Saturday, 24 September 2011

The Black Bull, Pope Lane, Penwortham

Foraging a hoppy trail of discovery across the country’s finest pubs, Camra those discerning connoisseurs of all things ale, search far and wide for perfection in a pint glass.
Taste, body, texture, temperature, these hawk-eyed experts can analyse it all in a gulp.
And, in scenes reminiscent of film Gladiator when deposed General Maximus Decimus Meridius, (Russell Crowe), stands in the Coliseum waiting to learn his fate at the raising or lowering of his thumb, their rulings are the final word in pubs and beer.
If you were to somehow swap Crowe for a plucky landlord trying to make sure his beer his kept ‘chiller cool’ and Emperor Commodus (Joaquin Phoenix) with a chap holding a clip board and possibly sporting a beard, you will get the idea.
So, where marauding force leads, I follow at a safe distance like a peasant feeding off their scraps.
One of the new entries into Camra’s Good Beer Guide empire is The Black Bull, tucked away in a corner of Penwortham.
Having never been before, I was struck by its appearance, which resembles a rural pub in a quaint country village, as opposed to its actual home, plonked among hundreds of houses and a row of shops. 
Then on the inside, I was a little surprised again, that with a swathe of green paint across all the walls from waist height downwards, the interior did not quite match the impression I formed moments earlier.
After a scoot around the pub my friends and I found one of the few remaining unoccupied tables and I settled down for a pint of Moorhouse’s Blond Witch, chosen to toast the sun having emerged for the first time that day.
The pub was comfortably busy when we arrived early last Saturday evening and a steady stream flowed through the door and straight to the bar throughout the evening.
With friendly staff, a good atmosphere and crucially for the Camra battle chiefs, up to  four well-kept real ales, The Black Bull has based its success on the real values a pub should hold, without resorting to fancy revamps or new-look images.
A valued and honourable foot soldier for the Camra battalions indeed.

Friday, 16 September 2011

Sun Inn, Windy Street, Chipping

I recently went for a cycle ride into the Ribble Valley, but as soon as I hit Chipping,  and the Sun Inn, I knew my ride could well be over after just a few measly miles.
I stood outside gazing as families, friends and locals ambled in for a pint and a spot of Sunday dinner, realising their afternoon’s plans were infinitely more appealing than mine.
I would like to say it was willpower alone which kept me away, but in reality I realised there probably would not be many buses to get me home again on a Sunday.
So, with a vow to return, I ploughed on into the countryside where I soon faced the same dilemma at the next village pub.
Ignoring the fact they ruin a good Sunday cycle ride, it is great there are still so many appealing country pubs close to Preston and their survival depends on cyclists and walkers stopping off for a drink or ending their outing with a meal.
But the Sun Inn has an ace up its sleeve which no other pub can boast –a ghost called Lizzie Dean!
Legend has that in the 19th century Lizzie, who was a scullery maid was tricked into bed by a young rogue on the promise of marriage.
With the deed done, he then married her best friend which prompted Lizzie to hang herself in the attic of the pub.
She is said to have left a suicide note requesting she be buried at the front of the church so her lover and best friend must walk past every time they go to church.
Lizzie’s ‘presence’ at the pub has attracted ghost hunters and groups from far and wide, generating lots of welcome publicity in the pub.
They have even gone as far as naming a dining room after her, making a virtue of her, well loss of virtue.
For those not taken with ghosts there are traditional pub games, books to borrow and lots of real ale and hearty looking meals, there is plenty to recommend the Sun Inn.
On the Sunday afternoon we visited, it was so busy there were no seats left and we found ourselves in the yard at the back.
But with a nice pint of Black Sheep and no bicycle to drag me away, I was set for the afternoon.

*Congratulations to all the pubs which have been named in the CAMRA Good Beer Guide, including the Running Pump in Catforth.
The Saddle Inn, in Sidgreaves Lane, Lea, Preston, has also been named the UK’s Best Family Pub, in the Great British Pub Awards – a fantastic achievement.

Monday, 12 September 2011

Jumping in a lake - a sobering experience

Regular visitors to this blog will be well aware I like pubs and I invest a lot of my spare time in pursuit of the finest examples.
While a top sportsman like Wayne Rooney would consider himself ‘in the zone’ as he lets fly an unstoppable shot, my equivalent would be nestled next to an open fire with a good pint of Black Sheep.
So it will come as no surprise to hear that doggy paddling across a freezing lake in Scotland, or hauling my carcass around a running course, are not activities which naturally agree with me.
But on Saturday September 24 I am travelling up to Scotland to take part in the Great Scottish Swim, a 2km outdoor swim in the icy cold Strathclyde Lock.
I will then be jumping into a car and travelling back down to Preston to take part in the Preston 10k run the following morning.
The third leg of my challenge will be to remain standing for long enough after the run to make it to the nearest pub!
So far my training has resulted in a sprained ankle, which as I write is strapped up with frozen peas – all has gone to plan so far!
I am doing these events in memory of my dad Brian, who died of pancreatic cancer five years ago, at the age of 56.
While many cancers have seen brilliant progress in diagnosis and survival rates, pancreatic cancer which has the lowest survival rate of any cancer, has seen no such improvements.
I am raising cash for the Pancreatic Cancer Research Fund and if anyone would like to donate at it would be very much appreciated.
If anyone would like to know more about pancreatic cancer and the research which is being conducted into it can visit

Many thanks Ben