Sump-tious Views And Married Bliss in Winshill

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As I dodged past an old dear on a mobility scooter going at a blistering pace just leaving 182 – The Sump DE15 0TT and looked at the view I knew this was going to be a pub full of characters and high up on and list.

Winshill, which is just on the edge of Burton, has a few boozers, but this Marston’s 2-for -1 is on the main drag (B5008) as you head towards Netwon Solney and beyond.

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Granted the purple and grey colour match on the exterior is unlikely to win any awards and a Marston’s food boozer doesn’t always sit comfortably with some pub bloggers but this is similar to the recent boozer I blogged on in Duffield.

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I wouldn’t say it was quite as picturesque but with the River Trent high due to the recent snow and rain then it was as lively as it gets which, allied to the nearby development of the Burton Flour Mills into apartments, makes it a picturesque view.

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Granted, Burton, or more particularly Winshill, isn’t renowned for its glorious views but if you are sitting outside or position yourself in the right seat inside then this is arguably one of the better views from a boozer in Burton and its surrounding suburbs.

It is clearly a place for couples to come and chat incessantly…

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…or just morph into the married bliss that most of us have reached with him watching the Ryanair Chase from Cheltenham on the box and her reading the latest info on social media.

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It could have resembled a scene from my living room with Mrs BB aside from the fact I’m not really a horse racing man but the fact they slouched together was arguably a positive!

The TV was turned down so you couldn’t hear the commentary but three blokes behind were providing their own version of the commentary and one exiled Cockney was particularly amusing as he was predicting that Balko Des Flos would win (8/1 shot I’ll have you know) and was getting louder as he approached the finishing post.  Considering it was around 3pm there was a steady stream of people in and whilst it wasn’t full, it was busier than a lot of places I have seen on a Thursday lunchtime.

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Whilst this place is set up for eating…

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..the area I sat in was clearly for drinkers and there was a locals feel to it as they were showing all the six nations games on TV and there was also an opportunity to win a massive all singing, all dancing TV for just a quid…

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…and it was positioned about ten yards away from me

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whilst, like a lot of local boozers, St Patricks’ Day was being celebrated.

Well, The Chayse, live covers bands were on as part of the celebrations, but whether they would be playing the eclectic mix of hits I heard was open to debate.  Technotronic and The Flying Pickets were both heard in the background music mix whilst my pint of Cumberland Ale (Jennings) was only £2.90 to make sure I had a decent time watching the world go by.

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This is clearly a local pub that happens to be in a great riverside location and maybe one that has visited and the bonus of the Grade II Listed restoration of the Flour Mill is also a cracking addition to the landscape.

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Blue And White Collar Mix In The Greswolde Arms

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I think I’ve discovered the reason why Knowle is such a good night out.  I’ve had a drink in 181 – The Greswolde Arms Hotel B93 0LL twice in the last six weeks and it is definitely a boozer more than a hotel

There are many reasons, on paper, why you might not like this place.  It is part of the Chef & Brewer chain (Greene King) and looks very grandiose on Knowle High Street as you drive in from the M42.

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It is in close proximity to The Vaults who, after my recent blog, have decided to have a facelift and I noticed the Solihull CAMRA regular had finally ditched its frontage advertising Carlsberg, San Miguel and Tetley (Cask) for a more modern approach selling Sapphire gins and Ruby Ports no less.

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As long as the gaffer is still wearing his red Tacchini tracksuit top then I am sure all will be fine though as I can’t imagine the atmosphere will change in there.

All of which leads me nicely into the success of Knowle’s boozers. I was here tonight with Mrs BB, the kids and all of her clan celebrating a wedding anniversary and it was packed.  But it was packed with blue and white collar workers and that is very much part of Knowle life.

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You are just as likely to see a solicitor or accountant as you are a brickie or factory worker.  You are also likely to see either a tweed based older couple or a tattoo covered young couple dressed to impress and this is what makes Knowle buzz, particularly on a weekend.

The bar area was full.  England were playing in Holland and that was on the TV in the background but with the sound down and it wasn’t particularly obtrusive.

But this is definitely a place where people meet for a sesh whilst it is also a place where people come to eat and the restaurant area is equally as full and there is a distinct area for both.

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It was just a small glass of prosecco tonight as I was on driving duties but I bumped into a lad who reckoned he played football with me in Solihull in my youth whilst Mrs BB bumped into one of her old school friends, which only added to the feelgood factor.

