Friday, 11 September 2015

The Herdsman, Hereford

Occupying a substantial corner plot on the outside-edge of Herefords busy ring road, the solid three-story 'block' of The Herdsman is hard to miss. Yet when I popped in for a pint on a hot summer day last year, not only was it my first visit, in all honesty it was the first time I'd even noticed this imposing, unmissable pub!

Certainly it had been a few years since my last trip to Hereford, but I'm no stranger to the attractions of the town, particularly those centred around the county's most famous export, fine traditional cider. The fact is, the Herdsman simply wouldn't have registered on my finely-tuned beer and cider radar in those days. Little has changed in this regard, and on the occasion of this visit I made do with a perfectly acceptable Guinness, though I'm reliably informed that a real ale has been introduced since then.

The real attraction of the Herdsman may not be obvious from a casual inspection of the bar, although the neat row of polished trophies lining the bar-back should give a clue. This is a pub for the games and sport enthusiast first and foremost, beer merely the lubricant to competition, not the main attraction. This is no 'Sports Bar' though. The Herdsman is home to the more traditional, though no less competitive pastimes of traditional pub gaming, and in this regard the pub is truly unmissable.

It's in the hallway to the rear of the bar that you'll find confirmation of this on the all-important noticeboard, crammed as it is with fixture lists for the many teams which play out of the pub. Cribbage, Darts, Skittles, and the local game of Quoits all feature. There can barely be a night when there isn't something going on at the Herdsman, live televised sport filling the gaps along with numerous functions and charitable fund raising events. Even the local Chess Club meet at the Herdsman.

This is a true community local of a type which is getting scarcer by the day. I found the Herdsman a friendly and welcoming pub too, and I'll certainly be returning for a pint the next time I'm in town.

There are two of the traditionally painted concrete Quoits Boards at the Herdsman, one in the small Pool room (below), the other in the large function room at the rear of the pub (shown above). All Hereford Quoits Boards sit on specially fabricated steel frames similar to that shown above, netted to prevent too many wayward Quoits landing on the floor. I use my Quoits Board without one of these, and know how much of a pain it is having to retrieve the floppy rubber Quoits from wherever they might have landed, or subsequently rolled off to. I really must get one myself! The rubber Quoits used in this game are difficult to source and surprisingly expensive to replace, so not usually on show with the boards. A set should be available from the bar for a casual game outside of league nights though.

There are Mens and Ladies Quoits Leagues in Hereford, and the Herdsman field teams in both. In fact the Herdsman seems to be the HQ for league Quoits play in the city.

The function room at the rear of the pub is also equipped with several Darts Boards for play in the various local leagues, and two well-used Skittle Alleys. The Herdsman is perhaps unique in being the only pub in the town with three good alleys, a further one being located upstairs, though some Hereford club venues have multiple alleys too.

The Hereford & District Invitation Skittles League was formed in 1902, and is still going strong in the area with 66 teams competing in 7 leagues. Four teams share the alleys at the Herdsman, and the best night to catch a game is probably Friday.

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