Monthly Archives: May 2015

The Road to Wigan Central

And that, as they say, was that.   The end of a week that had felt like at least a month (in a good way).

I rode the 4 or so downhill miles into Wigan with ease and located Wigan North Western train station.   If you ever find yourself at Wigan North Western with time to kill (as I did) then I can recommend a bar called Wigan Central. From the station entrance, walk under the bridge and turn left and you’ll find it in a railway arch. Though not quite a micropub, it serves good ales and has the required quirkiness factor, so it was a fitting end to my week’s travels.

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I’ll spare you the description of my journey home. If you want to read about train trips then try one of the Michaels (Palin or Portillo – you decide!).

I felt a little melancholy to be ending my travels (for now), but I was also keen to be back with my family.

My micropub travels will be on hiatus now until my daughter’s exams are over at the end of June. Then I’ll be back on the trail, hitting the micropubs of Kent, where it all began!


The Albion Ale House, Standish

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The Albion Ale House is on the High Street in Standish, a small town near to Wigan. Before Kevin acquired the premises for his micropub, it was a pound shop. (Kevin’s beers are good value but, alas, they are slightly dearer than £1).

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Much like the Market Ale House that I visited earlier the same day, it has a bright modern feel to it. It’s another of those narrow but deep places: the bar is set against the right hand wall about mid way back. There’s a small pleasant outdoor drinking/smoking area at the back with wooden benches, and casks as tables. The “cellar” is upstairs.

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There are 8 handpumps on the bar, although only 6 were being used when I visited. For the record, I had a pint of APA – but I failed to make a note of the brewery – suggestions please?

After a pint, the lads from the Shepherds Hall left me to ride back to Chorley, while I pointed my bike in the opposite direction, but then decided that I had time for one more beer before heading to Wigan for my train home.

The Shepherd’s Hall Ale House, Chorley

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The Shepherds Hall Ale House is housed in a narrow shop unit, part of the former Shepherds Victoria Hall in Chorley, an imposing building of character, the upstairs of which is used as a gym.

This micropub is a family affair – it is owned and run by three brothers. While Graham and Stuart have other occupations, youngest brother Tom runs the micropub full time. At only 25 years old, could he be the country’s youngest micropub landlord? Or do you know different?

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The bar occupies the right hand rear corner of the bar room. The interior is classic pub decor much of which has been cleverly salvaged from various local establishments. There are 5 handpumps on the bar and Tom explained to me that their policy was to stock 4 ales from local breweries with the fifth handpump reserved for brews from further afield. I had a pint of Ossett Silver King. They also sell wines and continental bottled beers. If there’s a beer that you’d like them to get in then pop the details in their “beer suggestion box” – a great idea!
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This is another micropub that is fortunate to have a “proper” cellar. Another feature worthy of a mention (and a photo!) is the toilets. It was possible to retain and restore the original brickwork from the original toilet block.

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It speaks volumes about the spirit of the Shepherds Hall Ale House that they managed to get together a team of 7 to join me in my day’s riding. I really appreciated their company and their fundraising efforts.

The Market Ale House, Leyland

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It will probably come as no surprise to you that the Market Ale House, Leyland can be found next to Leyland Market. The market was built on (or, rather, relocated to) what was once the site of the Leyland Motors manufacturing plant. Another reminder of the Leyland’s industrial heritage is just around the corner at the British Commercial Vehicle Museum which I’m sure would have been interesting to have visited if I had had more time.

When the Market Ale House opened in December 2013, it was the first micropub in the area. Owners Alison and Danny had visited micropubs in Kent for inspiration for their own premises. The shop unit that they found used to be a travel agent.

