Thursday, 18 October 2018

Spa Valley Railway Beer & Cider Festival 2018

First no apologies for this unashamed publicity plug for my own CAMRA branch, whose beer festival, run in conjunction with local Heritage preservation group, the Spa Valley Railway, kicks off this Friday (19th October). The three day event runs until Sunday and will offer visitors a wide range of beers (both cask & Key-Keg) and ciders, at three separate locations along the seven mile length of preserved railway.

This is now the 8th festival, and the organisers claim it is bigger and better than previous events. You could argue that they would say that, but after last year’s festival there was a lot of soul-searching,  particularly in relation to issues of space, staffing and over-crowding, and a number of changes have been made.


I haven’t been involved with the organisation of this year’s event, but will no doubt find out whether the changes are working,  when I turn up to do my stint behind the bar on Saturday evening. The idea behind the festival is to encourage visitors to travel up and down the line where they can sample different beers at each of the three stations which constitute the Spa Valley Railway.

The main bulk of  the beers (and ciders), can be found in the Victorian Engine Shed, which acts as SVR’s headquarters. The shed was once part of the former Tunbridge Wells West station, but there will also be a range of beers at both Groombridge and Eridge stations.

The latter acts as an entry point for those travelling down to the festival by train, as Eridge station provides direct, cross-platform connections with Southern rail services from London Bridge, Croydon and Uckfield.

The organisers claim to have around 200  Real Ales, a figure which includes 25 Green Hop Ales. There will also be a craft beer bar featuring UK Keg & European Beers, plus over 30 Ciders. These bars are located in the engine shed, along with most of the real ales. I have just seen the beer list and have to say that it looks amazing.

The railway people will be operating a 50 minute interval service, with trains  running down to both Groombridge and Eridge Stations.

As mentioned previously, there will be beers on sale at those locations and on the trains themselves, but also included are:

• Trains to High Rocks, Groombridge & Eridge.
• Fullers Butcher BBQ.
• Thai Food Stand.
• Live Entertainment throughout the event at selected times.
• Ticket office, toilets and main departure point of train services.
• Station shop stocking a large variety of railway and children's products.
• Train travel from 17:30 is just £10, £5 for CAMRA and Spa Valley members on production of a valid membership card.

A potted history of the Spa Valley Line:

During the latter half of the 19th Century, Tunbridge Wells had two stations built by rival companies; Tunbridge Wells Central, opened in 1845 by the South Eastern Railway, which is now the sole mainline station, and Tunbridge Wells West, which was opened by the London Brighton & South Coast Railway in 1866. This former station is the headquarters of today’s Spa Valley Railway.

Around 1876, these two stations
were linked by a tunnel enabling connections between the London to Brighton and the London to Hastings lines. From Tunbridge Wells West there were direct services to the south coast at Brighton and Eastbourne and northbound  to London Victoria. Passing into the ownership of the Southern railway in 1923, the route became a very popular cross country link with over 100 trains passing a day.

During the latter half of the last century, as the popularity of the motor car as a means of travel increased, services started to be cut back, and many of the surrounding lines closed. For example Eridge to Hailsham branch (the Cuckoo Line) in 1965, East Grinstead to Groombridge in 1967, and then Uckfield to Lewes in 1969.


This left the remaining lines through Tunbridge Wells West both isolated and exposed. Finally, on 6th July 1985, the Tunbridge Wells to Eridge section closed. The depot at Tunbridge Wells West survived for another month and a few years later, the link to the mainline at Birchden Junction was finally removed.  A Sainsbury's superstore now occupies much of the site of the former West station, although the old  station building survives, and today houses a restaurant and hotel.

Shortly after closure, a preservation society was formed with the aim of restoring  train service on the railway, and after a herculean effort by local volunteers, the line was reopened through to Groombridge in August 1997.


Many improvements have been made since then including the introduction of new steam locomotives and rolling stock. In 2005, the railway marked the 20 years since the closure of the line by opening an extension just short of the former Birchden Junction, a further mile from Groombridge.

