Despite the slight excess (I stress slight as it was in my terms) of the previous day I was up early as I had to vacate my room because this was to be the last day of my trip and I had an evening train booked back to London. I asked the young lady in the bar if it would be possible to leave my kit there rather than lug it around and she very kindly agreed to stow it for me. I should mention at this point whilst researching for this small series of blogs that I read, admittedly on the rather good Calderdale Tourist website in the interest of fair reporting, that people round here are very friendly and I cannot find any fault with that statement.
I mentioned that I rarely take breakfast and that is true except when I am back in Northern Ireland and eat an Ulster Fry literally every day but usually about 1400 so I suppose it is properly brunch! These fries are monumental things and would give a heart doctor the twitches due to the level of choresterol involved and although it is not strictly relevant to this I am going to post am image here of the type of things involved and perhaps the reason why I don’t eat breakfast too often!
However, I headed back to the Percy Shaw which features in previous entries to partake of something that I really love i.e. poached eggs in all their myriad forms. Admittedly, it was about 1030 by the time I got round to eating so I was about ready for it. I do like Eggs Benedict but my absolute favourite is Eggs Royale and Wetherspoons do a very good version. It came with the eggs poached just how I like them and offered with a very pleasant Hollandaise sauce not to mention the undoubtedly farmed salmon, tasty as it was. At less than £5 (2015 price) it was good value as is all the food here. Another breakfast favourite is the pancakes with bacon and maple syrup described in a previous entry (two back in Todmorden) and which again was a steal at less than £3 (2015 price) although it is not much more now.
I cannot give actual prices as I edit this in December 2018 as Wetherspoons do not have a national pricing policy and prices vary according to location. I suppose it is to do with overheads. I know their airport outlets are stupidly expensive for a “no-frills” chain. However, enough of this, you are probably here (all 20 of my “followers” (whatever that means in computer speak) at the last count and thank you again) for a following a meagre travelogue so here is the one for this day, sparse as it is but I like to wrap a project up.
I had no plans for the day as the only other building I really wanted to see was the Piece Hall but it was right in the middle of a three year, £19 million refurbishment so that was not an option. I went for yet another fairly aimless wander about doing not much of anything. I had a couple more pints, including a farewell drink in the Old Post Office which I was genuinely sad to leave, walked to the station and caught my train back to London, all without incident. I got home about midnight, crawled into my pit a fairly tired but happy man.
Time at home then for a bit of reflection, not that night obviously but later. What had I learned?
There is still a stereotype within my country that Yorkshiremen are dour, tight-fisted and not accepting of “foreigners” i.e. anyone from the next county never mind country. The stereotype does not appear to have migrated to the fairer sex yet although presumably some equality warrior with nothing better to do shall soon take the matter to Court insisting she should be stereotyped like her brother.
Obviously I have met Yorkshiremen before I went there this time as a 55 year old man. I served with them in the Forces and literally put my life in their hands, and they in mine at which point stereotyping goes out the window a bit, don’t you think?
As I hope my blogs here have shown I was met with nothing but friendliness, civility, good humour and numerous small acts of kindness for which I thank each and every one of the anonymous people who were responsible for them. Even after 30 years living in London I still have a very strong Northern Ireland accent and so was very obviously an outsider and yet I felt very much at home there.
How then to summarise the whole adventure, for such it was. I had visited many places I had never been, had a superb time with dear friends doing something that may well be my favourite leisure activity, met some fascinating people and learned so much along the way as I tend to do when I travel.
I would love to go back to West Yorkshire and undoubtedly will in the fullness of time although I think I would base myself somewhere different. Don’t get me wrong, I loved Halifax but I would merely like to go somewhere else to see some other places. As I write this I am formulating a plan to walk the disused arm of the Halifax canal down to Salterhebble, then walk the Rochdale all the way round. It is only about 17 miles or so and a couple of days will do that, at least it will if I can manage to keep out of all the excellent pubs I told you about! After that the Rochdale joins onto another group of different waterways in what I believe is called the South Pennine Ring so matters can be extended as far as required.
I do hope that my meagre writings here have given you a sense of what I saw and did and how much I enjoyed myself and I trust they were in some way informative. Much as I loved my former websites, I really am getting to like this idea of having my own which I know is not going to be taken away from me unless kaufer has his goons eradicate it so if this site disappears you will know what has happened.
My main problem is that there is so much to do and I do not know what to tackle next. Even with some of it already written it has taken me literally weeks just to cover seven days here. I have three extended trips to Canada to cover, three to Sri Lanka, a month in Malta, three long distance footpaths around London, the list just goes on and on. Northern Ireland anyone? Scotland? Madeira?
I’ll tell you what, we shall make it easy on both of us. You shout out a country and I’ll tell you if I have been there and then write about it. How does that sound? I have not decided what I will do next but I’ll let you know and until then stay tuned and spread the word.
That is why I spend basically all my waking hours on here, I want to get people to travel. Is that such a bad thing? I know all about finance and holiday allowances and family / partner pressure but forget that, it is just snowflakes by the fire.
All I want people to know is that this site is honest. If they do, then I am happy. I had not expected this potentially “last chance saloon” especially as I refuse to use social media. I do thank you for being kind to an old technophobe.
I woke relatively early on the 9th after great night’s sleep and headed out for my last full day in West Yorkshire. I had decided that I had not really explored much of Halifax yet and I even had a vague plan if I could ever be said to have a plan but today I wanted to visit the local military museum and an art gallery. Yes, Fergy was going to actually get bit of culture for a change odd as that may sound. Aimless wandering is normally the order of the day but at least I had a vague notion of which direction to head on this not overly warm day although at least it was not raining.
But I don’t like art galleries!
Halifax has many old mills and associated buildings albeit that the textile industry has long since left town. Some of these buildings now stand disused and rather forlorn whilst others have been converted to residential, commercial or social use (museums, galleries and the like). I had seen literature advertising the Dean Clough complex and the art gallery there and decided to visit even though I am not generally overly interested in art. Truth be told, I was rather more looking forward to seeing the restored industrial architecture which I do like looking at.
Following the signs I walked up Dean Clough (which is the name of the road as well as the complex) and caught sight of a magnificently restored series of mill buildings which, like the Taj Mahal, didn’t seem too large at first but appeared to grow ever larger the closer you got. I know this is technically true of any
structure but that was the thought that came to my mind. I hope the image here does it credit although it is only of a small portion of the whole as it would take an aerial shot to get it all in.
Approaching the reception area I saw signs indicating a number of businesses were in the main building although the art gallery was also signed. I merely thought it was a multi-purpose building which isn’t so strange and went in. I noted the rather well-stocked gift shop adjacent and made a mental note to have a browse there on the way out. Looking beyond the gift shop I saw a fairly large gallery but it was regrettably empty as it was being set up for a forthcoming exhibition. No problem, that can happen anywhere so I thought I would just go and look at the other galleries and this is where it started to get strange.
If I was expecting the gallery on one or two floors and the commercial premises on others I was quickly to be disabused of that notion as the two functions are completely intertwined. There were certainly some formal galleries but the vast majority of the exhibits were displayed on the walls of what was obviously a functioning office block. Between the doors of ABC chartered accountants and XYZ marine insurers there would be a display of artworks. It felt quite odd at first but the few people I did meet who were obviously working there were all very friendly and I soon got used to the concept. I was slightly wary of accidentally wandering into some high-powered business meeting but it is all very well organised with signs on various doors politely requesting gallery visitors not to proceed any further.
