27th March 2023.

Now I’ve completed the Beer Guide I intend to use all my leisure time bringing the great Philip Navigator up to date; there must be at least 3 months worth of pinking to do.

At one stage I harboured ambitions to pink the whole book, like, you know, but that seems a bit ambitious and I’ve recently realised I’d be better off focusing closer to home.

Like Bolsover, an old Derbyshire mining town I hadn’t been to in a decade before this week.

Only 27 minutes from home, but a real mystery with places called Cock Alley and Markham Vale and Clowne.

Actually, I’d been to Markham Vale, a business park just off the M1, for some NHS bureaucratic nonsense a decade ago, and learnt more about the socio-economic issues facing Bolsover than you’d imagine possible.

The closure of the mines bring challenges, but they also leave a landscape with some stunning country parks like Carr Vale.

And some steep climbs to the castle which is all anyone knows about Bolsover.

The castle suddenly appears out of nowhere, gloriously intact. It’s so impressive I decided not to visit. Not unless someone lends me their English Heritage card, anyway.

Bolsover (11,673) was unsuccessful in its bid for city status in 2022, which is a bit like saying Doom Bar was unsuccessful in its bid to be crowned CAMRA Champion Beer, I guess.

But it is lovely, and the information boards. like the one for the 17th century conduit houses below,

and the mysterious Cundy (not Jason) House are informative and almost legible.

Along with conduit houses, the Cundy House would make a great micro pub,

surely Bolsover’s best chance of a return to the GBG. EVERY city needs a Guide pub (except, seemingly, Milton Keynes). At the moment the GBG App extract is a little bit bare.

For now, enjoy the churches. Note the time on the clock at St Mary & St Lawrence, surely the inspiration for Rupert Brooke,

and this lovely statue at the brutalist Catholic church opposite.

Still seven pubs and a couple of clubs in town, and a thriving music scene with all your ’80s favourites visiting this summer.

The Cavendish’s What Pub entry promises Mansfield Cask, but since it hasn’t been surveyed for What Pub since 2013 I’d phone ahead if making a special visit, like you’d do when visiting a Doom Bar pub.

I saw a couple of coaches pulling off the M1 towards Bolsover, presumably visitors to the Blue Bell’s amazing fontage (top). Come back in June for a guided tour.

Afternoon tea with the Baroness* sounds better than the afternoon meal deal over the road at the Spoons.

GBG completist, even retired ones, always feel compelled to pre-emptively tick EVERY Spoons they see, and I’m surprised the Pillar of Rock hasn’t made it yet.

But, having waited 5 minutes at the bar to be served with no-one else in sight, I watched with disbelief as an Old Boy strode up next to me as the previous customer walked away and said “pint of Coors” to the barmaid, who looked perplexed but served him first anyway.

Old Boy looked at me, said “Oh“, and I figured it best to say nothing. Like taking back a duff pint, who wants an argument in a pub ?

And just to show I’m completely fair, my 86p half of Greene King IPA was actually half-decent.

*no relation to the Beast of Bolsover; he’s retired.


  1. I drank many a pint of Mansfield Bitter in the Blue Bell, Tuesday nights, 1975-1977. The pub was crowded with pink-faced, denim-suited, scrubbed-to-within-an-inch-of-their-lives miners and their wives and girlfriends back then, and engulfed in a miasma of coal tar fumes from the the Coalite works just upwind to the west. There was a motor workshop in the outbuildings adjoining the car park, where a guy with a Yogi Bear physique and Rasputin hairstyle would lift cars onto stands himself, and then wash his hands in petrol at the end of his day. Some of Joe Cocker’s Grease Band used to drink there now and then too, incidentally.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I remember the strong smell of coal tar, not unpleasant I thought, from the chemical works at Four Ashes on the Wolverhampton side of Penkridge. The Banks’s pub on the A449 there was the Four Ashes. One of the people I knew who worked there later brewed at Jolly Rodger in Worcester and then drove trains and now trains the drivers. I expect him to be in Sheffield later this month. What a small world it is.


  2. “Beast of Bolsover” reminds me that Dennis Skinner employed as a researcher Peter Linley who many years earlier in 1972 suggested that the Campaign for the Revitalisation of Ale became the Campaign for Real Ale and set up the North Midlands Branch which is now the Walsall Branch. Two years later Peter helped us set up the Stafford and Stone Branch and I remember drinking with him in the Chains, now the Market Vaults.

    Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s