Tuesday, 23 September 2014
The south Nottinghamshire village of Aslockton had until very recently two very fine pubs, both of which featured skittle alleys in the Nottinghamshire style, which is to say Long Alleys. The grade II listed Old Greyhound (right) was closed in 2007, and has sadly remained boarded-up and subject to redevelopment to this day. I never visited the Greyhound, but it sounds as if it was a cracking ultra-traditional village local. Multi-roomed and featuring a small 'snug', which was predominantly used by the local Dominoes players and served through a small hatch from the main bar servery. It's a sad fact that there are more great pubs like this that have closed forever than I'll ever get a chance to visit in my lifetime!
It's scant consolation for locals and enthusiasts of good pubs like myself that the remaining village pub, the Cranmer Arms, will have benefited somewhat from the ousted trade of the Greyhound. But if it means the last pub in the village has a better chance of survival, one good thing may have come from its closure.
The classy pastel paint job and florid sign-writing on the pubs exterior gives the Cranmer something of the appearance of a gastro-pub. In fact the pub is merely a tidy and well-run village local, featuring two bars either side of a central servery, the rear of which houses a Dartboard and Pool Table. Numerous cribbage board appended table-toppers are stacked in the rear vestibule of the pub, the Domino players having moved across the road from the closed Greyhound, and a friendly local rivalry now exists between the two 'home' teams.
Long Alley Skittles is played in the East Notts (Summer) Skittles League, a competition in a parlous state given that only five teams currently play in the league, with one of those being the Old Greyhound team playing out of the Cranmer!
Thursday, 18 September 2014
One thing I've noticed when visiting pubs like the Great Western, is that the very best establishments are often run by older, sometimes even elderly licensees who may have been a fixture of the pub for decades. This continuity of ownership is now quite rare in the pub trade, and yet the value of it is clear to see in the ever-decreasing number of well run, often beautifully maintained pubs which result, and the loyal band of customers who appreciate it. Such is the case with the Great Western, where licensee Lynn Mann has been in the trade for most of her working life, and has run this pub in particular for nearly 30 years.
This certainly shows when you walk through the door. Railway memorabilia and potted plants adorn the pub, and the front bar in particular has a warmth and welcome which you only ever seem to get in pubs like these. Pubs where the licensee and locals treat the place like a second home, and the 'locals' actually come from far and wide, such is the appeal of this, one of the last pubs of its kind in town.
The sad dichotomy of such well run and popular pubs like the Great Western, is that many of them are likely to be only a few short years away from changing forever. In the case of some this will inevitably mean closing forever. Because even licensees with such a strong and abiding attachment to their pub as Lynn Mann, have to retire sometime, and so it is with the Great Western.
It was only as I was writing this blog post, and only a few weeks after visiting the pub, that news filtered through of Lynn's imminent retirement, and consequently the Great Western's possible closure. Sadly a pub like the Great Western can only ever be as good as the person running it (and the people who use it of course), and with much of the trade travelling from across the city for the unique qualities that Lynn brings, it's hard to see how a pub like this could survive the massive changes that will inevitably come when Lynn calls it a day.
The Great Western is a lovely pub. The labyrinthine and award-winning beer garden probably the best in Gloucester, the welcome in the bar genuinely warm. A proper, well-run pub of a type which is becoming increasingly rare, so do pay a visit soon while you still have the chance.
The alley is apparently home to four teams in the local Gloucester City Skittles League, and is therefore in use on most weekday evenings.
The rear, or left-hand bar has a Pool Table and Darts, and I wouldn't be at all surprised if Cards and Dominoes are a feature of the pub too.
Sunday, 7 September 2014
Fetes and Galas in Northamptonshire and Leicestershire villages rarely come without a skittles game of some description, and more often than not this takes the form of a traditional pub Skittles Table. A Northants or Leicester Skittles Table is often the best choice for events like theses as it requires less space than Long Alley, is an easy game for players of all ages, and the rough ground of a village green presents no obstacle to play. A table can even be moved indoors on the rare occasions when the British weather might otherwise stop play! The skittles table shown above and below is earning its keep in the grounds of St Mary the Virgin church in the village of Weston-By-Welland, Northamptonshire. The table is similar in build to a W T Black & Sons model, though not marked as such, and like so many of these old tables, is now in private ownership. The current owners told me that it was originally located at the former White Lion pub in nearby Market Harborough, a former hotbed of skittles play which is now down to only five venues for the game at the last count.
|Photograph reproduced with the kind permission of Northampton Museums and Art Gallery|