November's Pub of the Month
Reasons To Be Cheerful, 228 Fog Lane, Burnage

Thursday 23 November 2017

228 Fog Lane, Burnage M20 6EL Map


The Stockport & South Manchester Pub of the Month for November is Reasons To Be Cheerful, a new micropub on 228 Fog Lane in Burnage. Margaret O'Brien interviewed Elena Rowe, one of the owners, and her reply really sums up why it won.

"We have been blown away by winning awards before we've been open a year, winning CAMRA Pub of the Month especially, because we love cask ale and we're obsessed with making sure it's kept well. We hope that winning those awards reflects how hard we've been working to make Reasons To Be Cheerful a great place to drink really great quality beer!

"We're completely independent, and that was one of the most important things to us when we were setting up. We're family owned and run, now with one other member of staff. Also, importantly, our lines are not tied to any suppliers or breweries so our selection is constantly changing and we are always on the lookout for new things. The diversity and quality of the beer is really important to us because that is what we like to see when we go to other pubs and bars. We were inspired by places like the Magnet, Café Beermoth and Heaton Hops. We looked at cafes and cosy coffee shops and living rooms to get something that didn't look or feel like a typical bar or micropub.

"I also want to mention how important the community aspect of it is to us. When we set up we knew we wanted to create a community hub, somewhere where everyone would feel welcome, and it's a pleasure to see that happen.

"We feel like we don't just run a bar. We make an effort to get to know our customers and provide a friendly, personal service. We want to make sure there is lots of buzz and energy about the bar and always something different going on here to attract new people and keep those we know coming back.

"We absolutely love running Reasons To Be Cheerful; every day is different but always a pleasure. We have made new friends and have been blown away by how supportive and friendly the people of Burnage and Didsbury are."

This is a very welcome addition to the South Manchester pub scene, in an area where pubs are thin on the ground. The award will be presented on Thursday 23 November from 8.00pm. Reasons to be Cheerful is close to Burnage Station and the 50 bus route.


The Pub of the Month award is sponsored by Stephensons, a local family firm that has been supplying the local pub and catering trade for over 140 years. Check out their web site by clicking on their logo.

Reddish and Heaton Chapel Stagger

Friday 20 October 2017 from 7:30pm onwards

Tonight we start approximately half way along Gorton Road as you travel north towards Debdale Park and Gorton. Why only half way along? Because the whole of the northern half is now devoid, not only of real ale pubs, put pubs at all!

The Fir Tree stands prominently on the junction of Gorton Road and Longford Road, and is aptly described as a "roadhouse" in Whatpub.com. The pub has had several brands/themes applied to it over recent years but now appears to have reverted to a traditional community establishment. Though, I'm sure designed as a whole, when viewed on Google Map it looks to comprise a jumble of buildings, which is reflected internally by the multiplicity of rooms and floor heights.

A long(ish) trek now faces us staggerers, so we may cheat and catch the bus down to central Reddish and Holdsworth Square. Here a quick visit will be made into the Holdsworth Arms to establish if real ale has returned, into what has been for years, a real-ale free house.

Now it is around the back streets to find the hidden gem of Reddish, the Thatched Tavern. If you didn't know it was there you certainly would not discover it. The Thatched Tavern has a traditional 'street corner boozer' layout [and it really is on a corner!], with the posher lounge to one side and the more basic tap room to the rear. Both are filled with friendly locals who will make us feel welcome. Though owned by Punch Taverns, it still has the feel of a local's pub and not the usual corporate identikit.

While making our way to the next destination we practically walk along the platform of Reddish South rail station, but be forewarned, it is only served by one "parliamentary" train per week! Currently this arrives at 9:27am (ex Stockport at 9:22am) on Friday morning (link to timetable) so if relied upon you would arrive a bit early and have to wait a week to return home &emdash; best use the bus.

On leaving, any one of the grid pattern street will bring you to the Union (but the shortest route is shown on the map below). Owned by Robinsons and serving Trooper plus Unicorn, the Union has been opened out into a single room layout, but dividing partitions still offering some distinct areas. This includes a vault like area with a TV for the sport and there is a very pleasant well tended garden to the rear. If any young people plan to join us on the stagger there is an over 21s policy on selected Friday and Saturday nights when there is entertainment on.

