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Pubs are doing well with Covid rules on their return; that's what our small 'survey' shows anyway

As more and more pubs reopen we have selflessly revisited our old haunts in south Cheshire. Sometimes it looks like there is some anxious hand wringing going on as people cautiously enter – but no, it’s just everyone diligently observing the sanitiser rule.

Some pubs have chosen to remain closed for the time being, we understand that, but the ones which have opened seem to be doing well with the new normal – from where we stand, or rather now sit, in pubs in a quiet corner of rural Cheshire.

Each pub we have visited has taken a quietly rigorous but friendly approach to the new anti-Covid rules. Sadly, we can no longer hang out at the bar pondering the contents of our pint, waiting for conversation to strike up with a fellow drinker or a friend to arrive. No, now we have to sign in and find a table or be shown to our reserved slot.

The imposing Cock o Barton

We called into the Yew Tree at Spurstow, near Tarporley, the other night and followed the new rules to be directed to a table. From there we had a clear view of the bar, which normally would be thronged at that time with ‘early doors’ drinking. It looked abandoned and forlorn – like you had stepped into one of those ghastly ‘no standing at the bar’ gastro pubs. But that is the way it has to be just for now. A well-kept but very solitary pint of Westwood Cheshire Cat was taken.

At the Bull in Shocklach, near Malpas, bordering Wales, I found a table in the garden to sit and watch the sun wane over the Principality in the company of a splendid pint of Timothy Taylors Landlord – can’t remember when I last tasted so good a pint of Landlord, must have been in Yorkshire. This is a fairly relaxed affair, with a good number of locals frequenting the bar and just turning up for a pint is not a problem. There is a lovely welcome from Jason and his team. You can order at the bar, but then you must retreat.

Up the road at the more sprawling Cock o Barton, on the Broxton to Wrexham Road, it is a little more formal; best to book to ensure a slot although the friendly team will try and slip you in somewhere. The Stonehouse Sunlander and Station Bitter were both in great form and the strict table service was tip top. Great to see plenty of young people meeting up here too - socially distanced, obviously .

Enjoying a pint at the idyllic Bull at Shocklach

Down the road, literally just over the border into Shropshire on the A41towards Whitchurch, the Horse & Jockey at Grindley Brook is bouncing. Once again there are effective anti-Covid measures in place and the welcoming staff are on the ball. A good a selection of cask ales included excellent Shropshire Gold from Salopian and Merlin Gold.

We have drunk some excellent cask ale in the past few weeks but the pub world is certainly somewhat different, no doubt about that. However publicans and their teams are working hard to make the pub experience the best it can be. No need for hand wringing angst we found.

I know some people have been worried, but we found no need for hand wringing angst. The hospitality sector is a big player in the national economy and the efforts of the publicans and their teams need support now if you can do it. Personally, I can’t wait to be the chap who just hangs casually around the bar again. But for now we have to sit down, sit back and drink a bit for Britain; how hard can that be?

Steve Hobman

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