Another slight problem is that the place is a complete rabbit warren and I was quickly completely disorientated. I have no doubt that I missed plenty of exhibits but I did enjoy those that I saw. I suppose there is a map available at reception but I had not thought to ask for one. The upshot of this complete loss of direction was that I eventually exited the building (after a few detours) by a door at entirely the other end to that which I had entered and so missed the gift shop but it was a fascinating journey on the way.
At one point I was quite convinced I had taken a wrong turn and inadvertently entered a storage area as there were dozens of canvasses literally everywhere propped up against the walls in addition to the ones displayed. I wandered on to the end of the corridor where a sign declaring Doug Binder Studio explained everything as I had previously discovered that Mr. Binder was the artist in residence there. I glimpsed through a window to see him hard at work on a fairly large canvas and adding to his obviously prodigious output. On the door was the most wonderful sign which said, “Welcome, painter at work, please disturb, just knock and come in” which genuinely raised a smile. I didn’t have the nerve to go in as I would have made a complete fool of myself in any conversation about art and so I crept away as quietly as I could. Whilst researching this piece I have found out that he is a very important British artist sometimes referred to as Britain’s master of colour and I slightly regret my reticence now as it would have been great to meet him especially as I did like his work.
In the way of these things I got to thinking how wonderful the concept was of having an artist in residence as I have heard of the concept before as well as poet in residence, musician in residence and what have you. My mind took off on one of it’s frequent tangents and I wondered what sort of “in residence” I could possibly be. I can’t draw two straight lines, I am not much of a poet and merely an average pub musician and so I thought I might be a travel writer in residence until I though it through and dismissed the concept as a total oxymoron. Back to the gallery!
After my ludicrous travel writer in residence reverie I came to an absolutely superb photographic exhibition of monochrome prints of various local scenes, predominantly moorland and upland and presented by a photographer whose name I can lamentably not remember now. Photography is probably my favourite artistic medium and these were superb as I think that monochrome is often far more evocative than colour. The fact that the subject matter was local is echoed throughout the entire gallery with many of the artists featured being local or having some connection to the area and I do like that as I think it lent them a relevance. For me it is much the same argument as the food miles issue and I would much rather eat produce from 10 miles down the road than the far side of the world. Perhaps I am just overthinking the whole artistic process here, it is merely a personal view.
The absolute pinnacle for me, though, was something that some may not describe as art at all but merely adults playing with children’s toys, in this case Lego building bricks and a considerable number of them to boot. Again echoing the theme of local subject matter it is a 1:40 scale model in Lego of the very building in which it stands. The reason it is this scale is that the smallest appropriate windows Lego make are a certain size and everything else has to be in proportion. It is the work of Michael LeCount and Tony Priestman and was still a work in progress although it is utterly jaw-dropping as it currently stands (apparently pretty near completion). It will eventually be 35 feet long and with a 12 feet high chimney and with only a minimal amount of glue used in the construction. Whether art or not it is a simply gargantuan project and hugely impressive. My only concern is how they are ever going to get it out of the pretty small door to the display room as and when they may want to move it. Apart from the many other excellent exhibitions it is worth visiting the Gallery just for this in my opinion. I shall let the images speak for themselves.
I stated earlier on that I am not overly keen on art galleries and would generally sooner spend time in a museum but for the various reasons outlined above I really did enjoy my time here and I do recommend it.
Leaving the gallery it was onward and every upward in the direction I knew the Museum was. They do like a bit of a hill in these parts which I suppose is understandable since the town is built on a river valley. I paused briefly to take the image above as it is so typical of the old “back to back” housing common in this area. I swear I could almost hear the brass band playing in my head.
A little magic in an unlikely place.
The stiff walk up the rather steep Haley Hill on a pleasant autumnal day had not only invigorated me but also worked up a bit of a thirst. My late and much-missed Mother once remarked, and not without reason, that I was born thirsty and regular readers will understand that I do like to spend time in pubs which also form a large proportion of my blog material. I saw the sign for the Museum and the Flying Dutchman pub simultaneously. Ah, decisions, decisions. Undoubtedly the reader is ahead of me now and my thirst for a pint outweighed my thirst for historical military knowledge although it was a close-run thing.
The pub looked tidy and well-maintained from the outside and a step through the door confirmed the interior to be the same. I glanced to the left to see two gents having a game of pool on what looked like a decent table, nodded a greeting and entered the main bar where a young lady was sitting at a table doing some paperwork and with an evidently aged dog at her feet. She greeted me in a very friendly manner and headed behind the bar to enquire what I wanted. A pint of cider was called for and was poured quickly with a quick mouthful proving it to be well-kept. I should mention that the price was very reasonable although this may just be because I am used to London prices which are ruinous. How they compare locally I am not quite sure.
Apart from the dramatis personae already mentioned (if a dog constitutes part of personae, I am not sure) I was alone in the place and so turned my attention to a look round and then divided my attention between the sport being shown on the large screen TV and the new book I had just acquired and which I was fairly well devouring. The pub was spotless if unremarkable in terms of decor but I immediately felt at home there. A few posters alluded to family themed events and it was very obvious that this was a local’s pub as realistically I don’t suppose they get much passing trade in what is effectively the suburb of Boothtown. Eventually the dog wandered over (albeit somewhat slowly) for a fuss and then seemed to take up residence beside me. That was grand, I like dogs even if I cannot have one of my own.
After a while my nicotine levels were approaching the critical (yes, I know smoking is bad for me and no, I do not recommend it to anyone who has not started) and I enquired of the young lady if there was a smoking area out the back or if I had to stand in the street like a naughty schoolboy. She indicated a back door just past the (again spotlessly clean) gents toilets and I went out to find myself in a fairly sizeable and well-presented beer garden. The two pool playing gents were already seated with one of them apparently a smoker and his mate a non-smoker who was just keeping him company. I enquired if I could join them and was cordially invited so to do.
This is where the magic started. No, they didn’t start doing card tricks or pulling rabbits from hats but after the initial civilities we got to talking. It transpired that both men were retired from the textile manufacturing trade which was once the lifeblood of Halifax and much of this area. They were reminiscing about people they had worked with, things that had happened in various mills and so on and it was, frankly, fascinating. They patiently explained my probably idiotic questions about the whole process of commercial weaving and I would readily have paid money to attend a lecture like this at a Museum or whatever as it was completely fascinating.
It transpired that one of the guys had been all over the world plying his trade when it had collapsed locally and, amongst the many more exotic places he had been (China springs to mind) he informed me that he had also worked in my home country of Northern Ireland which led to some further conversation. Very quickly my excellent book was forgotten and I was being immersed in a living history lesson.
I mention living history for a reason because I love it. Certainly museums are of great value in their place and especially from periods where no-one now survives but for more recent history it is so wonderful to hear it first hand from people who were actually there. As all this was going on I could not stop comparing the experience to one I had had the previous year in Canada when I had gone to the wonderful Mining Museum in Glace Bay and been shown round a fairly recently decommissioned undersea coalmine by a lovely guy called Wishie Donovan who had actually worked there for many years. This was similar although different insofar as it was not being presented in a formal way, it was just two old guys talking about days, industry and, sadly, people all now long gone. I was mesmerised.
