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Campaigning for good beer in good pubs in north Lancashire and the Ingleborough area

CAMRA Lunesdale

Don't take the coal scuttle off the piano

Photo by George Palmer: Service with a smile at The Station, Ribblehead

George Palmer describes the delights (and unwritten rules) of a CAMRA mystery trip to Yorkshire pubs

I’m sure that we were all told, but there’s always one. The coach of 28 Lancastrian drinkers headed off on a tour of the mysterious and beer fuelled variety, and one of our number had forgotten his passport! This caused a short delay at the Yorkshire border, but a few groats sorted it out and the bus was on its way again to the first port of call — the Gamecock in Austwick.

“It’s amazing how soon this pub gets small,” was the comment (or was it a cry for help?) from Paul Tarbuck (Bar Manager) as the already fairly busy, cosy and tidy village pub had its customer numbers more than doubled in less than a minute. The cask beers (three Thwaites and 6X) seemed to be on good form and were eventually dispensed to the grateful invaders. Time is always of the essence on these trips and it seemed all too soon before the übbergroppenfuehrer was marshalling the flock back to the carriage and thence to the next port of call, or should it be station of call?

The Helwith Bridge cries railways as soon as you enter the three roomed pub, set very close to nowhere. Engine nameplates, pictures and signage from stations and marshalling yards adorn almost all of the wall space. The cask beers numbered eight, possibly too many as there were negative reports on some of the beers, though the Three Peaks bitter was in fine form. The stay was cut short due to a misunderstanding over the arrangements for food and the group were hurriedly herded back in to the charabanc to get to the next hostelry before the chef closed down the kitchen.

With the evening turning from cold to cold and wet, Richard piloted the vehicle masterfully along the Yorkshire cattle tracks to the Station at Ribblehead. We entered the spacious and welcoming pub to be greeted by the efficient and friendly staff with the chef on standby for the food orders. The following minutes showed how a pub business should be run. The service was exceptional with really good food flying out of the kitchen within minutes and all the drinkers enjoying well kept ales (three from Kirkby Lonsdale and one from Copper Dragon) without undue delay. This place would probably have received the ‘venue of the night’ trophy had there been one, against stiff competition.

The hour’s stay went in the blink of an eye and after the ritual herding of the intoxicated revellers the omnibus set off along the rain soaked roads to the last mysterious drinking emporium, the Old Hill Inn at Chapel-le-Dale.

The cosy wood beamed hostelry proved very welcoming, with the two Dent beers and the Black Sheep bitter getting good reviews. Even taking into account that the throng were viewing the world through beer goggles by this time, the consensus of opinion was that the Old Hill is well worth visiting if you’re in the area. One word of caution though: should you be there on a very wet day, don’t take the coal scuttle off the piano, it’s there to catch incoming water from a leaky roof and protect the musical instrument. Just can’t get a roofer when you need one these days.

There will always be grumbles and moans about any expedition, but this was a good night out and any shortcomings could not detract from this. All thanks are due to the staff of the four alehouses visited who all dealt with the influx of nearly thirty thirsty and trying customers with friendliness and efficiency. Mention must also be made of the cellar persons who, except for some of the beers on the night, excel at their craft and let us sample the products of the nation’s brewers as they would want them served. Finally thanks must go to the organiser, Julian Holt, for masterminding another evening of good ale and good company.