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Rail Ale Crawl

May Bank Holiday Monday saw a small band of Rotherham CAMRA branch members join their Sheffield brethren on their annual Rail Ale Crawl through the Hope Valley in the Peak District. Actually, it was just four of us, plus the Social Secretaryís dog!

Letting the train take the strain, we ventured from Sheffield Midland Station up to Edale where both pubs were visited. The Old Nagís Head has Mansfield-brewed Grays house beers, Best Bitter and Premium, available alongside Tetley Bitter. The Rambler now boasts a greater range of guest beers alongside the Grays house beers. Coach House Honey Pot and a new Kelham Island brew were sampled. Then it was back on the train towards Sheffield.

Next stop was Hope. The Cheshire Cheese, a one time Wards pub, had Wentworth Venture, Black Sheep Special and Theakston BlackBull on, and excellent they were too. A trek across the fields brought us to the Poachers at the opposite end of Hope. This is a vastly improved pub, selling a range of Black Sheep beers. The Best Bitter & Special were tasted, and found to be spot on. Prices have also fallen under the new ownership. We were unable to sample the delights of the Woodroffe Arms (Whitbread & guests) and the Old Hall (Stones), as we had to hurry to the station for the next stop, Bamford.

After a climb up to the village, we stumbled into the Anglers where the now rare Marstons Bitter and Pedigree were available. At the nearby Derwent, Hardy & Hansonís Kimberley best Bitter & Stones Bitter were on, as was the football which proved a distraction for some. Despite sprinting down the hill, we just missed the train, so it was into the Marquis of Granby to sample the Mansfield Bitter before catching a bus to Hathersage, our final watering hole. Things didnít quite go according to plan however, as our Social Secretary, Barry, having been filming the events of the day, realised that heíd left his camcorder in the Marquis. So, some distance up the road, he had to leap off the bus and return to the Marquis to retrieve it.

Five pubs were visited in Hathersage. The Little John had Mansfield Bitter plus guests, where I sampled Barnsley IPA and listened to the live band performing free at this popular pub. From here we went up the hill to the Plough, where Adnamís Bitter was the guest and Barry rejoined us, camcorder duly rescued. We then set off on a hike across the fields to the Millstone. Here, Smiles Best Bitter was available at £1.70 a pint, duly drunk down as we enjoyed the late afternoon sunshine. Then it was back to the village, and the Scotsmanís Pack where the splendid Beartown Bearskin was eagerly supped, before reaching our final destination, the Hathersage Inn. Here, I had the Batemanís seasonal beer. I canít remember which one - may have had something to do with the brain becoming slightly befuddled by now and my writing being indecipherable!

Sadly, it was time to catch the train back to Sheffield and home. Still, there is always Barryís film of the day! I bet his dog has never had a longer walk either.
Paul Redfern

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