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Flying High in the Sunshine....

A week with some great live music, a beer festival, and a few award-winning pubs....


Spring finally landed at the back end of last week, coinciding with a planned trip to watch Town play at FC United of Manchester. Unfortunately, this also happened to be a weekend where Network Rail had decided to do a load of work on the line between Halifax and Todmorden meaning that the train options to get to Moston, where FCUM are now based, were seriously limited.

We had therefore resort to alternative methods. The X58 bus from Halifax to Rochdale takes 58 minutes, but at £3.20 it was amazingly good value. It was a beautiful day with some surprisingly warm sunshine, and the ride over the Pennines took in some fantastic scenery. Arriving in Rochdale, we made a beeline for the Flying Horse, situated across the square from the town's amazing Grade 1-listed Gothic-style town hall. Now the Flying Horse has just been named pub of 2016 by the local CAMRA branch, and it is easy to see why. There are around 8 ales and a couple of ciders on cask, the beers originating  from local-ish breweries like Pictish, Phoenix, Lancaster, and Green Mill, but with some I hadn't come across before, Hobo and Epicurean. We all enjoyed our respective beers and enjoyed some great value food. The Flying Horse is a large, friendly, and comfortable pub, with several rooms and nooks and corners, and is well worth a visit.

From there it was just short of 10 minutes walk to the next pub, the Baum, which in previous years has done even better than the Flying Horse, and won CAMRA National Pub of the Year. It is situated on Toad Lane, next door to the museum which commemorates the famous Rochdale Pioneers, who were the instigators of the Co-operative movement back in the 19th Century. Several hand pumps dispense a good range of beers. It has several areas inside, but with the weather being so good we took our beers outside to the surprisingly large beer garden where a number of people were tucking into an alfresco lunch. Very pleasant.

Taking balm at The Baum....

I hadn't been to Rochdale for a good few years, but thoroughly enjoyed the brief visit. Two excellent pubs and an interesting town centre with some fine buildings and plenty of history, with some unexpected sunshine lending an almost continental feel to the place.

We had planned to get the tram from Rochdale to the football, but an unsafe building en route meant that they weren't running into the town centre. We decided therefore to get taxis, which proved very convenient and reasonable in price. We got to FCUM's impressive new Broadhurst Park in plenty of time, and proceeded to witness one of Town's best performances of the season as they ran out 3-0 winners, a result which moved them up to 3rd in the table. Maybe the sunshine helped....

Broadhurst Park in the sunshine....

From there we moved on to visit two of Manchester's finest, with the Marble Arch coming up trumps as usual, whilst down the road the Angel also had some great beers and ciders to keep everyone happy. Heading back to Yorkshire, we went for the direct service from Victoria to Huddersfield, at 29 minutes this has to be the fastest way back from Manchester. Some of the party didn't make it, and suffered further delays and frustration getting back home, as we discovered when the rest of us had arrived back in Huddersfield and settled down with a pint at the Kings Head. Overall, though, it was an excellent day with some great beer, great pubs, great football, and some fantastic weather to top it off!

Earlier in the week, also in Huddersfield, I visited the Star at Folly Hall where the Spring Beer Festival was on. It was a flying visit, but there was the usual mix of familiar and unfamiliar beers. I particularly enjoyed a session 3.8% Pale Ale from Nomadic Brewery in Leeds and another light one, Southern Summit from Loch Lomond Brewery, easy-drinking at around 4%. I met our Tom there, and I also had a good chat with Sam Smith from the award-winning Corner Bar.

Chatting to Sam, she mentioned she had also been at the Hurray for the Riff Raff gig I'd been to a couple of days earlier at the Brudenell Social Club in Leeds, as had happened when they were on last year. I love the Brudenell, it is a fantastic venue for music with a main concert room, plus a games room where sometimes gigs take place. It is friendly, welcoming, and comfortable, there are normally 3 real ales on cask, with Kirkstall Three Swords a mainstay. In fact, the beer was judged to be that good by the local CAMRA branch that it was selected as Pub of the Month for January. If you just fancy a drink, then that is absolutely fine. The club is situated on Queens Road in Burley, and if you want to see some live music, gigs are on most nights.

The gig itself was excellent, with support band The High Cranes playing a superb set, and then Hurray for the Riff Raff took over. Featuring tracks from their new album, 'Navigator', their performance was brilliant, although it was slightly disappointing that even with the encore the gig only lasted around one hour ten. The new album sees lead member Alynda Lee Seggara going back to her Puerto Rican roots, her growing up on the streets, and like the last album, addresses so many wider social problems affecting a multi-cultural, multi racial society. A timely wake-up to the issues stirred up by the Trump era. The music has moved away from the more rootsy, Americana feel of the last album, with more soulful and Hispanic influences taking hold, and despite the serious themes of some of the songs, the music is uplifting and melodic. Having bought the new album, and listened to it a few times over the past couple of weeks, I have to say it is my favourite of the year so far.

The sunshine has now gone, the weather has returned to a more seasonal norm, but at least we've had a taste of what will hopefully become a regular feature over the next few months....

Meanwhile, here is a taste of Hurray for the Riff Raff....



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