Jane Stuart – Writer

Writing about real life Up North: football, ale, food and mental health – with a good dash of humour.

A Football Tourist’s Guide To Barnsley – Part Two

(If you missed Part One, you can find it via this link).

Now you may recall I left you hanging partway through Day One in Yorkshire. This is because I actually get complaints if I don’t feature beer/pubs in EVERY post. And, as I’m very hungover on Day Two, I felt I ought to open by explaining how/where that happened…

The Stags Head

The geographically astute amongst you may have noticed that we’ve been gradually travelling south all day – and I’m now in Sheffield (I do get back to Barnsley later…). Now it’s not often that two events coincide in the same vicinity such that you can tie them in together – but it does happen sometimes and, when it does, it’s poetry. I was delighted when Leicester Beer Festival coincided with Leicester City v Blackpool once and I still remember those delicious onion bhajis at the Jain Centre (I’m not religious but, if I was, Jainism would of course be a favourite). Well tonight I had booked for us to see my favourite songsmith David Ford, who was playing in Sheffield. This tied in perfectly with our match at Barnsley tomorrow. Or rather it would have done if the latter hadn’t been postponed the day before… (NB I will seek out some football for you, though, so don’t go anywhere).

Knowing that my beer-blogging buddy Martin is a music fan – and now lives in Sheffield – I had invited him and his lovely wife Christine along to join us for the gig. With the gig venue only offering pizzas and the foody pub round the corner (Prince of Wales) being fully booked (in January!), I had appealed to Martin and his greater pub knowledge to recommend a place for tea/dinner before the gig. He insisted this meal was called supper, which I wasn’t at all happy with, as it was being booked for 1830 and surely supper is a late-night meal? Discuss. Anyway he recommended The Stags Head – a Thornbridge pub – so it was here that we met.

I felt the need to apologise in advance to our mutual friend and fellow beer blogger Si, who had a distressing experience at a Thornbridge pub in Birmingham recently, being refused entry for not being female. Seems Birmingham is far less friendly than I remembered although, now I come to think of it, I remember being shocked that the local men let doors slam in my face rather than hold them open for me. Maybe they were sick of all the women taking over their pubs? (Just to add, I hold doors open for men and women – it’s simply polite).

Anyway, let’s survey the pump clips in The Stags Head, shall we?

It was rammed in here and I had to politely displace a man from the bar so I could get all the pump clips in for you. Meanwhile I ordered a Market Porter because you know I can’t resist a porter. I think I might have had a pint as well but, at only 4.5%, it wasn’t going to do that much damage, was it? That would come later…

After studying the menu at length, I opted for the ham and eggs.

I asked for the veg in place of the chips that were on the menu.

When ordering the food, I was confused at being asked if I wanted my ham hot or cold. Is hot ham a thing? I should have said hot but I said cold because I was a bit scared. Anyway, it was very nice.

Our hosts were excellent company as always. Not only are Martin and Christine delightful people but they are also a mine of useful information. As mentioned in Part One, Christine recommended the toilet exhibition at the Gladstone Museum in Stoke; and Martin recommended Battersea Power Station for our forthcoming trip to Fulham. I’ll confess I’m terrified of planning that London trip (because I don’t understand how to navigate London) but more of that in a couple of weeks’ time…

The pub was great, too, but I’m afraid I failed to take any photos of the inside. It doesn’t feel quite right when there are people everywhere. Plus I was too busy nattering with our hosts. Worthy of mention are the giant tv screen showing a log fire scene and the spacious conservatory.

It was very loud in here and I was struggling to hear the conversation, so I was pleased to make a move to the gig venue.

David Ford at The Greystones

Not the best photo but it sets the scene.

Lee parked up half a mile away, as is his wont, but finally we were here – at another Thornbridge pub. This was more of an old-style boozer than The Stags Head, which had been more bustling and warm. I preferred it here. I’ve never been a fan of bustling and noise (I am getting old, aren’t I?). This reminds me, I did promise I’d get my hearing checked once I got my eyes fixed (BREAKING: I finally have contact lenses I can see properly with from a local indie optician after 20+ years of a questionable prescription from a major opticians chain).

Here are the pump clips (which I could see without squinting!):

Boy this was dangerous! But wonderful at the same time… Ordinarily I would not be able to resist the Cocoa Wonderland (a Bounty in a glass) but SAINT PETERSBURG! I had clapped my hands in glee last week when my favourite pub landlord ever, Pete at Rat Race in Hartlepool, had informed me that Thornbridge were brewing this old favourite again. What to choose? Well of course I had a half of each. But, at 6.8% and 7.4%, I couldn’t really justify drinking too much more of these – delicious though they were…

We had an hour until the main event, so we remained in the bar enjoying the delicious beer and engaging company. Lee was getting anxious about getting a good spot to film from, so he headed into The Backroom for the support, Annie Dressner. Once she had finished, Lee called through to confirm that all she sang about was ‘death and her ex-boyfriends’. It was now time for us to get our hands stamped and make our way through.

