous Burton water for brewing.

The Heritage Gold, 4.8%, I tried had a lovely golden colour and a nice head on it. there is a citrus aroma as you bring it to the mouth but the first taste for me was of the bitterness. The hops came through afterwards, but as always when the beer is supposed to be a balanced ale I seem to find it a 'jack of all trades, but master of none'. It seems I like a more definite taste, so long as I like it. To me a bit like a lager in as much as they 'all taste the same'. (I know they don't by the way). Not quite a session ale, but a beer that attracts the middle ground, so does not stand out to my on distinguishing taste buds. Still alot better than some drinks I have tasted.

Tuesday 9 June 2020

Beers, Boats and Boozers, No.89

After a reviving pint and one a sultry evening of the hottest day of the year we had a wander around the city as it slightly cooled. Cambridge has many obviously attractive buildings etc, so I thought I would show some less obvious pictures.

This is the Old Divinity School built in 1879, but is on the site of the original Divinity School of 1400. It was the centre of the University then, but is now part of St. John's College. The statues in the niches are of theologians associated with the University.

I am always a sucker for the terracotta work on buildings and this building in St. John's Street had some fine examples. It was built in the mid to late 1800's as a  tailors, but from this distance I couldn't see any of the work associated with that.

This gateway makes a very classy umbrella for Helen in a shower. It was built in 1575 and is the Gate of Honour for Gonville and Caius (Keys) College. It is only used following Graduation Day.

This is known as Mathematical Bridge, but its actual name is 'Wooden Bridge'! It was erected in 1747 and has been rebuilt in 1866 and 1905 and is Grade II Listed. It looks arched but is built entirely of straight timbers.

This is Trinity Lane. Gonville College on the left and on the right student rooms, built between 1592 and 1615.

 On the way to and from the boat we walked down Portugal Place between Jesus Green and Bridge Street. It is thought that it is named for the wharf nearby that received port wine for the high tabkes of the colleges in the past.

We called in at the Eagle Pub as one of Helen's friends Aunt's was landlady here in the 60's or 70's and she had visited it before. It turns out it is said to be the oldest pub in Cambridge, gifted to Corpus Christi College in 1525. It seems to have become a pub around 1667 and called the Eagle and Child. It was a very busy coaching inn with stage coaches running to and from London, Lynn, Ely, Oxford, Northampton and Birmingham. When the railway arrived in 1845 the business died off. The last one left in 1849. John Mortlock, banker, (see No.88 also), and 13 times Mayor started a dinner club at the Eagle and Child in 1782 and called it the Rutland Club. It remained the HQ for the local Conservatives until mid 19th Century.  

With the heat of the day we sort out a pub. One of Helen's friends used to play at her aunt's pub in Cambridge, called the Eagle, so we went to find it. It is a nice old coaching in with  a courtyard. The writing you can see on the ceiling was burned on by candles, cigarette lighters and lipstick during WWII by RAF and USAF crew. It is also the place where Francis Crick and James Watson, who were working at the Cavendish Institue nearby, used to work on their ideas about the Double Helix of DNA, and in 1953 their discovery was announced to the world from here. Quite a nice pub for a drink, despite the prices!!

In WWII it was frequented by airmen from the local bases both Commonwealth and American. In the back room, now known as the RAF Room they used candles and lighters to write their Squadron numbers, names and messages on the ceiling and this has now become a place of pilgrimage in itself.In 1953 it was also where the scientists from the nearby Caavendish Labratories hung out. Consequently on 28th February 1953 it was where Francis Crick and James Watson announced their discovery of how DNA carries the genetic code in the double helix. 

