This is my original blog – all my blogs  since I started in 2009 - are here including those from The Ale Archive – all the beers I’ve sampled at home and on our travels since 2012.

Since 2012 most of our travel has involved a caravan. I now have a specific caravanning blog called (Get Your) Legs Down which documents all our trips and includes product reviews and pubs! It too is on Facebook and Twitter.

Monday, 28 March 2016

A Diary from the Dales - Part 2

Our tales from the dales continues - roughly where we left off….


The howling wind nearly took the doors from the car as we exited and scurried across to the Tan Hill Inn. Low wooden beamed ceilings and a roaring fire greeted us, but we were far from the only ones there. Many walkers had clearly been braving the elements and had stopped off to dry out, recharge and re-fuel.

The line up of ales was impressive - eight hand pumps all with ales on, so clearly they must be doing the business. The food that was coming out looked - and smelt - pretty good too. We’d got food in for later but decided a couple of bowls of chips wouldn’t hurt - purely for research purposes obviously. Let me tell you now, they were delicious. some of the best I’ve ever had.


I wasn’t driving, so ordered a second pint, which of course meant a little visit to another part of the pub before we left. On the wall above the loo was a poster giving some info about the pub. sadly these days I need to learn back a bit further to get it into focus - the writing that is. Anyway, the pub is not connected to any mains services - it generates it’s own electricity, has large gas tanks and get’s its water from underground. Accommodation is available in the form of rooms or dorms and you are welcome to bring your caravan or motorhome and camp in the car park. Mind you, towing Patsy all the way up here - on the road we took anyway - is not something I would relish.

I would have happily stayed all afternoon, working my way through the beers but there was more to do and see so we headed off, thankful that the rain was beginning to ease.


We returned the way we came, passing back through Reeth, then turning right and heading south, arriving in Leyburn to something approaching sunshine. To say that Leyburn was another typical North Yorkshire town is a bit lazy, but there were similarities - sturdy looking stone buildings surrounding a large market square and plenty of independent shops. No shortage of pubs either, but we resisted.


Last stop of the day was Masham - home to not one but two breweries - Theakstons and Black Sheep. You’ll find it hard to believe but we didn’t visit either. Don’t get me wrong - I enjoy all their beers - but we’ve been around a brewery before and you’ll find Theakstons & Black Sheep ales here everywhere anyway. The town itself was worthy of a stroll around though which we did.


All in all, a cracking day. Our first venture into the dales rewarded us with some terrific scenery, from stark weather-beaten landscapes to picture postcard towns. And a couple of decent pints too….

Clear blue skies greeted us on Good Friday and after breakfast we joined the queue of traffic at the nearby National Trust property - Fountain Abbey and gardens, just a couple of miles up the road. As members, we got in ‘free’ of course but there were plenty coughing up the thirteen quid to get in too.

I could waffle on here, copying and pasting text from the Trust’s website telling you all about the history, but instead I’ll let the pictures do the talking.




While the Abbey itself is impressive, the area and surrounding gardens and lakes are wonderful too. On a warm day it would be a great to bring a picnic and spend the day, it was fantastic.




We were there quite a while - and were walking for most of it, following the various paths up and around the whole site. This was our only planned activity for the day but with the weather set fair we decided to continue west and into the dales to see what they looked like with the sun out.

Pateley Bridge was the first stop and a welcome one as it was clearly time to refuel - this time on tea and delicious scones, but not before negotiating the narrow high street that had doubtless claimed a few wing mirrors in it’s time.


Heading off, the road got more interesting, particularly when we turned right on to the B6160 and headed north. The scenery of course was fantastic, but I was having just as much fun giving Rosie a little bit of a work out. Steep climbs, tight bends and plunging descents that just deserved to be driven enthusiastically - as long as you could guarantee nothing was coming the other way of course. Sadly, all too often we got stuck behind some flashy sports car with an old codger at the wheel who was oblivious to the mounting queue behind him as he trundled along at the speed of a shopping trolley. Nevertheless it was very enjoyable and the scenery, in the bright afternoon sunshine, was wonderful.