In mid 2007, after discussions with Network Rail,  work began on extending the line through to  Eridge.  Contractors were hired to restore the section of running line parallel to the mainline between Birchden Junction and Eridge, and after numerous delays and complications, the extension finally opened to the public in March 2011.


I appreciate this is rather short notice, but do try and come along if you can. Surely there can’t be many better ways of spending a fine autumn weekend than sampling a few of the excellent range of beers on offer at the festival, especially when there’s the added attraction of riding up and down this preserved line, through the glorious Kent and Sussex countryside which lies between Tunbridge Wells and Eridge.

Further details of the beers and ciders, opening times, train timetables and fares can be found by clicking here on the SVR website.

Saturday, 13 October 2018

Walk of life

A year or so ago, I wrote a post about keeping fit with a particular emphasis on walking. I described a desire I had to walk the North Downs Way, seeing this as the logical follow on to the South Downs Way; a walk  I completed nearly 10 years ago. I  bought a guide and had it all mapped out in my head but, as is so often the case, life gets in the way of our dreams, and conspired to stop me - for this year at least!

Fortunately the North Downs Way was only a minor goal in the general scheme of things, and certainly in comparison to those I have achieved this year. The most notable of  achievements have been my visit to the United States, via Iceland, and once in North America, my Amtrak train journey across one third of the continent. (The ultimate goal is to complete the journey, travelling westwards from Chicago to the Pacific Coast, but that’s for several years in the future).


Back to the walking, where the main problem has not been lacking the will, but rather having insufficient annual leave left after taking two foreign holidays, one domestic  vacation and time off from work to help with Mrs PBT’s recuperation from a particularly nasty illness.

Fortunately, for both my levels of fitness and my sanity,  I work in a very pleasant rural location,  where there are ample opportunities to get out in the fresh air at lunchtime and enjoy a walk in the lovely Kent countryside. I’ve spent over 12 years in my current position, and virtually every weekday, come rain or shine, I’m out walking for between 35 and 40 minutes; a period of time  which still allows me to enjoy my sandwiches and a cup of tea, when I get back to my desk.

I said virtually every lunchtime, as there are the odd occasions when a visit to the pub intervenes – today being such an occasion. In addition, sometimes the weather is so inclement, that even I don’t venture out. I’m talking about torrential rain here, as I quite like walking in snow; even when it’s ankle deep!


It’s nice and relaxing and being outside allows any stress that has built up during the day, to disperse, but what I really enjoy about these walks is experiencing the changing of the seasons. Watching the newly born lambs skipping about on a cold, but bright late February afternoon, or seeing the snowdrops poking through the snow. Slightly later in the year, one can see the primroses coming into bloom on a south-facing bank.

I don’t see many bluebells whilst out walking, as my routes are almost exclusively through open countryside, although I do notice them on my drive in to work, as the road passes through a couple of areas of woodland.

Come August and September, there are plenty of blackberries amongst the hedgerows, so I'm often tempted to stop and pick a handful to eat on my way round. When winter comes upon us, the landscape takes on a much bleaker appearance, and on my usual route I can see across to the line of hills formed by the Greensand Ridge in the distance.

At this time of year, the wind really whistles across the most exposed part of my walk, especially when it is coming from the east. Then it is biting and cold, piling the snow up into drifts, and I am sometimes tempted to call in at the local pub; especially if I know they've got Larkin's Porter on tap.

I have a standard circular route, which I can add to if time allows, and I am not in a hurry to get back. I describe the walk as circular, but when viewed on a map, the route is more triangular in shape. The walks vary in length, from between 1.25 to 1.75 miles. I know this from the "Map my Walk App" which I have on my phone. The App also conveniently estimates the number of calories burned off during the walk, and these range from 200 - 300 Kcal.

Whichever direction I set off in, my route takes me across the old  Penshurst airfield; an airfield which was  in operation between 1916–36 and 1940–46. Although initially developed as a military airfield, after the First World War it was used as an alternate destination to Croydon Airport, with some civil flying taking place. The airfield closed following a fatal crash at an air display in 1936, and was converted to a polo ground.