This is the magic of which I speak, the magic of meeting different people and interacting and learning from them. I do not wish this to sound like some sort of evangelical rant on what is effectively a blog entry about an out of the way pub but travellers will hopefully understand what I mean. I eventually and somewhat regretfully left my new-found friends, went back inside and finished the remains of my pint, bid a fond au revoir to both barmaid and dog and headed off to the museum before it closed.
I think it is a mark of the Flying Dutchman that it does not even appear to have a website which is almost unheard of in the UK nowadays for a pub. It apparently has a presence on the appalling facebook but there is absolutely nothing on it and I suppose this exemplifies how this wonderful pub works. Generally, if you need to know where it is, you will know as you will live within a mile of it. Otherwise I hope I have, in some very small way, managed to alert people to the presence of this very welcoming establishment and can do no more than to recommend it highly.
All hail the Duke of Boots.
After a slightly longer interlude than I had intended in the nearby Flying Dutchman pub I eventually made my way to the Bankfield Musem which was situated up a curving roadway and appeared on first sight to have been some grand old house. This impression was to be confirmed whilst researching this piece as it transpires that the building was the home of local mill owner, philanthropist and MP Colonel Edward Akroyd for whom the park surrounding the museum is named.
Interestingly, it has been a museum for over 100 years having been opened in 1887. On entering I had noticed a sign stating that the place closed at 1600 that day which somewhat surprised me as I thought that industry standard for museums in the UK was 1700 if not later. Full details of opening times are provided later but I knew this was going to be a bit of a rush! A walk up a very grand staircase led me to the foyer of the museum.
Whilst I am certainly interested in the history of Halifax and the surrounding area of Calderdale my predominant interest was as stated and I asked the very helpful young man where the Museum of the Duke of Wellington’s Regiment may be found as that is what I had come for. He directed me and I found it easily. If you were to imagine everything you associate with the Duke of Wellington, it was all there in the first room, the bicorn hat, frock coat and, of course, the eponymous riding boots. There was a huge amount of other artefacts as well (including the pot his cook allegedly made his porridge in on the morning of the Battle of Waterloo) but those mentioned are the ones that immediately caught my eye.
When I had had my fill of Wellingtonalia (I just made that word up) I carried on and the museum then leads you through the entire history of the Regiment from being raised in 1702 through it’s many campaigns and right up to the present day where, due to defence cuts, it has now been amalgamated several times and now forms part of the Yorkshire Regiment along with the Prince of Wales Own and the Green Howards. The campaigns where the Regiment distinguished itself include the American Revolution, Flanders, India, Waterloo and the Crimea as well as both World Wars and Korea more recently.
As I mentioned, time was rather against me and I didn’t get a chance to see the rest of the museum although I certainly intend to return if I am back in Halifax. Should the reader wish to visit, here are the logistics.
The Museum is closed Sunday and Monday (except Bank Holiday Mondays) and open Tuesday – Saturday 1000 – 1600. Due to the nature of the building there is wheelchair access to the ground floor only and there are handling boxes for visually impaired visitors available. Refreshment is provided by means of a coffee machine Last admission is 30 minutes before closing and admission is free although donations are obviously very welcome.
It is pronounced how?
Well, that was my two objectives for the day achieved so what do do next. Obviously it was pub time and I was tempted to head back to the Flying Dutchman but I decided on another plan and so I found myself in the charming little village of Mytholmroyd by utilising my very handy bus rover pass which allowed me to jump on and off local buses at will.
There isn’t really a lot of the village so it does not mean much to say I alighted near the middle of it but I did. Fortuitously the bus stop was very close to the Dusty Miller pub / Coiners restaurant which is all the one premises and also incorporates accommodation from single rooms all the way up to a family room for five. Well, a half hour bus ride had made me thirsty and so I sallied in for a pint.
Another pleasant surprise.
My initial impression was that it was one of those old-fashioned country pubs that had been refurbished relatively recently and this was confirmed to me later on. Sometimes this can lead to a loss of the original character of the place but I have to say that it was very sympathetically done here. I had seen the notices for the restaurant and this coupled with the quite sumptuous appearance gave me a moment of disquiet as I was looking my usual fairly unkempt self and certainly not dressed up for a night on the town. No problem at all as a very pleasant lady greeted me with typical Yorkshire hospitality and promptly served up a pint of well-kept cider.
Being a midweek early evening in September the place was fairly quiet with the other clients being a couple of guys at the bar and a couple sitting at one of the tables. This did look a bit sparse as it really is a fairly large establishment. In the way of these things a conversation was soon struck up at the bar and the chaps there proved to be very sociable. Ordinarily, I would just go for a look round a new premises (as much for purposes of writing reviews like this as out of natural curiosity) but for some reason I asked the barmaid if it would be OK to do so and she encouraged me to check out whatever I wanted. I needed no further encouragement.
First port of call was the fairly sizeable Coiners restaurant where I checked out the menu which seems to be what I would call modern British and where they have separate offerings for midweek lunch, Saturday Lunch, Saturday evening etc. The Sunday carvery (served from midday) looked particularly good value. They make a point of locally sourcing as much of their produce as they can which is always a big plus with me.
A framed print on the wall explained the name of the restaurant which, I must confess, had been puzzling me slightly. Mytholmroyd, or more specifically Cragg Vale which is an area within the village, was home in the late 18th century to a criminal gang called the Cragg Coiners or Cragg Vale Coiners. If the term coiners means nothing to you, allow me to explain.
At the time mentioned, a number of local men took to the crime of coining (a practice long pre-dating this story) whereby genuine gold coins were obtained from local publicans and “shaved” of a very small proportion of the gold before the edges were re-milled. The gold so harvested was kept, smelted and then made into new coins before being passed back into circulation by the self-same publicans. It was said that so industrious were their activities that they threatened to destabilise or even destroy the currency of the nation and therefore an Excise man called William Dighton was appointed to bring them to justice.
The leader of this gang was a man known as “King David” Hartley who ended up being hanged publicly at York in 1770 having been arrested by Dighton. Hartley’s brother Isaac put a bounty on Dighton’s head and the murder was supposedly planned in this very pub. The sum for the “hit” was set at £100 which was truly a King’s Ransom in those days. It was very interesting to think I was sitting in the very bar where all this had taken place. Isaac was never tried due to lack of evidence and lived to the then extremely old age of 78 in this village, dying in 1815 and being buried in the plot next to his hanged brother. If the reader is interested, there is a very good article here. It is well worth a read.
Having finished my wander round the place I returned to the bar, had another pint and took myself off in search of other things to see and pints to drink. Again, as had happened the day before in nearby Hebden Bridge in the Old Gate pub, I had misjudged the place totally on first appearance. I was thinking that it would be too posh for me (I do not do posh at all) and yet again I had had my misconceptions firmly kicked into touch. Certainly the Dusty Miller is upmarket and plush enough to satisfy the most discerning pubgoer whilst still retaining the ability to make a somewhat windswept and interesting character like myself feel entirely comfortable.
Lest we forget.
I thought I would wander a bit further round the village although it did not take long. As is my wont, I stopped at the immaculately tended war memorial to pay my respects and then wandered a bit further so let me tell you a little about this quaintly named village.