About two months previously I was in here on a Sunday afternoon when it wasn’t as full but it was equally impressive.  Both times the barman has been very friendly and eager to help and that is the sort of thing you notice.

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On that occasion I had very decent Hop Star (Silhill Brewery) at £3.60 and four blokes with Silkolene Motors on their shirt arrived and were clearly having a tot before they retired to their rooms  (although this was only around 4pm) having been at some kind of convention/show/meeting/event.


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Usual pub banter fare with comments such as “you know f*** all about cricket and football so why should I listen to you talk about basketball.” And “Not only is he deaf he also can’t drink – he doesn’t have a lot going for him,”

However, I noted that all of the boys were drinking Guinness, Hop Star, Abbott or GK IPA and working their way through it a reasonable rate of knots!

Apparently, this 17th century former coaching inn  was owned by Henry Greswolde Lewis (hence the name) who was Lord of the Manor with his cousin, Jane Wilson…which might explain the Wilson’s Arms (or Toby Carvery to the uninitiated) about 200 yards up the road.

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Mrs BB met me on the previous occasion as well and we ordered some food as the Silkolene boys went about their business and other people from all walks of Knowle life filtered in and out on a regular basis.

The only slight disappointment for me is that I have nearly posted on all of the Knowle boozers but as this is Mrs BB’s original home then I will definitely find time to visit the last couple on my to do list in 2018.

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Class Of ’92 Making Their Mark In Allestree

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As Ryan Giggs celebrated turning up for a Wales friendly fixture for the first time his first game as Wales manager with a 6-0 win in China, I wondered whose influence was the most prevalent on him.

Clearly he is his own man, but Alex Ferguson’s methods must be ingrained in Giggs’ psyche, whilst he has often spoke in glowing terms of Louis van Gaal too.

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However, I wonder if he has picked up any tips from Salford City’s old school managerial duo of Bernard Morley and Anthony Johnson.  Salford are the subject of a BBC documentary as the Class of ’92 (minus Beckham), which includes Paul Scholes, Phil Neville, Gary Neville, Nicky Butt and Giggs, have purchased a football club and are trying to take them into the Football League.

In all fairness, they are doing a pretty good job of it and Bernard and ‘Jono’ are the men driving the club forward with two promotions in three years and the prospect of another this season to take them to within one promotion of joining the official 92 club.

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This duo are now full time but Morley was a former ceiling fixer and partitioner whilst ‘Jono’ is ex forces and it is fair to say they are ‘hungry’ for success.  Taking into account the need to make the documentary as explosive as possible, I can’t remember one episode since they arrived from Ramsbottom United, where ‘Jono’ hasn’t questioned the size of a players  b*****ks or, basically offered someone out!

However, they obviously do far more than that in terms of tactics, recruitment and coaching but that doesn’t make for good TV.  However, as I was sitting in the 180 – Red Cow  DE22 2DZ watching Wales romp to victory on the big screen in the bar I was pondering how Giggs would manage Gareth Bale, who bagged a hat trick, and became their all-time leading scorer ahead of Ian Rush.

(Bale looking pleased)

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Would he give the team the Fergie ‘hairdryer’ treatment when necessary?  Apparently Van Gaal could display some Dutch no-nonsense tendencies as well so, despite Giggs’ apparent mild mannered nature, maybe he will question the size of player’s b*****ks if the going gets tough in the Euro 2020 qualification campaign.

The Red Cow is in a suburb of Derby known as Allestree and has been on an upward curve for almost a year after hitting hard times…

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It was my first visit and I was impressed, but if you look at this article from the Derby Evening Telegraph then it is clear a change was needed.

It’s a multi-roomed boozer and whilst there were only six of us in the bar…

(bench seating, classic windows – a proper pub bar)

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…there were plenty of other people in the lounge/eating areas for around 1pm on a Thursday afternoon.

It’s a pub that has clearly been here as a 17th century coaching inn for many years and subsequently extended with some marvellous windows in the ‘new bit’

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The owners, who brought it from Mitchells & Butlers in January 2017, showed a football style ruthlessness to sack the chef and pub manager after the pub appeared to be struggling and the transformation has apparently been swift.

It’s clean and bright and whilst no one was particularly chatty, it looked like a place that should be thriving as it is swamped with houses nearby.

To celebrate the fact we had two analysts (at taxpayers’ expense) explaining to Jason Mohammed on BBC Sport how Wales had beaten China 6-0, the Manic Street Preachers were on in the background with “A Design For Life” and a youngish couple with two terrier style dogs were having an absolute ball on social media.