It re-opened during the Second World War as an Emergency Landing Ground, RAF Penshurst. As well as serving in this role, it was mainly used by Air Observation squadrons of the RAF. The airfield finally closed in May 1946, but evidence of is former military role can be seen in the form of a couple of concrete pill boxes, built to guard its perimeter.

Today, the western boundary of the site is crossed by a handy tarmac path, which means my route is an all weather one, with no need to get my work shoes covered in mud. The latter is important, as whilst I could change into a pair of walking boots, for going cross-country, that would eat into my one hour lunch break.

There are some alternative routes that I walk, that do involve crossing fields or following footpaths, and these are obviously fine during the summer months, when there have  been spells of dry weather, but at other times of the year the footpath options are out of the question.


There is another route I sometimes take, which involves crossing the railway at nearby Penshurst station, and then following the road which leads to the station from the south. I can then either double back or, if I'm feeling brave/foolhardy, I can follow another road back up the hill to the village church. However, given the way that many motorists treat country roads as racetracks, I'm not a fan of the latter option. 

I mentioned earlier an addition to my normal route, and this involves a loop around the tiny hamlet of Charcott. The latter is home to the Greyhound pub, now lovingly restored following a lengthy period of uncertainty and indeed closure, and is the perfect place to call in for a pint, should I desire.

Not far from Charcott and the former Penshurst airfield, is another relic of conflict, this time from the Cold War, in the shape of a nuclear bunker. I'd been aware of the existence of  this structure, from a work colleague who live locally, but in January 2017, a group of us saw the bunker for ourselves, during  a walk to the Greyhound. 

We came across a carrying a volunteer who was carrying out some restoration work, and it turned out he belonged to a preservation group which had bought the bunker, when they were all sold off by the M.O.D at the end of the Cold War. I took a few photos, including one looking down the quite deep entrance shaft. I’m not sure that I fancied climbing down there, but as it happened, we weren’t offered the opportunity.

I realise I am fortunate to be able to undertake these sort of walks, in the middle of the working day, and accept I am doubly fortunate to work in such a pleasant rural location. I am not alone in doing these lunchtime walks, as several of my colleagues do the same thing, but as we all walk at a different pace, as well as setting off at different times, we tend to walk alone.

To me, this individual form of exercise is far preferable to the physical stretching and similar activities which employees at our Japanese parent company are "encouraged " to participate in at the start of the working day. Fortunately, I can't see it catching on over here!

Wednesday, 10 October 2018

A perfect storm?


Well we've had quite a spate of light-hearted, travel-related posts, highlighting idyllic parts of the British countryside, with just the odd snippet or two about pubs and beer, but with the holidays behind us now and the nights drawing in, it's time to get a lot more serious.  So where better to start than with an issue which is already having repercussions for a type of beer which is claimed to be the "pinnacle of the brewer's art".

I am talking of course, about cask-conditioned ale; the style of beer which is unique to Britain. With sales seemingly in decline, there are dark rumblings about the future of this unique style of beer, and with no real consensus as to what to do about it, let alone how to save it. the future is not looking good.

It can't have escaped the attention of those who care about beer that the recently published Cask Report (an annual review of the state of the cask-ale market), has highlighted a 6% fall in sales of cask.

Several prominent beer writers have picked up on this including Martyn Cornell (Zythophile), Pub Curmudgeon, Ben Nunn (Bon Viveur), and Tandleman and all have written posts on what may have caused this dramatic decline in casks' fortunes, and have put forward various suggestions as to how to turn this situation round.

Martyn Cornell asks the question, "Why after nearly 50 years after the birth of CAMRA, can't he get a decent pint in most pubs?". He suggests appointing "cask ale champions" to ensure quality standards are met, and also believes Cask Marque should implement accurate record keeping, so publicans can demonstrate just how long a particular cask has been on sale. Finally he wants to get the message across about the problems associated with stocking too many cask ales, as this is contributing to the quality problems which is one of the prime reasons for the drop in sales.

Pub Curmudgeon suggests that because hand pulls allow customers to instantly recognise cask beer, they also give them the chance to instantly reject it as well. His proposal is to mix up the cask with the keg, by putting it on the "T bar".

