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Real Ale Ramble No.2

Pubs around Roche Abbey
Distance: Approximately 5 ¾ to 6 miles. Allow 3 to 5 hours walking time.

Beginning on High Street, Laughton-en-le-Morthen, the first watering hole encountered is the Hatfeild Arms (1). Very much a village local, retaining separate tap room and lounge, where a good drink of John Smiths Magnet or Boddingtons Bitter and good value food are to be had. From here, walk up High Street to the splendid Norman parish church of All Saints, whose 185 ft spire dominates the village and surrounding area. Well worth taking time to explore. To the rear of the church is the castle mound, all that now remains of the original fortifications. Also nearby is the village school, dating from 1610.

As the road turns sharply to the left, take the narrow lane straight ahead, Brookhouse Lane, and descend the hill. In about 250 yards, take the footpath on the right and cross the field towards the railway line. Upon reaching the road, a left turn, under the viaduct, will take you into the picturesque hamlet of Brookhouse.

The original Travellers Rest, now the Cartwheel restaurant, is on your right. Turning right off the path brings you to the new Travellers Rest (2), a large pub built in the late 1960’s using reclaimed stone from the water mill that previously stood on the site. There are separate tap room and lounge/dining areas served from a central bar where Hardys & Hansons Kimberley Best Bitter, rare for the area, is now the only real ale. The menu has a wide choice available.

Leave the pub, and return to the road, turning right. You may either take the footpath on the left at Coldwell Green, or continue along the lane to the junction. Turn left towards Slade Hooton, and, just before the railway bridge, turn right on to a marked footpath. If coming from Coldwell Green, it’s straight across. After about ¼ mile, turn right at the footpath sign and head for the pylon in the middle of the field. At the end of the field, turn left alongside the stream. Keep going until you reach a bridge and swing right over the bridge. Then go left into the wood. Note the gnarled old Yew trees in a landscape created in the 18th Century by Lancelot “Capability” Brown. Go past his waterfall and drop downhill towards the ruins of Roche Abbey, passing Abbey House on your left.

The Abbey was founded in 1147 by the Cistercian Order, and is a suitable place to rest awhile and ponder what life must have been like all those centuries ago. To the rear of the Abbey, pick up the footpath which runs from Abbey House towards Stone. Turn right, and then right on to the busy A634 heading for Oldcotes. After about 200 yards turn right on to King’s Wood Lane, heading for Abbey Mill Farm. After 150 yards take the left turn on to Flat Lane. Eventually this becomes a footpath. Continue on this for about ¾ mile, keeping left, until you reach New Road. Turn right, heading for Firbeck and you’ll see the impressive Black Lion (3), Rotherham CAMRA’s Spring 2000 Pub of the Season, on the right just before a sharp bend.

Do take care not to tread any mud into the Lion, as it is rather plush and carpeted. Inside, an array of 8 handpumps dispense a Black Lion house beer from Wentworth plus another Wentworth brew, Barnsley Bitter, John Smiths Bitter and Magnet, Theakston Best Bitter, Stones Bitter, and a changing guest. The Lion is very big on food, and you can eat at the bar or in the separate restaurant until 9 pm. There is a wonderful collection of old photos adorning all the interior walls. Accommodation is also available for those who cannot walk any further. For the gentlemen in the party, a visit to the superb toilet, possibly the best in South Yorkshire, is a must! Leaving the pub, turn right around the sharp bend and pass through the old village where, reputedly, the St. Leger horse race was first run. Just past the church, take the right hand path opposite Park Hill drive. In 250 yards join Flat Lane and turn left, following the footpath as it turns to the right. At the junction of the paths, take the left fork back to Stone. From here, there are three options.

The slightly shorter route is to take the left fork at Abbey Mill Farm on to King’s Wood Lane. After 500 yards take the footpath on the right into King’s Wood. Follow this as it turns to the left and joins East Field Lane. Turn right and continue up the lane to the junction with St. John’s Road. Just beyond the junction, on the right, is The St. Leger Arms (4). Alternatively, return to Roche Abbey and swing left at the gatehouse, walk to the waterfall and cross by the stepping stones. Then go right to a fork in the path. Take the left fork and climb uphill, passing two stiles. At the top of the hill, turn right and then follow the field boundary. Continue as the path merges with a track and, at the next public footpath sign, turn right on to the track and head for Laughton Church steeple. Go through a gap in the hedge, turning right, then left at the hedgeside. 100 yards before the corner of the field turn right through a gap in the hedge. Then go immediately left and over the stile, then cross a narrow field to another stile. Go over and turn left, going uphill to the rear of the Leger. The third alternative is to keep to the track and turn left on to East Field Lane to approach the pub from the front.

The St. Leger Arms is a Grade 1 listed stone-built pub, serving well kept Barnsley Bitter, Boddingtons Bitter, and Whitbread Trophy as well as a wide range of food to suit all tastes. Their curry nights are especially popular. There is a Public Bar area, with a rear Lounge and a separate Restaurant.

If you are suitably fortified, there are a number of buses which pass along High Street: X6 (First Mainline) Sheffield - Rotherham (via Dinnington), which runs every day until late at night; 18 (Stagecoach East Midland) Doncaster - Worksop (via Maltby); 19 (Stagecoach East Midland) Rotherham - Worksop (via Dinnington); and the 208 (Powells) Sheffield - Dinnington which, only runs in the daytime Monday to Saturday. Alternatively, if starting or finishing in Firbeck, the choice is; X61 (Stagecoach East Midland) Meadowhall - Dinnington; 262 (Powells) Rotherham - Worksop (via Maltby); and 252 (Aston Express) Sheffield - Dinnington, which has provision for carrying bikes. All of these only run in the daytime Monday to Saturday. You could start or finish at Brookhouse by catching the M13 Rotherham - Maltby, but again it only operates in the daytime Monday to Saturday. It is also possible to traverse most of the route on horseback or cycle, but remember to go easy on the drink if you do! Some parts may be muddy, so wear suitable footwear, follow the countryside code and try not tread any mud into the pubs.

Happy real ale ramblings!
Rambling Sid

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