Our next port of call, the Grey Horse is but a cocks stride along Broadstone Road in the Heaton Chapel direction. The current structure was built in 1909 and has had an expensive refurbishment after being purchased by Holts in 2007 (before that it was a Boddington's house and before that ?????). The substantial and comfortably decorated lounge has TV sport on most days and again features entertainment on Friday and Saturday evenings. Meanwhile the next door vault is a more down-to-earth room. Though Holts brew a range of beers these days, the only brew on offer is Holts Bitter.

As you leave the pub, ponder why there is a hump in the road and ornate parapets. This was the Stockport branch of the Ashton Canal and used to run from near the Ethiad Stadium to the top of Lancashire Hill behind Nelstrops flour mill. Because they were built alongside, the canal it is the reason for both the adjacent Broadstone and Holdsworth Mills along with those along the Gregg Street. Commercial carrying ceased in the 1930s but it lingered on into the 1950s as a barely navigable waterway. At one stage in the 1950s it was dredged but this improvement did not attract any traffic. Stockport Basin was the first section to be filled in but it was not until 1962 that the canal was officially abandoned by the British Transport Commission, though the canal restoration society have visions of re-opening it.

Enough of this industrial archeology and back to the stagger. There now ensues our second long walk, which can be avoided by using the hourly bus (which is much better than the train service :-)).

Stood on the junction of Manchester Road and School Lane, the large and striking brick and stone corner is the George & Draggon. Originally built for Clarke's Reddish Brewery and having passed through the hands of Boddingtons it is now owned by Greene King. The George and Dragon was opened out considerably some years ago but still retains its distinct areas and sense of community. The two regular beers are Thwaites Lancaster Bomber and Wychwood Hobgoblin Gold.

Going diagonally across the trafficlights brings us to Heaton Hops. Opened April 2015 by well-known Stopfordian beer fan, Damien O'Shea and, being in the middle of a row of shops, it gives tha game away as being one of the new breed of micro-pubs. The converted shop premises offer two small rooms (the second is downstairs in the basement) with the pavement outside used to good effect in fine weather (if anyone can remember that far back!) It majors on selling a large range of bottle-conditioned beers from the UK and around the world. Supplementing these are two cask ale lines, alongside eight keg taps and two traditional ciders making up the range. Wine and locally roasted coffee is available (plus there is an excellent family butchers next door who do stunning pies).

Having had one of our shortest walks, it is back to a longer walk down the Stockport by-pass. The Manchester and Buxton Trust had originally, in 1724, improved the main London bound route of Manchester Road, Lancashire Hill, Great Underbank and Hillgate. As can be imagined, this soon became congested, expecially in and around the market place. To overcome this, with the opening of the new viaduct across Mersey Square in 1826 (the bridges between there and the bus station, NOT the railway viaduct - that was opened on 4 June 1840), the straight wide Wellington Roads North and South became a very early (the first?) town by-pass.

As you approach the Miller & Carter Heaton Chapel (formerly Toby Carvery and before that the Rudyard) looks like a hotel but there is a public bar. It has been closed for a major re-fit over the summer and on re-opening the previously available real ale offering has vanished. Whether this is to allow things to bed down or a permanent feature time will tell, but being owned by Mitchel and Butler we are supprised there is no real ale offeered.

we are on the last leg now, but our final destination still requires a similar length walk through the residential streets of Heaton Chapel to reach the Hind's Head. Built on the site of the Poco-A-Poco club where in the late 60s and early 70s such stars as Bill Haley and his Comets (for 7 nights on the trot!), David Bowie and Barclay James Harvest performed on stage! For a brief history follow this link. Unfortunatly in 1987 a (second) serious fire resulted in the building being demolished and the Hind's Head built in its stead. Built in the style of a rambling country house, the décor and furnishings give a clean, open, pleasant feel to the pub. The conservatory on the south end of the building and the pub garden cover all aspects of the English weather.