Our drive brought us back into to Leyburn, then across to Bedale before heading back to base via quick pit stop in one of Ripon’s hostelries. Thirsty work this sightseeing you know…..


Sunday, 27 March 2016

Belhaven - Grand Slam

WP_20160320_19_04_19_ProWhat they say:A clean refreshing ale with grapefruit citrus aroma and taste and a long, dry refreshing bitter finish. Perfect to celebrate Six Nations Rugby.”

From the Greene King stable. Ok, but not really my thing - would probably taste better to me on a warm summers night. Was the ale of choice for of some of my camping pals at our recent Twittercamp though. 4%A.B.V.

The Robin Hood, Cambridge. March 2016

Joules - Slumbering Monk

WP_20160320_19_04_13_ProWhat they say: “Our premium beer, full bodied with malty and nutty fullness, hints of caramel giving it a round, soft, satisfying smoothness……….Like Pale ale we balance the beer between bitterness, from Hops, and the body from the malt.  Monk has a higher concentration of malt which delivers a stronger beer.”

I liked this, next to no fruitiness and just a hint of sweetness stopped it from becoming one of my favourites. It didn’t stop me having quite a few pints of it though - purely for research purposes obviously - during our Twittercamp meet in Cambridge. 4.5% A.B.V.

The Robin Hood, Cambridge. March 2016

Woodforde’s - Nelson’s Revenge

WP_20160319_13_00_06_ProWhat they say: “A powerful malty beer with great depth of flavour. Appealing hoppy aftertaste. Delicious with beef and ale pie or steak and kidney…Rich and floral aromas, sweet Norfolk malts and a burst of 'citrus' hops embody this mouth-watering premium beer. .”

Yes, very malty but enjoyably so and a full flavoured ale from this Norfolk brewery. Sadly there was no pie to accompany! 4.5% A.B.V.

The Pickerel, Cambridge. March 2016

Box Steam - Whistleblower

WP_20160313_12_44_10_ProWhat they say? Well, nothing. This doesn't appear on the brewery’s website so presumably it’s a seasonal or special. Anyway, ever reliable the good folks at say this: “A clear, golden-coloured wheat beer brewed with continental yeast. Initial hop bitterness with hints of melon, grapefruit and pear gives way to a soft, dry finish. Saaz hops add a wonderful herbal spice aroma”

The latest to guest at our local The Rottingdean Club and the last before we headed off in the caravan for our Easter break.

To be honest, had I actually read the pump clip and noted that it was a blonde wheat beer I probably wouldn’t have tried it. A bit too fruity for me but otherwise ok. 4.7% A.B.V.

The Rottingdean Club, East Sussex. March 2016

A Diary from the Dales - Part 1

With another Twittercamp over, it was time for us to head north again - as we have done for the last couple of years - as our school’s Easter holidays continued.

This time though we weren’t going as far, deciding this year to give Northumberland a miss and heading instead for North Yorkshire in general and the city of Ripon in particular to a campsite on it’s western extremities. This was a part of the UK we had barely set foot in before so were very much looking forward to it.

The run up itself was pretty straightforward - with the vast majority of the journey being straight up the A1, although a one car ‘pile-up’ at the A14 junction and the inevitable road closure meant us heading south first and joining the A1 further down.

I’d punched in Ripon on the sat-nav app and with our diversion we were looking at a couple of hundred miles or so. Trev took the wheel for the first stint, stopping after a couple of hours to replenish our tug Rosie’s dwindling reserves and to swap driving duties.

The earliest arrival time at the site was 2:00pm and with it being so small I didn’t want to risk arriving early and causing problems, so soon after we turned off the A1 we paused to ring and check. Fine, no problem, the warden said, our pitch was ready and waiting.

I checked the route on a map prior to setting off and it looked a straightforward trundle along a road to the south of the city, so was a bit surprised when the sat-nav steered us around the market square, but even more surprised when, on passing the town hall, the app announced proudly that we had ‘reached our destination’. Great.

And then it dawned. I’d not bothered to put the site location into the sat-nav, just ‘Ripon’. Pillock. Fortunately a large vacant loading bay gave us a chance to sort ourselves out and we were checking in just a few minutes later.