The pub was accessed via the yard at the rear of the street frontage buildings. The balustraded gallery wing seen here was added around 1800. In 1988 the pub closed, and it took four years for it to reopen as it had been completely reorganised with an entrance now through the buildings on the road. There are several large rooms around three sides of the courtyard and is a very busy Greene King Pub with their usual food supply menu. On the beer front for me there were around four guest beers on top of  their usual supply

I tried a pint from the Mauldon Brewery. As you can see there has been a Mauldon Brewery since 1795 when it was set up by the Mauldon family in Sudbury at the Bull Hotel. By the early 1800's they had separated the brewery from the pub by building a purpose built one in Ballington Street, Sudbury. The continued being a local supplier and owned around 30 pubs until 1960 when bought by Greene King and eventually closed. In 1981 Peter Mauldon, the great great grandson decided to restart the name after a career with Watney's and the beer started flowing in 1982. By 2000 Peter wanted to retire and sold the business to Alison and Stephen Sims who continued the growth and in 2005 moved into the present industrial estate sited 30bls brewery. By last year, 2019, they were ready to move on and the business was purchased by local farmer and pub owner Charlie Buckle. The plan is to use the farms malting barley and hops at the brewery, and continue the traditional brewing methods and high quality products.

I had a pint of the Mole Trap, 3.8%. The beer had a nice amber hue but the head was thin. I suspect there was no sparkler on the pump at the time. This session ale had a nice sweet aroma but there was a balance of tastes across the tongue finishing with a nice bitter taste. I will certainly look out for beers from this brewery again.

Thursday 4 June 2020

Beers, Boats and Boozers, No.88.

From Ely we proceeded down the Great Ouse to Pope's Corner where we turned onto the River Cam to explore that tributary.

Your EA licence is not valid for beyond Bottisham Lock that you can see in the distance (unless you have paid the extra) as the waterway is administered by the Cam Conservancy. This brute of a weed cutter belongs to them though.

At Clayhithe is the HQ of the Cam Conservators who were established in 1709. These headquarters were built in 1832 that you can just make out on the gable end. It acted as the residence, offices, committee room, workshops and toll house. The modern workshops extended the old ones in 2016.

Baits Bite Lock was first established by a 1700's Act of parliament. This office and the thatched cottage just out of shot are leased out. Both locks are fully automatic.

On the outskirts of Cambridge is the Cheddar Lane pumping station that now house the Museum of Technology but when built in 1894 and was the height of integrated processes. Refuse was collected from the city that was burned in the boiler that drove the pump that pumped the sewage from the city to a 'fram' a couple of miles away. The fertiliser produced was used on fields to grow crops to feed the horses that towed the carts the collected the refuse from the city! Still in steam occasionally.

Outside Jesus Green Lido were huge queues. It happened to be the hottest day of the year 38/39 degrees so it was inevitable I would say. The pool is 100yds long but only 15 wide.

We willed with water by the lido and then, as you can not pass through Jesus Lock in the summer, we pushed over to the other side and moored up. It was so hot, we felt we had been in a tumble drier, we got our breath back and waited for it to cool down before going to explore.

We found The Pint Shop on the corner of Peas Hill that seemed to have plenty of beer for sale, so we went in for a bit of respite from the heat and the crowds. It is a trendy place with restaurant and rooms and two floors. It started life in 1807 when Edward Gillam leased the land from the Mayor Mortlock, who had bought up land around the old market that was here. Apparently the name Peas used to be spelled Pease and this seems to be a corruption of pisces as it was a fish market. Mind you it isn't really a hill either?! Gillam was an oil merchant and banker and had the house built as his residence. He opened up one of the rooms as  the Cambridge Bank that must have knocked the smile off his landlords face as he had a bank close by. Gillam died in 1815 and the house and all effects were auctioned off. Later it is said the E.M Forster lived here during his stay in Cambridge between 1897 and 1901. Latterly it was the administrative office for the Cambridge University Pension Fund. In 2013 it was bought and converted to this pub. The company also have a similar one in Birmingham. It turned out that most of the beers were craft beers with just three or four real ales. 
I tried a pint from Partizan Brewing. This was set up by Andy Smith from Leeds, who was lured to the brighter lights of London and got involved at Redemption Brewery. When Kernel Brewery were expanding he saw his chance and purchased their smaller equipment and set up his own business in South Bermondsey in London. That was in 2012 and they are still expanding. They are one of a few breweries that use wooden barrels for some of its beer too.

I tried their Porter that they say is styled on a traditional London porter. It was a very dark red, almost black and has a nice 'thick' drink. There were the rich tastes of coffee and chocolate but there were the caramel flavours of the malts coming through. I might well have had another other than at £5-40 for 2/3rds of a pint I nearly choked in it!