“It’s 2 o’clock in the morning and I have to make my way back home,
standing here in this old depot, waiting for my train to come on,
so come on train……”
(“Come On Train” – Don Thomas – Clip courtesy of “The 45s Club” via YouTube)
One of my all time favourite tunes, never mind just Northern Soul. From a former member of The Drifters, this is a dance floor classic, a Northern Soul floor filler that I never tire of hearing. It has that trick of many great tunes of just…building. Building momentum, building sound. That middle eight “Moving….down the track….got to get….my baby back….” Just bloody….moving. Has had this particular large fella shaking many a floor (never mind a “tail feather”) Used to great effect in 2009 in an ad for Visa cards. Have a listen. Feel that swelling sound, from the initial plaintive piano notes, the initial drum roll, the plucked strings to the blast of the trumpets….just bloody….soulful.
“The best-laid schemes o’ mice an’ men gang aft agley” So said Rabbie Burns in 1785 in his poem “To a Mouse, on Turning Her Up in Her Nest with the Plough” And how right he was!
This planned jaunt took several forms in the planning stages and was originally intended for the previous weekend. However, that excellent Sussex-based blogger Glenn Johnson had re-scheduled his illness blighted trip from earlier in the year. That was my priority, as much as I love the Allgates bus “crawl”. Then, the Allgates bus was cancelled until the next weekend. BONUS!!!
So, monitoring the Allgates Brewery Twitter account like a ravenous hawk, I awaited confirmation of the details……and waited….only to see a tweet in apology. Bus was fine, but no driver!!! Damn those fates! I NEEDED a day away from the stresses of planning The Independent Slaford (or even Salford!) Beer Festival………There was only one thing for it then….
DIY. On public transport.
Now then. Some of these pubs are damned slow to get to by bus. So the first leg of this journey started at Manchester Victoria (Arch-Nemesis – who else?) and Walkden (YT). The destination? Gathurst. First stop after Wigan Wallgate on the Southport line.
The first mis-judgement of the day? No raincoat. Fortunately, the (rather picturesque) walk along the Leeds-Liverpool canal was wet, both overhead and under foot! The area had just received its first significant rainfall for ages and was…a touch mucky!
Now then, having said that I needed a break from the planning of a certain beer festival, I get a call from a brewer (who shall remain unnamed, let’s call him…..Rob) with a beer proposition. he threw me a beery curve ball. But I was a) thirsty. b) thirsty and c)……. in short, I needed that first beer! And we were only half way to the destination!
The Crooke Hall Inn (Crooke Village, Wigan)
This really IS a delightfully located pub, situated in Crooke Village, a conservation area. With tables on the banks of the Leeds-Liverpool and a large marina just around the corner, it’s a beautiful spot. We’ve had quite a few Sunday dinners here with the kids and they love it so much they almost rip my hand off if I offer to drive over! (As long as Attila drives back……)
The A-N & I were (unsurprisingly) first in (we were there 10 mins early!) and shambled towards the bar….
Bad Seed Brewery – Waimea Pale Ale – 4.5% abv – Pale Ale (Love the pump clip!)
With an almost amber colour, this beer took no prisoners as a first beer of the day. It didn’t last too long either! Peach and passion fruit in both nose and mouth, this was an assertively bitter beastie and no mistake, with one hell of a dry finish! My first cask beer from this most excellent Malton based brewery and it most certainly didn’t disappoint!
The Crooke really is a lovely pub, with three distinctly separate rooms, great, reasonably priced food and that fabulous location…
Two decisions. Food? And next beer…. The Beer battered Fish for me with something from a new brewery to me….
Longman Brewery – American Pale Ale – 4.8% abv – Pale Ale
This pale golden beer was fruity but maltier than I expected. With blackcurrant and citrus on the nose and quite fruity with that big malty base, it stood up well to the astringent preceding Waimea and went superbly with the excellent Fish & Chips! Next up, with 5 ales on the pumps, I went for the other guest beer.
Magic Rock Brewing – Ringmaster – 3.9% abv – Pale Ale
I’d had one or two less than sparkling pints of this since it was rebadged from its Curious days. This, however, was right back on the mark! Light Pale gold, big and fruity with a lot of hop going on this was back to its Curious best. A cracking beer to finish with, standing up well to both of the preceding – higher abv – beers. A proper session pale ale.
Now, with a couple of leisurely hours spent at The Crooke, we were under the gun a bit, so a brisk muddy walk back to Gathurst and the rattler back to Wigan Wallgate to stop number 2 which was….
The Anvil (Dorning Street, Wigan – adj to Wigan Bus Stn)
What is effectively the Allgates brewery tap manages to have the feel of a multi-roomed pub, without having any doors. Light and bright, with three separate drinking areas, this is one popular and busy pub. I’ve been in on several occasions and never seen it quiet. Justly renowned for the quality of its beers, this pub is a multiple award winner and a CAMRA Good Beer Guide staple. A thriving pub. It was here that I got another pleasant surprise with the beer selection…..
Cheshire Brewhouse – John Barleycorn Green Hop Temptress – 4.0% abv – Pale Ale
This man makes good beer. Shane Swindells that is. I was chuffed to bits to get my hands on this especially when it went down my throat! It was pale gold, with a slight haze. A beautiful fresh fruity & refreshing pale ale with a little spice hit in the finish. Beautiful. (A welcome surprise!)
Longman Brewery – Copper Hop – 4.2% abv – Amber Ale
Another one from this Litlington brewery (in the South Downs National Park), seeing them all too infrequently, I had to have it, didn’t I?