The complex is largely given over to holiday homes in the form of static caravans. There are two seasonal pitches and just seven hardstanding pitches for tourers, all with mains electric, water and waste hook up. Which would have been great if our fresh water hose was not sitting in our garage nearly 300 miles away. Doh. Leaving something behind is becoming a habit. One of these days we’ll turn up on site and wonder where the caravan is.1424467_530678873771241_2727094981791461439_n

Having set up, a foray to the nearest supermarket was as far as we ventured to stock up on grub for the next few days, along with a selection of locally brews for my seemingly never ending ‘research’ project.

The facilities are worth a mention at this site - they are fantastic. Clearly very new and immaculately clean, the shower cubicles are spacious although the push button fixed temperature showers can’t be cheated with the usual the awning peg/ladder combo. There’s also a laundrette with iron and pot wash area - all immaculate.

Wednesday and after a nice lie in, we decided to stay local, travelling no further than the car park by Ripon’s Cathedral. Extremely reasonably priced - for someone who lives in the south east anyway - at just £2.00 all day.

The Cathedral was the main focus of our interest looking stout and extremely substantial from the outside, somewhat of an illusion as it is not as tall as many.


DSC_0019The original cathedral dates back to Saxon times - some 1300 years ago - but all that remains of that is the spooky little crypt. One can only wonder how many have passed through over the years, whether for prayers, or as visitors like us.

It’s well worth a visit - basic entry is free all though you encouraged to leave a donation which seems reasonable. A couple of quid buys you a permit to take photo’s and a guide at three pounds helps you make the most of your visit.



At the front of the cathedral a narrow road led into the market square. Trev had spotted a tailoring repairs and alterations shop which I was on the look out for since the zip in a pair of my leathers gave up the ghost last week. Two pairs of heavy leather jeans may be excessive in a caravan, but I like to alternate - anything that is stretched to it’s limit across my substantial backside and thighs deserves a day off, if only to retain it’s shape. Anyway, I had them in the car just in case and they promised they’d have ‘em done by the weekend. Superb.

We spent another couple of hours strolling around the city. The centre is not big and under grey skies didn’t look it’s best but pleasant enough and clearly very functional with plenty of folks going about their daily business. Like many places we have visited, it would look so much better devoid of cars.


Keen to press on with my extensive research project, we called in at a pub for a couple before heading back. Timothy Taylor brew one of my favourite ales - Landlord - and this was available but I took the chance to sample another couple of their ales instead - Bolt Maker and Ram Tam. Both tasted divine and will appear on my Ale Archive. Eventually!

Thursday, and it was time for our tug Rosie to take the strain, although mercifully for her, without the caravan on her back as we made our first foray into the Yorkshire Dales.

First up was Richmond - a Georgian market town passing overlooking the River Swale and recommended to us by a friend on Facebook. Perched on the edge of the dales it is a real gem of a town, it boasts - apparently - the largest cobbled market place in England and the town’s name is the most duplicated in the UK with over 50 Richmond's found world wide.


Whilst the castle was closed, there was a lovely walk around it’s perimeter giving fantastic views down to the river below.


Clearly they breed ‘em tough up here - they need to. The sight of several old dears making short work of Richmond's’ steeply sloping paths against a strong icy wind was impressive.

DSC_0109Next up was Reeth - another recommendation and further into the dales. Another real picture postcard of a place but the rain, which had been threatening had now appeared, so we didn’t stop, but pressed on.

We were heading towards Tan Hill, a high point in the Dales and home to a pub that can boast to be the highest in the British Isles at 1,732 feet above sea level. We remembered seeing this on some TV programme a while ago and I’d made a note on my phone, but had, predictably completely forgotten about it.

The weather got worse and worse as we climbed - driving rain and howling winds gave a stern reminder of how bleak - as well as beautiful - the dales can be. On a better day the drive would have been really fun, however the sight of the pub standing against the stark landscape was a welcome one. Of course there was no point coming all this way just to have a look….

That’s all for now, look out for the second part of our adventures in the beautiful Yorkshire Dales coming soon.