Sunday, 22 December 2013

Butchers Arms, Mickleton, Gloucestershire

Mickleton village lies at the very northern edge of Gloucestershire, a county strongly associated with the pub and club game of Skittles. A Gloucestershire village it may be, but this far-flung part of the county is closer to Stratford-on-Avon and has more in common with the 'Shakespeare' villages of Warwickshire than the West Country proper. And yet the skittling tradition here is firmly rooted in the West Country tradition.

It's an attractive village, bisected by the surprisingly busy B4632 which forms one of the main routes from the Vale of Evesham and Cotswolds to Stratford-on-Avon. Most traffic through Mickleton would miss the Butchers Arms entirely, tucked away as it is in the heart of the village on Chapel Lane. This would be a great shame, as the pub has much to recommend it, not least a very cosy bar and a good 'Western' style Skittle Alley in the aptly named 'Nine Pin Lounge'.

So the heart of the Butchers Arms is undoubtedly the public bar, where a fine open fire dominates proceedings in the very best way. Settle in front of this fire on a cold winter day, a pint of something local in hand, and you really won't want to leave in a hurry, it's that kind of pub. The bar also features a Darts Board, as all bars should in my opinion, with fixture lists for this, Dominoes, and Skittles on the adjacent notice board.

It's the nearby river Avon which gives its name to the local skittles league, played in the 'Western' style found throughout the West Country, and featuring as it does a healthy ten teams in an area stretching from the Vale of Evesham to Stratford-on-Avon. It's very much in the tradition of skittles in the West (as well as some Long Alley play in the East Midlands) for teams to choose a name somewhat in the style of a pub quiz team. Thus we have 'Hodges Boys' playing out of the Butchers Arms, with games split between Monday and Tuesday evenings to take account for the fact that some venues field more than one team in the league.

The scoreboard above shows the aftermath of what appears to have been an epic game of 'Killer' in the Nine Pin Lounge, with Alan finally taking the spoils. In common with many pubs, the skittle alley at the Butchers Arms serves many functions other than the nine pin game. A Pool Table and Darts Board is also available, and as can be seen in the image above, even the alley itself doubles as space for dining at busy times. The fact is, a dedicated pub skittle alley has a rateable value which is often far in excess of its use for the game, so it's crucial that a licensee can use the space in a more flexible way, even if only for the odd function or overspill to the pub. In this way skittle alleys can be preserved where otherwise they might be converted to other more profitable use.

1 comment:

John Penny said...

Interesting that the alley has no covering when not in use as a dining room. In the West Country where a significant number have a duel use, there would be a hard-wearing carpet rolled out onto the playing surface. There are plenty of landlords who would have an apoplexy if they saw furniture parked on their alley in this way!