On to Belper, where I was devastated to have just missed the knitting festival, as a tree’s right to wear clothes is one of my main concerns.

I found out from the cheerful barista in Costa that every week in Belper has some sort of weird activity most weeks these days. It’s almost as if they’re following the Stockport model to get folk into town, i.e. food and tat markets (don’t get me wrong, I approve of both).

It’s a hill

Like Cheshire’s finest town, Belper is just outside the edge of the Peak District, so has to try harder to attract visitors from the big cities.  I started visiting in the ’90s, when Mrs RM worked on projects for the Town Council, and the scenery was enough to win me over.

The views from practically any point in town are gorgeous, and walks to Holbrook or Makeney still take in some of our most traditional pubs. Mrs RM was rather more attracted to the products of the factory shop across the A6, which still serve us well 20 years on.

The town itself has moved on a bit since then, and apart from flags and farmers was seemingly full of art. The street art would look a bit out of place in Bedminster though.

Proper art, with people in it

Most visitors from Derby were congregating in the car parks of the De Bradelei shopping village at the old  hosiery mill though.  As with Macclesfield and Stockport, independent enterprise often breed more independent enterprise.

Same to you too

Belper knows its core audience though, and still feeds and waters them in traditional places like Georges, one of my favourite fish and chip shops (Bryans ? – never heard of him).

George’s Tradition – also in Leek

The town has never had a wealth of Beer Guide entries, the surrounding villages always being more likely to carry guest beers. A couple of dozen pubs of all shapes and sizes gives decent choice for a town of 20,000, particularly if they like Marstons products. There’s a brand new micropub, Angels, that I must have walked past without noticing, so obviously a proper micro.

The sole Beer Guide entry, Arkwrights Real Ale Bar, feels micro but probably breaks too many of the “Herne Rules” to qualify (sarcasm intended).  Therefore, it has what people actually want, including keg, music and TV (no sarcasm intended). There was a lot of irreverent chat, including a fascinating debate about Hull City’s chances of 17th place in 2016-17 that Messrs Everitt and Irvin would have enjoyed.

Proper seating, proper jugs, and proper pies

The Arkwright also had a splendid collection of pub snacks, including black pudding pies, which I bravely abstained from (and that despite an absence of calorific information on the glass window).  One wag who did succumb told the landlady his pie had been off and wanted a free replacement, a tactic that seems to work in McDonalds but not here.

Despite six decent micros on the bar (Derventio, Great Heck Sonnet etc.) I went for the Pedigree from the jug though (NBSS 3). It was good to see the Arkwright stick to what the Amber Valley does best, though I sense the regulars stick to the guests.

A town seemingly not in desperate need of a Wetherspoons.


  1. Sadly Bryan’s isn’t Bryan’s anymore, it’s gone through a few change of hands since they sold it and the first version was dire, which sort of put me off trying it again. It’s a ‘Fisherman’s Wife’ now, a small family run chain with seven chip shops in Leeds (where they started), York & Whitby. They have a good reputation so I should try it out again.


  2. It’s still there, and it still looks like Bryan’s and I guess people from out of town will still think/call it Bryan’s, but in reality, it isn’t, it’s The Fisherman’s wife. Like say, they are highly regarded at all their restaurants, so probably still worth a visit.

    The standout for me in Headingley (as opposed to Far Headingley, the location of Bryan’s/Fisherman’s Wife) is Charlie Bretts. Lovely people, lovely menus, outstanding fish and dirks, from a proper range, cooked in beef dripping. You need to book, unless you go round the side and eat it from the paper.

    Whitelocks now belongs to the guy behind Fivepoints, forgot his name.


  3. I did my last few pubs in Belper last year,Arkwrights was one on them but i did’nt rate it too much,my drink of Cross Bay Zenith was top notch though,Belpers look a like Spoons in the Green Room situated up the hill on the main shopping street,it looks like a Spoons from the outside and is pretty much the same inside.
    I have done all pubs in other towns you mentioned and had a nice walk uphill from Milford doing the King William 1V to Makenhay and the Hiollybush then on to Holbrook doing the Dead Poets and other pubs in the village.
    Angels is a new one on me,what street is it on Martin as i will have to go there at some point and do it.


  4. Good Lord – giving customers what they actually want. Radical!

    My earliest recollection of Belper is that it was the late George Brown’s constituency, where he went down to defeat in the 1970 General Election, a kind of Ed Balls moment that caused my dad great pleasure.


    1. Goodness me your politics started early.

      On bearable micros, the one in Holbeach served WKD and had flashing lights, possibly the youngest looking place in town. No truck with the micro “rules” and rightly so.


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