 

Reddish and Heaton Chapel Stagger

Timing

Pub Name

Address

Bus & Rail

Notes

7:30pm Starting point
Fir Tree
257 Gorton Road
SK5 6LL
7, 42A, 173, 203, 329
Reddish North
 
Calling
at
Houldsworth Arms
1 Houldsworth Square
SK5 7AF
7, 42A, 173, 203, 329
No Real Ale
Thatched Tavern
54 Stanhope Street
SK5 7AQ
7, 42A, 173, 203, 329
 
8.30pm Mid point:
Union
93 Broadstone Road
SK5 7AS
7, 42A, 173, 203, 329
 
Then
Grey Horse
99 Broadstone Road
SK5 7AS
7, 42A, 173, 203, 329
 
George & Dragon
422 Manchester Road
SK4 5DH
42A, 173, 192, 329
Heaton Chapel
 
Heaton Hops
7 School Lane
SK4 5DE
42A, 173, 192, 329
Heaton Chapel
 
Miller & Carter Steakhouse
(was Heaton Chapel and previously Toby Carvery)
271 Wellington Road North
SK4 5BP
191, 192
Heaton Chapel
 
Finish at
Hind's Head
Manchester Road
SK4 2RB
173, 191, 192, 329
 

 

View Stagger in a larger map

Updated 18 October 2017

Burnage and Heaton Mersey

Friday 17th November 2017

Though this is called the Burnage and Heaton Mersey Stagger, a better title would be Half of Burnage and Heaton Mersey Stagger. Burnage straddles the dual carriageway of Kingsway, with the centre, and renowned new(ish) Reason To Be Cheerful, lying on the other side of Kingsway to tonight's travels.

The name Burnage is conjectured to have stemmed from "Brown Hedge", due to the old brown stone walls (often referred to as "hedges") which were common there in medieval times. In a survey of 1320, the district is referred to as "Bronadge" when it was described as an area of common pasture and marsh land. By 1655, Burnage was a township with the Egerton family the major landowners. In 1894, the Irish writer George Bernard Shaw described Burnage as the prettiest village in Manchester [maybe he should have gone to SpecSave!]. Burnage's bucolic existence changed in 1906 when plans to build a "garden suburb" in the district culminated in building many new semi-detached houses as well as open recreational spaces. This became the part of Burnage adjoining Parrs Wood Road.

Construction of Kingsway began in 1928 and (like Princess Road) was laid out as a dual carriageway with a segregated tram track along the central reservation. So the idea of a tram route to Parrswood (as the terminus in East Didsbury was then referred to) is nothing new. A large housing estate was also built by Manchester City Council along the Kingsway route, mostly characterised by brick semi-detached houses laid out in avenues and octagons. This is the part of Burnage we will be traversing.

Our stagger this evening starts on Burnage Lane at the Farmers Arms. Formally a Hydes house, but now under the control of Lawrence Hennigan of Levenshulme renown. It is a smart, two room, place with Oasis Lounge to the right, and the regular Lounge to the left. A feature of one corner is a series of images and articles about Burnage rock band, Oasis. The in-house catering is branded under the banner of Simon's Kitchen (http://www.simons-kitchen.co.uk/contact-us.php).

As we make our way towards our next destination (made easier if we cunningly catch a 25 or 197 bus almost door to door) take note of the buildings along Burnage Lane in the vicinity of the Farmers Arms. Here can be seen some surviving original weavers' cottages. Another blast from the past we are unable to see is Mauldeth Hall which is described as being in Green End, and was the dwelling of the Bishop of Manchester for more than 20 years. Just after the Burnage Lane/Erewood Lane roundabout glance to the right at the new housing estate (can I describe around a dozen houses as an estate?) which was the location of the Green End pub. Another point of interest after passing the roundabout is the numbering of the houses on Mauldeth Road. For the first few the numbers decrease to one with the odd numbers on the left, then start rising again, but with the odd numbers on the right! The explanation is you have crossed the boundary into Stockport from Manchester [incidentally the rest of Mauldeth Road Manchester is located 1 mile away with the Victoria pub on its corner].

