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  • Writer's picturestevehobman

Hooray, The Return of the Great British Pub - just a little bit

Some local pub joy for south Cheshire

The pubs are open, a bit. The sun is shining, just a bit, for now. The daffodils flower on, rather more than a bit oblivious.

It is spring 2021 and yes, with the first phase of the Return of the Great British Pub, we have to drink outside in gardens, courtyards and on patios. Many regular pub-goers will dislike that. But, for some, this is a half decent start on the road back to some normality. For real ale lovers, especially, it is quite a bit of a blessing.

Last night I enjoyed my first pub cask beer since December 23, perched on a bench in the spacious garden of the Grosvenor at Alford, near Chester. Quite a fitting venue for the return, the Brunning & Price house was where I enjoyed my final pint on the dark night pubs closed in March 2020. Seems like a lifetime ago.

What a beauty: The sun shines on a pint of Facer's DHB at the Grosvenor Arms, Alford.

This was a lovely pint – DHB from Facer’s in North Wales, originally named back in 2006 for founder Dave Facer as Dave’s Hoppy Bitter and brewed with Styrian Goldings hops somewhat ground breaking back then. Compared with many these days - like my second pint Taller-Than-A-House from Manchester’s Chapter Brewing - not so hoppy, but an excellent easy drinking brew for a return to quality cask beer. The pub was busy-ish, but well under control by the first class staff – ‘course you expect that from . It was very good to see a large contingent of younger people – despite a certain Spanish lager appearing to be the dominant tipple of choice. I thought the lads in shorts were very brave.

It appears that B&P have had all their pubs ready to go from the off this time, but in rural south Cheshire several others are on their way back.

Tonight (Tuesday April 13) the Carden Arms at Tilston throws open the garden gates. The new management team of this popular village free house - from the nearby Egerton Arms stable (opening Thursday April 15) - had only a couple of weeks in December to show their mettle, so will be under very close scrutiny from pub going locals. Suitable marquees have been erected at both the back and front with some free standing tables outside. Booking advised for start-up but walk-ins will be OK I am assured; good news when you live 4 minutes away. The beer offer includes local Weetwood and Salopian Shropshire Gold we understand.

A couple of miles up the road the Cock-o-Barton springs back into action on Wednesday April 14. A black & white inn on the main road from the Broxton roundabout to Wrexham there’s plenty of courtyard space. Last summer the team there did a fantastic job to keep everybody happy. All Covid procedures were closely observed and some cracking cask ales came from and . It will be a real delight to visit again.

Another especially joyful return will be to the Bull at Shocklach on Friday April 16. Locals feared for the future of this Admiral owned, rather hidden away, hostelry when the doors closed just before Christmas – several days before all pubs shut again.

However, publican Jason and his young team are keen as mustard to get back to it and have been busy installing new Covid-compliant garden shelters. Again, booking probably be best for this weekend. The Bull doesn’t enjoy the freedom of buying from local brewers, but Jason has promised us that Moorhouse’s splendid White Witch (3.9%abv) will be on the bar as a regular as soon as he can get some. This great quaffing ale is not often seen around these part these days as Lancashire’s much celebrated Pendle Witches brewer has retrenched a little in recent years. Yorkshire’s legendary Timothy Taylor’s Landlord will be back.

The Bull last summer

New canopies at the Bull

In Malpas the erstwhile Red Lion, reincarnated only last September after a massive and expensive revamp as simply ‘the Lion’ - goodness knows why they changed it – will open this weekend with cask ale, some from Weetwood, on offer

Somewhat sadly, over in Farndon the former Greyhound - reborn last September as ‘the Hare’ by veteran publican Jerry Brunning – will not reopen, due to lack of outdoor space, until May, when, hopefully, we can be indoors. We don’t know why the name changed there either, but the line-up of several cask ales on offer was a blessing for the village. It will be good to see it back with the ebullient, cask ale loving, manager Jonny Cox at the helm.

The small but perfectly formed Sarn (Queen’s Head to give its royal moniker) by the Cheshire/Welsh border at Threapwood also remains closed for the time being due to the retirement of long time licensees Ritchie and Joan. We may have some good news on that soon - so do watch this space.

Overall, it’s looking like the Return to the Great British Pub is off to quite a good start in this quietish corner of the Cheshire countryside. So see you down the pub garden – somewhere, sometime. Stay safe and Cheers.

PS: This is not meant to be a comprehensive list of pub re-openings, we can add to it so if anyone feels ignored please send us details on and we will include them. The only proviso is that you must sell a decent pint of cask.

All opening hours should be checked, they will probably differ from normal.

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