Sunday, June 27, 2010

The Windmill Hotel Parbold

Today we went to the Windmill Hotel in Parbold for lunch. Sadly I was without the official beer taster so no beer reviews today. But I can say that the food was very good and reasonably priced too. My gammon was lovely, but the burgers looked pretty good too. Its just a shame we had to eat it in the back yard (our fault for bringing a spaniel with us). From what I saw of the inside it is lovely and I hope to go back soon and try some of the beers they had on tap. 

Saturday, June 26, 2010

6 Pubs One Canal One Day

Today along with's official (and unpaid) beer reviewer, Kate, I visited 6 pubs on the western end of the Leeds & Liverpool Canal. 

The first stop was the New Running Horses in Lydiate. The Running Horses had been a bit run down in recent years but not any more. The pub has had a major refurbishment inside and out. It has even changed colour, no longer white it is now what my Humbrol paints might have called Light Buff. Inside was very nice but as we turned up on a Friday lunchtime minutes after opening it was empty.  The choice of beer wasnt too good, but the Bombardier was good and the prices were average. Rather than sit in an empty (but nicely decorated) pub we sat outside. There is plenty of outdoor seating and this pub should be a popular spot this summer. The menu had the usual pub food on it and was reasonably priced. There is a noticeable absence  of any horses running or stationary. 

Next pub was the Scarisbrick Arms, also recently refurbished. The Scarisbrick Arms is a big building with high ceilings. This may explain the very tall menus. The pub feels more like a restaurant but a restaurant in a big late Victorian house. There was something odd, maybe it was the so very tall menus...
The food looked good though and we were mesmerized by the slowly rotating strawberries in the display cabinet. The beer selection was good, the White Witch went down well. We went outside with our drinks and wandered round to the back of the pub and the lawn by the canal. They haven't yet made the most of this side of the pub. But there were some swings which Kate tried and there was a trampoline which I did not try. 
There are a few boats moored there these days. One in particular caught me eye, not sure about the covers but it had a 50's or 60's style about it. We finished our pints and left the hideous French Chef statue with the empties. 

A boat at the back of the Scarisbrick Arms

Just a short drive down the road and we were at the Ship Inn, Haskayne. I have been to the Ship quite a few times before so I pretty much knew what to expect. I had a pint of '1966', explaining to Kate why we English remember that year so fondly and persistently. The Ship has a fair selection of real ale that changes frequently. We did eat there, 2 meals for £12. I thought the fish and chips was okay, I have had better to be honest and for less. There were lots of ducks on the lawns by the picnic tables where we ate. Inside there were no ducks but some canal themed art on the walls and it was the first pub that felt like a pub. 

We walked under the bridge, down the towpath, through Halsall Cutting to reach the Saracens Head our next pub. The Saracens Head is another pub that is more of a restaurant these days. Its a very smart one too and the last time I ate there it was very nice. Today was too warm to be inside though so we took the Spitfire outside to sit next to the canal. This pub has the best canal side seating, even the gents toilet has a canal view. The beer wasn't so great but they do work hard on the quality of service. 

We walked back to the Ship Inn pausing to photograph two local gentlemen by the bridge. Seldom have I seen two happier men on the towpath. 

locals at Haskayne enjoying Lancashire's version of continental style outdoor drinking

Under the bridge and through the little gate, we went back to the car. We drove the 15 minutes or so up to the Ship or Blood Tub at Lathom. The Blood Tub has had a turbulent time in recent years. It was part of the Cains company's disastrous expansion of its pub ownership. But the pub itself hasn't changed much over the years, it has survived. There is a good choice of beers at the bar and if we are being charitable we were given plenty of time to choose what we wanted. The prices were good when we were served. 
Again it was too nice to sit inside so we went out and walked up to the second lock on the Rufford Branch with our drinks. There was a boat going down the locks on their way to the boatyard at the river lock. They had been to Chester,Manchester and up the Ship Canal. There was another boat going up the locks. Hating to sit idly by I gave a hand with the gates, eyeing enviously the windlasses and gate paddles when operated by the boat crews. We finished our drinks and wandered up to the bridge and graving dock by the boatmens cottages. Time for heading back home. 

