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Sept 2020
Johnsons on Tour - Empty Cask Return, Covid and Retirement *

All in all the selling of the pub (Prince of Wales, Foxfield) went as smoothly as possible under the circumstances. Our customers rose to the challenge of buying all our stock within the allocated time for completion. Thank you!

Once retired, the decision was to focus on empty cask return. We booked Camping and Caravan Club sites as members in anticipation.

Woodall Spa
Lincolnshire We landed here 13th July. Pub visits were still a novelty. We settled on Bar 13; Stu drank Batemans and I drank Ferry Ales. We returned to the same establishment then went back again. The pubs having been closed so long was a worry - the pumps may have musty flavours. Unused beer engines are liable to develop must as they are open to the air via the delivery spout (swan neck). Not one pub we visited during our 34 day camping holiday had problems of that nature.

The campsite is on the Sandringham estate which is big and grand. We went for the nearest drinking venue, a wooden-built club on the A149. A bit awkward to cycle to but well worth the effort. The only real beer on offer was Green King IPA! The beer was in good enough condition to tempt us four nights in a row - or was it the establishment and the welcome?

Visited many times previously, we avoided the city drinking and ventured to Trumpington village. The better of the two pubs served Timothy Taylor's so we were happy.

St. Neots
We were concerned about this visit as we were very close to the town centre where we would be drinking. In reality, St. Neots is small and the pubs were well managed so all was good. Our favourite, The Ale Taster, (Good Beer Guide 2020 P67) had three beers available. Thankfully, we were learning that a lot of pubs had reduced their real ale offerings. Pubs generally were quieter than we expected.
A brief respite at our new home in Millom allowed us to refill the van with more empty casks from the PoW car park. As brewers, we have always been committed to returning casks that we have collected from the brewers. The next trip included Stu's 70th Birthday and our 39th Wedding Anniversary.

Under normal circumstances, campsites are booked on their proximity to a Good Beer Guide pub or preferably a cluster of them. The Bala site is unlikely to be visited again as it was in the middle of nowhere!! Fortunately, there was an extremely good GBG entry for Bala, Stori (GBG 2020 p610) which sold an excellent selection of bottled beer; it was too tiny to be open with indoor seating and being popular, the two tables outside were usually occupied. We had taken some of Stu's bottled beers with us - at 7% + they were no good for a session! We drove out to the GBG pub at Llandderfel - The Bryntirion Inn (GBG 2020 p613) - and drank Purple Moose.
Now in Wales we had to sit outside - they were to allow customers inside later that week. Masks were not compulsory in shops, unlike England, but a 2 metre distance was still being enforced.
While here, the highlight was the Dolgellau to Barmouth railway cycle route.

Another campsite close to town and next to the GBG entry Rugby Club (GBG 2020 p512) - we omitted to visit - but next time maybe.
The Rai d'Or was closed. The Village Freehouse - good pub and busy with social distancing made difficult due to the layout. The Winchester Gate didn't 'float our boat' so we ended up at the Fuller's pub, The Ox, where we had the best beer and, despite the numbers, was extremely well managed. The weather defeated our efforts at cycling (too hot) so one day we went to the edge of the New Forest to Nomansland, The Lamb Inn.
6th of August we had a good bike ride round including visiting one of my favourite pubs, The Horseshoe at Ebbesbourne Wake (GBG 2020 p509). We knew it would be closed but I needed to check that it was still functioning as previously. I was reassured, especially as we met the Drayman from Bowmans Brewery while there. We had two of their casks in the van and had arranged to drop them at The George Inn, Vernham Dean (GBG 2020 p199) - a great pub that we will be visiting again.
7th August was Stu's 70th Birthday so we booked a meal at Netherhampton, The Victoria and Albert (GBG 2020 p511), another pub that we love. I (Lynda) was driving so I did not notice what the beer was!

Cannock Chase
Another site miles from any pub, let alone a decent one! Since our last visit, a brew pub had opened in Rugeley, The Vine Inn (GBG 2020 p432). The Rusty Barrel (GBG 2020 p431) was closed and looked very sad. The Vine was our destination 4 nights running - they had a porter, mild and a hoppy bitter - what more could you want, except that I was driving again!
Home once more to refill the van and to head to Loch Lomond Brewery via Allendale Brewery.

Loch Lomond
We camped on the East side of the loch very close to Balmaha (GBG 2020 p668) which should have been great but no real ale - gutted (although the service, food and how they managed all the tourists was five-star). Fortunately, while at home, Stu had decanted the last 9 Gallon of Foxfield Sands into 8 pint tins so we were not deprived of a drink.
We visited the Clachan Inn, Drymen (GBG 2020 p668), again no real beer - great food, pub and service was some consolation.

Despite this not being a holiday revolving around pubs, I managed a few favourites including the Holly Bush at Greenhaugh, not in the GBG 2020 - a drive from the campsite but worth it. Big Lamp Prince Bishop for Stu and First & Last Brewery beer for me. Thankfully, my meagre quantity of beer had a lasting finish.
We had needed purpose and found it through visiting breweries to return their empty casks.

We would like to take this opportunity for all those who frequented our lovely pub over the last 23 years for their custom and making it the best pub in the world for us.

Prince of Wales picture * In case you weren't aware, Lynda and Stuart Johnson owned and ran the Prince of Wales, Foxfield in Cumbria until mid-2020
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