The war memorial in Mytholmroyd stands in a beautifully tended gardens on the A646 Burnley Road just opposite the junction with the B6138. It is topped by a fairly generically uniformed soldier of World War One vintage resting on his rifle. A scroll indicates that it is dedicated to the men of the area who gave their lives in that war and a small simple brass plaque beneath it remembers those who died in World War 2. It was sculpted by H.S. Davies and dedicated in 1922 but if you look closely you will see that the head is not the original as it was replaced during restoration work in 2009. Similarly the rifle is not original and is actually fibreglass. This needed replacing as some thug had stolen the original. Stealing part of a war memorial, I can think of few things more despicable.
Should the reader need any further information, here are the relevant catalogue references. War Memorials Trust reference WM1307 UK National Inventory of War Memorials: 2610
Mytholmroyd is a small and attractive village in Calderdale about seven miles West of Halifax and just over a mile East of Hebden Bridge and the very first thing the traveller needs to know is how to pronounce it! I had been doing it completely wrong until I was politely corrected by a local and for those of you that understand the odd notion of phonetics or whatever it is called, here it is pronounced MYTHEM-ROYD/ˌmaɪðəmˈrɔɪd/ (always assuming this cut and paste makes it intact to the blog). Apparently it means a clearing where two rivers meet if that helps. The locals avoid pronounciation difficulties by just referring to it as Royd.
Myhtolmroyd is a village of about four and a half thousand souls and traces it’s history back to at least the 14th century although it is probably best for the coiners I wrote about above. A more recent and certainly more respectable son of Mytholmroyd was the late Poet Laureate Ted Hughes.
This is a very pleasant little village and easily accessible by bus or train from major local centres like Halifax, Burnley and Rochdale and is certainly worth a visit, not least for the next place I discovered.
Proper grub in a proper pub.
To be honest, I had not planned on eating in the village that evening as I had vaguely set my sights on getting back to Halifax and one of the numerous excellent Asian restaurants that city has to offer but things were to change. One way or another I found myself in the excellent Shoulder of Mutton pub and it could not have proved to be a better choice.
From the exterior it is a fairly typical English country pub, which suits me nicely. Walking inside I found an establishment that had made a few concessions to modernity but otherwise was what it was, a Yorkshire country village boozer. I was served a pint of well-kept cider by a very friendly young lady and sat myself down opposite a most wonderful fireplace (pictured) which I hesitate to describe as Art Noeveau or Art Deco as I simply do not have the knowledge. I know only that it was a hugely decorative piece and obviously used in winter for it’s original purpose. That was a good start.
On top of this delight were a number of books for sale in aid of the local hospice which not only is a nice touch but also demonstrated the very obvious local focus of the pub which is exactly what I think the pub should be, the centre of the local community. I devour books and can never have enough lying about and so I bought myself one to pass the time. It was a choice between reading and watching Sky News (a UK satellite channel) with the sound turned down on the large screen. Other attractions include occasional weekend live music.
My next piece of reading material was the menu on the table which was more out of interest than an intention to eat, as explained. During this perusal I was approached by a delightful lady who identified herself as the landlady and had obviously picked me out as not being a regular whereupon we had a most charming conversation which made me feel even more welcome and comfortable than I already was. She enquired if I was dining and it seemed almost churlish to refuse so I set about a more serious appraisal of the fare on offer.
The menu here was not overly extensive and it is not flash, there is no mention of jus, reductions, veloute and the like but rather good old-fashioned pub grub of the bangers and mash, fish and chips, pie and chips variety although there are veggie options for the non-carnivores and non-gluten options for those for which this may pose a problem. A speciality of the house seems to be giant Yorkshire puddings with a variety of fillings although in the end I plumped for the Boozy Beef, a beef and Guinness stew served with seasonal veg and mash. Obviously, being Yorkshire, the obligatory Yorkshire pudding was included as, equally obviously, was the gravy. I don’t mean the gravy the beef was cooked in but additional ladlesful of the stuff as the image testifies. Ordinarily, I ask for meals without gravy as I consider it the work of the Devil but this was Yorkshire and they like it up there so I held my tongue. I thought I would have been publicly hanged or whipped through the streets of Mytholmroyd on a cart tail as a heretic otherwise!
Whilst awaiting the arrival of my meal I had a bit of a look at the cooking set-up. They had wheeled some sort of mobile hot plate affair out into the further portion of the bar to where I was sitting which appeared to be for the purpose of keeping the plates warm etc. I also got a few glimpses into a spotless kitchen where nothing less than a small army of ladies were scurrying about getting things together. Not a man to be seen and I will swear there are professional kitchens in London with less of a brigade. In the way of my slightly odd thoughts it occurred to me that it somewhat akin to attending a charity lunch organised by the Women’s Institute.
My meal promptly arrived and it was nothing short of brilliant. The beef was falling to pieces and with a perfectly seasoned sauce with just enough of a hint of the beer in it. The seasonal veg turned out to be red cabbage (a favourite of mine anyway) cooked perfectly and not boiled into submission along with peas and a very well-made mash. The Yorkshire pudding was so light and tasty as you would expect here as it is a matter of regional pride who makes the best. I have to say that I even enjoyed the gravy which was lovely and rich. I may have to rethink my culinary stance on that particular subject if it is always as good as this.
Given the amount of staff apparently present (maybe they were just moving around a lot) I am surprised they can keep the costs as reasonable as they do with my meal coming in at a shade under £7 (2015 price)which was really nothing in terms of eating out then and well worth every penny. A quick look at the menu on the attached website whilst editing this in December 2018 shows there has been a slight change of policy with prices naturally having gone up and some fairly exotic items on the menu. This strikes me as being pity but I suppose they have to make a living. I shall remember it fondly as it was.
I am fully aware that this may seem like a bit of a War and Peace about a very decent meal and a few pints in a pub in a West Yorkshire village but I really do believe that a place like this merits the same attention in reviewing as does a £150 a plate tasting menu in a Mayfair Michelin starred restaurant.
Fully sated and after another quick pint, it was time to jump on my bus and head back the short distance to Halifax. The Shoulder of Mutton is just about everything I would want from an establishment like this but do be aware of the logistics. This was not a gastropub then (thankfully) and has somewhat limited food serving times which the locals all seem to know. Food was served 12 to 2 and 5.30 to 7.30 and all day Sunday 12 to 7pm (there is a slightly separate menu then) but that has also changed and now food is served throughout the day until 2000. Back on the bus then and I was heading for Halifax, a mere few miles distant but obviously it did not end up quite like that!
Friendly by name………….
As you know by now my travels are entirely unstructured (as various travel companions will attest and which drives some of them mad) and as long as I have a notion of how I am going to “return to base” i.e. where I am laying my head that night then I will just ramble as the mood takes me. In truth, sometimes I do not even have a place to lay my head planned and this can cause even further consternation for others. It is just the way I am and thus it was that I jumped off the bus in the utterly delightfully named village? / suburb? of Friendly. Really, that is the name. It would be equally correctly described as being a suburb of Sowerby Bridge or a suburb of Halifax, as either one would be appropriate. I choose to call it Sowerby Bridge as that is the official postal address.
I had noticed the bus passing a pub called the White Horse and passing a pub is somewhat anathema to me so I alighted at the next stop and wandered back. I genuinely only had the vaguest idea where I was but knew I could make it home as I checked the timetables when I got off. Into the White Horse then and the very first thing that struck me was that it was empty with only a very few people there present save for the couple that apparently run the place. A well-kept pint was served up quickly and with a few friendly enquiries as to who I was as I suspect they do not get much passing trade here.
