As a reasonably frequent traveller by rail to Derby (the self-styled Capital of Real Ale!), Long Eaton is, more often than not, merely a handy alarm-call for imminent arrival into Derby. Occasionally I do break my journey at Long Eaton though, and whenever I have, I've found some very good pubs with plenty of gaming interest in the town.
Strictly speaking the station might be better named 'Long Eaton & Sawley', the latter named village being much the smaller of the two, but if anything it's probably closer to the station than the centre of Long Eaton itself. There are well over half a dozen pubs in Sawley, including a few which serve the boating and leisure trade from the nearby marina on the River Trent. Almost side-by-side in the very centre of the village are the Nags Head and White Lion, both of which are attractive destinations, and well worth the short walk from the station if you too decide to alight at Long Eaton.
The Nags Head is a classic two-room village locals pub with a very good reputation for beer (note the 'Pride in Pedigree' certificate behind the bar). The public bar (left) is the larger of the two rooms, and the social hub of the pub. Warmed in the winter by a wood-burning stove, it's home to a local golf association, and the venue for Darts matches in the Long Eaton & District Darts Association League.
The pub is also home to a team in the Long Eaton & District Long Alley Skittles League, a hardy bunch by all accounts given that their home alley is located outdoors, as indeed a great many still are in the Notts and Derby area. It was raining persistently when I visited, conditions that players must be well used to given that rain doesn't usually stop play in the Notts/Derby version of Long Alley Skittles. Many of these alleys are now being covered over or relocated indoors, but it would be difficult to cover the Nags Head alley given its current position in the middle of the pubs car park!
The Bell Inn is the closest of Sawleys pubs to the rail station. Presumably a fairly traditional multi-room pub at one time, the Bell has been smartly modernised and opened out to one large room with a number of distinctive areas. This includes one for Pool and Darts, both of which are played in local leagues. Note the beautiful old Bass in Bottle mirror adjacent to the Darts throw.
In a small garden to the side of the pub, and overlooked by housing on most sides, can be found the pubs original Skittle Alley. The scoreboard, floodlight, and tin sheet for determining a foul throw are all still in situ, though the structure which would have originally caught balls and pins behind the frame has been removed. Whilst Darts, Dominoes, and Pool are all played at the Bell, sadly the alley has not seen a match for several years.
Adjacent to the brewery building is the pubs Skittle Alley, which was out of action when I first visited a few years ago pending construction of the brew house. I'm pleased to say that with the brewery now completed, the alley has been tidied up nicely with a set of skittles and balls available for play.