However you travel, our next destination is the Beer Shop that began life in 2011 in a former butchers premises. I'm not sure whether to describe it as an off licence/bottle shop with drinking on the premises or a micro bar with bottles. The owners say it aims to be both a shop, a sample room, and a bar [Grammar Police: can you use 'both' and then give three alternatives?]. An open stillage has up to six beers on sale served by both gravity and handpump. Interestingly, the draught beer list is maintained in real-time on the pub's website. If in a hurry, beer can be taken away in 3, 5, 10 and 20 litre bag-in-box containers [though I advise a 20 litre box is a little awkward to carry around for the rest of the evening]. Should the weather be good(!), tables and chairs are positioned outside. If you are hungry, freshly-baked, home-made pizzas (for consumption on or off the premises) can be obtained from 5 till 9pm on Friday and Saturday.

Another lengthy walk is now encountered, but at least it is downhill, on our journey to the Albion back on Burnage Lane. Owned by Hydes, this large corner house has a lounge and vault plus an upstairs meeting room. The lounge is pleasantly furnished and, like most pubs these days, it has been opened out over the years. It has a comfy, lived-in appearance complemented by friendly and chatty service. Now promoting itself as a daytime cafe as well. As of early 2017, the Hydes cask beers were returned to the bar after a period of absence.

On the short walk {Hurray!} to our next pub, those wishing to indulge in the full Oasis tour experience should take a detour left along Cranwell Drive to number 5. This is the location of the brothers Gallagher house and where the photo on the cover of their Definatly Maybe album was taken.

Back on Burnage Lane keep a look-out for a large, white-painted, house stood back from the road on the right, this is the Sun in September. In keeping with the unusual marketing ethos of the owning brewery, there is little to announce it is a pub (there is a sign board but it is obscured by the mature foliage) and nothing to let you know it belongs to Sam Smiths! Originally built in the 19th century by the local bigwig's daughter as her marital home after coming back from her honeymoon in Switzerland, hence the alpine influences in its architecture. At one time the pub was perversely given an Indian Raj theme but following a more recent refurbishment much of the original house is now open to be seen. With the mansion came impressive grounds where mature trees and well-tended lawns grace the front. WARNING: Should you decide to sit outside, drinks must be served in polycarbonate 'glasses' just in case you develop hooligan tendency and decide to throw them the 25 metres on to Burnage Lane!

As we proceed to our next destination, at the traffic lights, take note of the flats and retail outlets with a Tesco behind. This was where Hans Renold established his engineering works in 1906 to manufacture roller chain. These are the sort of chain found on a pedal cycles, so if you owned a bike before 1980 your chain may well have come from here. The factory grew over the years and ended up straddling the Manchester/Stockport boundary (so to whom did they pay rates?) The factory closed in the late 1980s and lay abandoned for several years before the current development occurred.

Also of note on this walk, about 200 metres after the lights, Burnage Lane becomes the boundary between Manchester and Stockport. This leads to the sight of two different bin-lorries, one picking up blue wheelie-bins, the other green, and both re-cycling glass! As to how the Council Tax varies - don't ask.

As Burnage Lane meets Didsbury Road the Dog & Partridge can be spied opposite. A large detached pub built circa 1959 that has a spacious, airy feel throughout. After an early 2017 refurbishment it remains very much a pub rather than a restaurant in disguise (a substantial food operation starts with breakfasts from 10am to midday). A central bar serves open plan vault to left (with dartboard and sports TV) and elsewhere the emphasis is on plenty of tables and chairs, ostensibly for eating. Plenty of old monochrome photos of the locale adorn the walls along with a potted history of the pub. A garden with outdoor seating at the rear and at the front, picnic benches for outside drinking, though neither are likely to attract us this evening.

When leaving, before rushing on to our next destination, take a look at the locality. The tram line which terminates a little way down the road is built on the former Midland Railway main line. This ran from New Mills to Chorlton and allowed London express trains to avoid a tortuous journey through Stockport and east Manchester on its way to Central Station. Heaton Mersey station used to lie 'behind' the Dog & Partridge (a little nearer Stockport) but is now no more. The route of the track bed is not however lost and is reserved for the (possible) extension of the Metro into Stockport. [To look-up other disused stations follow this http://www.disused-stations.org.uk link.]