The couple of locals finished their drinks and headed off as did the owners / staff behind the bar who had disappeared out a rear door to what was to prove to be the smoking area out the back (we have a smoking ban in public places in the UK which has cost thousands of jobs and contributed to the closure of a large amount of pubs). I was completely alone in the bar and took the opportunity for a bit of a look round what was a very tidy and welcoming place. I saw a pool table in the back bar along with the obligatory fruit machine (automated gambling device) and all looked fine. Nature having taken it’s toll I visited the Gents facilities and they were in equally good order.
After that I wandered out the back to join them to satiate my nicotine addiction and they were delightful, it really was a very relaxed scene and they apparently had no qualms about previously leaving me alone in their bar, I liked that. Before any over-zealous official picks up on this and tries to be bothersome, I should emphasise that they could see into the main bar area through the back window, I would not like to cause trouble for these lovely people.
Signs about the place indicated that this was quiz night and the evening was wearing on a little with no sign of any punters at all and so I enquired about the pub quiz. I was cordially informed that it would take place and that I would be most welcome. They would find me a team to latch onto (although I suspect that would have been more of a hindrance than a help!) and also that the quiz afficionados would be there shortly as they were all presently in the local Bowling Club! It appears the good denizens of Friendly (I still cannot get my head round that brilliant name) regulate their social activities fairly rigidly and that really only added to the charm of the place.
Yet another pub highly recommended for a taste of proper Yorkshire hospitality but I knew I really should be getting back as I always wary of relying on the very last bus or train so I said my adieus and back to the bus stop. There were no other distractions on the way and I managed to make it to Halifax, well to the outskirts anyway. I knew the bus went all the way to the bus station literally cross the road from my digs but I had looked round there and so I alighted again in a part of town I had never seen.
Things start to unwind.
Close by the bus stop was the Feathers pub so that was that sorted then.
Although I didn’t know it at the time I was in an area of Halifax called Kings Cross and it seem to be very well-endowed with purveyors of liquid refreshment. I had spotted the Feathers from the bus on the outbound journey and so managed to alight at the correct stop and in I went. The Feathers is a fairly large one-roomed bar with a reasonable crowd for the day and time of evening (it was not a weekend). It was obvious that this was very much a locals place as, without being derogatory to this part of town in any way, I suspect it is not really an area visitors will generally find themselves and that suits me fine.
A brief conversation with the member of staff on duty allowed enough time for me to be presented with an obviously well-kept pint which went down so nicely I decided to have another. Whilst imbibing I had an opportunity to have a quick look around and noticed a fairly typical sports theme in the bar with the large screen TV and the dart board both prominent.
The Feathers is not remarkable at all but is certainly a perfectly pleasant and friendly place for a drink if you are in the area and it wasn’t over yet as I was on a mission now!
Reluctantly leaving the Feathers I went in search of another watering hole and had only gone a very short distance when I spotted a fairly narrow although well lit alleyway which had a sign at the end which was obviously for a pub called the Oddy’s. I should explain that Oddy’s is a contraction of Oddfellows which was a mutual assistance group more prevalent in days past but still in existence today I believe. I should also add that this very much the back way into the pub and there is a much more usual frontage at the other side. A small alleyway after dark in a place I have never been and know nothing about that leads to a pub? Red rag to a bull so off I went. I should add that the alley (indeed the entire area) was not in the slightest intimidating lest I give the wrong impression.
Having taken the obligatory image (attached) I gained the sanctuary of the bar which was, frankly, not exactly what I expected as it was lot more modern than the exterior of the building may have suggested. Nothing wrong with that as it was very clean and tidy and whilst researching this review I discovered that it had been completely refurbished in September 2014, they had done a nice job.
Being a midweek night it was not that busy but there were a few guys in watching the sport on the large screen TV screens. A pint of cider was quickly dispensed by a friendly member of staff and it turned out to be in good nick. I must say that in my whole trip to West Yorkshire I didn’t have a pint that was not in tip-top condition and I did have one or two. I suppose that given the very precarious state of the British pub trade for various reasons it is incumbent on publicans to serve decent drink or else they will go under as customers go elsewhere, basic economics really.
Logistically, they promote themselves as dog friendly and have wifi although I did not avail myself of either service so cannot comment. Although I was still completely full I noticed that they do a range of food here at extremely reasonable prices if you fancy a bite. There is not much more to say about the Oddy’s really and it is a place I suspect most travellers will not find as it is a little bit off the main drag but I found it very tidy, friendly and not a bad place at all for a drink. Well worth a visit.
You would think it was time for home now and you would probably be right but one more for the road as they say which led me to the William IV, again not far away. I did mention that this place is teeming with pubs. These three pubs are no more than 200 yards apart, if that! In truth I was a bit hors de combat at this point and the only reason I know I was in the William IV was because I took an image of the exterior sign at 2217 hours. I must have got the bus again for the last leg as I took an image of that as well at a very advanced hour. I obviously made it home OK as I woke up alone in my own bed the next morning and had survived apparently without mishap.
I head back to London in the next instalment so stay tuned and spread the word.
For those of you who may have stumbled upon this page accidentally, perhaps searching for information about leisure activities in Yorkshire, specifically in respect of canals, I offer a quick word of explanation here.
Virtually all of the content on the following pages was saved against the best efforts of an evil corporate entity who bought over a great website that I wrote for for 12 years and who are Hell-bent on being the only travel site online and will stop at nothing to do it. As this is my site and the content is meant to be in a more narrative style I shall attempt to edit as appropriate but I make no apologies for the fact that some paragraphs may read like reviews which is what they were originally written as. Certainly, at time of re-writing this here in November 2018 I am sure much of the information is out of date. I have attempted to verify if places mentioned are still functioning and will indicate where not but this is mostly a personal remembrance of a wonderful trip undertaken with great friends in the early Autumn of 2015.
There may be an occasional reference to VT which slips through the net and which refers to Virtual Tourist, undoubtedly the most genuine travel review site that has ever existed on the net (I have written for a few, believe me and it is that I referred to above) which was so awfully butchered by a criminal (yes, I can prove that) website who I shall not even name here.
Now we have the explanation out of the way, let’s get down to the trip. On the aforementioned VT we used to have all sorts of “meets” including a huge annual Euromeet somewhere in Europe (obviously) and which, whilst supported strongly by the tiny staff of VT, although they did not have the resources to actually arrange it, was always undertaken by the members themselves. At least one of the staff would always fly from the States to attend, it really was that kind of site and I would think it is a fairly rare thing when you can have a drink with the CEO of your favourite website and speak to them quite frankly about the site.
In another series of travelogues here I have written about the 2017 meet in Germany even after they had killed the actual website. You can kill the site but you cannot kill what we were about. I know there was a 2018 meet in Iceland, organised by another personal friend of mine, which I unfortunately could not make and there is one planned for 2019. Criminally convicted big business may kill off a website but it cannot kill off the will of travellers worldwide. We were travellers, we are still travellers and VT is not going to go away in spirit any time in the near future.
So, I was going to go to Yorkshire to meet dear friends for a weekend of fun and frolics on a hired canal boat. Suits me. I know I have mentioned on other pages my love for canals and canal boats and I have been deemed competent enough to crew by friends who actually run them commercially. As always I’ll try to go through this chronologically as it is the only way I can even attempt to recover all this content without getting totally lost. OK, let’s be honest, I have been totally lost mentally and occasionally physically for years. I always manage to find my way home eventually physically but mentally……………..?