On the way back to Liverpool we stopped off at the Heatons Bridge Inn for one last drink. This is a pub from my childhood. Though obviously back then, in those rose tinted halcyon days children weren't allowed in pubs and had to sit outside with their mothers and some KP nuts and a lemonade.  The pub makes the most of its front with its hanging baskets but cant avoid the busy road. It also manages to hide the canal from its picnic benches with trees and fences. the pub is cheap and cheerful but the Tetleys wont be fondly remembered.  

We walked down to the canal and along the row of moored boats where I once played. I have seen kingfishers here before but not today. The kingfisher is associated with the mythical Greek Alcyone. And so another halcyon day came to a close. 

Give your opinion of the pubs on the Leeds Liverpool Canal at  

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Canal Bike Ride: Liverpool to Aintree and back, 20 miles

It took me until the Thursday of my week off to actually get my bike out and get myself down to the canal here in Liverpool. By the time I had got to the canal at Eldonian Village the sun was out and it was nice and warm. The towpath at Eldonian was quiet, just a few dog walkers and some lads fishing.  The surface itself is good, loose gravel, a bit crunchy but good enough. It wasnt long before I caught up with some boats that were leaving Liverpool. Workers on their tea break were sat in the sunshine and watched the boats go by. I quickly left them behind and headed off towards Bootle. Just outside Bootle a pitbull dog had an unexpected bath in the canal, not the last dog to do that today. 

In Bootle I stopped to take a photo that I hope will be the same as one of my postcards from the early 1900s. 

The locals were sat drinking their cans of Tennents and Excalibur and having a laugh. From the 3 mile point the towpath is at its best. Its like flapjack, very smooth and, apart from the wind being against me, it meant I could increase my speed a bit. I should say I am not the fastest cyclist and I get slower on the return trip but I did manage to go what passes for fast for me. 

Leaving Litherland behind the canal is very quiet, lined with trees on one side and a tall hedge on the other. The canal itself is covered in lillies. Coots were arguing and feeding their young. The juvenile coots on the towpath look like something from Jurassic Park. Little dinosaurs running to the water. 

the new Bridge 2G

Up to Aintree, still not many people around, a few parents out with their kids, dog walkers and a couple of people sitting with their cider. 
I went as far as Hancocks Swing Bridge, this is the first bridge of the assisted passage for boats into Liverpool. There were 3 or 4 boats waiting for their turn to sail to the Pool of Life. 
I turned around at the spot where the 10 mile milepost should be. I tried my camera out on its new handlebar fitting. It works well but my camera needs more memory if I am going to be doing a lot of videoing. Its a shame my camera wasnt on when a cocker spaniel was prancing about on the towpath and pranced too close to the edge and went in for a quick bath. 

The wind was against me on the way back, which was annoying because it was against me on the way out too. I plodded my way back, passed the fishing men and the winos who had moved down to the towpath to roll their cigarette. 
The first 10 miles of towpath are very good for cycling, the only hassle are the anti motorbike barriers.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Towpath Trekking in Cambridge

This weekend was spent in Cambridge. The first time I have been there and I enjoyed it a lot. There are some interesting boats on the river, some nice wooden cruisers, but not as many really expensive boats as I would have expected. Plenty of floating liveaboard sheds. Punting on the Cam is jolly fun they say, and it is still popular even in the rain. I was a bit unlucky with the weather and camera batteries but walking along the river was very enjoyable. The pubs and people were very nice too (although some of the people were very strange). 

Saturday, June 05, 2010

Old Canal Photographs

Bank Hall Colliery

Burnley Depot

Unloading coal at Whitebirk Power Station

the Lancaster Canal

more old photographs of the Leeds & Liverpool Canal and the Lancaster Canal can be seen here: