New Ears Please.....( Last Seen in Lancaster !) by Man in a Hat.

There is something very troubling about setting off for an away fixture with snow falling. However, accommodation has been paid for, hats have been dusted, maps printed and livers purged. The show must go on.

If the game is called off, I can always stay another couple of nights.

Oi, That’s Not Humpish!

Before we go any further, let it be known that I didn’t provide a photo of Teddy Humpish for my preview. It was hedgegrower who got a bit proactive and ended up publishing a photo of Inside Forward Jimmy Stevenson by mistake.

Jimmy Stephenson( editor shamelessly inserts photo again).

Jimmy (SCAN 401) also made his County debut 27th August 1932, in the 5-1 home win over Darlington. An easy mistake to make I guess? Jimmy scored on his debut and his SCAN Certificate was presented to his daughter Betty back in 2011.

I see that hedgegrower has since changed the picture he used for my preview in order to cover his tracks, but all is not forgiven.

What About Lancaster?

Anyway, back to the trip to Lancaster City.

The buses fall very nicely indeed, so I have time to check out the Mayfield at Piccadilly Station. As there is no real ale, I opt for black coffee, but the view is very good and I can see various County milling about below.

In the “lounge” for platform 14, I encounter legendary County artist, Steve Ridgway, whose most recent offering was the magnificent pub sign he designed for The Fourteen Wooden Steps, which is now proudly on display in Tony Hancock’s back garden!

Lots of County on the train, and I’ve remembered my hat, therefore ensuring that County will be in the hat for the next round. All is well.

Coals to Newcastle?

After dropping my bag off at the Kings Arms Hotel, I head off for the Waggon & Horses on the banks of the River Lune.

No County fans about. In fact, why am I sat here drinking Robinsons in a Robinsons pub? I could do that any time. I pick up a copy of “Lancaster Northern City of Cask Ale Map & Guide”. Apparently, Lancaster boasts 31 real ale pubs within half a mile of the city centre.

Off to the George & Dragon next door. Shut. Should be open, 6 ales, but shut. Now I can’t do my short cut to the Giant Axe through the beer garden as planned. Probably a blessing in disguise given my track record. Never mind, plenty of other ale opportunities to go at.

The Three Mariners next, an entry in the 2018 Good Beer Guide (GBG), and also a Robbies house. Let me explain. There are 8 ales here, 4 Robbies & 4 guests. The Titanic Plum Porter Grand Reserve - just a half.     

Unsurprisingly, I’ve encountered no County fans so far. They’re all too sensible to travel all the way to Lancaster and drink Robinsons beer.

The Sun (GBG) next, where I’ll be staying Sunday night. Slaters Colombia Coffee Stout. At last some County Supporters!

Then to Merchants 1688 (GBG again). Plenty of County enjoying a drink outside. I tried to get pictures of Phil Robbie & Mike from the Spinning Top, without having a glass in front of their faces, but what can you do? 

As we set off for the game, there is clearly a very large County contingent in town. The hat is on, attracting its usual admiring(?) glances.

Time for pie.

Man in a Hat: What pie is there?
Pie Vendor: Meat & potato.
Man in a Hat: No, what’s the choice?
Pie Vendor: Take it or leave it!

I take it. This is a damn good pie. A second pie is acquired.

Subbuteo & Train Set Combined

What a scene this is. The Giant Axe mustn’t have changed much since County last played a competitive match here back in the 30s.

A manual subbuteo-style scoreboard with slots for the numbers to indicate the score. The backdrop is the castle, together with the Church tower and the railway line in front (the whole length of the pitch) with regular trains passing by.

I reckon the only difference between now and the thirties, is probably that trains would have been pulled by a steam engine. A freight train passes by. I count 69 wagons and not only miss County’s first goal, but also the man changing the scoreboard (boy he’s quick).

Why was I the only Supporter to applaud County off, leading 2-0? Weird.

I Take One For the Team

I make polite enquires of various County fans as to when I’m allowed to remove my hat and replace it with something woollen, as it is getting a bit nippy now. I’m advised that should County score a third and there are 30 seconds left to play, then that would be fine.

I pop into the supporters bar to warm up ahead of my second half ordeal. The County Faithful are in good voice, ably led by Viv. And there’s Lancs….in Lancs.  

We gather behind the goal that County are attacking in the second half, but don’t see much action (refer Hedgegrower’s report).

My ears get so cold that they fall off onto the terracing and I have to shove them in my pocket to be thawed out later. In the final minute, as County go 3-1 up, I risk swapping hats.