Given the large UK membership of Virtual Tourist I was slightly surprised at the fairly small group who had signed up. There was Gilly, who organised the whole thing (brilliantly I might add, cheers mate), Aly, Dave who could not join us until Saturday as his teaching duties did not allow for a Friday off and your humble narrator. That was no problem, I had met them all before another VT events and got on really well with them, they are all lovely people. As I have mentioned elsewhere here on my pages, Yorkshire is a part of the UK I have visited far too infrequently. Yes, I walked an LDP (Long Distance Path) many years ago with my then fiancee and I had been there once or twice on other occasions but I knew damn little about it and so when I jumped on my train in London I was actually quite looking forward to it.
Again, a quick piece of travel advice if you may be reading this overseas and thinking of using the trains in UK when you visit. Always, always book ahead as “walk-up” fares are out the far side of ridiculous. Generally speaking, the further ahead you book the better as you get the best deals and, if you are not confined to a particular time, then travel after 0930 as it is considerably cheaper, it is called “off-peak”. Certainly, the very best fares require you to commit to specific trains but I have never had a problem with that.
I am now going back into review mode as explained above to describe the journey although I shall attempt to make it as readable as possible. Sorry, I just cannot break the habit, I reckon I was born to write travel reviews if I ever find a site I can trust and I probably won’t so I bought my own! Again it is culled from something I wrote at the time on VT.
Let the train take the strain.
Whilst it is undoubtedly more expensive than the bus (coach) I much prefer travelling in the UK by train as it is considerably quicker and certainly more comfortable and this is the mode of transport I used to and from Halifax.
Trains leave Kings Cross and take a little over two hours and most involve a change at Leeds although I did manage to get one of the few direct trains which take just a shade over two hours on a pleasant service run by Grand Central.
The station was clean and tidy and it offers the following services as outlined in the attached website. The station code is HFX and the ticket office is open Monday – Friday 05:50 – 20:00, Saturday 05:50 – 20:00 and Sunday 08:15 – 19:00. There are ticket machines outside these hours including accessible machines.
The full postal address is Horton Street, Halifax, West Yorkshire HX1 1QE and there are always appear to be taxis waiting outside when the station is open. Refreshments are provided in the cafe opposite the booking hall which is open Monday to Saturday 06:00 – 18:00 and Sunday 09:00 – 18:00.
Access to all platforms is by stairs or lift and there is an accessibility helpline available for information on 0808 156 1606. It is available Monday to Saturday 0800 – 2000 and Sunday 0900 – 1700. There do not appear to be accessible toilets available.
I’m glad I did that. Sod it, it is my site and I basically started writing online to help other travellers so I see no reason to stop now.
It perhaps seems strange that as a UK citizen I had visited the city of Halifax in Canada in 2014 but had never visited the place in England for which it was named. This was a four day affair starting Friday lunchtime and finishing Monday morning although I had decided to make a bit of a trip out of it and arrive on the Thursday to avoid a very early start and also added three additional days at the end to explore an area I know lamentably little about.
Our start and finish point for the boat was Sowerby Bridge although I could not find any accommodation there in my price range but a bit of internet searching showed up a few places in nearby Halifax which is a mere seven minutes by train or not much more on a fairly inexpensive taxi ride. That was decided then and Halifax was duly chosen as my base.
So what did I know about this town of about 100,000 souls? To my shame the answer is just about nothing. I knew it had a history of textile production, was home to one of the largest building societies in the UK, had a close association with Rugby League and a football (soccer) team who are languishing somewhat at present having gone bankrupt in 2007 after more than 100 years in the top flights of the English game.
I know a little bit more now although there is undoubtedly much more I can learn. I found a fairly typical Yorkshire mill town on the banks of the River Calder albeit that the mills are long closed with many of them now converted to office and other use. Easily the largest of these is the massive Dean Clough Mill I will write of later and which stretches for over half a mile. It was once one of the largest textile factories in the world specialising in carpets and it really is rather impressive.
Other medium and heavy industries have gone the way of the mills and it is hard to know whether the place is in decline or making a resurgence. There are many closed down industrial units apparently not earmarked for anything and I noticed a disproportionate number of restaurants shut down. In contrast, many other buildings seem to be thriving in their new guises.
Halifax has very good public transport connections and makes an excellent base for exploring the delightful nearby Calderdale as well as being close enough to major cities like Leeds, Bradford, Rochdale and Burnley. It shall be interesting to see what the future holds for this friendly and pleasant town.
Out of the Station and I knew it was walkable to the place I had booked to stay in so I swerved the taxis as mentioned above and took off in what I hoped was the right direction. Fortunately, I am of a generation that does not rely on GPS technology which is just as well as I cannot operate it and I quickly came to the Old Post Office in good order.
I had left booking quite late and they did not have any single rooms left but offered single occupancy of a double room for a very reasonable £30 per night. Purely coincidentally both the rooms I stayed in were the fully accessible rooms situated on the ground floor up a ramp to right of the pub with the other rooms being on the upper floor. I had Room 1 on the first night and Room 2 on the later nights when I returned and so had an opportunity to check both of them out.
Location and price are important to me and the latter was excellent with the former not much behind it. The walk from the Station was fairly flat and I managed it easily even with luggage. Should the traveller be arriving by bus then the bus station is a mere 200 yards in the other direction. I was slightly concerned initially at the location on Winding Road which appears to be a fairly main thoroughfare with the rooms facing it but I need not have worried as it is really quiet at night and road noise was not a problem at all.
I went into the bar and spoke to the friendly young barmaid who booked me in quickly and courteously. I explained that I would be returning later and enquired if I could settle my bill for both stays on the one card transaction and that was no problem. After a quick pint in the pleasant bar, I went up the gentle wheelchair ramp and let myself into the room which was certainly not palatial but perfectly adequate and spotlessly clean. The double bed proved to be very comfortable and more than enough for my 6’5″ frame. There was a wall-mounted TV and the bathroom was of the wetroom type with all the usual handrails etc. associated with accessibility for the mobility impaired. When I later used the shower it had plenty of piping hot water at a very decent pressure so no complaints there.
The second room I stayed in was much of the same although it did have a rather incongruous easy chair in it which was positioned in such a way that it would have been impossible to sit in unless you put your legs up on the bed as there was about three inches clearance between the two pieces of furniture. This, however, is a very minor quibble.
Accommodation is offered on a room only basis as the pub does not open for breakfasts but there are numerous places within a few minutes walk where you can get a bite to eat. The local Wetherspoons pub, the Percy Shaw, which I shall speak of later, provides breakfast from 0800 and is only a few minutes walk.
When I travel I merely require a clean and comfortable bed and enough hot water for a shower and the Old Post Office certainly provides all that at a price that undercuts even the no-frills chains locally by some distance. If you are on a budget I certainly recommend it.
In the almost OCD way I have of checking my information I have recently (November 2018) checked the information regarding this establishment and I find that the accessible room is still a remarkably reasonable £38 whilst, if you are on a serious budget, a single with shared facilities is a ludicrously cheap £29. I really enjoyed it there.
With the kit duly stowed it was time for a look around, the weather was typically Yorkshire but not horribly so and off I went. I had seen an obviously Christian church to my right as I had walked to the hotel so I thought I might as well start there as it was only a very short walk back and it turned out to be not merely a Church but a Minster.
