Thursday, 5 November 2015

Beeston, Nottinghamshire

The Victoria Hotel, the first pub that greets you on arrival at Beeston rail station
The Nottinghamshire town of Beeston lies at the southern edge of the unique Derby/Notts Long Alley Skittles tradition, though sadly league play in the town has now dwindled to just a handful of pubs and clubs. Just how much of a skittling stronghold Beeston once was can be gauged by the number of outdoor alleys which still exists at pubs in the town, most sadly no longer in use, some unusable.

A good example of this can be found at the predominantly food oriented White Lion in the centre of town, (opposite the shiny new Tram stop). What appears to be a fully functioning covered skittle alley can be found in the pubs garden, but closer inspection reveals a fully functioning brick BBQ built in the middle of it! Patios and decking obscure other alleys in the town, and of course a good few community locals where skittles would have been popular have closed for good in recent years.

In fact the only pub alley I've come across in Beeston that is still in regular use for league matches is the one to the rear of The Queens, a pub which has already featured on this blog. On the same side of town at nearby Beeston Rylands, there is a pub skittle alley with the potential for the game to return at some level, given enough local interest of course.

The Boat & Horses takes its name from the close proximity of the Beeston Canal. Not actually located in Beeston proper, rather the low-lying 'village' of Beeston Rylands to the south of the town, it serves both the local community and those seeking recreation on the nearby canal and River Trent. After a period of neglect the pub is now in the safe hands of new tenants, and a very tidy pub it is too with a huge potential that the new licensees are keen to exploit.

Being close to the waterway, food is obviously an important part of the pubs offering, and for the locals a regular programme of live music keeps them coming back. Pool, Darts and Poker nights represent the current gaming interest at the Boat & Horses, the skittle alley currently unused.

The new licensees have done a great job tidying up the pubs large grassy garden, but whether the skittle alley will receive a similar spruce up depends on customer demand I guess. In recent years it has been used as a covered area for bands to play during summer events, but it wouldn't take much to bring the alley back into use for functions and casual summer games.

Though the local game of skittles is certainly harder to find in Beeston than it once was, the town is still blessed with more than its fair share of great pubs, some of which may now benefit from the newly opened southern Tram extension.

It's probably true to say that some visitors to Beeston, particularly those arriving by rail, struggle to make it any further than the fabulous Victoria Hotel. Perhaps no great surprise given its prominent location adjacent to the station platform.

A harmonious mix of Victorian and later 1930's decor, the Victoria was beautifully restored by Nottingham based Tynemill Ltd (now Castle Rock) who aqcuired the then run-down pub in 1994. Now a freehouse, the pub has a great reputation for its beer and food, and makes an excellent alternative waiting room for rail passengers.

Games are not a particularly prominent feature at the Victoria, but there is a Darts Board in the 'Red Room' to the right of the entrance. This is the smaller of several rooms at the pub, and a space which I've found a little less dining oriented. A great place for an afternoon game of Dominoes or Cards if the mood takes you.

If you do make it past the 'Vic' and into town, you won't go far wrong visiting the excellent Crown Inn (below). This is another important heritage survivor which in recent years, under the ownership of Everards Brewery in partnership with the Brown Ales Pub Co, has built a great reputation for its beer choice.

The pub was extended with a large new lounge in the 70's by Hardys & Hansons brewery, but thankfully the multi-room layout of the original building was preserved. It's the kind of pub where it's hard to decide where to settle, each small bar and snug having its own unique charm. On the day I visited with a friend, we settled in the Games Room, now effectively the link between the older parts of the building and the newer lounge bar. There's a Darts Board adjacent to the serving hatch, but we brought a Shove Ha'penny for an afternoon of supping and sampling the beers on offer.

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