ARCH LIFE – RUNCORN ROARS

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13th February 2020

What a great way to complete Cheshire GBG20, in a place I don’t really know, in a bar with uncertain opening hours and three possible names.

Later that night I coloured Runcorn in with great care on the map.

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First trip to Halton Borough since a lively Widnes fun pub in 2017 when I tripped over the vacuum cleaner.

Spot the OS difference since 2017.

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runcorn

Yes, they’ve got their shiny new Mersey Gateway bridge, with the toll money probably being syphoned off to support Manchester City’s evil plans, if you believe the press.

Runcorn is home to top beer blogger Kirsty, whose trail of destruction round the Victorian pub heritage is the stuff of Legendz. The town had hardly recovered from Pub Curmudgeons’s spell there in the 1870s.

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Heritage

The Society Tap Rooms (aka Society Ltd aka STR) had decided to move opening from 4 to 5, which was a bit alarming as I had a haircut and a gig back in Manchester that evening.

Still, Runcorn seemed pleased to see me.

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FOX to you too

In my mind the town breaks down into distinct sections.

a) A nice hill in the middle where you can pretend you’re lost and you are.

b) A purple petrochemical glow that inspired Laurie Anderson’s “O Superman”.

c) Some Proper Pubs like the Prospect in Weston Village.

d) A Stevenage style expanse of 70s housing surrounding a cheap cinema where I once took our boys to see Alvin and the Chipmunks:The Squeakel (No, it’s no Parasite) in 2010.

e) A bridge to Widnes and the science museum where I spent 2 hours that seemed like 2 months once.

f) The old town with its terrifying Spoons.

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Proper Spoons

I didn’t linger in the Ferry Boat, even for flat whites, though a lad of about six asked me to hold the two doors leading to the loos open for him as “I’m scared of doors“. I expect a civic service award, or n arrest warrant, in the post.

With a whole 90 minutes to get under the skin of Runcorn, I took the underpass to the Town Hall.

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Like in the John Foxx song

The public park housing the Town Hall is a little gem.

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You could be in Bologna
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Haltonhenge

Across the road from the Registrar of births, deaths and partnerships lies the Red Admiral, whose “previous management have been heard to say the don’t like Real Ale and therefore refused to have it in” according to the always informative WhatPub. Perhaps Kirsty can review it for us.

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Welcoming boozer

Back in town I found this hidden cache of street art.

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Unusual “lion’s head” dispense method
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Lady Sinks The Booze shown top right

Then I followed the signs down to the Promenade, which I had all to myself.

The view to Spike Island (yes,THAT one) and beyond to Woollybackland is strangely peaceful,

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John Squire still playing the solo on “I Am The Resurrection”

but it’s the Silver Jubilee Bridge, awaiting re-opening this year, that remains the symbol of the borough. I stood under the bridge.

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Spooky

Speaking of All Saints*, I then admired a view of both churches from the graveyard, replete with the headstones of folk who I’ve already outlived.

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And a black cat ran away from me, as well it might.

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Mudgie’s gone,mate

I popped down to STR, which sounds like the sort of thing you want to avoid, just in case it had opened early, as micros sometime do.

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Proper Pub fallback behind
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Top fontage

Here it is, underneath the railway arches, firmly shut.

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STR

So I strolled back to town, using Google to find Atmoesphere, where I enjoyed lovely service and a coffee and baklava with ice cream, which you’re now looking at jealously.

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Runcorn café culture

Back at STR, the door opened on the dot of 5.

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Enticing

A nice welcome in what looked like an outbuilding to the old Co-Op, with seating to delight the Mudgies.

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Barrels for bums

Ooh, Rauchbier. And unmarked handpumps like in the 1940s.

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Mystery beer

But there was no-one about. At all. I popped to the Gents, walked round the building and looked for signs of life. Nothing.

It’s not the drama you need at your last county tick.

“Are you looking for the entrance ?” said a voice from behind what looked like a food pop-up.

“I thought this was it”

“No, you have to go through the ladies toilets. Follow me”

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Actual entrance

Weird, but wonderful.

Suddenly I was in a magical world of art and craft. A bit like the Wavertree Supermarket, but with added CBD (literally).

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my eyes, my eyes

The lady who served me the local Blueball Stout (lovely, 3.5) was a chatty gem, keen to know about my gig in the Ritz that evening.

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Thought it said Spank

“Angel Olsen ? Never heard of him !”

“Her”

Good job I didn’t tell her I’d really come to see Hand Habits, who was indeed worth the 4 hour journney home.

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*think about it.

29 thoughts on “ARCH LIFE – RUNCORN ROARS

  1. What a fascinating place.

    Incidentally, the mural seems to me to say “Puncorn”, which is, in its way, a pun I suppose.

    Just one experience of trapped fingers can easily make one scared of doors. Some people are frightened of sillier things. We’re living the results, I think.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I spent eighteen years there 😉

      The Red Admiral was the closest pub to our house. I’ve been in once.

      I think you mean f) Old town, not New Town. I’ve also been in that Spoons once.

      Like

      1. T’other Mudgie,
        So for every minute I spent in Runcorn you endured seven months.
        During what might have seemed a lifetime did you ever dream of migrating to Stockport ?

        Like

      2. My only experience of Stockport prior to moving here was passing through with my dad on the way to a university interview in Sheffield in the Autumn of 1976. And we got stuck in a traffic jam! (This was before the motorway was built through the town)

        Liked by 1 person

      3. I don’t think at that age the local beer choice was my primary concern. And it didn’t take long to discover that, while Birmingham itself was a bit of a beer desert, it was surrounded by glorious drinking only a short bus or train ride away.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. You can’t beat baklava and coffee. Well, apart from ale and crisps. 🙂

    “previous management have been heard to say the don’t like Real Ale and therefore refused to have it in” –Now this may be an unanswerable question (most of mine are) but if you had to guess a percentage of English pubs that don’t carry cask ale at all, what would you guess? And I should add I’m not including bars, night clubs, that sort of thing. Only among places that are going for, at least a little, the look of a pub. Do you reckon it’s as many as half or more?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I always name check good places. This one had lovely service. Baklava, ice cream and coffee under a fiver, too.

      There’s 56,000 pubs on WhatPub, of which two thirds serve real ale. Quite a number of the 56,000 are what you’d call bars though.

      I’d have said 80% of pubs carry cask, though in Cambridge it’s 100% and in Runcorn or Rotherham it’s well under half.

      Liked by 1 person

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