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The two old boys at the bar were chatting to themselves whilst I had a very nice pint of Citra (Oakham) at £3.30 and was thankful they weren’t showing the cricket on Sky Sports after England’s score of 58 all out in New Zealand (that’s not a typo Russ, it really was the score).

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(spot the red cow…)

The Manics gave way to Dr Beat by Gloria Estefean (not heard that for years) and there was plenty to suggest this pub caters for its local audience with football sweepstake style cards on the noticeboard, recognition of good charity work…

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…and pictures of local sporting teams adorning the walls.

(apparently this team made 59 all out)

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I think Giggsy would have been impressed with the b*****ks shown by the owners to change the manager but it was a move that is paying dividends as the Red Cow has  a steady food and drink trade on a Thursday with a cracking beer garden…perfect for a local, well-populated village boozer.

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The Vaults Rising To The Challenge

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It all used to be oh so simple for pubs in the BM (Before Micropubs) era.  Take Solihull and its surrounding villages for example. It’s my home town but it wouldn’t win many awards for the “must visit due to the quality and diversity of beer along with its historic grade II listed pub buildings…” if there was such an award of course.

In this era, 179 – The Vaults B93 0JU stood out like a beacon just off Knowle High Street and bagged the Solihull CAMRA Regional pub of the year ten times between 1992 and 2013.

Back in 2013, Mike Benner, of CAMRA, said: “These winning pubs have been voted the best in their local areas by the local CAMRA members and are examples of the kind of well-run and valued community pubs we hope to see more of throughout the UK.”

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Luckily for The Vaults there has only been two Micropubs open in the Solihull region in the AM (After Micropubs) era, so they haven’t been under the cosh like other regions with micros seemingly making a relentless charge on the GBG with their offerings of many ales and no TV.

The Vaults and Knowle in general is still booming and easily the best suburb of Solihull for a drink with pubs such as pukka place by the canal The Kings Arms, drinkers place by the canal The Black Boy both featured in this post…, whilst also containing an Ember Inns boozer with a proper drinking area and funny locals (really) The Red Lion and, new kid on the block, The Ale Rooms that I noted in this post… 

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But, Solihull CAMRA Pub of the year in 2018 is The Vaults aforementioned near neighbour The Ale Rooms whilst in 2017 it was the only other Micropub in the town, The Pup And Duckling

So, it’s fair to say, for the first time in a long while The Vaults has a bit of competition on Knowle High Street and I wondered how it would respond when I visited on a Sunday afternoon probably around six weeks ago now.

It’s a very lively boozer and doesn’t feel like a Micropub but most definitely a local pub.  It’s the sort of place where Carling sells in equal measure to their ales and the pub is none the worse for that.

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The Gaffer was behind the bar in a top notch red Tacchini tracksuit top that I haven’t seen for years and a Peaky Blinders style cap and was clearly having an enjoyable Sunday afternoon with his crew of regulars.

One of the reasons I like Knowle is that whilst it is regarded as a salubrious suburb of Solihull it most definitely has lively pubs and this place was buzzing with that late Sunday afternoon drunkenness I can only describe to people who’ve been there.

It meant I wasn’t really in the loop for humour but no one gave me a hard time, or acknowledged me for that matter, but there was no hassle and a cracking mix of ages of people being boisterous.

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I had a very tidy pint of Butty Bach (Wye Valley) for £3.50 and places like this don’t survive as a Free House for this long without building up a good posse of regulars and the ale aficionados.

The Vaults is a bit of a Knowle institution really (along with the Red Lion and The Wilsons Arms – a Toby Carvery I’ve yet to blog on!) and the addition of The Ale Rooms should hopefully complement it rather than take trade off it.

That certainly wasn’t the case when I visited as it was nicely full and had a TV in the background (like The Ale Rooms) and is clearly ensuring it stays on top of its game to continue thriving in a busy little village well stocked with boozers.

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The Swan Inn – Revisited


This Beast From The East is playing havoc for us pub bloggers as getting on the road to visit new exotic places (well not always) is tough in sub-zero icy conditions.

However, this is the time of year to celebrate the good old-fashioned local boozer and whilst it may be career ending for a member of the PUB (Pub Union of Bloggers), there is plenty to admire in the pub closest to your own pad.

