The Red Lion in Hunningham near Leamington Spa was once one of mine and the missis’ go to places to take visitors. They used to have these really cool comic book pages stuck to the wall in proto-hipster fashion and a slightly traditional menu. Then the frightful types swamped the town in their Audi people carriers with their children Flegm and Calendula , we moved and the pub became one of those places that serve plates with teaspoons of mushed up food topped with parsley for £50 a pop.
Before that though, and possibly one of the last times we visited the place, we had a visit from my old pal Nick (now playing a grumpy political commentator/photographer/artist in the Scottish play) and we took him to admire the proto-hipsterishness. While there, we noticed there was a model of a tractor by the nearby river and it became the perfect photo opportunity. Surprisingly, I can’t remember the visit ever being in January and looking at the trees and stuff, I think the date on the picture is wrong.
One of my favourite walks starts by parking in the National Trust Car Park on Lon Golff in Morfa Nefyn and, depending on the tide, walking along the beach toward the distant Porth Dinllaen then, after a bite to eat and a pint at Ty Coch (http://www.tycoch.co.uk/), a leisurly stroll up the cliff road and through the golf course back to the car park. Or, if the tide is in on arrival, the reverse.
Ty Coch and the houses in Porth Dinllaen are only accessible via the beach or via the restricted delivery road through the golf course. It is one of those “secret” pubs in North Wales that everyone seems to knows about. It’s really popular on hot sunny days, especially with families (mostly because of the beach/pub combination) and boat owners (the natural harbour there attracting the wealthy).
Ty Coch has been a place I’ve always tried to visit when I’m in the area. It is a unique place steeped in history and natural beauty (a short walk around the headland often results in seal sightings). Its really handy for mid-walk refreshments and, at one point, it did live music of an evening in the pokey little bar area. I often think about whether there are other places like it in the UK – regularly cut off by the tide and only accessible via foot or sea. I’m sure there are. Do you know of anywhere like it?
Many years back I created a website on the now defunct Geocities service. The site was intended to be a gazetteer of inns, pubs and hotels that were reputed to be haunted and used pre-researched information from a book called Haunted Inns by Marc Alexander. This was during the early years of the internet and my little corner of the web attracted plenty of attention. I would often receive emails from journalists, people interested in visiting the inns and those fascinated by the bizarre and supernatural. I was even featured in newsletters and once on BBC local radio.
As time passed I was amazed by the increasing volume of visitors to the site and took it upon myself to register the domain hauntedinns.co.uk. On the back of that, I developed the site further, but by the time I was finally satisfied with the design and the content, interest was waning and I found my time taken up with working more than driving round the country looking at pubs. Times and money got difficult and the registration of the site lapsed; regretfully I archived the site and forgot all about it.
Since then I have moved to the sunny West Midlands. I have the funds to journey too and fro, back and forth across the country. Occasionally I will find myself in a strange town, my brow furrowed with uncertainty as distant memories stir. “Wasn’t there a haunted inn here?” I’ll ask myself. The answer only arising when I return home and I am able to check Alexander’s book.
This weekend I was in the delightful Roman town of Cirencester and once again I was certain that there was a pub in the area which appeared in Alexander’s book. After a bit of exploring I saw and photographed it, no longer for my website, more for my own records some examples of which you can see on this post. But it was upon return to Leamington Spa that I was struck by an idea.
Back in the day, Google was just a word you would use to misspell goggle. Map services in the early days of the web were a bit poo and Google’s Maps sounded more like a children’s book than a service that would be used every day to snoop on and stalk people and places. Of course, these days, Google Maps is a very powerful tool especially when used with the Street View function. Of course it is not the same as visiting the place personally but with the ability to locate the pub and mark it on a personal digital map that can be shared and even accessed on a mobile device, I think I will finally be able to tick a few more off the list.
On creating the points on the map I became more aware that over the past few years more and more village pubs have sadly closed, been demolished or even changed names. Out of the entire book of about 35 inns, 10 have closed or appear to have been wiped from the map in some way or other. Sad days. But at least I’ve managed to visit a few of them before they disappeared forever, their memories confined to pages of books, grainy photographs and blog posts….
Went for a meal at the Navigation in Calder Grove last night. If ever Gordon Ramsey needed to visit a place its that place. Because having some sweary ex-footballer chef on the premises might actually improve it.
To be fair, we had been there before and had a lovely meal. We had a lovely carvery and delicious puddings. However last night was shockingly bad. Our food was late. Two dishes were unpleasantly salty. The steak on my Surf and Turf was dry and over cooked (I always ask for my steak to be done medium, last night it came to me like a piece of shoe leather) the surf bit (6 pieces of gyppo scampi) didn’t come with tartar sauce. My desert of Lemon Brulee was more like lemon ice cream in a flat dish with some burnt blobs of sugar. And, considering the last time we went it was full to the brim, the place was empty last night. Probably an indicator that a place is bad.
So 2/10 from me for that.
The beer they sell is piss too. Think I’ll go to Pizza Hut next time someone suggests we go to the Navigation in Calder Grove, Wakefield.