I’ve been a bit lax booking my hotels for this season. Partly because we’ve remarkably had a couple of games on Sky, which always sets me on edge about matches potentially being moved. And partly because they’re an expensive part of following the football. But I eventually decided to bite the bullet and book our hotel for Huddersfield. The match wasn’t going to be moved for Sky – as they had already announced their fixtures for this month – so I opted for the non-flexible non-refundable option with Premier Inn for the Friday night, it being the cheapest option.
Within hours, the game was moved to the Sunday. Some rugby match at the ground on the Friday night apparently. Brilliant.
Should I book for the Saturday night as well? Not bother going? What about Karen? We were giving her a lift. And she was currently uncontactable in deepest Alaska. And actually Lee has a DJing job on the Saturday night. So should we go on the Friday anyway, do the Tourist Guide stuff, come back on the Saturday and then do a day trip to Huddersfield for the match on the Sunday? The latter, dear reader, is what we ended up doing. The things we do…
The Friday morning we were heading off to Huddersfield was the morning after Transfer Deadline Day. I had gone to bed before proceedings had come to a conclusion – deliberately putting off the inevitable because why ruin an extra day? There were strong rumours that my favourite player of all time Josh Bowler had been on his way to Nottingham Forest to sign for them, before heading out immediately on loan to Olympiakos. I hoped this wouldn’t happen and, if he did go, please could it at least be somewhere other than Fucking Forest, those arrogant tosspots who insisted Brendan Johnson was far superior to Josh and who clearly had no intention of playing him anyway.
During a fitful night’s sleep I had dreamt that Josh had indeed left us and I was watching him play for or against either Arsenal or Chelsea. He’d left his markers trailing behind him, ran at pace down the outside of the touchline, then round behind the goal, before re-entering the pitch and scoring a goal. So I was still able to enjoy watching him play.
On waking, I tentatively checked my phone as the news couldn’t be avoided any longer. And it was confirmed. Josh had signed for Fucking Forest and had signed on loan for Olympiakos for the season.
Dear reader, you know I like/need coping mechanisms to get me through difficult times in my life. I had, of course, foreseen Josh’s departure and I had a plan in place for this. Clearly he’d go to the Premier League, so we could take the Football Tourist Guide on tour and go and watch him play around Premier League grounds. That was a genius strategy, I thought – getting to still see Josh whilst rattling through some more Football Tourist Guides at the same time.
And then Fucking Forest even ruin that, by sending him to Greece.
Why did they even want him? So we couldn’t have him? Why rob English football of such a special talent? Why not loan him back to us? Why break our hearts for no reason? I will never, ever forgive Fucking Forest for this.
I was pleased to have this Football Tourist Guide to focus on today. Karen rocked up at 0800 and we were soon heading down the M55 and on our way to Huddersfield.
Our music of choice today was the Beautiful South because their drummer was from Huddersfield. Karen, however, was in talkative mood, so it was simply quiet background music. Usually I’m belting out songs but not today.
If you read my Blackburn blog you’ll know that I have enlisted Paddington to help me with my food choices. This morning he presented me with my breakfast of Alpen Light Jaffa Cake to see me through to lunchtime.
There was no hope of avoiding football chat (which I prefer to avoid at difficult times) with both Lee and Karen in the car. But some light relief soon appeared courtesy of Twitter. Last night we had signed a player called Callum James from Leicester, who sounds like he might be in the mould of KDH (you might remember Kiernan Salmesbury Hall from a few seasons back). Anyway, the Leicester fans were LIVID about him leaving and I read out loud the responses to this Tweet, laughing out loud as I did so:
It took us about an hour and a half to get to our first port of call on today’s Football Tourist Guide. We were starting in Wakefield, slightly beyond Huddersfield, at a place that had caught our eye on our Football Tourist’s Guide To Barnsley (ironically, another one where we didn’t end up going to a match).
Before we’d even parked the car, we were approached by a man who informed us that the National Coal Mining Museum would be the best thing we’d do today. On entering the museum we were approached by equally eager staff.
This museum was free to enter but it did cost £5 each to go down’t pit, which is what we were really here for. We were told it’s as deep as Blackpool Tower is tall. In exchange for our £5 we were presented with a token which we were to hand over when we entered t’pit as well as a commemorative token for us to keep.
We had a time slot of an hour’s time for’t pit so meanwhile we took a look round the museum.
Controversially, we started (rather than ending) in the museum shop. There was a lot of unhealthy food in here – which Paddington kept me well away from – but this item was the highlight for me.
Next I headed to the indoor exhibition, where I learned about the history of fuel in the UK.