I arrived just as barman Jack was getting ready to open up. The pub is decorated in a bright and modern style while still feeling homely. Dark wood floors and light wood bar-height tables and chairs. On the walls, among other things is a photo gallery of black and white prints of the neighbouring market. The bar occupies the rear left hand corner of the room. Unusually for a micropub, there is also an al-fresco, cafe-style drinking area out the front. The rear of the building houses the cellar and the toilets.
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The bar is fitted with 7 handpumps (6 for ales and 1 for cider) although the full line-up is only used at weekends. Tasting paddles are available (3 x 1/3 pints). Red and white wine, Prosecco and a selection of single malt whiskies are also on offer. My pint of Crown Best Bitter from Stockport Brewing Co was excellent.

Before long, seven bikes pulled up outside. It was the lads from the Shepherds Hall Ale house up the road. They had arrived to lead the way to the next 2 micropubs on my list. But obviously they stopped for a pint first!

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Hurrah for Team Shepherds Hall!

Today, Bank Holiday Monday, it was with a heavy heart that I packed up my (damp) tent and left Waddow Hall.   It was to be the last day of this leg of the journey. On a positive note, I would be seeing my family again this evening, and I still had 3 micropubs to visit today! And, as a bonus, a group of riders from the Shepherds Hall Ale House (the middle pub of the three) were due to ride with me to all 3 pubs!

First, though was the small matter of a 25 miles ride to my first micropub of the day, The Market Ale House in Leyland.

A cycling festival

When cycle tourers aren’t cycle touring then we read about other people’s travels. It’s one way of scratching those itchy feet, but it only gives temporary relief from the urge to travel.   It was while reading one such blog that I learned that the first ever Cycle Touring Festival in the UK was being organised over the Mayday Bank Holiday weekend. In a rare example of a plan coming together, I managed to align things so I would be in the Clitheroe area at precisely the right time to integrate the festival into my micropub ride!

And so it was that I rocked up at Waddow Hall near Clitheroe on Friday evening, just in time to get my tent up before sundown.

And what a cracking weekend it was!

Lots of talks from inspirational people that have travelled the world (making my ride seem like a walk in the park by comparison). There was an open mike session where I got a chance to talk about my ride for 3 minutes (which was probably enough). That’s another 200 people that now know the difference between a micropub and a microbrewery.

Conveniently, a new micropub had just opened 2 weeks previously in Clitheroe, so on the last evening I offered to lead a ride down the road to visit The Clitheroe Ale House.   Fortunately, it turned out to be a larger-than-average micropub. Imagine Simon the landlord’s when almost 30 bikes rocked up outside!

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Beershack, Burnley

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Beer Shack is a small chain of three micropubs: one in Mansfield, one in Hucknall, and this one in the centre of Burnley.

Outside, the impression is of a fairly plain shop-front.   Inside, the room is long and thin, a bit like yours truly. As you walk in, the first thing you see is shelves and shelves of bottled beers, behind sliding grilles. Look a bit closer and you’ll see that the shelves are quite cleverly made up of lots of wooden crates. This shelving takes over the right-hand half of the room for about a third of the depth of the pub. I later noticed that this was a smart way of disguising a stairwell that descends behind them to the cellar and the gents toilets.

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Next is the bar, also along the right-hand side.   Chairs and tables are arranged along the left-hand side of the room.   So the effect is a little like drinking in a corridor.

The decor is quite austere, almost industrial, as compared to “cosy and pubby” feel of some micropubs – it reminded me a little of some of the Brewdog pubs that I have been to. Perhaps not to everybody’s taste, but wouldn’t it be boring if all micropubs were the same?! Vive la difference, as they say in Lancashire.

There’s a generous helping of 7 handpumps on the bar. I plumped for a pint of Milestone Classic Dark Mild, but there was a good range of beer styles available, including a cask lager (I think) which I forgot to enquire about, and all were very reasonably priced.

BeerShack is owned by James, who originally hails from Essex. I was running late, so I didn’t have a chance to chat for as long as I would have liked (James, you could say you had a lucky escape!)   But I did learn that the pub was due to host several live acts during the Burnley Blues Festival and that they had also started up music nights on the first Tuesday of every month featuring various live acoustic artists.

I look forward to visiting the other Beershacks later in the year.

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