Mad as a Hatter?- Colwyn Bay on New Years Day !

I told you the plan, it was all about hat wearing, swilling real ale & seeking out the Blue Army on their first campaign of 2015:

 ·          Tuesday 30th - train to Llandudno & walk to Conwy to seek out real ale (inc. from Stockport) & sausage rolls, calling in at the Castle View pub on the way
·          New Years’ Eve - get tram up the Great Orme for a game of crazy golf & explore real ale opportunities in Llandudno
·          New Years’ Day - walk to Colwyn bay, get photos of Blue Army, support Jon Keighren in the commentary box as match summariser for Pure FM

But what actually happened? Read on…………

New Years’ Eve Eve

What better way to start any trip following County than a leisurely breakfast at the splendid Plaza Café? There is None!

So, after perusing the 2015 events programme at the Plaza, whilst munching on a nice bacon butty & supping black coffee, I head off to catch the train to Llandudno.

I take the opportunity to collect my train tickets for Boston & Lowestoft at the station, & also bump into Andy (who works in the buffet) on the platform, which in the past has always been a good omen. Andy tells me to behave myself.

Pantomime season at the Plaza is over, & I can’t help thinking that it’s time for County to get serious if they want to get promoted. Colwyn Bay is a must-win game!

Surely I am the first wave of the Blue Army? I’m meeting Phil tonight in Conwy, but he doesn’t count as he has lived & worked in the area for a while now.

Following an uneventful journey, aside from changes at Crewe (spit) & Chester, I’m soon striding past my hotel & getting lost for the first time in Llandudno.

Never mind, no harm done, plenty of time to play with. I remove the rubber sheet off my bed. I say rubber sheet, but this one is so robust, that I reckon it could be used as a paddling pool during the summer months.

I set out to walk the 5 miles to Conwy to meet up with Phil. For some reason, I’m really missing my cat, Seafur.

Seafur....surely not !

This IS nice. Walking along the Welsh coast as the sun sets. 

Good job the tide is out though, as some serious building works near Deganwy have caused the closure of the coastal path, meaning that you have to walk onto the beach near to water’s edge.

It’s quite a scene, walking towards Conwy in the fading light, with the bridge & castle slowly coming into view.

View from that walk

You really could convince yourself that you’re returning from an audacious quest, undertaken on behalf of the King, eagerly anticipating his gratitude & legendary hospitality at the Castle.

One problem (how can I complain!) is that access to the Castle View pub is obstructed by a ten foot fence, a railway track & a dual-carriageway. Whilst I do fancy a beer, I decline that particular challenge. The King will never know. 

As you know, you can find all of the pubs I try (& try to try) on the excellent CAMRA website

The Castle lights are almost completely illuminated by the time I step onto the bridge over to Conwy.

Conwy Castle

The Conwy Crawl

I find Edwards the butchers easily enough & indulge not only in the highly recommended sausage roll (it’s more like a pastry-covered meatloaf) but also a pork pie with a stilton crust (man that was good!).

Off to the Albion Vaults to meet Phil. I’m running early due to the inaccessibility of the Castle View, so settle in with a pint of Purple Moose’s Elderflower Ale. Whilst there are no ales on offer from Stockport Brewing, there is plenty of evidence that they are available here. Clips on the walls, listed as waiting in the cellar etc.

There’s a little group of folk musicians jamming in the corner & an open fire. The locals are very chatty. All in all- very civilised indeed.

Phil shows up just as the Stockport Brewing Crown Bitter becomes available. Perhaps he’s been waiting outside? The weird thing is that before we move on, this ale has been taken off again. Apparently, the barrel fell a little in the cellar, so now it has to be resettled. Now that’s dedication to good real ale!

Phil’s guided tour to Conwy proceeds. He’s already told me that that he has ‘flu.

The Castle Hotel, the Liverpool Arms (Rooster’s Yankee), George & Dragon (Speckled Hen) & Olde Mail House (Black Sheep). Phil’s holding up pretty well for someone who’s at death’s door & he stay’s the distance, kindly arranging a lift back to Llandudno from the twins. Not the County twins, his twin daughters.

