Parkgate and Neston visit
The mid-September sun tempted me onto a bus for the first time in six months. The 22 route between Chester and West Kirby is frustrating, finishing early in the evening and not running at all on Sundays, but it is nevertheless really useful in providing access to a number of interesting pubs on the western side of Wirral.
Alighting at the northern end of Parkgate prom, I called first at The Boathouse, where entry was straightforward, with a polite welcome and a well-marked one-way system. Of the three Hydes beers on the pumps, I decided the Portuguese Bock at 5% was too strong as a thirst-quencher, so opted for the reliable Original, which unfortunately ran out at the first pull. The barman’s response was a shrug, with no suggestion that the barrel would be changed, so I switched to a Lowry, which I enjoyed on the open terrace with a mix of family diners and a few examples of that endangered species, the office lunch-time drinker.
I remember The Red Lion with affection from its Warrington Walker’s days. It still feels the most ‘pub-like’ of the four outlets on the front but, unfortunately, these days the beer range is uninspiring, with just Ruddles County and Greene King IPA on offer, though Tetley’s may also be available. I went for the GK IPA and while many think it on the bland side, its condition here couldn’t be faulted. Contact details were taken while the beer was settling but this was the only pub I’ve visited since re-opening where cash payment has been refused. On a positive note, I would never have imagined that I could sit sipping a pint at the window of a Wirral pub watching a Great White Egret strutting around just a couple of hundred metres away.
It was then a short walk to The Ship, where the queue to register and be served reflected its popularity. Not having had the chance to drink Brimstage Trapper’s Hat for so long, I had no hesitation in ordering it ahead of Brains Reverend James and Cwrw Ial Pocket Rocket. I was lucky enough to snatch the last spot in the sun and the Trapper’s went down very easily, though these days I think it has slipped slightly from its earlier excellence.
I’ve never known what to expect from The Old Quay. I’m sure that in my youth I must have drunk some passable beers there, but given that nowadays it’s primarily an eating-house and that recent pub descriptions mention Sharp’s Doom Bar, one of the few real ales I actively avoid, I signed in with some trepidation. The stirring of hope as I spotted what seemed to be 3 hand-pulls with different badges dissipated on the realisation they were just variants on the Doom Bar theme. Fast exit. Deciding to keep The Harp for another day, I headed up the road to Neston town centre. It was several years since I’d drunk here and I remembered The Brown Horse as the best of the bunch. This time, however, it was a great disappointment, with Robinson’s Unicorn the only badge on the three pumps. The welcome and service were friendly enough but, sadly, the beer was vinegar and was exchanged for a Guinness without hesitation.
On boarding the last bus home I reflected on a mixed day. All the pubs had applied the current safety measures appropriately and politely and it seems churlish to comment too negatively on beer range and quality at a time when we’re fortunate to have pubs open at all and when owners, licensees and staff are faced with so many conflicting pressures. S.W.A.