I’ve already blogged about 29- The Swan Inn DE65 6EF but it’s under new ownership and worth a revisit as, even though it was in the GBG in 2017, it has arguably upped its game.

The previous landlord Roger Salt was a brewer at Bass/Marston’s and always kept a great pint but the new duo, Kevin and Tracey Richards have arrived with a good pedigree.


Having run the Brickmaker’s Arms in Newton Solney (pub 5) , the Devonshire Arms in Burton On Trent and a boozer in Benidorm (initially) they are well versed in good pubs and they have already made a positive impact in this tiny hamlet.


Evolution rather than revolution is the model and it is now two rooms of drinking rather than food and drink although a new menu is up and running but more snack based.

There was also a marvellous cheese board that kept people happy and it was noticeable that there were far more people in under the new stewardship.


Some new faces have followed from Newton Solney but there are also more local faces than I have seen before and they are keeping beer to match the quality of Rogers’s beforehand.

However, in stark contrast to what the ‘trends’ are saying they are stocking a greater range of beers, less food, shorter opening hours but are more full.

This boozer has also been visited by one of the doyen of beer writers – Colston Crawford – who regularly uncovers absolute gems in the Derby Evening Telegraph on a weekly basis.

The fact he’s been doing this for around two decades speaks volumes for just how much he champions Derby’s excellent ale scene.  Throw into the mix the fact he loves his football and his cricket and it’s fair to say he is a top chap and his reports often shape my pub visiting habits.

His report on the new owners of The Swan Inn is here  and he notes the subtle changes undergone since the new arrivals.

Anyway, Mrs BB and my youngest walked across barren fields (I love the fact that in two months these fields will be a different landscape)


A Sunday afternoon isn’t always busy but another family we knew were in and there was a steady drip feed of trade all afternoon and the cheese board was a big hit!

The beer is absolutely fantastic and I had cracking pint of Belter (Leatherbritches) which meant I turned down the Bass (!) and that’s how good this pint was.


There aren’t a huge amount of chimney pots in this small hamlet but with Repton and Newton Solney nearby there is scope to grow as long as you know your market and every time I have been in here recently it has been more full than previously.

A weekly bingo session on a Thursday and a fortnightly quiz on a Tuesday are good examples of attracting in regulars whilst Mrs BB was delighted to see some big fat Fever Tree gin bowls behind the bar.

This isn’t on any bus route but is walkable from the centre of Repton and with a huge housing development in there and Willington then hopefully the Richards’’ masterplan will come to fruition.


Me, I love the fact I can walk 15 minutes across fields and get a fantastic pint of beer in a good environment.  Long may that continue.



Adrian Mole, Ashby De La Zouch Celebrities And Packed Pubs

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Ashby De La Zouch is a honeypot on a weekend and there appears to be no problems with pubs shutting in this Leicestershire town.

It’s got around 14,000 inhabitants and houses are going up at a rate of knots so expect plenty more potential customers in the next decade.

However, despite its proximity to the M42, Ashby doesn’t have a rail service so, on a weekend, it is too far away to travel economically to any of its bigger neighbours such as Nottingham, Derby, Leicester or even Birmingham.

So, a bit like a smaller version of a Shrewsbury or a Hereford, as it’s cut off from big cities, most of the locals still go out for a drink in the town centre and this makes for a cracking atmosphere and the need for bouncers of a weekend in some boozers.

I have even seen them on the door of 178 – The Shoulder Of Mutton LE65 1AF on occasions of a Saturday evening but, when I popped in at around 5.45, there were none to be seen at this most flourishing of Spoons.

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It is similar to many others, and I mean that in a hugely positive way, but there is more of a town centre feel to this place and it is usually quite lively.

To be fair, I have been in here before and it is virtually impossible to get a seat at whatever time or day you come and Ashby is hardly under resourced with boozers.

Ashby De La Zouch is a parochial place but still has niche shops on the High Street which is no bad thing. If you look on their Wikipedia page it is claiming such luminaries as Dan Petrescu (lived there when played for Sheffield Wednesday apparently), Chris Bart-Williams (lived there when he played for Nottingham Forest) and Niall Mackenzie (a Grand Prix motorcycle racer who has now retired to Ashby).

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So, from that little lot there is actually no one famous from Ashby apart from people passing through or retiring here, but that will probably suit the locals of Ashby just fine.

Although I should mention that fictitious character Adrian Mole moved to Ashby and his fictitious girlfriend Pandora Braithwaite was named as MP for Ashby.  Author of Adrian Mole, Sue Townsend, was asked to open a building at Ashby Grammar School as a product of that link…apparently Dan Petrescu was busy that day.