Benjamin Nunn asks the question, "Is cask ale going the way of vinyl?", and if so, would it not be better if it was promoted as a "niche" product? Whilst this could see cask disappearing from many main-stream pubs, it would at least ensure its survival in specialist outlets, which know how to keep the beer properly.

Tandleman conducted his own research into cask quality, by trying several pubs in an area he doesn't usually drink in. In the four pubs he visited, there was only one pint he'd describe as very good. This, coupled with regular visits to London, where he often comes across poor quality beer, reinforces his view that cask has a problem.

And this is where I come in, as Tandleman's findings closely mirror what I experienced during our recent trip to Norfolkand Yorkshire. It is becoming abundantly clear to many people that ordering a pint of cask ale has become something of a lottery; and an expensive lottery at that, given the price of a pint today.

If further proof were needed, take a look at Retired Martin's blog where Martin is reporting much the same in the many pubs he visits up and down the country. What makes this situation even worse, and potentially explosive, is the news that most of the pubs Martin visits are Good Beer Guide entries!

From where I see things, quality has always been the Achilles Heel of cask ale, and whilst its short comings can be mitigated by quick turnover and proper cellarmanship, the fact that cask-conditioned beer is reliant on being cared for by someone apart from the brewer, is asking for trouble.

So with cask sales seemingly in terminal decline, you may well ask what has been CAMRA's response to this news? Well if the October edition of  "What's Brewing", the Campaign's monthly newspaper is anything to go by, not a lot. CAMRA at present is pre-occupied with its campaign to save the nation's pubs.

In a way, I can see where CAMRA is coming from, as there is no future for cask (Real Ale) without pubs to stock and serve it. But equally, if CAMRA continues to ignore the quality issue inherent with cask ale, drinkers in pubs which the Campaign has managed to save, will continue to avoid it, and will switch to something more consistent and reliable.

CAMRA appears then to be caught in a cleft stick, but one would have thought that the drink which is the group's main raison d'être is worth fighting for. My membership of CAMRA stretches back over 40 years, during which I have witnessed various highs, as well as lows in the Campaign's fortunes, but I feel that the group has a real fight on its hands to try and rescue cask ale from oblivion, and the trouble is it doesn't seem to realise the problem exists.

There is a perfect storm heading cask ale's way, as the genre comes under pressure from all sides, but what makes things worse is the situation is being masked by the seemingly unstoppable rise in the number of new breweries coming on tap. With over 2.000 breweries in the UK, no neighbourhood is far from a brewery, so from CAMRA's viewpoint, everything in the garden is rosy.

With all these breweries fighting for space on the bar, and many CAMRA members on the look out for a new beer to "tick" or a new brewery to scoop, the temptation, when it comes to Good Beer Guide selection time,  is to pick pubs offering a wide selection of real ales, whist turning a blind eye to the obvious quality problems ensuing from stocking too many ales. This issue has been around for a long time, and whilst some branches are now belatedly addressing it, they are still the exception rather than the rule.

I'm not sure what is the best way of saving cask ale, because no matter what innovations are put in, its quality is ultimately linked to the person or persons who handle it in the pub cellar or serve it at the bar. Keg, or "container " beers, which are the default  option in virtually all areas of the world, apart from Britain, get round this problem because they are kept in, and dispensed, from a sealed containers. They therefore  receive virtually no exposure to oxygen and, more importantly, spoilage organisms which might be present in the air.

A couple of months ago, whilst I was visiting the United States for Beer Bloggers Conference in Virginia, I had several conversations about cask-conditioned ale with  some of the delegates. The universal response was that Americans just don't get "cask", with the reasons most often cited being it is flat and served too warm. During my travels I only came across two or three bars stocking cask, and wisely I wasn't foolish enough to try any of it.

Now I'm not advocating an abandonment of cask, in favour of keg, but perhaps the future of "real ale" does lie more in specialist outlets, which cater for that specific niche. Whilst this may have been Ben Viveur's perception of where the market is heading, and was where the comparison with vinyl came about, Ben was quite adamant that wasn't the destination he wanted to see for cask.

I too don't want to see cask disappear from mainstream pubs, but on the other hand, if the style is struggling to sell amongst a myriad of global lager brands, I would rather that the pubs concerned knock it on the head. In some cases "no cask is better than bad cask" - now where have we heard that sort of argument, before ?

