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Wise Up to Morecambe....

It was the 1st Round of the FA Cup, and the draw enabled us to pay a visit to a town which gave its name to its most famous son....

"Morecambe...will play...Halifax Town...."

That's how the FA Cup Draw came out, and so it gave us a welcome opportunity to visit a relatively local, Northern side, in a season dominated by infeasibly long away trips to far-flung Southern-based teams.

I hadn't been to Morecambe for at least 35 years, back when a gang of us from the NEGAS Sports and Social Club at Tingley went for a day out at the resort. We certainly weren't the first visitors to arrive in the town from Yorkshire; ever since the railway connection from there was completed in the mid-19th Century, Morecambe had been a popular destination for residents of the West Riding. For a time the resort attracted more visitors from the county than Blackpool, its more famous rival down the Lancashire coast, so much so that it earned itself the sobriquet 'Bradford-on-Sea'. The resort prospered for many years, but gradually fell into decline as, first the Central, and then the West End, Piers were damaged and fell into disuse, followed by the closure of several more of the town's tourist attractions. At the same time the rise of the package holiday offering much cheaper options abroad hit Morecambe like so many of our traditional seaside resorts. This decline in the town's fortunes was arrested though to some extent with the regeneration of the West End area in the early-mid 2000's.
Bring me sunshine....
So back to our trip. The Good Beer Guide highlighted 4 pubs, so certainly a possibility to visit a couple before the game. I said I would drive across, and after pick-ups in Shelf, Queensbury, and Sowerby Bridge, we headed for the M62, arriving in the well-heeled suburb of Bare at around 1.15, where our first pub, the award-winning Little Bare micropub awaited.

We parked up just along the road, arriving in this Remembrance weekend in the middle of an event commemorating a hundred years since the end of the First World War. So there were stalls, fresh-faced TA cadets, veterans in uniform, and plump middle-aged women in WI mode jollying everything along. The Little Bare was a couple of minutes away, set in a row of shops. It is a tidy looking place, pleasantly done out in shades of grey, and is the Lunesdale CAMRA Pub of the Year for 2018. Family-run, it has 5 hand pumps, and I opted for a half from Bolton-based Northern Monkey, an OK citrussy, affair. We were joined by a WI/Veterans group who entertained us with their interpretations of 'There'll Always be an England', 'Pack Up Your Troubles', and that famous song from Stalybridge's Jack Judge, 'It's a Long Way to Tipperary'. The Little Bare(or Little Bear, according to the local CAMRA magazine announcing its award!) is a pleasant, relaxing little bar with friendly service, and had a couple of stronger beers from the likes of Fallen that I couldn't try in my role as Des.
The Bare necessities....
I checked out the GBG app, the nearest CAMRA pub was 1.82 miles away. This was the Palatine, a typical back street seaside town pub, except that you could see out across Morecambe Bay from one of the two windows in this narrow-fronted pub. In contrast to the Little Bare, the place was empty. A small stage and posters advertising music suggested that it was unlikely to be quiet all the time. I quite liked it, the service was good, the soundtrack was OK, and the half I had, California from Lancaster, was a step up from the beer at the Little Bare.
The Palatine
It was then time for a photo call with Morecambe's most famous son, who in the years since I had visited had had a statue erected in his honour on the seafront. Comedian Eric Bartholomew, after whom the town's Wetherspoon is named - the one CAMRA pub we didn't manage to visit - took the name of the town, linked up with a certain Ernie Wise, and the rest is history. Not that Eric Morecambe is the only famous person with links to the town - actress Thora Hird was born here, as were boxers Tyson Fury and Isaac Lowe, and designer Wayne Hemingway. And then, back to the Yorkshire connection, playwright Alan Bennett frequently referred to the town in his work, having regularly visited as a boy when on holiday with his parents. And here's a bizarre fact: American rapper Busta Rhymes lived in the town with relatives in his teens!

We just about had time for a quick drink before the match, so we walked along the front for a few minutes before turning down Lord Street and calling in at The Morecambe Hotel. Despite the fact that it was predominantly given over to serving food, with smartly-dressed waitresses efficiently patrolling the tables, we were made to feel welcome even though we only wanted a drink(plenty of similar food-led places don't!). And the half I had, a Session IPA from the local Cross Bay brewery was spot on, in fact the best beer of this mini-crawl. So, well worth a visit, and the food looked good too!
The Morecambe Hotel
And then it was back to the car, followed by a short drive to the Globe Arena, the home of Morecambe FC, aka The Shrimps. We managed to park up nearby, and were in the ground with a few minutes to spare, along with over 500 hundred Town fans who'd made the journey. It was an entertaining match, with Town putting in a much better shift than of late, playing some nice football, and whilst Morecambe were quicker on the break and had more shots on goal, they could have won it in the last minute if striker Jonny Edwards' late effort hadn't been ruled offside. It finished 0-0, and so a reply is required. At least we'd made it to the 2nd round draw!
Action from the Globe Arena....
"Morecambe or Halifax Town...will play...AFC Wimbledon...."

The story continues....

Twitter: @realalemusic

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