However, people in Ashby know how to have a good time and this place is heaving on a Friday/Saturday evening.

Take the Saturday I was there and it was clearly just after a recent beer festival of some description as I had a tremendous pint of Mr. Feathers (Uiltje Brewing Company) from Holland for £2.15 and it was excellent.

(Lacings potential…)

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The place was buzzing in usual Spoons style although slightly more girls on the lash, boys on the lash but it also contained the usual families eating food, couples eating food, old boys, old girls, old couples and just about every demographic you can think of in Ashby in a fantastic mix of pub life.

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And fair play to Wetherspoons as this old boozer – dating from 1757 – was shut down until they rescued it and renovated it and has turned it into arguably the most popular boozer in the town.

Yes, there is a wait at the bar but people were good natured and Ashby is a party town so you expect pubs to be busy on a Saturday evening.

There were definitely a lot of people here warming up with cheap booze for an evening ahead but the beauty of Wetherspoons is that they appeal to most people and this is a cracking boozer packing them into Ashby De La Zouch.

(lacings confirmed!)

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Brummies Here, Brummies There…

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…Brummies every *******where la la la la la la la la la la went the terrace chant back in the eighties (that is the correct amount of la’s!)

Of course if you look at the current attendances at St Andrew’s then that might not be strictly true but when did cold hard facts ever get in the way of good football chant?

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However, one thing I have noticed on my travels around the Midlands is that there are a few exiled Brummies carving out a living in the pub trade and one such gem is 177 – Smisby Arms LE65 2UA

Having already visited Smisby’s other pub (pub 20 The Tap House) then I thought it was only right I visited this village’s central boozer.

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Bearing in mind Smisby has a population of under 300 and is sandwiched between Melbourne and Ashby De La Zouch on the Derbyshire/Leicestershire border  then to have two surviving pubs is fairly remarkable.

Whilst ordering my pint I was drawn like a beacon to a football badge emblem I spotted behind the bar, that was bereft of its blue and white colours, but there was no mistaking the shape of a Birmingham City badge!

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As it turns out, Craig and Julie Reilly run this boozer and have done so successfully for 12 years which means Craig, like many, is now more of a lapsed Blues fan due to work.

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But I could tell he was a genuine supporter as he was talking me through how he was optimistic of survival after he listened to Birmingham’s gallant, but ultimately fruitless fightback at Cardiff last weekend which saw them lose 3-2.

It’s the hope that kills you as a Blues fan although his parting shot of “I hope we don’t end up like Coventry” was closer to the mark.

Anyway, as you would expect from a couple who hail from Castle Bromwich/Shard End/Sheldon/Chelmsley Wood side of Brum this feels like a cosy local and they utilise its space well.

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Predominantly it is food based and there are two rooms set out for food with a tiny snug in the middle but it feels like the sort of place you can have a drink too.

It had only been open 15 minutes when I went in at 5.15 but there were already four other people in there who were all clearly (friendly) locals and chatting about a host of pub/life issues whilst a couple were going to eat and any review you read on their FB page is glowing regards the quality of the grub.

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Its sign outside says village pub and restaurant and that’s a market that is working well for them in 2018.

I was there for the beer and had a pint of Red Rose (Shardlow)

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that had reached the end of the barrel and they changed it immediately (after replacing the barrel) and it was then a much better pint (£3.30)

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If you are in a pub in a relatively remote location such as this then you need to attract punters with something and food is clearly the angle here but, as the pump clips demonstrate, they aren’t averse to having some top notch cask on to boot.

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Martin’s excellent recent post on pubs in Belper, which also contained a fully highlighted (pink) Derbyshire GBG section reminded me that I hadn’t yet visited the Smisby Arms, and I can see why this place has been in the Guide before.

I had this little feller sitting next to me throughout…

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…but a chat with Craig was also a reminder of just how important pub gaffers/staff are to the whole pub experience.  I also like the fact they were happy to change the beer without any qualms when it had clearly reached the end of its shelf life.

It was also pristine inside with a cracking fire and even managed a bit of Marston’s breweriana for Richard to show it’s a pub that is covering all bases considering its size and generates a warm, friendly atmosphere.

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Whilst Birmingham’s season appears to be in terminal decline, the Smisby Arms by way of contrast is looking like promotion material and a top notch village boozer.

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