The southern Bury (St Edmunds) is a wonderful town for an afternoon amble, with more attractive streets than Cambridge, if not Norwich. It’s also only a 40 minute hop on the train for me, a bit quicker than the northern version, though no doubt HS2 will remedy that just as I finally get to move north.
I popped to Bury to visit Vinyl Hunter, an appealing new record shop on St John’s Street. I actually use a Hard Disk Drive to play music (ask Mrs RM, beyond me), but still play a lot of new vinyl as well.
And I particularly love the gatefold sleeve and white vinyl combination of the beguiling new Lanterns on the Lake LP, Beings. I don’t do record reviews, but will write about their gig at the Haunt in Brighton later this month. Vinyl Hunter is all you want from a record shops – stuff you’ve never heard of, good advice, occasional live music and big cakes.
There’s a fairly independent feel to most of St John’s Street shops, including an upmarket off-licence selling Mikeller and Yeastie Boys for those with deep pockets. 20 years ago Bury felt like an attractive backwater, full of old-fashioned cafes, OAPs on a day out to the garden centre, and a family brewer’s only famous pub.
Now it’s got a very tasteful shopping complex, all the chain places you could (not) want, but complemented by a steadily increasing range of interesting bars, cafes and specialist suppliers. With an expansion in family housing in recent years, the centre looks to be thriving. The new Wetherspoons was a long time coming (its first one closed a decade ago), but is a superb conversion of the Corn Exchange.
There was still space in the Nutshell, which is more than could be said for The Dove, possibly one of my Top 100 pubs. This is obviously another independently run business, free from the nasty big Greene King to serve consistently good beer. On five visits now I’ve always found it packed, with perhaps the fastest turnover of real ale you’ll see outside of Wetherspoons. The chatty beery atmosphere is comparable to the Wellington in Birmingham.
One thing though. I just found out it’s still owned by Greene King. I’ve never seen a GK beer there, so I can only assume the licensees have free range to stock what they like, which tends to be solid breweries like Woodfordes, Green Jack, Tring and Wolf. It’s a drinker’s pub, not a ticker’s pub. Well done Greene King for leaving it alone.
I scored NBSS 4, which is pretty much what I scored on previous visits. I’ve only scored the Coopers Tavern and the Dead Poets higher on a consistent basis. Dark beers are particularly wonderful, as are the home-made scratchings in a half-pint jug – that’s the only dimple mug you’ll see me with.
The Dove is a proper Local Hero of a pub (contrast with this). You can chat to your mates, talk about the beer to the bar staff, read a book and drink good, cheap beer (£2.50 for Wherry). It’s not an architectural gem, but it’s an even greater asset to Bury than the Nutshell.