Phil tells me to try the Asia in Llandudno if I fancy a curry tomorrow & also the Penrhyn Arms at Penrhynside near the Little Orme on my way back from the game if I’m still standing by then.  

The hotel is locked up by the time I get back, so I have to get the porter to let me in.

New Years’ Eve     

Xmas is starting to catch up with me. I miss breakfast - by 3 hours!

Never mind. After grabbing a cheese & bacon pasty from a local bakery, it’s back to the Tourist Information Office to confirm my worst fears, i.e. there is no public transport tomorrow.

I take a list of the local taxi firms as the weather forecast is awful.

Off to get the tram up the Great Orme. Shut! 

The Orme Tram......

Kings Head - open! Oh dear. One of the ales is written in biro on the pump clip, so I have to have that as I’ve never heard of it, particularly as the barman isn’t even sure who brews it.

Anyway, the barman used to live in Stockport & asks me if I’ve seen the other County Fans who’re exploring Llandudno. I am not alone; the Blue Army are in town. Again get chatting to the locals.

Down to the Snowdon (Muirhouse’s - El Torro) & the Cottage Loaf (Facers’ North Star Porter), where again there is mention of the Blue Army being sighted. This is getting frustrating. Are they avoiding me? Probably.

Wander into the local arcade looking for a pinball machine & win £8 on a fruit machine. Just what I need, more beer money!

Tick off Wetherspoons (the Palladium), probably one of the best in the UK, both for quality / sheer scale of choice of ales & also as a venue. Used to be a theatre & a cinema & in fairness to Wetherspoons, they’ve hardly changed the premises at all. Must return before I leave the area. I think I get a whiff of the Blue Army.

Sing if You’re Winning

It’s about 6pm by now & the town has gone strangely quiet. The calm before the storm? Still no sight of the Blue Army, so I decide to have a break back at the hotel. I’ve spotted a bar that does real ale & karaoke. Someone’s luck has just changed.

I need to sing. I need to humiliate myself in public. I was denied the opportunity the Sunday before Xmas by some very selfish people who claim to be my friends, & have had a really bad itch ever since. I even predicted that thanks to them, I would probably get beaten up in Llandudno due to my unsatisfied urge to sing.

I decide that the wise thing to do is to eat first. The wise thing to do was probably to stop in my room, but as usual, I’m completely unsupervised.

So it’s off to the Asia, as recommended by Phil. There’s this young lady in there, whose main role appeared to be to look after the bar. But, every now & then she’d escape from behind the bar to serve food.

I know it’s dark in there & she is the bringer of spicy food & alcohol, but she is one of the most beautiful women I’ve ever seen in my life! All eyes are on her. I could be arrested for what that guy across the room is thinking.

Must sing. That will make everything better. Purge the soul!

Old enough to be her grandpa. Swathed in black, dusky, long flowing hair, gliding across the carpet, haunting me.

I’ll protect you from the hooded claw. Stop it! Must focus on chicken tikka shashlik.

The Town House Llandudno. Real ale, The Power of Love (FGTH), Wild Thing (Troggs), Mustang Sally (Wilson Pickett), Heroes (Bowie), fancy dress, etc.

One lady fell backwards off her stool, blown away by my Frankie. Took four of her mates to carry her out & bring her around.

I only finished my curry a couple of hours ago, but already I’m experiencing a few “issues”, so by half ten, I’m back in my hotel room. I miss bringing in the New Year, at least in the UK anyway (just about caught New York).

Match Day

Have to get up early as it’s a couple of hours walk to Colwyn Bay. What a spectacular sun-rise!

Decent breakfast. Set off at 08:45. Windy but remarkably mild.

I’ve forgotten my hat!

Half an hour to the Little Orme, where I encounter Frank Sinclair & Chris Sanna awaiting their early morning exercise.............


I pass the road up to Penrhynside, where I hope to explore the Penrhyn Arms this evening. I’ve forgotten my hat! Drat! Starting to regret that curry last night as well.

Anyway, all is well. The rain keeps off & I wobble into the Picture House (Wetherspoons) in Colwyn Bay at about 10:30, finding that the true hard core are already in residence..........


After chewing on a pint for an hour, I set off for the Red Lion in Old Colwyn, but not before revealing my cunning plan, which is to mention as many styles of hat as possible, in course of fulfilling my duties as match summariser on Pure FM.

