Monday, 6 May 2013

Bank Holiday Fun

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Hope you've had a nice Bank Holiday. It has been wonderful weather! In fact today saw the first barbecue of the year at ours :-) It was a bit smoky - and we felt a little guilty as next door hadn't taken in their socks off the clothes line, but it was so nice to eat al fresco. Nathan has made me a new canopy for my swinging seat - so it was lovely to sit in the shade with a spritzer.

On Saturday Nathan and went on a CAMRA Brewery trip! It was forecast to be a lovely day so we set off on the bus to Hanley bus station. It as the first time we'd been in the new state-of-the-art bus station and it was a pleasant enough experience - although I did secretly think it was still cold and draughty! But the screens relayed up-to-the-second information and there's a lovely cafĂ© where you can get all manner of food and drinks. I was quite impressed that you could buy personalised bottles of coke.  We got ourselves a bottle of water and an Independent and settled down to wait for our coach to arrive at the Coachmaker's Arms across the road.

Due to a slight mix-up (we didn't read the email properly) we happened to see quite a lot of the comings and goings at the bus station as we were there an hour too early. We couldn't really go for a wander as it had started to rain and we were dressed for sunshine. We saw two policemen escorting someone loud out of the bus station and when N went to the loo I was slightly alarmed when a man with two black eyes came and sat beside me - but all was well.

We set off for Shropshire at 10.30am and pretty soon the sun came from behind the clouds and I enjoyed seeing all the lambs  in the spring fields with their mothers. It was an hour and a half to the Bridges Pub/Horseshoe Inn at Ratlinghope, which was our first stop. We had all pre-ordered our food so we were served pretty much as soon as we got there. Who said CAMRA couldn't organise and event in a brewery?? :-)

We all had a nice chicken and mushroom pie with chips and fresh veg apart from Mr M who went all new-man and had a quiche and salad. It did look very tasty though!

Entrance to the Brewery

Here since 1642

Take some home?

Then it was back onto the coach for a few short miles until we arrived at the Three Tuns Brewery next to the Three Tuns Inn. This is where things took a turn to the better - as the beer was free here. There were 31 of us - but the brewery was so tiny only 15 at a  time could embark on the tour. The others were left with a few barrels of the various beers they brewed and invited to sample them all. We did a bit of sampling and then did the second tour.

You've been Yarnbombed!
 It was led by the man in charge - a David Bellamy lookalilke who was so enthusiastic  that you realised he is one of those lucky few who really love their job! The tour had to start right at the top of the tower in the malting attic - and then progress down, via very precarious ladders, a floor at a time as the gravity fed system progressed. There was the mash tun, the boiling coppers, the roasting ovens and the cooling  canisters - all a vital part of the brewing of the different organic beers. He explained how different roasts of malt and barley, different amounts of hops and even the addition of root ginger all help to produce the many different colours and flavours of the beers at the Three Tuns We tried the mild, nice and malty and the XXX which was much more hoppy and light. Sadly they didn't have any of the Steampunk - which is the one with the added ginger and their strongest beer.

Cheering up a boring sign!

Before moving on to our next scheduled stop we were told that there was a beer festival going on in the pub round the corner. So we took to the streets of the beautiful little town called Bishop's Castle and walked down the steep High Street to The Vaults. As we walked there I realised that the place has been yarnbombed! Everywhere we looked there were signposts and buildings covered in brightly coloured knitting and crochet! It looked great! It must have been there some time - as the laminated labels attached to each piece had faded and we couldn't read who had been responsible for it all.

Even the fairy got pompoms!

We loved the beer festival - it was behind The Vaults and they had a live rock band and food and lots of beers and - I was pleased to note - ciders! I enjoyed some Dog Dancer while we squeezed into the busy courtyard and took in the sights. The locals seemed to favour beards, bandanas and dreadlocks - but were pretty friendly!

Sadly we only had time for one drink before we had to visit the next port of call on our itinery - the Six Bells just down the road - still in Bishop's Castle. This had a microbrewery at the back. We had one drink here before being whisked off to Clun, another village with an ancient castle right on the edge of Offa's Dyke by the border to Wales.

It was another beautiful place although the pub here was a little disappointing. So was the quiz machine as it was rather reluctant to let us win! We boarded the bus just as dusk was falling for the journey home. We made it back for 9.30pm tired, but not too merry! It had been a very enjoyable day in good company :-)

The rest of the weekend I have been editing my book The Gardener's Daughter, I have decided to publish it via Amazon and the Kindle. It seems that authors who can't find agents or publisher to take them seriously are bypassing them and self-publishing this way. In fact something like 60% of books sold on Kindle are published this way - and traditional publishers and agents are getting pretty worried that they may become obsolete! So if I decide to go ahead - I'll let you know when it will be available - heehee!

More next time!!


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