Saturday, 6 October 2018

The road to Bridlington


After a three night stopover in Bingley, it was time to head east and make for the Yorkshire coast. We had booked a night’s accommodation in the seaside town of Bridlington; a place none of us had been to before, but before we set off, a word or two about breakfast.  

The Premier Inn we stayed in was charging £9.75 for a full English breakfast, which Mrs PBT’s and I thought was rather steep. On the first two mornings, son Matthew had had other ideas, and had taken himself down to the attached Dalesway Brewer’s Fayre pub to eat his fill. He even managed to drag himself out of bed at a sensible hour in order to do so!

Matt informed us that for £9.75 you could help yourself to as much as you liked. Even so, that seemed like a poor deal – stuffing yourself silly just to get your “money’s worth” doesn’t seem a sensible option, so us parents decided to look elsewhere. A quick check on Google revealed that L&S Village Bakery, just down the road, offered a range of breakfast butties and other goodies to take away. The reviews were good too, so we jumped into the car and sped off, eager to grab a bite to eat.

We soon found the place, fronting onto the road, and with plenty of parking space outside. The fillings for the “butties” were cooked to order, so we both ordered bacon and sausage.  Once served we drove back to the hotel, parked outside and sat in the car eating our purchases, whilst waiting for young Matthew to appear. The bacon and sausage used for the filling, were plentiful, of a high standard and good value as well.

The quality and value of our breakfast “barm cakes”  - I know you mustn’t use that term east of the Pennines, persuaded our son to skip the Premier Inn’s breakfast offering on that final morning, which is why I before checking out, I nipped out early to pick up an order of breakfast butties for us all.

Suitably full, we checked out, loaded up the car, and set off for Yorkshire’s east coast. Mrs PBT’s had expressed her desire for a drive across the moors, and the technology obliged, as the Sat-Nav led us up a narrow road, more or less opposite the hotel, and straight up onto said moors.

It was a lovely sunny day and with hardly a cloud in the sky, the moors were looking their early autumnal best. The roads were narrow and winding, and fringed either side by dry-stone walls. I hadn’t seen such scenery since my student days in Manchester, when we would take a trip up into the Pennines.

Our route eventually took us onto some wider roads, and from what I could make out the navigation aid was taking us to the north of Bingley and then Bradford, whilst keeping us heading in an easterly direction. We skirted the town of Otley, before descending from the hills and onto roads which followed the river valley towards Tadcaster, and the Vale of York.

We skirted the latter and then took the A64 to the south of York, before turning onto the A166 which runs virtually all the way to Bridlington. We reached the village of Stamford Bridge, about five miles to the  east of York, where the bridge from which the village gets it name, crosses the River Derwent.

It looked a really attractive place and, had we not been in a queue of traffic, I would have pulled off the road and stopped for a look around. Writing this, I am now wishing we had pulled over, but we seemed to enter, and then leave Stamford Bridge so quickly, that all we got was a glimpse of the village square, tucked away just the other side of the bridge.

The family unfortunately were unaware of Stamford Bridge’s role in early English history, and of the famous battle which took place there on 25th September 1066. In this battle King Harold, repelled an invading Norwegian force led by his brother Tostig Godwinson  and King Harald Hardrada of Norway. This defeat of the Norwegian forces is said to mark the traditional end of the Viking era in Britain.

Harold’s victory was short lived, as just three weeks later, having marched his forces nearly 200 miles back to southern England, he was defeated at the Battle of Hastings, by an invasion force led by Duke William of Normandy.

https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/deed.en Oliver Dixon
One can only speculate as to how much two forced marches, in the space of a few weeks, contributed to Harold’s defeat, but either way the battle which took place at Stamford Bridge  had a major effect on the course of English history. Unfortunately, they don’t seem to teach this stuff in schools any more, as my family’s lack of knowledge about what happened at this quiet and quintessentially English village, showed only too well.

