What with the weather being cold but dry, your intrepid correspondent spent yesterday hiking across many a field in the interests of healthy exercise. The effect of which was rather ruined by the pubs visited at along the route. However, in the interests of research much was gained by the consumption of a different beer at each pub, the results of which are here presented for your edification.

Pub 1 The Robin Hood, Mawdesley

Sensibly, we decided to get the majority of the walking out of the way before the first pub was visited. So a brisk hike hour and a half along the Leeds/Liverpool canal from Burscough took us to Rufford, where we struck out across desolate fields for a further hour or so. The original plan had been to skip the Robin Hood first up, returning to it later on. By the time we arrived, however we were cold, and one of the party had a decidedly mutinous knee. Cue the first pint (and a medicinal Lagavulin, to warm up), which was Phoenix Brewery’s Thirsty Moon. Jolly nice it was to (though truth be told I was in the mood for something a bit meatier), appealingly malty and easily drinkable.

Pub 2 The Original Farmer’s Arms, Ecclestone

A silly name, which caused us to spend a moment or two scouting around to see if there was an Imitation Farmer’s Arms somewhere. It was a strange, dispiriting place. Pride of place in decoration was given to a large baseball bat with the words “The Original” engraved on it. We asked why, they didn’t know. My companions each had a poorly kept Wadworth 6X, I got luckier with a pint of Timothy Taylor Landlord that wqas in much better nick. They weren’t happy with me, and their gloom was deepened further by

Pub 3. The Rose and Crown, Ecclestone

A twenty minute trot down the road in gathering gloom brought us to this benighted establishment, which broke a cardinal rule by having its Christmas decorations up already. It broke a second cardinal rule by having Simply Red playing. So it came as a bit of a surprise to get a pretty good pint of beer. Hook Norton’s Old Hooky, which had a bit of heft to it, necessary as the night drew in.

Pub 4. The Robin Hood, again

By now we were disastrously behind schedule, and by the time we’d negotiated a footpath which disappeared completely, what with farmers having little regard for Ordinance Survey and navigated our way through a large cattle shed which inexplicably cropped up in our path it was dark. There then followed a hair-raising half an hour down the road, heading with grim determination for the Robin Hood and safety. We discovered that drivers, whilst happily dipping their headlights for other cars, are less inclined to do so for pedestrians. So it was that blinded, and shaking in fear, we collapsed into the Robin Hood for another restorative Lagavulin (at two quid for a fat 35ml measure it would have been financially imprudent not to do so) and another pint from their jaw-droppingly extensive range. Jennings Cumberland Ale. I’m pretty sure that it was lovely, it certainly looked the part, a wonderfully rich chestnut colour, however my palate was somewhat ravaged by the whisky so any review would not necessarily be reliable. We looked in horror at the damge our mud-caked feet had done to the stools and scarpered to…

Pub 5. The Black Bull, Mawdesley

A vast, old building which really looked the part, decent selection of beer, including (to my delight) Deuchar’s IPA. Now I am an unabashed fan of this beer, not least because clocking in at 3.8% it is a significantly more forgiving brew than many others. I love the Pale Ale style anyway, and down it slipped as we shouted abuse at Chris Tarrant’s ravaged feautures on the quiz machine. A pound was won, and duly cheered we moved on to

Pub 6. The Red Lion, Mawdesley

Now, the pub itself is perfectly pleasant, but beer-wise this was less of a winner with only a standard pub selection on display. So we had to settle for Guinness, which was okay because I was starting to feel distinctly peckish, and it would do until more solid fare could be procured. We were starting to feel the pace a little by this point, legs aching and heads distinctly sketchy. The only noteworthy thing I can recall about the pub is that, mystifyingly, sweet sherry was the only drink on a speed pourer. We gave this due consideration, before concluding that we were too hungry to think straight, so it was handy that the next (and final) stop was

Pub 7. The Eagle and Child, Bispham Green

Now I’ve banged on at length about how great this place is before, so I shan’t do so again. Suffice it to say that the Eagle was the Eagle. Three huge and hearty meals (your correspondent indulged in poy-roasted beef, which was sublimely tender, his companions had a steak, and a slightly overdone pheasant casserole, respectively) were accomapnied by three different beers (we’d reached the squabbling stage by this point, having stuck largely to the same stuff all day, in the interests of fairness) . I had Daleside session blonde, which was a lovely, light and fresh tasting beer. Perhaps a bit too summery for a cold Lancastrian evening, but very nice nonetheless. A bottle of french red about which I can recall absolutely nothing helped wash the food down, and after some monstrously sized deserts (two sticky toffee puddings for my companions, a wonderful dense plum and almond tart for me) a quick tour of the extensive whisky range followed (Ardbeg for me, no idea what the others had). Exhaustion was beginning to set in, and the damning evidence of forgetting the end of one’s sentence halfway through it was beginning to rear its ugly head. Lucky for us then that the taxi chose this moment to show up, bearing us home to our respective long-suffering significant others, and the promise of a hangover today. Hic.