>Very New Year

>This was the first Christmas I’ve spent away from ‘home’. No matter where I was, I’ve always managed to get back to my mam and dad’s in Yorkshire. This Chrimbo was the first one away as a married man, down in Devon at my in-laws.

Their house is perched on an escarpment over the mouth of the Torridge Estuary. It’s a much loved home of well-banked wood fires, friendly dogs, wellies in the porch and old, creaky beds piled with ancient, indestructible Witney blankets.

The Shipping Forecast – still the best poem ever written – takes on a different dimension down there. An ear is always cocked for the word ‘Lundy’, and with nothing much between the house and Canada, a silent prayer is often given to preserve the roof tiles. I’m used to sleet – it’s the normal weather for Keighley from October to late May – but this was the first time I’d experienced it coming upwards, blown from the plain below the house. Christmas day, however, was a perfect eggshell blue day. Best spent on the beach with a pair of enthusiastic dogs.


I’ve mentioned before the dearth of decent pubs in Bideford. The nearby, Bladerunner-esque megacity of Barnstaple (population 25,000) is even worse. Leaving Mrs TIW and her mum to go shopping, I thought I’d give the North Country a try. I’d long marked it as “my” type of pub, and online reviews backed me up. However, I found closed and for sale. I’m willing to be put right, but It seems that every boozer in town is now a half-arsed “fun” pub, a vertical drinking hellhole or a meat-raffle ‘n’ wifebeater stinkbin where ignoring the smoking ban is a positive virtue. Barnstaple now has two Wetherspoons, which must surely prove something, even if I can’t tell you what it is. It was a defeated Ten-Inch who supped his (excellent) pint of Holdens Golden Glow at the Panniers ‘spoons.


About teninchwheels

Designer, photographer and Vespa-fixated pub bore. Born in Yorkshire, living in that London these past 20 years. Get in touch at teninchwheels@gmail.com, especially if you'd like to send me some free beer.
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9 Responses to >Very New Year

  1. Affer says:

    >There's a nasty economic cycle going on with pubs: as they become cheaper, often the 'wrong' people buy them – and they become even worse (if that's possible). As to Wetherspoons, they aren't really my pint of beer but I have a lot of respect for the organisation – and Timothy Martin is a proper beer-drinker. I suspect the beer-drinker's lot would, overall, be worse without his efforts. Happy New Year to all the Wheels family – and the great beach photo made me think of Paul Weller….

  2. TIW says:

    >Happy New Year, Affer!I wouldn't choose a 'spoons over a 'proper' pub, but a couple I've visited recently have been surprisingly good. The Penderel's Oak in Holborn is outstanding (for what it is), but the Olde Mitre is just down the road. It was infuriating that drinkers don't have any choice in Barnstaple. I've been looking for a decent boozer in the town for 20 years!

  3. Bailey says:

    >"It seems that every boozer in town is now a half-arsed "fun" pub, a vertical drinking hellhole or a meat-raffle 'n' wifebeater stinkbin"Now *that* is poetry!There are no decent pubs in my home town in Somerset, either, so it's not just Devon.

  4. TIW says:

    >Hi Bailey,Shame isn't it? I can't even think of any decent breweries in Devon. Jollyboat? Country Life? Don't really set my hair on fire.At least Somerset's got the Exmoor Brewery!

  5. Bailey says:

    >It's Palmer's country down there, isn't it? Boring. Very, very boring. Cotleigh's on the Somerset/Devon border, and I rate them.

  6. Affer says:

    >The Red Tile in Cossington always used to serve a good pint of Butcombe. I realise that Bristol is Avon – but that's still West Country to a Tractor Boy!

  7. TIW says:

    >Butcombe bitter is often on at our local, the North Star in London's Trendy Leytonstone. Never seen anything as exotic as that in Bideford or Barnstaple though!

  8. Bailey says:

    >Had a Butcombe at the North Star the other day (thanks for the tip). Didn't compare well to the perfect pint of the same I had in Somerset on Boxing Day (a bit stale) but welcome all the same. The Charles Lamb in Islington usually has Butcombe on, too. Sorry, I'm being a Butcombe bore again.

  9. TIW says:

    >The beer at the North Star can sometimes be a bit iffy – I think it depends if the guv'nor is around or not. It can be very, very good though, especially in summer when there's a lot coming trhough the pipes. Glad you made it over!

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