A Grim North

Musings from a northerner living in the deep south…

Archive for March, 2010

Spring Clean

Posted by Alan on March 28, 2010

Time for a change today – we did a bit of cleaning out the flat. You might notice the theme is different too – I was getting a bit fed up of the narrow layout and wanted to add in a right hand column too…

Back in early March I headed off to Bogle in Manchester, staying with my parents just north of there. This gave me a chance to head off into the hills around the area. Surprisingly there was still snow in places (apparently more due this week!).

Ogden Reservoir, Lancashire

Ogden Reservoir, Lancashire

Ogden Reservoir

Ogden Reservoir


Rochdale - best viewed from afar!


M62, looking westwards above Junction 21


Look! Some snow

This summer I’m going to make the most of whatever good weather we get.  There’s so much out there to be explored… Full set of pictures is available via flickr.

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Spring Beer Festival

Posted by Alan on March 27, 2010

Today and tomorrow sees the bring beer festival at the William IV in Leyton (Bakers Arms). Myself and Jon popped in for a couple of beers.

The William IV - Bakers Arms, Leyton

For about 2 years now this place has been a brew pub – i.e. a pub that brew’s it’s own beer. Today they had put on a range of about 15 beers to sample, from the lightest lager to the strong Romanov Empress Imperial Stout (12.1%).

The Beer Menu

Romanov Empress Stout


Favourite beer of the day was probably Red Sun – a blend of Brodies Red and Brodies Sunshine. Dark but also light – lovely.

Last beer of the day was Brodies’ blue – which is surprisingly red…

Brodies Blue

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Whisky Whisky Everywhere

Posted by Alan on March 22, 2010

Choices choices...

Last night we headed out to Billy’s to do a spot of whisky tasting. Billy had prepared by choosing very carefully a selection – including an entirely grain whisky (usually used to bulk out the blends), some ‘new spirit’ – i.e. bottled about 3 weeks old and some Japanese 100% sherry cask (usually a single malt will be part sherry part bourbon cask). I pitched in with a 100% sherry cask Speyside for comparison.

We pretty much agreed as a group that the Japanese came out top, with the Glenallachie coming a close second, mainly because of the Speyside’s change in taste after adding water.

The best bit though was that Ruth gave Whisky ago – so now we have a new shared interest. Perhaps I best buy a pad-lock for the Scotch cupboard…

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Secret Nuclear Bunker

Posted by Alan on March 20, 2010

Today we took a trip out to the secret nuclear bunker near Brentwood, Essex. Brentwood is just outside of Zone 6 so not too far into deepest darket Essex to scare us much!

The bunker itself is much less secret that it used to be.

Subtlety defined eh?

About 14 quid north of Brentwood by taxi we found ourselves next to what appeared to be a farmhouse with a few ex-military things littered around the yard.

A Tractor & Green Goddess sleep peacefully

A peaceful missile

Bunker History

From here on in it was stranger still. The museum was largely based on what felt like 1980s technology and honesty. On entering the unassuming looking door, we picked up a red handset about 30 cm long. Not too dissimilar to an early 90s telephone this was our guide for the next couple of hours.

There was no attendent.

There was no cash desk.

There were plenty of signs however…

Photography from here on in was only allowed with a permit – but since I am still awful at low light photography I decided to give that a miss, especially after we had found someone who appeared to be staff to ask and he presented us with many forms…

The bunker itself is very interesting. Many fittings and fixtures have been put back representing it’s varied life – from radar station to government emergency HQ. I’m not sure how well I would cope in a small windowless concrete box shut off from the world for up to 3 months – the designed life span in the event of a nuclear attack. In it’s role as government HQ up to 600 people would have been incarcerated here – with just 200 beds. And I complain at having to hot desk sometimes!

Helpfully, plenty of videos and the wry humour of the red phone commentary reminded us how much devestation a nuclear attack would cause and how unlikely that if a HQ had been setup here there would have been much left to return to after 3 months.

After ending up in the gift shop, returning the red phone and paying for the trip we headed back to closest village to find some food & beer.

Kelvedon Hatch

The Eagle provided us with decent enough pint of Doom Bar and a chance to watch Scotland win a 6 nations match – their first this season!

All in all a cracking day out.

State of Security

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Bogle 2010

Posted by Alan on March 14, 2010

Last year I walked (Bogle 09) and managed to get just over halfway round (29 miles!) before quitting and helping out a bit. This year I took the opportunity to drive a van. Since passing my test I haven’t driven anything but vans – but it isn’t like I get to drive very often so I thought it’d be great to keep the skills going! 🙂

An early start meant dragging my mum to help too (she loves it really though) since Metrolink killed our public transport back in October last year I can’t get in from their house to town before about 8AM…

This year I got checkpoint 8, which is out in North Manchester just on the boarder between Bury and Bolton. In a car park we couldn’t put the van in, but that didn’t matter too much. We had meat pies…!

Lech tucks into a meat pie on CheckPoint 8

By this point, the hardcore walkers had managed around the 45 mile mark and we could offer them tea, coffee and cake as sustenance for the final 9.9 miles.

Coffee from the van

Around 70 walkers made it all the away around the full 55 miles this year and the running total for charity has already passed 11K.  And I didn’t crash 🙂 Awesome eh?

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The Trip to Nottingham

Posted by Alan on March 14, 2010

I visit Manchester far too often. It probably helps that my parents live there and many of my uni/college mates still do. But once every now and then we have an agreement to meet somewhere vaguely halfway – hence the trip to Nottingham.

Silhouette of Ruth at St Pancras

The early (0900) train north beckoned

Nottingham is a kinda of strange halfway – it’s 2 hours from London, 2 hours from Manchester. London to Manchester takes just 2 hours 10, but at least the concept is there!

First up we were to head to the Castle and wander round with my Grandma. This was quickly rearranged to a coffee and a chat as the mistle hung miserably above the city.

I think this London bus may be lost...

The afternoon however… was much more pub based. We’d ‘planned’ to visit two pubs – but got so cozy in the Trip that we didn’t move out very quickly…

The Trip to Jerusalem

The Trip to Jerusalem - below Nottingham Castle

‘The Trip’ is allegedly England’s oldest in – and the rooms go far back into the rock on which the castle sits.

Holey Rock

If you get the chance to visit Nottingham this place is worth it for the novelty – decent beer too, nicely kept. I’m sure there are other places to go too though…note this all happened about 2 or 3 weeks ago (27/02), I am just rubbish at keeping up to date!

All the pictures are heading for flickr as I’ve decided I need to backup everything online in the highest quality possible. Flickr pro seems to do the job – check out this set.

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Give me a brew

Posted by Alan on March 2, 2010

I did finally last year brew and bottle a kit. Now I have sort of made a label to go on the bottles ready for when they need drinking… it’s a bit lo-fi as I haven’t had time to think too much about it.

A Forest - Because beer is the cure and cause of all evils...

If anyone feels suitable inspired to produce a better one, I will swap for a bottle or two!

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