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Travelling Home...

Whilst it won't now be coming home for a minimum 4 years, the World Cup has had a massive impact on the country over the past few weeks. And its pubs. Here are my thoughts, plus a spotlight on the pub where I have watched most of the England games....

I have to admit I have not enjoyed watching the England football team in recent years. Too much hype, too many disappointments, the odd dodgy manager in charge not helping the cause as I wrote here back in 2016. But credit to the FA, who I criticised heavily in that piece, they managed to come up with what is now proving to be an inspired decision when they appointed the Under 21 manager, Gareth Southgate, to the job following Sam Allardyce's short and ill-fated reign less than 2 years ago.

With relatively low expectations, a kinder-than-usual press, and a fresh approach with an exciting brand of attacking football, the waistcoat-wearing Southgate has managed to galvanise the national team, bringing in many of his former charges from the Under 21's, such as Jordan Pickford, Harry Maguire, and Kieran Trippier, players who have come up via the tough ranks of lower league football rather than the academies of one of the big teams. And as Wednesday's semi-final approached, belief was sweeping the country that this year could finally be the year that for the first time since 1966, the World Cup would be coming back to England.

I watched the game, as I have done in most of the previous rounds, at one of my local pubs, the Travellers at Hipperholme, an Ossett Brewery pub which I have neglected over the past couple of years. An excellent start, after 5 minutes a sublime Kieran Trippier free kick had put England in front. Could we do it? Chance after chance fell England's way in a fairly dominant first half but they just couldn't take advantage. Crucially, a different Croatian team came out in the second half, with Luka Modric and his midfield colleagues in inspirational form, and proceeded to boss the game. When Perisic scored for the Croats after 68 minutes, English hearts sank. Despite some brave attempts, England couldn't quite score, and so were left with the prospect of extra time. And here the dreams of so many who had come to believe that football was finally coming home were finally shattered. After 109 minutes, Mandzukic, a constant thorn in England's side, scored. Despite some desperate efforts England couldn't equalise and make it to penalties, and were out of it, and sadly heading home. But...what a fantastic effort! The current England squad have more than exceeded expectations and with Southgate signed up on a lengthy contract and with age on the side of most of the lads, they must have a serious chance of going at least one better next time.

Back to the Travellers. This was one of the first Ossett Brewery pubs, if not the first, to be opened in Calderdale. Previously it had been a fairly undistinguished place, with no decent beer, John Smiths and the like, and despite attractions(!) like that, not a lot of customers. So when Ossett bought the pub, they gutted it, re-decorated it and turned it into a real destination for the local community, for real ale drinkers, and for walkers. It is situated on a hill side just down from the busy A58 road between Halifax and the M62, and is on what is Halifax Old Road, cutting a back route across the Shibden Valley, round the back of the historic Shibden Hall, before meeting up with the A58 just below Claremount. The pub itself is a longish building, following the slope of the road. You enter with the bar directly facing you, with a room off to the left, with a snug hidden behind the chimney, and to the right, up a step, is a games room with dartboard, and, beyond that, a further room with pictures of old Hipperholme and the former Sunny Vale Amusement Park, or, as many locals called it, 'Sunny Bunce's', situated half a mile or so down the valley towards Brighouse, with many of the visitors alighting at the former station just across from the Travellers.

I started to go in regularly not long after it opened in 2006. The landlady then was Lizzie, who always made you feel welcome, and it wasn't long before we started to call in at least one a week. The Ossett beers were excellent, most of them pale and hoppy, and being a comfortable, friendly place, it was a natural choice to go and chill out for an hour or two. Over the years, I continued to go in regularly, but gradually, as other places opened across the area, I rarely visited the place.

So this last few weeks, when I first went up for a pint with a mate one evening, and then went again a few days later with some of the lads to watch England, it gave me the opportunity to re-connect with the place. Not much has changed from when Lizzie was landlady. Many of the faces in the pub and who occupy the small outside smoking area were there when I first went in, the interior is little changed, and it is still a really friendly place. The beer choice still features 4 Ossett beers, along with 4 guests, with the one I had watching last night's match, the Hop Back Citra, one of the best pints I have had in ages! Last weekend the pub had a Cider Festival which went down very well with some of the lads, and with landlord Mark and the team doing a great job, having gone back after a two-year gap, I will not be leaving it so long again.

So, if you are in the area, why not check out the Travellers Inn....

Travellers Inn, Hipperholme
Travellers Inn, 53 Tanhouse Hill, Hipperholme, Halifax, West Yorkshire, HX3 8HN
Hours: 12 - 11.30, Thurs- Sat 12 -12, Sunday 11 - 11


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