People tend to have an image of Minsters being huge and grand edifices and, certainly in the case of somewhere like York, this is true but the term Minster merely refers to a missionary church, a fact I only learned whilst I was there. As I often say, every day is a schoolday on the road. Indeed, the Minster was originally merely called Halifax Parish Church. If the reader is interested then there are another two Minsters in West Yorkshire at Dewsbury and Leeds.
Another thing I mention often here is that I am of no religious faith and yet I find places of worship endlessly fascinating and was very flattered to have a couple of my reviews on them included in certain VT press pieces, one of which was actually published internationally when I was on this trip. Get me pretending to be a travel writer!
On a midweek September afternoon the place was naturally very quiet and I was greeted by a very friendly old chap who gave me a self-guide tour leaflet although that proved not to be necessary as he basically wandered about with me pointing out things of interest. I suppose he was glad of the company.
The history of Halifax Minster may be as long as 900 years but early records are extremely sparse. There may have been a hermitage hereabouts as far back as the seventh century but the first vaguely solid evidence is for a vicar being appointed in 1274 although an 1150 gravestone has been found nearby. Interestingly, it features a pair of shears thereby providing the first evidence of a textile industry in Calderdale.
Various eminent clerics have presided here including Dr. Thomas Brent, chaplain to King Henry VII and William Rokeby who baptised Mary Tudor in 1516. Rather grotesquely his heart and bowels are interred in the Minster although I am not sure where the rest of him is. During the Reformation, Halifax became increasingly Protestant although Dr. Holdsworth, the incumbent at the time seems to have gone whichever way the wind was blowing at the time. The area and church experienced further upheaval during the Civil War and subsequent Reformation with the local populace being overwhelmingly Puritan.
Times were hard then as evidenced by the effigy of Old Tristam, a local licensed beggar (really) with his alms box which now serves to hold donations from visitors. There is no admission charge but donations are obviously welcome and there is a £3 charge for photography. Remarkably, they have had to cement poor old Tristram into the ground as he has been stolen on more than one occasion. It defeats my fairly fertile imagination what kind of person would steal a donation box from a place of worship but there you are.
Halifax boomed during the Industrial Revolution although remarkably the Church, as it still was, did not undergo a full refurbishment until 1878 – 1879 under the supervision of the famous architect George Gilbert Scott. He is a fascinating man and I have written about him many times in various places. He is known for designing the Albert Memorial and the Foreign and Commonwealth Office in London and the stunning hotel that still graces St. Pancras railway station in that city. The £20,000 refit included several structural alterations and, somewhat puzzlingly, the lowering of most of the pews. This is effectively the building you see today although minor alterations have taken place since.
Another favourite subject of mine is military history and many old colours of the Duke of Wellington’s Royal Regiment are laid up here. The Regiment has a long association with the town and the excellent Regimental Museum will be dealt with in a future entry in this little series.
Another feature of interest is the organ which was originally built in 1763 by John Snetzler and is regarded as being of great interest albeit that only a little of the original work remains, having been subsumed in various enlargements.
Halifax Minster is definitely worth a visit and, should you wish to do so, here are the logistics taken from the attached website. Again I am back into travel review mode and again I make no apology. I do hope it may assist someone some time.
There is accessible ramp to the accessible toilet at the West End of church and accessible entry from the surrounding area. Please ask the volunteer about this. Assistance dogs are allowed in the building.
There is no parking on site. There are pay and display parking bays in the streets around Halifax Minster and several council pay and display car parks close by. Pay and display is Monday – Saturday 0800 – 1600. Please check the parking meters for further information on the day of your visit.
Lest we forget.
Readers of my other pages will know that I have a great interest in military history and also in war graves and memorials and there are many tips included here about them for which I make no apology. Like any right-thinking person I hate war but the tragic fact is that wars happen and people are required to pay the ultimate price when they do. It has happened since the dawn of time and shows no signs of going away any time soon, more’s the pity.
The main memorial in Halifax stands in the gardens just North of the Minster Church of St. John in the open space that is variously known as Duffy Park or Cripplegate Park. It is 25 feet tall and was designed by H. Scott Davis. It was unveiled on the 15th of October 1922 by Sir George Fisher-Smith but it was not here at the time. It was originally in Bellevue Park and was moved to the present location some years later.
If you are passing, you may wish to pause for a moment to reflect on the sacrifices made by previous generations.
As I was walking out from the Minster, having inspected and paid respects at the war memorial as described, I was treated to the sight of an immaculately preserved old Morris motor car, which I can tell from the number plate pre-dates 1962, being driven into the carpark in a manner that would not have disgraced the Monte Carlo rally. Out jumps the vicar in full ecclesiastical kit and takes off at the trot into the Minster. He must have been late for a meeting of the Parish Council or something and it was just totally surreal. I had to take an image of the motor though, which was an absolute beauty.
There was still time for a good wander as it was only early September and I had plenty of daylight left so I took off for what I thought was the direction of the centre of town. Obviously a pint was called for and there certainly appeared to be no shortage of options as the town is well served for what were to turn out to be uniformly decent pubs.
The first of a few.
The first on that caught my eye was the Gundog. What a find. It looked great from the outside and I believe it had had a bit of a refurbishment on the inside. Again, another review from my VT writing.
I do like old-fashioned pubs and I knew the minute I walked into the Gundog pub in Crown Street that I had stumbled upon a beauty. In fairness, the exterior had hinted at it but the interior was a delight with various little side rooms and so on. I got my pint which was well-kept and served promptly by a very friendly barmaid and retired to the room which is on your right as you come in the door and faces the street. Although I was drinking cider I noticed that they had a good selection of real ales and they can offer this selection as they are a freehouse which means they are not tied to the products of a particular brewery as many establishments are. Prices were very reasonable.
Having settled myself on the comfy bench seat I took in the fine wood-panelled walls, lovely old-fashioned fireplace and even noted the old bell pushes which were used to summon the bar staff in days past. What really took my eye, however, were the simply stunning leaded windows you can see in one of the images here. One featured a stained glass panel of an old rugby match and the other a game of cricket. It was really cosy in there so I had to have another pint and was served by a barman this time, the staff having changed over. He was as charming as his colleague and it only added to a very pleasant visit although regrettably I had to move on after a couple as I had other places still to visit.
If I am back in Halifax I shall definitely return here and I strongly suggest the reader does as well if they are in town.
It is what it is.
Back on the completely unplanned ramble and I happened upon another place which proved to be a completely different entity although decent enough in it’s own way. I came upon the Old Cock and Oak Bar which was down a bit of a back street but I do have a knack of finding slightly out of the way pubs. I also have a fairly well-defined ability to be able to gauge what kind of pub I am in within a few seconds of walking through the door and so it was here.
Firstly, the place is huge and on an early midweek evening it was very predominantly males in there although there were one or two females. There were several large screen TVs showing a variety of sporting events and I chose the back bar as I had seen cricket on the screen there. I believe this is the Oak Lounge mentioned in the full name of the premises, presumably due to the rather pleasant panelling there. I went to the bar and was served by a pleasant and chatty young lady who provided a pint of well-kept cider very promptly.
As well as the TV screens the rear room also boasted a couple of pool tables which seemed to be getting plenty of use. I was told by a local that this place can become, shall we say, a little lively on a Friday and Saturday night but it was perfectly well ordered when I was there so I can only speak as I find. This may be something to do with the fact that they have live music on those nights but the couple of locals I exchanged a few words with all seemed friendly enough.
