The great 1 July Pub observation moved on to Barton-upon-Humber, in search of pub games, political banter and weird clothing. It drew another blank.
I held high hopes for Barton (A Town With A Past — And A Future™), which has always seemed a place apart. It’s home to one of the UKs great pub commentators (see 3rd comment), as well as being home to Pipers crisps. No fish’n’chips in baps here, but a bakers called Cobblers makes up for that, perhaps.
It’s a handsome little town, which I was a little surprised to find has 11,000 inhabitants; it doesn’t feel three times the size of Epworth. The lack of a Wetherspoons weighs heavy on the town, which responds with a decent artistic programme (Jacqui Dankworth was singing in town that night).
As on previous stops, I made straight for the Humber. The country park by the bridge is very pleasant until we lurch from Summer to Winter in the space of an hour, cutting short my walk to Hull. I prefer this bit of the Bridge to the northern side if I’m honest.
Barton itself is pleasant enough, in a Brigg type of way, but its little museums (rope-making, schools, posh people’s houses) wouldn’t justify a visit from Grimsby, never mind Cambridge, if it wasn’t for the Bridge.
Pub-wise, it’s one of those towns that has seemed to rotate pubs into the Beer Guide over the years, with the Sloop, Stables and Wheatsheaf all being above-average all-rounders, though nothing to detain you from your trip across the Humber.
The George is your archetypal large dining pub, with only a small accommodation offer to differentiate itself.
Despite Scottish & Newcastle clues, I assume it’s a free house, and the pumps suggests a pub looking for a solid rather than cutting-edge range. Apart from those five on cask there’s a very prominent Budvar pump, alongside its superior British counterpart. Superior in sale terms, anyway. Kronenburg 1664, Moretti and Fosters complete the range. The cider was well hidden.
At 2pm on Friday the George was about a third full, the main bar with a gently hum of conversation but an old fashioned adjacent dining room more dimly lit and empty. The furniture and fittings were straight out of the 19702s (my 1970s anyway).
A group of six, in their sixties and seventies, were finishing their main meals, largely fish and chips at a cheapish £8.50. You wouldn’t have been able to distinguish the lunchtime menu from any other chain dining pub, with nothing obviously local apart from the Grimsby haddock.
Half this group were drinking halves of lager in unbranded glasses, the others orange juice. They were chatting about holidays and mutual friends the half hour I was there. As with everyone else, apart from your scruffy author, casual clothes (jeans, corduroy, jumpers) were the standard dress.
Next to me a table of two were drinking a pint of lager and a small glass of Rose while waiting for their lunch; they said not a word in 30 minutes.
I sat on an old red vinyl banquette on my own, nursing an adequate (NBSS 2.5) half of Tom Woods for half an hour. It was at least cheap at £1.35, as was a black coffee from a proper coffee machine, something you’d never have seen 20 years ago.
The 1990s pop on Viking FM made it hard to follow conversations on adjoining tables, which I guess was the idea. Free pub Wi-Fi wasn’t being used by anyone else.
Two other tables had a group of three diners, and two friends with a coffee and shandy. Those were the only other folk not eating, until two gentlemen in their 60s came in as I was about to leave.
The friendly barmaid clearly knew these two, and impressed me by talking enthusiastically about the cask beers when asked what was on. She told them what was new on that day, what had been poured (all of them, apparently), and they ordered halves of Tom Wood and Mooorhouses. It was evident these were thought to be “interesting” beers by all concerned.
No traditional pub games, unless you include the little “excuse me dance” that goes on during the innumerable toilet visits of the elderly, and the game of bill-splitting at the end.
That’s my observation done – will be astonished if this place looks different on 1 July 2036.