Christine and I stood directly behind the last row of seats. No-one would have any difficulty seeing over our heads. Lee and Martin had to be a little more selective about their positions. I had no idea where they went because my eyes were now firmly locked on the stage (occasionally inadvertently flitting to the amorous couple seated on the back row).

I’ve been watching David Ford live since seeing his former band, Easyworld, support The Bluetones at Wolves Civic around 20 years ago. He’s simply an incredible talent. If you haven’t heard of him it is because he’s not overly enamoured with the whole selling yourself thing; it’s no reflection on his talent or his music.

Here – give him a listen for yourself:

The gig was enchanting and utterly absorbing. It was so wonderful to see and hear David in person once again. The Lockdown Sessions were great, but it’s not the same, of course.

Towards the end of the gig, I realised my glass was empty, so I scurried out to the bar. I was frightened to risk any more of those porters on the pumps, so my eyes flicked to the fridge (never EVER a sensible move, but I had been drinking by this point). I’d already ruled out the Yule, being a Scotch Ale style beer and not the yule log / Christmas spiced beer I’d imagined. But then I saw something irresistible…

‘What can I get you?’

‘I have a question, if I may?’

‘Of course. Fire away.’

‘That chocolate orange beer – how chocolate orangey is it?’

‘Oh! Er, hang on. I’ll just go and get my colleague – she’s a drinker.’

I drummed my fingers on the bar. Soon, the barman returned with his ‘drinker’ colleague, who immediately answered my question.

‘Oh it’s VERY chocolate orangey, I’m afraid…’

‘What are you afraid for? That sounds brilliant! I’ll have one of those please…’

Oh. My. Word. This was like a Terrys Chocolate Orange in a glass. I think it’s one of the most delicious beers I’ve ever tasted in my life. I don’t think I’ve ever tasted so much flavour in a beer – that does EXACTLY what it says on the can – that isn’t Fierce Beer. And for me to mention another beer in the same sentence as my favourite brewery Fierce is the highest praise I can award.

Oh and they had Fierce on here too!

But of course at 8% at this time of night (2300) it was not a good idea. I knew that as I was drinking it but it didn’t stop me enjoying it. I was only upset that I couldn’t savour it and had to drink it way more quickly than I would have liked.

At the end of the gig, I vaguely remember nattering away to strangers in the bar and dragging Lee in to interview David Ford for the video accompaniment to this Football Tourist’s Guide (coming soon on Lee Charles TV) but this is where the details get a little hazy, so I’ll fast-forward to tomorrow morning…

The Hangover

Lee was already in the shower when I awoke in the Premier Inn around 0830. I was pleased to remain in situ and scroll through the socials for a bit. I’d received recommendations for pubs – The Old Post Office and also Oxspring. Indeed I still hadn’t got round to visiting the Old No 7 or Jolly Tap, which had been on my list. But, frankly, beer was the last thing I fancied right now…

Aw poor fire alarm.

At length, I padded across to the bathroom. Having heard the pathetic hotel hairdryer – with barely more power than the hand drier in the Crown & Anchor – I had resolved not to wash my hair because holding up the hairdryer for ten minutes seemed like more effort than I was capable of mustering this morning.

I climbed into the bath and could not figure out how to get the water to come out of the shower as opposed to the bath taps. Only recently had I been congratulating myself on finally mastering the art of hotel showers. How had I ever found them so tricky? Well this morning I realised the answer to that. They’re simply impossible to figure out when you have a hangover. If Lee hadn’t been on hand to help, I’d have ended up having a bath because it would have been easier and made my head hurt less.

I needed breakfast…

In my hungover state, the yoghurt appeared to have the consistency of glue. Urgh!

The temperature had dropped dramatically overnight and I found myself pleased that the match wasn’t going ahead.

I was half-tempted to go straight home this morning until I saw this Tweet…

How could I miss out on Seth’s flat cap?

Pleased my thermals were finally proving worthwhile, we stepped out into the freezing morning and headed back up to Barnsley.

Experience Barnsley Museum

I love love love a quirky local museum and this, dear reader, is my new favourite. It’s situated inside the striking Barnsley Town Hall and the entrance is just by the above water feature.

Immediately on arrival, we were greeted by a wonderfully over-enthusiastic woman who gave us a guided tour of all the rooms, including a hidden exhibition down a corridor that we wouldn’t have otherwise found.

First of all, I was struck by the creativity behind the donations box. My eyes were instinctively drawn to it and I felt compelled to donate. Great start, Experience Barnsley.

This exhibition was about what Barnsley means to people and it was here – in this room filled with so much love for Barnsley – where I began to really fall in love with this market town.

Ooh I remember Littlewoods!

By the door there was a wall where visitors were encouraged to leave a note about their memories of Barnsley.

Aw đŸ™‚

I felt compelled to leave a message of my own.

Back in the main exhibition room, the first display we saw was celebrating Barnsley FC. I told you I’d find you some football!

I’ll confess I did not know that Barnsley had won the FA Cup. I was also fascinated to learn the story behind how they came to play in red.

From what the Barnsley fans are saying, I don’t think we missed out on Brazil today.

I then spotted a couple of seats – were these from Oakwell?