It got extremely cold. The terrace became covered in sheet-ice. We all had to be very careful exiting the ground. Some County fans took a tumble. The Dolly Blues are very happy despite having lost, with around 400 County Supporters in attendance.

No Homes to Go To?

After checking into my hotel and thawing out my ears of the radiator, I head out to explore what further delights Lancaster has to offer. There are plenty. County fans everywhere. No-one’s going home yet.

2 stouts on at the Borough - both magnificent.

I find Fletch, Johnners and the Pickles in a pub called the Bobbin (my 4th GBG pub of the day). Johnners doesn’t want to be photographed, but no-one escapes Man-in-a-Hat! Nobody! Seriously, he did agree to me publishing these pictures.  

Back to the Tap House (GBG no. 5) for the travellers final drink. York Brewery’s Traitors Gate, 8.4% ABV - game over! I wave them all off and head for a Chinese that’s been recommended, the Jade Garden. Pretty basic, but excellent, and a free calendar too. Now I’ll be able to remember Lancaster throughout 2018.

Brewery, Canals and Castle

Superb breakfast. Juice, fruit, yoghurt, cheese, cold meats, full English & pastries galore! (Brackley please note).

Some would regard this weather as miserable. Not me though. I have 4 layers of protection: coat; clothes; fur & blubber (my hat counts as fur by the way). As they say on the Isles of Scilly, there is no such thing as bad weather, just the wrong clothing.

All 4 are put to the test during the half hour walk to Lancaster Brewery & Tap, which is in the 2018 Good Beer Guide). I’m glad I left last night’s Chinese with the hotel, I’m not carrying that around with me all day.

Earlier, I’d transferred my bag to my new digs, the Sun, which just happens to serve 10 real ales.

I arrive at the Brewery at 11:30, having battled wind and driving rain. The first tour isn’t until 1pm, so I try the Market T’ale; Chestnut Red; Lancashire Black; Lancaster Blonde; Hoppy Daze & Snowdrop Pale Ale whilst I’m waiting. I’m the only one there.

I decide to forgo the tour (seen one brewery, seen them all?) as there is still much to do, the castle, canals etc. and I don’t want to be walking along the canal in the dark. Surely that must be the last of the Chinese?

The rain is a lot heavier now, but I’ve got a route of pit-stops planned. I love walking, even in these conditions, as you are master of your own destiny. As I walk back into Lancaster, the castle is silhouetted against a leaden sky. Very classy, but too wet to get a photo.

After a short stop at the Britannia (known locally as “The Brit”), I find the canal towpath and set off for the 3 pubs on the canal, including one I had to add to my itinerary after spotting it in the local guide mentioned earlier.

First up is the huge White Cross, the 7th & final pub in Lancaster in the 2018 Good Beer Guide. 14 ales to choose from, including a lesser-seen milk stout, Mutiny on the Bounty, brewed by Campervan.

I peruse the Non League Paper to pick County’s next Trophy opponents. East Thurrock? Bognor? St. Albans? We’ll probably get someone like Kidderminster.

I also note that in the unlikely event of County not getting promoted, The Dollies will have to get their act together if we are to have any chance of returning to Lancaster next season. Currently 14th, although 9 points off the play-offs with 3 games in hand. I shall be keeping an eye out for their results.

The 2 other pubs on the canal are the Waterwitch (9 ales) and the Toll House Inn (another 6 ales). I have to take my hat off to the local branch of CAMRA. Not only is the local guide excellent, the number of pubs offering discount for CAMRA Members is amazing. It must be a nightmare picking their GBG entries each year.

Lancaster’s Spinning Top?

I mentioned that the local guide listed 31 real ale pubs within half of mile of the centre of Lancaster, well now I’ve added up the total number of hand-pulls on offer at these - 167!

Back at the Sun I’m in need of a breather, but still manage one last go at Lancaster that evening, including Ye Olde John O’Gaunt, a music venue that was so busy yesterday you couldn’t get through the door (no exaggeration). This place reminds me a lot of the Spinning Top, a nice laid-back place to enjoy live music and real ale.

And that, as they say, was that. I indulged in a board of cheese and salami at the Sun, and called it a weekend - and what a weekend! 7 GBG pubs, a brewery, canals, trains and a win for County.

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

Next up? A night (or 2) at the Bricks in Southport. Probably……

Doh! I forgot to visit the castle!

Man in a Hat.


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