Moving steadily eastwards, we could see a line of hills looming in the distance. These were the Yorkshire Wolds; an area of gentle rolling hills and dry chalk-land valleys, which run from Filey in the north, to the Humber Estuary in the south. The road ascended the escarpment at Garrowby Hill and we then found ourselves driving through this pleasant and relatively unknown area of Yorkshire’s East Riding.

We turned off the A166 at the quaintly named village of Fridaythorpe, following what was signposted as a “Quieter route to Bridlington”. We arrived in the seaside town at around 2pm, which was just the right time to check into the Premier Inn, right on the seafront.

We grabbed a welcome coffee in the adjoining Cookhouse & Kitchen, before going for a stroll along the seafront. We walked down to the harbour, pausing to take in the view northwards along the coast, to the chalk cliffs of Flamborough Head. The harbour area was especially interesting as Bridlington is still a working fishing port, which claims to land one of the largest  quotas of shellfish in the UK.

Wife and son headed for the amusement arcades, for a bit of fun with the “Penny Falls” machines. They actually take 2p pieces, but for a couple of quid, you can have half hour or so worth's of amusement of trying to beat the machine, even though you inevitably lose.

Being out of season, the arcades closed at 5pm, much to Matthew’s annoyance, but with each of us, a pound or so lighter, it was time to grab something to eat. Jeromes Pavillion Bar & Café, right on the seafront, fitted the bill, and with views out to sea, it was the perfect place to enjoy our haddock and chips, complete with mushy peas, bread & butter and pot of tea.

Cheap and cheerful, and with a glass roof supported by cast-iron columns which looked as if they’d been rescued from an old railway station, it was very pleasant indeed. The food arrived hot, and freshly cooked, and although the place was fairly quiet, you could imagine it being packed out at the height of the summer season.

We took a drive up into the Old Town afterwards, but the family didn’t fancy getting out of the car. To be fair, it was getting dark, but I liked what I saw of this historic area of Bridlington, so much so that I was wishing we’d booked another night.

As it happened, that was out of the question, as BBC Radio 2 were hosting an All Star Party, at the Bridlington Spa the following evening, and accommodation in the town was either sold out, or astronomically priced. I made a mental note to return, at some future date (along with a visit to Stamford Bridge).

We finished our evening with a few beers at the Cookhouse & Kitchen. The hand-pulled Jennings Cumberland was on good form at 3.0 NBSS, but the pub itself was slightly lacking in atmosphere.

The following morning, we headed for home. Don’t ever travel on a Friday, unless you absolutely have to. According to the AA, the 245 mile journey should have taken four hours and 40 minutes. We left Bridlington just after 10am and finally arrived home at 6:15pm.

We did however, stop for something to eat at another American-style OK Diner. This was on the opposite carriageway of the A1, and quite a way further south than the one we called into on the outward journey. The menu and food were of the same high quality, so it made a very welcome break to what was a rather lengthy journey.



Wednesday, 3 October 2018

A significant milestone


There was something rather special  concerning my recent  post about Haworth; the one where I claimed we were avoiding all things Brontë. The item I am referring to, and the thing which makes the Brontë post special, isn’t glaringly obvious, and I must admit it slipped my attention, despite being vaguely aware of its approaching imminence.

I could keep you guessing for a while, but that would be unkind, so whilst I appreciate what I’m about to reveal, may not mean much to some people, it does to me; even though my realisation  of the event's significance only dawned on me yesterday.

So without further ado, I can reveal that the article posted on 27th September, represents the 1,000th article posted on Paul’s Beer & Travel Blog!

This is a real milestone for a blog which I started writing in my spare time, and the real exciting news is that next month will see a further milestone reached, as Paul’s Beer & Travel Blog will be celebrating its 10th birthday.

There aren’t any photos to share from that initial November 2008 post, but the one at the top shows yours truly, in familiar pose, enjoying a well-earned beer.

Tuesday, 2 October 2018

Random ramblings about Yorkshire and holidaying at home


Last week’s trip up to Yorkshire was the first holiday in the UK, of more than a few days, that the Bailey family have had in years. It was my dear lady wife who said this to me at the start of the long drive back from Bridlington last Friday, and looking back, she was right.