Fuel is, of course, a hot topic right now, with energy bills going through the roof. It was somewhat reassuring to note the number of different energy sources that we have had over the years which helped me to visualise an eventual end to the current crisis. Indeed, there is enough coal underground to last us another 2,000 years, although it is no longer mined in this country.
Next I headed outside where there were a number of buildings which formed part of the working mine community.
There were stables where the pit ponies used to be housed and I found this intriguing height chart.
My favourite room was the Pithead Baths, which was where the miners got clean at the end of their shift. They had to pay if they wanted soap.
There was much more to see here but already it was time for our slot down’t pit.
We had to wear a mask to go down here and these were available to buy(!) but we still have a stash in the boot of our car so grabbed a couple of these.
We weren’t permitted to take most items down with us because of the fire risk (cameras, phones, electronic car fobs, watches, batteries), so we left everything behind the counter before we headed down. I couldn’t bear to leave Paddington behind, though, so popped him in my coat pocket and held his paw.
Our tour guide (who I believe was a former miner) was an interesting character. He rubbed us up the wrong way before the tour even started by chastising us for being late (we were actually four minutes early). This was followed up by a number of sexist remarks that made me feel quite sick. By way of example, he referred to horses replacing women in one particular role by saying they they ‘replaced those nags in there wi’ those nags out there’. I’m not a speaker-upper in such circumstances (I tend to freeze with shock) and coped by viewing our guide as a museum piece himself who was clearly ‘of his time’ (he was in his 70s).
He was also a ‘close talker’, getting right in people’s faces (not mine, as I made a point of standing as far away from him as possible), which perhaps explained why we needed masks.
Did I learn anything down there in amongst all the discomfort? Probably a great deal less than I might have done if fully focussed and relaxed. I was surprised that it was cool down there. And I learned that Sunday School is so-called because it was the only education that children had, having spent Monday to Saturday working in the coal mine.
We were also permitted to take a little piece of coal from the production line away with us. I selected a nice shiny piece (which had never before been above ground) and placed it into my pocket with Paddington.
On emerging back to ground level, it was 1215 and thus time for a pub lunch.
This pub is situated close to the National Coal Mining Museum and I selected it for its famous home-cooked chips and spectacular views.
Our host invited us to take a seat and advised that someone would be over to take our order. Before doing so, I snapped the beer list and the specials menu.
There were lots of lovely touches that made me smile in this pub.
This is what I had to eat (under the close supervision of Paddington to keep me on track).
This really was a lovely pub – sadly much quieter than pre-COVID, apparently. If you’re ever anywhere near Overton/Wakefield/West Yorkshire, I would highly recommend a visit for some hearty home-cooked food.
Our next stop provided an opportunity to ride on a little steam train.
Formerly known as Kirklees Light Railway, Whistlestop Valley has been developed into a little theme park.
On arrival we were presented with a brochure which included a timetable for the steam train. There was one due very soon (1405), so we headed straight over there to take the train to Shelley. There was a large station cafe which I took quick snaps of before heading towards the platform.
The journey to Shelley was around 25 minutes and it was a pleasant and scenic route. The rocking motion of the little steam train was very relaxing and happily quietened down the children on board as well as almost rocking me to sleep after that hearty lunch.
On arrival at Shelley station, our options were to head pretty much straight back or wait around (with seemingly little to do over there) for the last return train. We went for the former option. I did hop off to see if I could find a drink but all I found was a very slow-moving queue for the ice cream parlour. Paddington suggested that an ice cream parlour could prove a danger zone – and besides this queue really wasn’t moving and I had a train to catch – so I returned to the little train empty-handed.
Happily there was more going on at the other end of the tracks. First of all we were delighted to find Tango Berry Peachy in the station cafe (our favourite pop of all time). There were plenty of activities for kids, including outdoor and indoor play areas. There was The Pillow, a giant inflatable for bouncing on. There was also a free fun game where we tried to toss tennis balls into a hole, which proved surprisingly difficult.
But my absolute favourite bit was our ride on the Clayton Flyer – a tiny train that whizzed around a circular track at an exhilarating pace.
This had been a thoroughly delightful visit. With the afternoon still young we headed off to tick off another couple of tourist spots before retiring to the next pub for tea.
I found this place by looking at the map for places of interest between Wakefield and Huddersfield. I had read that there was a great view of Huddersfield from the top of the hill. Ordinarily the word ‘hill’ would have put me off; but part of Paddington’s weight loss regime for me is making an effort to exercise. Plus I also knew that it was possible to drive up the hill. I tapped ‘Castle Hill Car Park’ into the sat nav, secretly hoping that the car park would be at the top, but also prepared to walk up the hill if fate dictated it.
Happily, we found a parking spot quite close to the top, which proved a happy medium. Karen is a walking leader so provided some helpful advice: take small steps. This really helped and I wasn’t out of breath on arrival at the top of the hill. We resolved to remember this advice the next time we tackle Steep Hill in Lincoln.
