The Templar

The Templar, Leeds, Yorkshire LS2 7NU

A long but shallow street-corner pub on the north-east side of the city centre, the Templar has an impressive tiled fa├žade advertising Melbourne Brewery, who were later taken over by Tetley’s. It now belongs to Greene King, but still offers a wide range of other beers, including Tetley Bitter as a permanent beer, and brews from both Yorkshire brewers such as Acorn and Bradfield, plus ones from further afield. The licensee and many of the staff have been there for over thirty years.

The interior was opened out somewhat in the 1980s, but retains plenty of original features, including wood panelling, seating booths and a cosy snug at the far end. It merits a one-star entry on CAMRA’s National Inventory. No food is served, and a strict over-18s only policy is applied. It has a varied clientele, although tending toward the more mature end of the spectrum.TV sport is shown on numerous screens, so it does not offer the full hair-shirt Sam Smith’s experience. A fine example of a busy, atmospheric, traditional city-centre drinking pub.

The Olde Cottage

The Olde Cottage, Chester CH1 3DZ

Although now bypassed by Hoole Way, Brook Street remains a busy thoroughfare with a variety of restaurants, takeaways and independent shops, and forms the main pedestrian route between the station and the city centre. The number of pubs has much reduced in recent years, but one that survives is the Olde Cottage, a striking mock half-timbered street-corner building originally built around the turn of the last century by the Birkenhead Brewery.

Accessed through the corner door, the interior is split into two sections. The main bar is on the right, with some bench seating around the walls, whereas on the left is more of a games area with loose seating, a dartboard and a rare bagatelle table. There are four cask beers, with Otter Bitter and Wye Valley HPA on permanently, plus a variety of guest ales including local micros and favourites from other parts of the country such as Draught Bass and Wadworth 6X.

It is essentially a community pub, and no food is served, although given its location it attracts its fair share of casual trade. Pub cat Arty turned up as a stray kitten in the summer of 2019 and has since made himself very much at home, although he often keeps a low profile during opening hours. Note that it does not open until 4 pm, except for 2 pm on Saturdays.

The Blue Mugge

The Blue Mugge, Leek, Staffordshire ST13 6LJ

A highly characterful street-corner pub situated in an area of mixed terraced housing and industrial premises a few minutes’ walk to the east of the town centre. The plain redbrick exterior conceals a surprisingly extensive multi-roomed interior. There are a variety of areas radiating around the central island bar, including a large lounge with seating alcoves at front left, a spacious dining area to the rear, and a public bar in the apex separated by doors from the rest of the pub.

On a recent visit, the beer range was Bass, Doom Bar, Exmoor Ale and a guest ale from Neepsend. It is a permanent Bass outlet and sells it at a very reasonable price. The handpumps are situated on the back bar fitting rather than the counter. It evidently does a good trade in lunchtime meals and is open, and busy, at a time when many pubs in similar locations would be firmly shut.

Free parking is available on the surrounding streets, and it’s only a short walk to Leek Bus Station from where there is a regular, although bladder-challenging, service to Stoke-on-Trent.

The Cricketers Arms

The Cricketers Arms, Oakamoor, Staffordshire ST10 3AB

Oakamoor is a small village set in the wooded Churnet Valley close to Alton Towers, and approached in both directions on the B5417 by long, steep hills. The Cricketers Arms is a small, white-painted pub set right at the lowest point next to the river and slightly below the road level.

While it outwardly gives the appearance of a basic rustic alehouse, inside it is actually smarter and more modern than might be expected, although still intimate and cosy with a multi-roomed feel. The bar is against the back wall, with two snug-type areas with bench seating at the front on either side of the door, and another seating area to the rear right. There is also a fairly plain pool room, and a beer garden next to the river.

On a recent visit, the beer range was Bass, Pedigree and Sharp’s Atlantic Pale Ale. No food is served, and it only opens in the evenings during the week, opening at 2 pm on Saturdays and noon on Sundays. There is no pub car park, but there is a small public car park opposite next to some old lime kilns. The village is served by the 32A bus service between Alton Towers and Cheadle, which does run on Sundays, but not at all in the evenings.

The Olde Boar’s Head

The Olde Boar’s Head, Middleton, Lancashire M24 6UE

An ancient, leaning, half-timbered inn, dating back at least to 1632, situated at the north end of the town. While Middleton’s town centre has been extensively redeveloped, Long Street on which it stands retains a number of handsome buildings dating from the Georgian and early Victorian periods.

Entering through a low doorway, the interior lives up to the promise of the exterior, with a central bar serving a variety of different rooms. Along the front are a lounge on the left and a vault on the right, with several areas to the rear including a couple of cosy snugs with bench seating. Although it does not appear on CAMRA’s National Inventory, it retains a very traditional character, with low beams, stone-flagged floors and even a viewing panel giving a sight of the original wattle and daub.

There is a cosy beer garden at the rear, and on the right-hand side is the Sessions Room, now used as a function room, which was once the local court house. It’s a J. W. Lees tied house, offering their Bitter alongside their various seasonal beers. A range of food is available at lunchtimes. There is a spacious car park on the right-hand side, although you will have to enter your registration inside to avoid being charged, and Middleton bus station is about ten minutes’ walk away.

Despite its great historical character, it remains a down-to-earth working pub rather than a tourist showpiece. Maybe it doesn’t get the attention it deserves being situated in a workaday Lancashire town off the railway network.