Copper coloured beer, fruity on the old hooter, a nice fruity bitter beer with a toffee malt backbone. A beautifully balancing bitterness. A proper nice beer.
Being only two minutes walk from Wallgate train station, this pub is worth a trip to Wigan itself (will only get better, with the opening of Wigan Central – new Prospect bar run by Dan & Gina Buck – next month!)
Time to move on and test both my planning skills and the timeliness of Arriva Buses! The 575 to Aspull….and….
The Victoria (Haigh Rd, Aspull, Wigan)
To walk in and find that the landlord is a City fan just topped off this visit! A top chatty bloke too, as were the regulars at the bar. A two-roomed pub with (what appeared to be) a traditional “Lounge” & “Vault” layout, again in cracking good nick, this is a lovely boozer that I would be chuffed to have as my local. The beer happens to be cracking as well….
A cracking pint. That good, I had to have another! Pale Ale almost copper colour, with a really fruity peachy tropical aroma, Light toffee malt for balance, and beautifully bitter, loads of tropical fruit. A Brucie bonus this beer, was a new one on the Arch-Nemesis as well!
It made a change to see The Victoria in daylight, as it constitutes the last stop on the organised bus trip. Being less “refreshed”, I could appreciate this for the cracking local that it is. Another bonus was realising that it was reachable from Bolton on a single bus…the 575…that conveniently goes through the beery hot spot of Horwich! Needless to say…I’ll be back!
Back into the rain we went, without a raincoat, for the return to Wigan and the next leg, catching the 32 bus to Hindley (via a swift half in The Anvil (rude NOT to really. What with time to kill between buses!)
Leaving aside the walk from Gathurst to The Crooke, the walk from the bus stop was the longest we faced – about 7-8 mins – but to get to my favourite pub, was time (& effort) well spent. I simply adore this pub. There may be pubs in Manchester that I visit more frequently, but this stands head and shoulders above them. Why? Because it is, quite simply, a community local that also happens to have a cracking partnership (Nigel & Adele) running it and keeping great beer in cracking nick.
A two-roomer without having actual doors, the bar to the right upon entry with six pumps with the usual mix of Allgates’ own and excellent guests. Lovely real open fire in the other room. Unfortunately no Nigel or Adele today, but the same friendly welcome,
Time was passing. Only time for one and a half in here.
A pale cracker of a beer! Mango and grapefruit aromas leaping from the white head on that pale golden body, the fruity promise was delivered in the mouth. Bucket loads of citrus on top of a light pale biscuity body. A belter of a beer. I had another. Again, rude not to really!
This is the stage of the trek where the forward planning for the bus timetables paid dividends – YOU try interpreting TFGMs bus leaflet library after a “few” beers on a mobile phone!
The 33 bus was the selected chariot. Therefore, following an 8 minute walk and an uneventful 20 minute bus ride, we were in our fifth port of call….
Despite the signage, this is most certainly an Allgates pub. It would be a rare Thwaites pub to have such an adventurous guest beer policy! (Certainly outside of its Blackburn heartland)
Whilst technically a two-roomed pub (one of the rooms wrapping around the bar) this has five distinct drinking areas, A Vault style area to the left of the entrance, two areas to the rear of the pub which link the main room to the Vault and an elevated area in the main room which is used mainly for eating (this pub also does excellent value grub). pub looks way better inside!
We may have had some more grub at this stage….memory fails me!
Golden. Tropical, almost peachy nose, fruity as hell in a smooth full bodied mouthful, loads of mango and none too bitter in the finish. With the taste buds starting to flag a bit, this was a bloody lovely refreshing livener.
Technically, The Union is my closest Allgates pub. I really should go more often.
The next leg of the journey was made slightly more complex by our missing the designated bus (582) and having to go on a two bus journey with the 33 to Astley then the 26 to Leigh. Needless to say, by the time we got there, I had started to wilt – just a little!
(Obviously, an archive shot!)
One of two Allgates pubs to be a CAMRA Branch Pub of the Year in 2014 (the other being The Crooke). This three roomed pub is another belter. The bar and busy main room is to the right on entry with two rooms to the left with the quieter being to the rear close to the Gents. Allgates have had this since 2011 and, with its beer selection, it is justifiably popular.
The problem here was nothing to do with the pub. It was me. Good grief was I flagging. I had a nice pint of something dark. But made no note so have no idea what it was! What kind of blogger am I, eh?
Reachable from Manchester by X34 & 26 buses (Leigh, tragically, has no train station – the largest town in England without one apparently!) and the 582 from Bolton – passing both The Union and the other Allgates pub The Jolly Nailor – the prices of the beer (as well as the selection) reward the intrepid traveller!
One more point. The buses. With only one exception (the last leg in Astley where the bus was SERIOUSLY late), the buses were all on time. We’d never have got to The White Lion otherwise!
Ah. Those prices….Just consider the beers we drank. Then think of all those beers being at around the £2.40 mark. That’s right, £2.40! No CAMRA or membership discount scheme. Just straight prices! You’d get a HALF in some Manchester pubs at that price!!!
I’m assured by young David Mayhall (Co-Owner of Allgates) that the bus will be back on the menu at Easter. All I will say is, you’d be daft to miss it! A £4 odd train ticket return to Wigan is a small price to pay for what is, in (not just) MY humble opinion, a grand beery day out! (You’d save that amount after 3 pints!!!)
Go on. Where’s your sense of adventure? Treat your taste buds and feast your eyes on some cracking pubs!
On that note…’til next time…