For the past few years we’ve holidayed as a family, in foreign parts, and probably would have done so this year, had it not been for Mrs PBT’s hospitalisation, earlier in the year. But having just done so, I have to admit it was much easier to just jump in the car and drive direct to our holiday destination without the hassle of airports and buses.

My wife certainly thought so, particularly as she didn’t fancy lugging suitcases around and dealing with the queues at security and passport control. Then there’s the bit when you re herded around like cattle, as you wait for the bus to take you from the car park to the terminal, and sometimes there’s another bus to take you to and from the plane.

Being relatively fit, these inconveniences don’t bother me that much; although my recent trip to the US involved five flights and no doubt seriously increased my carbon footprint for the year. It therefore made sense to take a holiday on home turf, and with Mrs PBT’s still recuperating after a nasty, and very nearly fatal  illness, these facts had to be weighed up and taken very seriously.

Of course, airports provide assistance with  both boarding and disembarkation, and this is an option we may well look at for next year, but as I said at the beginning, it was much easier to travel by car, as it was literally door to door.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/en:Creative_Commons
Travelling by car isn’t totally stress free of course; the drive home proved that only too well. A combination of road works and heavy traffic (to be expected on a Friday), added a couple of hours to what was already a lengthy journey, but it was not without its compensations in the form of the changing scenery and the sense of discovery which comes from seeing new places and experiencing new things for the first time.

First and foremost was crossing the Humber Bridge, between Yorkshire and Lincolnshire, whilst marvelling at both the stunning views and the incredible engineering which went into the bridge’s construction.

This was followed, some time afterwards by glimpsing the huge bulk of Lincoln Cathedral, striking an imposing silhouette against the horizon. I’m no stranger to Lincoln, having been a frequent visitor to the city back in the early 1980’s, but views like that still inspire, and instill a sense of awe when one takes into account the primitive tools and equipment the builders of these structures had at their disposal.

Apart from a brief business trip eight years ago, last week’s jaunt to Yorkshire was my first visit to the county in 36 years. So had the place changed much? The simple answer is yes it has changed, but only as much as the rest of the country has, and to confuse the issue further, the parts of Yorkshire we visited were different from those I’d been to before.

The fact that Mrs PBT’s has relatives in the county added to our visit, as local knowledge is always welcome, and it was also good to see how the other half live. I should add that I mean that in a positive, rather than a disparaging way.

I’ve already written about our visit to Haworth, and how that was enhanced by having someone who’d lived there acting as our guide, but it was also good to go out and do a bit of exploring on our own. This we did in the form of our visit to Saltaire, but for reasons of expediency, our evening drinking tended to take place at the pub attached to the Premier Inn, where we were staying.

Fortunately the single choice of Doom Bar at the Dalesway Brewer’s Fayre outlet on our first night, was supplemented by some very drinkable Black Sheep Best Bitter on subsequent evenings;, although I would still have preferred my pint NOT to have been pulled through a sparkler!

As is so often the case, we found the best pub on the last evening of our stay. The Airedale Heifer, situated in the village of Sandbeds, between Crossflatts and Riddlesden, was only 15 minutes walk from our hotel, so it was doubly annoying to have been so close to good beer and a good pub without realising it. (Actually I did spot it on WhatPub, but that’s another story).

On Wednesday evening we’d arranged to meet up with Mrs PBT’s relatives for a meal at the pub, and being a good and supportive husband, I drove us there. This substantial roadside pub is named after the famous Airedale Heifer, which was recorded  as the heaviest cow in the UK during the early 1800s.

The  Airedale Heifer is run by the Bridgehouse Brewery, and with the brew-house situated in an outbuilding behind the pub, serves as the brewery tap. With a good food offering and a number of different Bridgehouse Ales on tap, the Heifer is understandably popular with locals and visitors alike.

We enjoyed an excellent and reasonably priced roast dinner at the pub, washed down with a very quaffable pint of Bridgehouse Blonde. NBSS 3.0, and I would definitely recommend calling in, if you ever find yourself in the Crossflats – Riddlesden area of West Yorkshire.

The following morning, we left for Bridlington via the moors, the Vale of York and the Wolds, and that is worthy of another post.