On the left of this photo you might spot some buttons. Pressing these brought up various videos about Barnsley FC on the screen that the seats face. Of course I had to press one…and then all of a sudden I was learning all about the history of Barnsley FC, with the sound emanating from speakers behind the seats.

The video we watched featured two men with a clear affection for Barnsley FC proudly telling stories about the club’s history, from the club’s formation to more recent times and the club’s time in the Premier League. I spotted my favourite player Martin Bullock in their promotion scenes. As well as a hilarious story about a woman’s knitting going flying as she celebrated a goal, I learned the story behind the photograph I’d seen on the wall of the Crown & Anchor in Part One of this Football Tourist’s Guide.

I would urge you to go to this (free) museum and hear the full story for yourself. But I can confirm that the man seated on the donkey was called Amos and he was a mascot for Barnsley over 100 years ago. He was given a donkey and used to go to matches riding it. I’ll confess I was very envious of this story. I know Blackpool had Syd Bevers and Puskas the duck (who was dyed tangerine and paraded on the pitch) but a donkey is magnificent and is also so Blackpool. Bravo Barnsley! I was beginning to feel some affection for Barnsley FC – what was going on here?

Of course there was a nod to everyone’s favourite kestrel.

I was delighted to see the Big Red Book – another blast from the past!

I chuckled as I spotted Seth’s flat cap…

…but it got better!

‘How is that even possible?’ I hear you exclaim.

Well he made a record!

More of this on the way home…

Also I learned that Becky MacDonald from Corrie was from Barnsley and her earrings were on display here.

What I particularly love about museums like this is just how ‘local’ they are. My eyes are naturally drawn to beer memorabilia and the below is a prime example of ‘localness’, which really made me laugh.

As an aside, I do have a personal beer story about Barnsley. Having enjoyed my first ever pint of real ale two weeks earlier in Sheffield, my first real ale pub crawl was in Barnsley ahead of our FA Cup match at Oakwell in January 2008. I was delighted to find lots of Christmas-spiced beers in all the Good Beer Guide pubs and – well, basically, I have Barnsley (and Sheffield) to thank for getting a taste for real ale (I drank lager up to that point). Barnsley Bitter was also one of my favourites in those early days, before my palate began to prefer darker beers. I don’t know if it’s something in the water round here, but there’s something about Yorkshire ales that I simply love.

In a playroom I was thrilled to spot this annual that I had when I was little(r).

I’m including this pic of a dinosaur from the museum for the sole reason that I don’t want to forget about it and deduct points from Barnsley for ‘lack of dinosaur action’ in my end of season awards.

Even the gift shop here was magnificent.

I contemplated buying this to practice my sewing and as a mindful exercise. I could even do it at the match, like that Barnsley woman and her knitting. As I’m drifting off during these terrible matches at the moment, I might as well do something productive. I somehow resisted.

However I did buy this:

There was a corner of the shop devoted to the miners and I picked up this for another donation.

Barnsley FC

Before we headed home, it would have been rude not to call in at Oakwell to ‘see where we could have lost’.

Proper floodlights.

Driving home, I was Tweeting away (as I do when I’m on the road) and noticed a reply to my Tweet from Experience Barnsley Museum.

What a song! We chuckled about that all the way home.

Back home, the sofa was very inviting. We settled back and watched a film called ‘New Year’s Eve’ which was packed with celebs and appeared to be an advert for New York.

Then we couldn’t resist a game of Barnsley Museums Top Trumps. This threw up so many things that we’d missed on our whistle-stop trip to Barnsley, such as this:

Also, the Tweets kept coming in about places we could have visited, including the Maurice Dobson Museum, where we ‘could have seen how footballs are made’. Guide Ken Brookes confirmed that ‘The Darfield Football Factory was owned by Mitre and all the Cup Final and professional footballs were made here.’

And in the Glass Works, there’s ‘the first ever official Barnsley FC table footy’, confirmed John Tanner, Project Manager at Barnsley Museums.

How wonderful that Barnsley embraced us on our visit and made us so very welcome. We travel everywhere wanting to find joy and we usually do (with only a handful of exceptions). But I’ll confess there is something extra special about Barnsley and I fell in love with this delightful market town this weekend. Nowhere else have we been made to feel quite THAT welcome, with an interview from Alex from the council (who was expecting us!), a personal guided tour of a museum, a full history of a pub from a friendly barman, a statue that moved me to tears…and a club mascot that rides a donkey.

What. A. Place.

Never again will I go straight to the ground (via the Metrodome) – and neither should you. I urge you to immerse yourself in Barnsley on your next visit. You won’t regret it.

Next up: Farm Yard Brew Co MTB & TTO @ The Hop Shoppe, St Annes – Blackpool v Millwall – The Gurkha

If you’ve enjoyed reading this Football Tourist’s Guide, please do share it with others who might like it too. You can read more of my blogs by touring this website. There’s all sorts of nonsense on here which I hope you’ll enjoy.

It would also be nice to connect with you – you can comment below or find me on Twitter/Facebook/Instagram @blackpooljane.

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