The Magazine

The Magazine, New Brighton, Cheshire CH45 1HP

An imposing double bay-fronted pub situated half a mile south of the town centre commanding an impressive view over the Mersey estuary, although this is partly blocked by trees opposite. It was badly damaged by fire in 2010, but has been sympathetically restored and qualifies for a regional entry on CAMRA’s National Inventory. The bar counter is on the right, with a small cosy alcove at the front right and three separate rooms along the left-hand side, the first two featuring extensive bench seating.

It still bears Bass livery, and has long been renowned as a Draught Bass shrine, in pre-Covid times reported to be selling up to 100 gallons a week, alongside around four guest ales, mostly from local breweries. Unfortunately on my visit earlier this year there was none available, with the barman reporting ongoing supply problems. A menu of straightforward,r easonably-priced pub food is also served. The pub still has its own bowling green at the rear.

The pub has its own small car park to the right, plus there is plentiful on-street parking nearby. There are regular buses along the main road from Birkenhead to New Brighton about five minutes’ walk up hill.

The North Star

The North Star, Steventon, Berkshire OX13 6SG

An old white-painted cottage pub in a quiet location to the west of the main road through the village. The name comes from an early locomotive used on the main line of the Great Western Railway, which passes nearby. The unmarked entrance is through a covered porch which now doubles as a smoking shelter.

It has one of the most unspoilt interiors in Britian and richly deserves its full entry on CAMRA’s National Inventory. The core of the pub is the main bar, with a quarry-tiled floor, and three fixed high-backed old settles arranged around the open fire. There is no bar counter as such, with drinks being dispensed across a half-height stable door from a kitchen-type servery room.

A second room at the rear with a parquet floor is served by a hatch from the bar area and contains a wealth of memorabilia about the local area and the pub itself.

Three or four cask beers are available served directly from cask stillaged in the bar area, typically including the locally-brewed Loddon Hullaballo and others from nearby microbreweries. No food is served.

The Heatons Bridge Inn

The Heatons Bridge Inn, Scarisbrick, Lancashire L40 8JG

A freestanding redbrick pub situated in the West Lancashire flatlands next to the eponymous bridge over the Leeds & Liverpool Canal. It dates from 1837 and was built as a goods office for the canal. Since the StreetView image was taken, a couple of letters have been lost from the pub name on the front wall, but in a sense this is a positive sign that the interior has not been modernised to death. The windows contain some original Tetley’s stained glass.

It has been opened out to some extent, with a central bar on the left of the entrance, but still retains a variety of separate areas. There is an alcove of bench seating at the front facing the bar, with smaller snugs on either side, and a further comfortable seating area to the rear.

In keeping with its heritage, Tetley Bitter is permanently available, alongside one guest which is likely to come from North-West independent breweries. The garden contains a World War Two concrete lookout tower next to the canal, and the pub occasionally stages displays of historic military vehicles and hosts a classic bus service.

The Circus Tavern

The Circus Tavern, Manchester M1 4GX

A tiny single-fronted pub in a row of Victorian buildings that is a surprising survivor amongst the modern chrome and glass that surrounds it. It still carries Tetley’s livery, and the blue plaque on the front records it being recognised as a Tetley Heritage Inn. Not surprisingly, it also qualifies for a full entry on CAMRA’s National Inventory.

It claims to have the “smallest bar in Europe” and, while it certainly isn’t the smallest pub, that is probably true. The servery is a small quadrant halfway down the corridor leading from the front door, serving Tetley Bitter and a second beer that in recent years has been a paler offering such as Wainwright or Robinson’s Dizzy Blonde.

On the right-hand side of the corridor are two small cosy rooms separated from the corridor by a wooden screen, both with extensive bench seating. The one at the front features entertainment-related photos and tends to be more favoured by the regulars, while that at the rear has a TV screen and football photos and is more popular with casual visitors. The pub as a whole has a good balance between loyal customers and those attracted to it as something of a curiosity in the city centre. No food is served.

Despite its small size, it still provides separate gents’ and ladies’ toilets that would put most micropubs to shame. Hydes’ Grey Horse three doors to the right is almost equally tiny and, while somewhat more modernised, is also well worth a visit.

The Bell

The Bell, Aldworth, Berkshire RG8 9SE

An old brick-built pub where the licence has been in the same family for 250 years. It stands off the main road in a small village high on the Berkshire Downs, but only a couple of miles away from the Thames at Goring Gap. It won CAMRA’s National Pub of the Year award in 1990 and 2019 – making it the current holder (May 2022), and its unspoilt interior qualifies it for a full entry on the National Inventory.

The core of the pub is the glazed bar servery with sliding sash windows, one of very few now remaining. On the left is the tap room, with its quarry-tiled floor, inglenook fireplace, high-backed settles and scrubbed-top tables. To the right is a slightly more modern L-shaped room wrapping around the servery, with more benches and wood panelling, that was opened out as recently as 1974. The front of the servery holds an impressive display of pumpclips from the defunct West Berkshire Brewery.

Six beers are usually available, with Arkell’s BBB, Indigenous Baldrick and Rebellion Roasted Nuts as regulars plus three guests, mainly sourced from local microbreweries. Food is limited to soup and rolls with a variety of meat and cheese fillings. It is another of those predominantly wet-led rural pubs with a cross-section of customers that crop up in places in the South but are pretty much entirely absent from the North of England.