Passing the station, I encounter the first members of the Blue Army to travel on the day. Delayed by cows on the line apparently!

Thirty minutes to the Red Lion, but well worth it with 8 ales & 3 real ciders to sample. Weetwood‘s Cheshire Cat for me - what else? £2.30! Bizarrely, I’m on my own in the Red Lion for 40 minutes, giving me the chance to read the local paper, which has decent coverage of today’s game.

2 noble County foot-soldiers stagger in through the door, out of the rain, which by now is beating down........... 

I try out the Sun Inn next door, before setting off up the hill to ensure I’m at the ground by 2.15pm, in order to meet Jon Keighren. It’s wet. Thankfully Dave Marchbank, of Supporters’ Co-op fame, pulls over & gives me a lift most of the way.

Mad as a Hatter?

I pick up my invisible press pass from the head steward & am let into the ground for nothing. I think this is the first time I’ve ever watched County without paying to get in.

Jon is in the press box to welcome me. There is no power & no pies! We watch as the farmer & his dogs come out & evacuate the sheep off the hillside. Yes, the weather is that bad!

After a quick briefing, I head off to find food & to make myself comfortable for the afternoon. The bar is full of the Blue Army. 

On balance, I enjoy my stint as match summariser for Pure FM, & get a real insight into what’s involved in making match commentary possible. It’s no picnic for Jon I can assure you. Forgot to get a picture!

For the record, I managed to mention the following styles of hat during the game: top; bowler; trilby; boater; flat; balaclava; bonnet; sombrero; dunce; hard; peaked; pith & tricorne.

My two most contrived comments were:

“I know they try corners in training, but not in these conditions!” &

“If County have any illusions of still being in the mix for the play-offs by the time we’re all dusting off our Easter Bonnets, they just have to win this one!”

The hat styles I intended to mention, but didn’t manage to, were: ascot; beanie; bearskin; beret; deerstalker; turban; gatsby; mitre; mortarboard; panama; porkpie, rasta cap & stetson.

So, I got half way through my list. The weird thing is that I don’t think Jon even noticed!

County win & deservedly so in my view.

Jon goes off to try & get an interview with Frank Sinclair & I set off back to the Picture House in Colwyn bay, where the Blue army are celebrating, prior to catching the 19:55 train back to Stockport.  

Phil picks me up shortly afterwards & we proceed to the Penrhyn Arms, where we bump into a Colwyn Bay fan I was chatting to in the Sun Inn earlier.

Unbelievably, we also bump into Deniol Graham, so I take his contact details for the SCAN scheme (refer & get a nice picture of him & Phil........... 

I’m dropped back into Llandudno in time for a pint in the Albert, the only pub on my list I haven’t managed to find. It’s only about a minute’s walk from the hotel!

Homeward Bound

I make breakfast ok, but seem to be the only one who does. Train is at 11:44, but I have to check out by 11:00, so it’s back to the Palladium for one last pint (Conwy’s Telford Porter).

The train assigned to take us all home is stuck elsewhere, so we’re using “the emergency train” according to the Train Manager.

It’s a mere 2 coaches, so by the time we get to Llandudno Junction, all the seats are taken. Standing room only.

The 4 mature ladies on the table opposite me are on their way to Wigan for the evening, staying overnight. They’re drinking champagne out of jam jars (someone forgot the glasses) & eating cheese. One of them turns out to be the former Landlady of the Star & Garter on Higher Hillgate in Stockport!

I wonder if this lot’ll be on the 10 ‘o’ clock news tonight?

After almost missing my connection in Crewe (spit) I’m safely back in Stockport, tucking into lunch at the Cocked Hat near Stockport Market, where I bump into Billy Byrne & his doting son, Jack.

By my reckoning, I’ve now encountered almost every member of the Supporters’ Co-operative Board during the trip, which has to be good.

Billy tells me that my efforts on Pure FM went down well, but will I be invited back after Jon reads this blog? No-one had noticed any hat styles. Why do I bother?

So, all in all, a very enjoyable trip. My next stop-over is Boston at the end of the Month. Feel free to get in touch if you fancy joining me.

Man in a Hat.


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