The mining towns of east Derbyshire have had a hard time, but the reclaimed countryside makes great walking, and a relatively high demand for real ale helps maintain some excellent pubs.
Ilkeston, despite it’s proximity to the M1, has always felt particularly cut-off from the world, and being the largest town in Britain without a railway station isn’t a claim it wanted to take off Mansfield (there’s bound to be a railway anorak who’s going to correct that).
The closure of American Adventure, the Camelot of the Midlands, didn’t help. Even their football team was wound up the same year that neighbouring Alfreton started their Histonesque rise up the Pyramid.
To get the ugly stuff out of the way first, the sight below greets you as you walk in from lovely Straws Bridge lake. Bowling halls are often grotty, as anyone who’s been to Wokingham Superbowl will know.
Plenty of closed pubs in the centre, including this classic;
As I stood admiring Captain Gregory’s past glories, a chap told me he’d been trying to take it over for commercial use for some time without success. Empty boarded-up buildings do no-one any favours.
However, walking in from the west, the town looks spick and span, and there’s some attractive new civic buildings, particular a new college near the Market Place.
The Market itself is as far from, say, Cambridge’s temple of organic nonsense as it’s possible to get, full of knickers, spanners, and a giant box of Haribo that will bribe my youngest son to turn down his amp for weeks to come.
I like pedestrianised shopping streets, and Ilkeston has a steep one with some great views towards Sherwood. Bath Street isn’t a great high street, but I still managed to get my mobile phone fixed and pick up some bargain CDs.
The new Beer Guide entry is a Wetherspoons, rather than a micropub (that will probably come in GBG17). It’s shiny and newish, and already packed with lunching OAPs and toddlers, leaving a string of fun pubs looking rather forlorn.
And it has Draught Bass on, for an astonishing £1.65 with CAMRA vouchers (which never run out). Here’s the proof.
QUIZ TIME – Name the beer to the left
Cool and tasty, this was a Bass to convince the doubters (NBSS 3.5), if not quite on a par with the stuff from the jug a few miles west (Holbrook, Duffield etc).
Worth a trip just for that, but also for the Erewash Valley museum, with it’s rich collection of social history a match for the lovely one at Desborough. You can’t beat a recreated village shop.
Plenty of other good pubs in town, including the Dewdrop (though no Bass) and Spanish Bar, though the Ilkeston Tap sadly is no more.
Always worth a trip for the friendly people too. A elderly gent at the lakes shouted “need a hand, my duck“. I was just about to tell him it was a swan when I realised he was offering me help with my bootlaces (I inherit that problem from my teenage son).