Monday, November 21, 2011

Mobberley's HedgeHopper

The chocolate-box English village of Tarporley has four pubs along its High Street. For that reason alone, it seemed well worth a visit. I came across an article in Cheshire Life (see link below) outlining a 5-mile walk around the surrounding countryside (Figure 28.1), so my partner and I decided to spend a day getting some outdoor exercise before the inevitable watering-hole finale.

Figure 28.1: Route around Tarporley

Copyright 2011 Google Maps

Clutching a copy of the article, along with a makeshift map, we set off along Park Road from the High Street at 11 a.m. Only at that point did I notice that the piece had been published last year. Plenty of time, I thought, for part of the route to have been altered or disrupted. On we walked regardless. It was a blissful autumn morning. The low November sun filtered through semi-naked tree branches, while red and golden leaves fluttered to the ground.

Everything was going to plan until we crossed our first grassy field, leading to Winterford Farm. As we prepared to negotiate a (non-barbed) wire cordon stretched between us and Winterford Lane, we noticed a black battery pack semi-hidden in the long grass. Just as well we did. Straddling a 20,000-volt electric fence has never been on my bucket list. The only alternative to testicular electrocution was to climb a double wooden fence, clearly not meant to be breached, leading to a field full of bulls.

The bovine gauntlet, positioned between ourselves and the lane, was about fifty yards long. We dismounted from the fence and every pair of eyes turned to stare. We took a few tentative steps towards the bulls; they moved the same distance towards us. It was risk assessment time, and we decided to go for it. In the middle of the field, past the point of no return, the daddy bull emerged from a pond and took exception to our presence. The choice was either to run, and risk spooking every one of them, or to continue walking steadily with fingers crossed and buttocks clenched.

The leap of faith paid off. We made it safely to the lane, but still the bulls stared. I referred to the article again. It advised us to turn right and proceed along the lane until we crossed a brook. Fortunately, the brook was flowing rapidly enough to make a noise; the water itself was completely obscured by undergrowth.

At a gap in the hedge, we hopped over another stile leading to some crop fields. Unfortunately, a designated cross-field path was nowhere in sight – so often the case – and the article was equally unhelpful as to the necessary direction. No matter. The midday sun being due south, we headed west, back toward the village, through a long, upward stretch of mud and puddles.

Back on solid ground, we wandered along a narrow lane (Figure 28.2) to Rhuddal Heath. Not a single vehicle passed by, just a solitary woman on horseback with all the time that most people these days do not have.

Figure 28.2: The tranquil lane leading to Rhuddal Heath

Copyright 2011 Paul Spradbery

We reached Tarporley High Street two-and-a-half hours after we had set off. The only remaining decision to make was to select a pub. Herself chose wisely: The Swan Inn (Figure 28.3) (see link below), a former coach house serving a variety of cask-conditioned ales in warm, elegant comfort.

Figure 28.3: The Swan Inn, captured neatly by France-based photograher Stephen Nunney (see link below)

Copyright 2011 Stephen Nunney

Reproduced by kind permission

One of the beers seemed to fit the occasion: Mobberley’s HedgeHopper, brewed at Kell House Farm in the nearby village of Mobberley. With its malty, hoppy – and not too bitter – taste, this was as pleasant as anything I have come across. I would recommend it without reservation to anyone who wants something different from the mass-produced, watered-down stuff served in Identikit pubs the length and breadth of the country.

The brewery, Mobberley Fine Ales, was established only this year, by Phil Roberts and Ray Britland.

‘Our first brew was produced in mid July and to ensure we had a product of the highest quality, we invited just over 80 villagers to come and taste the beer, at a specially arranged “tasting evening” at our brewery.’

Pity I was elsewhere. Anyhow, Cheshire pubs are quickly realizing its potential. So, look out for the pheasant-in-a-propeller-plane logo (Figure 28.4). More importantly, if ever you fancy rambling around the fields and lanes of this Midsomer Murders-style village, look out, also, for the bulls who will be looking out for you.

Figure 28.4: The eponymous ale

Copyright 2011 Mobberley Fine Ales

Copyright 2011 Paul Spradbery

No comments:

Post a Comment

Note: only a member of this blog may post a comment.