The views were spectacular in every direction and I was so pleased we had made the effort to come here. I was overwhelmed by a feeling of serenity and could have stayed up here for hours. It would be such a great spot to bring a picnic and a book. This was the absolute highlight of the day for me.
On the walk back down to the car, we noticed there were blackberry bushes everywhere. Because we were so reluctant to leave, we kept pausing on our descent to pick and eat the delicious sweet blackberries.
Our next and final calling point on the tourist trail (pubs to follow) was a folly called The Temple, which has been nicknamed Black Dick’s Tower. You may recall I learned what follies were on a pre-season trip to Barrow in 2019 so I look out for them now.
Our drive here took us down Chimney Lane (which had big chimneys) and Houses Hill (where some houses appeared) and I chuckled at how basic yet sensible the road names were. The next road name? Long Tongue Scrog Lane. What’s that all about? The answer to this – and other bizarre Huddersfield road names – can be found in this article.
We struggled to get access to Black Dick’s Tower so popped into the Hare & Hounds to ask for directions. A friendly lady pointed it out and suggested we drive down the private lane to get a better view (‘I’ve done it before now’). I was a bit scared driving down the narrow lane but it did allow us to get this shot of the folly.
Now it was time for tea at the fabulous food pub where we’d had the most amazing roasties and gravy on our visit to Huddersfield on Boxing Day.
I was so excited to arrive at a pub I loved for what I knew was going to be an excellent feed. We had booked a table (anxious not to miss out, should the pub be busy at teatime on a Friday) and were shown to our table in the back room which we think has been revamped since our last visit.
Here were the beers on offer this evening:
I did enquire (prompted by Paddington) about the diet pops on offer, but there was nothing of interest, so I plumped for a half of the Timothy Taylor’s Knowle Spring – one of theirs I hadn’t tried before.
Now it was time to contemplate the menu.
I remained determined to strive for a weight loss this week and turned my attention to the Deep Bowl Salads.
As I scrolled through my phone, I came across this delightful goodbye message from Joshy.
And, yes, I filled up a bit as I was reading it out to Lee and Karen. I still hadn’t properly cried, though, despite feeling it was inevitable when I finally stood still.
The salad was delicious and filling. Lee and Karen had followed my lead and had salads too. All the food seems to be great here and I would recommend it to anyone visiting Huddersfield.
Now it was time to check into our hotel for the night.
This Premier Inn was in a stunning location on Apsley Wharf. On entering the hotel we received a warm welcome from our friendly host. We do mainly stay at Premier Inns and have been surprised at the variety we have found from this chain. This particular hotel was up there with the one in Hartlepool as being one of our favourites. Our room was in a separate building and it was lovely and quiet.
We were only here now to dump our bags before heading out on a pub crawl of Huddersfield’s finest.
It was a good walk to the first pub of the crawl – all of which would be reached on foot. I had visited this one before on my late friend Sally’s birthday pub crawl back in 2016 – but I’ll confess I didn’t remember much about it.
Here’s today’s beer list:
I really did want to go for the more SlimmingWorld-friendly options of the lower ABV cask beers – and even had a taster of one in the hope that I’d like it – but there really was only ever going to be one beer for me from this selection.
And oh my word this is one of the best beers I’ve had all year. If you ever spot this one, get it down yer!
Lee was unable to resist the hot pork crackling from the dispenser on the bar but I didn’t try even one.
There was a nice selection of beermats on the wall that I felt compelled to photograph for fellow beer blogger Britain Beermat.
I had deliberately sat us at a table close to the bar in the hope that the men hogging the bar would move so I could photograph the food on the counter. As we came to leave, they were still in situ, so direct action was required.
‘Excuse me, please. Would you mind just stepping to one side so I can photograph the food?’
‘Do you want me in the photo? It would be better with me in it?’
With the benefit of hindsight, what I should have done was include him in the photo and hand him a business card so he could look out for himself in this blog. What I actually did was look him up and down, raise an eyebrow, say ‘hmm no thanks’, photograph the food and walk out of the pub.
Woah what was this outside Huddersfield Station?
I suspected this was a leftover from a summer art trail in Huddersfield. But no! The Snowdogs Kirklees trail is running right now – this was the opening night and it will run until 31st October. If only we’d known – I would have stayed Saturday night too so we could complete the trail. I love these art trails.
But it was pubs we were hunting down tonight, so lets get back to business. There are two pubs on Huddersfield Station: Head of Steam (a former Pub of Choice for Huddersfield away games) and Kings Head, which is the one we were visiting tonight.
Here are the beers from tonight at Kings Head:
By now I had resolved not to mess about with low ABV pale/golden ales that I wasn’t going to enjoy so much. I went right in for this one.