There is not really much more I can tell you about this place. Certainly there are more atmospheric pubs in the town but I can find no fault with this place, as they say “it is what it is”.
Yet another gem.
It undoubtedly “was what it was” and none the worse for it but I was on a bit of a mission. A city I had never been in so there had to be plenty more to explore and I set about it with a will. I came to a road junction where there was a sign advertising an Italian restaurant and indicating to use the other door down the side street. I was also looking for somewhere to eat that evening and I wandered down to where I thought the door was to check out the menu. Instead of a menu I saw a sign stating that this was the local current CAMRA Pub of the Season. This intrigued me as there was nothing else to suggest it was a pub and it would be unusual for a restaurant to be designated thus. For readers not aware of CAMRA it is an acronym standing for the CAMpaign for Real Ale which is a consumer pressure group that concerns itself with the preservation of real ales, ciders and the British pub which are all subjects dear to my heart!
Obviously I walked straight in and was greeted by the slightly unusual but very welcome sight which you can see in one of the images. It was immediately obvious that the premises had not been designed as a pub which was all to be explained to me later. It was fairly quiet in there and I chatted to the very friendly barman whilst perusing the extensive beer and cider menu before deciding on a pint of one particular cider which turned out to be rather good. Please don’t ask me what it was as I rally cannot recall.
The story is that the premises had indeed been an Italian restaurant for some time before going out of business, then lay empty for four or five years when the current management bought it over, gave it a lick of paint and opened it as is now under the rather grand name of the Victorian Craft Beer Cafe in November 2014. Most of the original decor has been retained which gives it more a cafe-bar feel than a pub but it does not suffer for that.
I particularly liked the wood ceiling and the shelving which was presumably designed for wine bottles initially but now serve to display some of the huge range of available bottled beers. I know many pubs use this device as a decorative tool but in here it is the genuine current stock as I found out when one of the staff produced a small step and reached up to take some bottles down to resupply the chiller. If none of the bottles appeal then you may want to try one of the eight real ales from the pump or twelve beers from the keg which are offered. These change regularly. They also have a spirits licence if that is your thing but it really is a beer / cider place.
If there are all sorts of beers here then it is the same with the patrons and the VCBC, as it seems to be called locally, certainly attracts a very varied clientele. On the evening I visited there was a poetry session in the small upstairs area which attracted a number of “alternative” types and became quite raucous. I was cordially invited to join in but declined although I sort of regretted that due to the amount of fun they were apparently having.
Downstairs there were guys in work gear mixing quite happily with “suits”, a young couple having what appeared to be a romantic tryst in the quieter little area to the left whilst an older chap got on with his crossword nearby and then, of course, there was your humble narrator! It does not get much more eclectic than that but it was all extremely friendly.
I tried a couple of the beers (the saison was good) but I eventually settled on the grapefruit beer and you did read that correctly. I do like fruit beers and ciders and I am particularly fond of grapefruit so this was an obvious choice. It was slightly more expensive than most of the other brews on offer but I still found all the prices to be very reasonable as I am used to London and I have to say that it was worth every penny as it was utterly delicious.
Should you wish to combine your love of beer with your love of matters internet (hopefully reading my blog) then there is free wifi available. Regrettably, I am not sure how accessible it would be here as I only saw one entrance and that has two steps up to it. It is extremely dog friendly here and also extremely beard friendly. At one point early on there were nine men and two ladies present and all but one of the men had face furniture of one sort or another. I felt right at home although I do stress that it is not mandatory! It is open 1100 – 2300 every day except Friday and Saturday when it stays open an extra hour.
All in all this is another great venue in a town where I seemed to have been ricocheting round quite a few, I do recommend it highly and herein ends another travel review written for such a site but it does not end there.
It had to be a curry.
Yorkshire is famous for many things like tea, cricket, the Dales and so on but in more recent times it is known as a county with a huge South Asian immigrant population and renowned for it’s contributions to the curry cuisine of the world. Well, I had a bellyful of very decent beer and cider in me so a plate of something spicy seemed right in order as I do love a curry and am lucky enough to live in an area with something like nine curry houses within a 500 yard radius of my front door.
As I mentioned above, where I live in the East End of London there is certainly no shortage of “Indian” restaurants although the fact of the matter is that they are no such thing and are almost exclusively owned and staffed by Bangladeshis. In West Yorkshire, however, the situation is somewhat different as the majority of the Asian population there are of Pakistani descent and so it was no surprise to me when I saw a restaurant called Kashmiri Aroma which is on the first floor of a modern looking building right in the centre of town.
When I went in I noticed that it was a large establishment although it was fairly well empty which may have been due to it approaching closing time on a weekday night. There were only two other tables occupied which is normally not a great sign but I need not have worried as I shall explain now. The decor is modern and bright and the staff were well turned out. I was greeted in a very friendly manner, shown to a table and the obligatory beer and poppadums were duly produced. I am not sure if it was just natural Yorkshire friendliness or they were merely bored but I had conversations with no less than three of the waiters whilst waiting for my meal to arrive. These conversations confirmed my earlier surmise that the place was, indeed, Pakistani run (I am not going to get into the Indian / Pakistani dispute over the Kashmir region here, they told me they were Pakistanis). Maybe the respective Governments of those two nuclear enabled countries should just sit down, listen to the wonderful Led Zeppelin song named for the region and chill out. I suppose that is just the old hippy in me talking.
My starter of chicken liver tikka (£3:70) duly arrived and was delightful. Described as “Spring chicken liver marinated in selected herbs and spices and cooked over charcoal”, I had selected it mostly on the basis that it was a dish I had never had before. Yes, I do take my travel writing seriously and took images of the menu for use as notes later! I do like to try new things and it certainly did not disappoint, being fairly delicately spiced and cooked to perfection. I am a big fan of offal anyway as I think it is much underused and can be absolutely beautiful. I’ll take a plate of devilled kidneys for breakfast any time but I’m damned if I know where to find such a dish now.
For my main course I had opted for chicken Kashmir which is not as hot a dish as I would normally choose but I had been having a little bit of stomach trouble for a few days and so I thought discretion was the better part of valour. Add in the name of the restaurant and it’s probable provenance and it was an obvious choice. It was delightfully spiced although not overly hot and the lychees added a nice note of sweetness. Lychees are one of my favourite exotic fruits so this was perfect for me. Strangely, I rarely eat rice in Asian restaurants as it just bloats me but I do love Asian breads and a couple of nice warm chapati complemented the meal nicely.
I hadn’t really considered what time it was as the Asian restaurants near me stay open pretty late every night but when I checked the opening times to write this piece originally I discovered that I had been there a bit beyond closing time. I was not rushed in the slightest and was asked if I wanted dessert or coffee which I thought in retrospect was a nice touch.
Later on in my trip I was talking to an Asian taxi driver who mentioned that he thought the place was expensive. Perhaps it is just that I am used to London prices but I found it very reasonable given the quality of the surroundings, service and, most importantly, the food. I have no hesitation in highly recommending Kashmiri Aroma which is open for a la carte and on Sunday there is also a buffet which starts at 1630.
It was a completely satisfied Fergy (in every sense of the word) that returned to his comfy bed nearby. I was going on a canal boat trip, one of the great loves of my life, I hadn’t even seen a canal at that point and yet it had been a brilliant day out.
I’ll get “on the cut” (canal talk for being on the canal) in the next entry so stay tuned and spread the word.