Up Didsbury Road and rounding the corner brings us to the Griffin. A large Victorian house offering five rooms (no 'opening out' here) with pleasant gardens to the rear. There are plenty of 'olde worlde' features from etched glass to the magnificent mahogany bar with glazed sashes. One room has been extended into a recently built conservatory and hardly shows the joint. There's a place for everyone here with some rooms quiet, others less so. On the walls hang pictures of old Heaton Mersey and much Manchester City FC memorabilia (other teams are available). Being a Holt's house both Bitter and their IPA is served along with the hard to find Holt Mild. After a comment on a recent stagger I must describe this as a 'proper' mild as it is exceptionally dark in colour.

Up the hill a little, but pausing to read the information board about the extensive brickworks which used to be located just along the road from the Griffin. The site has now been converted into a pleasant park come nature reserve. It is such a good reclamation that I bet most who have moved in to the area recently wouldn't have any inkling of its industrial past!

Leaving the information board we arrive at the Frog & Railway a recent Lees acquisition, having originally been Wilson's house. The Frog & Railway is a good deal deeper than it appears from the outside. A plush, low-ceilinged interior with good mood-lighting sets it off very well as a pleasant place to stay awhile. Various comfortable areas have been created to provide intimacy. Going to the rear of the pub (where many people choose to dine) and there is an outside drinking area. The only question which remains is; why Frog & Railway? The latter is obvious, but is the former a nod to the nature reserve mentioned earlier?

As prophesied by those doomsayers "The end is nigh" because our final destination, the Crown, is in sight 100 metres up the road. A whitewashed, detached property set in a conservation area. This is one of the oldest pubs in Stockport (approximately 400 years old). Getting in can poses a problem as there is no front door! The entrance is round the side and up a few steps. This leads to a bar area on the right and a lounge/dining area on the left. The area around the bar tends to be crowded but making your way to the comfortable lounge reveals more space, especially after 8:30pm when meals are no longer served. Four beers are on offer (yes four) Robinsons Unicorn, Dizzy Blonde and Wizard plus their seasonal. Although modernised the Crown retains its original wood beams and pew style seating. The cosy, homely atmosphere make it feel more like a country inn than a suburban pub.

So how do we sum up this stagger? It is one of the few where we cover all of the local family brewers (Robinsons, Hydes, Holts and Lees) and not forgetting Sam Smiths from "ovat 'ills" in Yorkshire. It included international chart toppers, Renolds Chains, along with some fractious local brothers. Whether you join us on the night or try yourself I hope you will enjoy all the outlets on this stagger.

 

Burnage and Heaton Mersey

Timing

Pub Name

Address

Bus, Rail & Tram

Notes

7.30pm
Start point:
Farmers Arms
254 Burnage Lane
M19 1EN
25, 50, 130, 169, 171, 197
Mauldeth Road
 
Then
Beer Shop
13 Kingsleigh Road
SK4 3QF
25, 42A, 197
 
Albion
576 Burnage Lane
M19 1NA
25, 50, 130, 169, 171, 197
Burnage
 
8.30pm
Mid point:
Sun in September
588 Burnage Lane
M19 1NA
25, 50, 130, 169, 171, 197
Burnage
 
Then:
Dog & Partridge
687-693 Didsbury Road
SK4 3AG
23, 23A, 42, 42A, 370
East Didsbury (Rail)
East Didsbury (Metro)
 
Griffin
552 Didsbury Road
SK4 3AJ
23, 23A, 42, 42A, 370
East Didsbury (Rail)
East Didsbury (Metro)
 
Frog & Railway
474 Didsbury Road
SK4 3BS
23, 23A, 42, 42A, 370
East Didsbury (Rail)
East Didsbury (Metro)
 
Finishing at:
Crown
6 Vale Close
SK4 3DS
23, 23A, 42, 42A, 370
 

 

View Burnage and Heaton Mersey stagger in a separate window.

Updated Sunday 22nd October 2017