This was another delicious beer and I enjoyed it from a seat outside the pub at the front of the station. It was very hot inside and there was a lovely breeze outside. Lee remarked that it was like being overseas, comfortably sitting outside of an evening.
Whilst we were on a relatively tight schedule tonight – with another two pubs to fit in before the last one was due to close at 2300 – I could not resist popping into Huddersfield Station on the offchance I might catch a glimpse of the station cats.
You may recall that, on our visit to Stourbridge Junction Station, we had just missed out on meeting George the Station Cat as he’d ‘gone out’ – although we were given a postcard with his picture on. We were therefore less than confident of meeting Felix and Bolt tonight – but I just had to try.
Happily, we were able to get access to the station, as the ticket barriers were open. This was a great start. And then I followed the clues…
We hunted down a staff member on the platform and she said she hadn’t seen Felix all day but Bolt had just headed over to the garden. She called him over – and there he was, trotting across the tracks (eek!) towards us.
She then headed over to Felix’s room and brought her out to meet us as well.
This was such a treat! And, speaking of treats, all of a sudden I realised that I didn’t have any Dreamies with me because I rarely see cats on my travels and have instead taken to feeding our garden cat, Belle, who seems to live in our garden now.
I gave Felix and Bolt little fusses, content that I had finally met them, but now it was time to get back to pub business.
I loved this pub – and could easily imagine spending an entire evening in here. It is the Ossett/Rat/Salt Brewery taproom with not only their beers but also memorabilia (which I forgot to photograph and to buy.
Here’s what I had, which was yet another outstanding beer:
Alas it was too soon time to head off to the next pub before it closed. I’d definitely be back here, though. It felt like home.
I had deliberately left The Grove until last, as I knew it to be an absolute gem. On my last visit here, I’d enjoyed Kendal Mint Cake Liqueur and they’d also had Riga’s Black Balsam (a terrifying spirit we’d enjoyed on our Latvian pre-season tours of 2006-2008). Here’s tonight’s beer list:
I opted for the strawberry beer and it was creamy and delicious. Why was all the beer so good here in Huddersfield? Not that I was complaining. There was a reason I fell in love with beer in Yorkshire.
The pub was full of rugby fans (oh yes, that rugby match that had derailed our weekend). I could hear someone speaking on a microphone in the back room and assumed that this was some rugby player or something.
Meanwhile there was so much to look at in this quirky pub.
I soon realised that the voice I heard was, in fact, a spoken word performer.
Both Lee and Karen had come back from their explorations with excited reports about the beer garden, so we headed out there. We got chatting with the folks at the next table but I have no memory of what about.
What an excellent day, rounded off with the best pub crawl.
On the way back to the hotel, we called back in at Huddersfield Station, so Lee could play on the station piano (which had been occupied earlier). Then it was time to sleep, before heading back home to Blackpool…
…spotting the sadly now closed Slubbers Arms (another former Pub of Choice in Huddersfield) on our way out of town.
Fast forward to Sunday and I’d read on Twitter that there had been a bad accident on the motorway, so we needed to find an alternative route to Huddersfield.
We set off at 1115 – half an hour earlier than planned – and were parked up close to the ground by 1345.
Huddersfield Town v Blackpool
On arrival at the ground, I was excited to have a frisk before the female steward searched my bag.
As we’d arrived early – and many of the other travelling Seasiders were stuck in traffic – the ground was pretty quiet and I was able to step right up to the refreshment kiosk to buy two bottles of water.
I’m aware I’ve kept you waiting for the Loo Review in this blog, so here it is.
Nice low coat hook on the back of the cubicle door. Free lady products also available. Good toilets.
As I sat in my allocated seat pre-match, I was approached by Anthony from Harrogate, who at once mentioned Josh Bowler, which made me fill up. This was our first match without him and I felt empty.
That emptiness and sadness continued throughout the match, which we went on to win 1-0. I knew I should have felt happy but I can’t help how I feel. I know this will pass – it was still raw – and of course I was pleased we had won. Here’s a link to Lee’s match vlog:
What I hadn’t realised, however, was the cause of the win. Have you guessed? It was the lucky piece of coal that had been in my pocket all along. Carrying a lucky piece of coal for luck is a long-held superstition – and it had certainly proved to be lucky today. Thank goodness for a lucky talisman that won’t scupper my diet like the Lucky Orange Aero…
The journey home was much quicker with three points in the boot. We’d remembered the cool bag, so had plenty of snackage to fuel us for a journey straight home. And that, dear reader, was Huddersfield. It makes for an excellent away mission and I’d thoroughly recommend it for a weekend away.
Next Up: A Football Tourist’s Guide To Rotherham (maybe).