Sunday, 23 October 2016

Character or clutter?

The early days of CAMRA saw a reaction against the “plush pub”, with its deep-pile carpeting and expanses of red dralon upholstery. Thus was born the “bare boards alehouse”, which before too long became a feature of most major towns and cities. It was in keeping with the back-to-basics, rustic ethos of the real ale revival. The concept was even taken up by the big breweries, most notably in the form of Whitbread’s ill-fated “Tut & Shive” chain. It’s a theme that is still common, especially in independently-run free houses.

But there comes a point where plain and unvarnished starts to morph into plain tatty, and sometimes you wonder whether it’s simply because the owners can’t be bothered to apply a bit of polish. And, if they can’t keep the pub spick-and-span, what does that say about the cellar? I have to say on more than one occasion I’ve suffered beer redolent of a lack of line cleaning in scruffy “alternative” pubs.

Things get even worse when pubs start to accumulate collections of what some would regard as interesting memorabilia, but which others would simply dismiss as tat. It’s a danger sign once assorted stuff starts to spread from shelves and window ledges on to the seats themselves. I’ve hinted before how my trip earlier this year to the legendary drinking nirvana of Thanet didn’t quite live up to expectations, and one GBG-listed pub in particular came across as more like the private home of an eccentric hoarder.

Sometimes, as with the famous Yew Tree at Cauldon, it can work and add genuine individuality and character to a pub. But there’s one well-known free house in the North-West, which I won’t name, where the general accumulation of mostly WW2-related artefacts starts to obstruct the seating and access to the bar and, to my mind, goes too far. It just comes across as messy and tatty, and you have to wonder whether it’s ever cleaned or dusted.


  1. Michael Henchard23 October 2016 at 22:12

    Mmmm. The NW example quoted and pictured wouldn`t happen to be near a disused American Airbase would it ? ;-) This is surely the weirdest pub in Lancashire, if not the whole of the north-west. I do like pubs with character, but yes, this one does go just beyond the realms...
    On the other hand; bare wooden floors and chunky John Lewis furniture really wobbles my tripe.

    1. Certainly is. Although I'm impressed by how its pub cat manages to operate a Twitter account >^..^<

    2. Michael Henchard24 October 2016 at 10:44

      Very impressive. As is your ability to draw a cats yed using the keyboard !


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