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There can be no doubt that the number of pubs trading in the UK has reduced over the last 25 years, coming down from 66,000 in 1986 to 52,000 in 2010. **We have all seen the physical evidence on the high streets and our local roads with an increased number of closed and barely trading pubs. However, on the positive side, my opinion is that this situation has stabilized generally and improved in some areas since the last figures were released by the British Beer and Pub Association just from the visual evidence when travelling around day to day.
I pick on 1986 for a reason. Last week I was up in the Yorkshire Dales, waiting in Settle for a friend to turn up for our annual father-daughter summer camping trip. *Killing time I popped into a second hand book shop and picked up a few old walking books and maps, including a guidebook to walks around Todmorden written in 1986. *Looking at it from a beer point of view, it has a list of 22 lunch stop pubs at the back of the book, all from the town itself and surrounding valley and hilltop villages.
For readers unfamiliar with Todmorden, it is a town on a conjunction of 3 valleys, with steep hills surrounding all it from all sides. *Very close to the Yorkshire / Lancashire border, it has belonged to both counties over the years. *This has given the town the rare combination of having an Oldham postal code, a Rochdale dialling code, but being under the control of Calderdale Council. *The town was run down for a very long time, but now has really regenerated itself and somewhere I can recommend as a base for a day out.
According to the pure statistics, out of those 22 pubs in the book from 1986, we should have lost 21% of those on the list meaning just under 5 should have closed in the intervening 26 years. **Looking at the hilltop establishments first, the two Heptonstall pubs have survived, as have the New Delight at Jack Bridge and the Packhorse, high on the tops at Widdop. *The White House situated on the Rochdale road is still going strong. *The Sportsman at Kebcote on the Long Causeway is still serving beer from its isolated location. **The Shoulder of Mutton at Blackshaw Head is now private residence however.
The Brink Inn at Lumbutts and the nearby Shepherds Rest both trade still, and just down the valley, sitting on the canal, the Stubbing Wharf near Hebden Bridge does strong business. The other pub mentioned in Hebden Bridge, the White Swan is trading, but has been affected by recent flooding. In the town of Todmorden itself, the Golden Lion remains open as does the Queen Hotel with the Black Swan re-opening recently as the Polished Knob. *The White Hart pub is now part of the Wetherspoon chain sitting on the station approach.
As you head towards Burnley the Staff of Life in Cornholme and Ram Inn at Holmes Chapel are still doing well, but the Valley Lodge at Portsmouth seems to have been lost, even to Google. *However the two pubs as you head towards Littleborough from the town, Walsdens’ Wagon and Horses and Warlands’ Bird in th’ Hand both still trade. *The Bay at Cross Stone above the town has now gone as has the Dog and Partridge at Sourhall after several name changes.
Looking at these numbers, we have lost 4 pubs, pretty much as the statistics predicted. **The main victims have been those who are located slightly outside practical walking range from the town, but away from the more popular walking routes in the area. *People won’t always be walking when visiting these pubs, but will first discover them via a walk nearby or a friend who has done the same recommending the place, ensuring return visits. *Word of mouth is a key driver of trade for those pubs which need to be driven to or planned into a day out.
When looking at the area, you have a pretty normal mix of population and incomes. Looking off the list, a couple of pubs have been lost, but replaced by as many new establishments, the best in my opinion being Bramsche (on the Littleborough road) for their selection of world beers and interesting rotation of draught offerings, as well as being fantastic for families.
Its neighbouring town the more affluent tourist trap of Hebden Bridge in isolation has probably only faired as well. *The wealth of the area doesn’t have a major affect on how many pubs you gain / lose, high wealth area pubs cost more to run, so the level of sales to be viable versus disposable income in the area ratio is roughly the same, the leveller in the pub game.
Rich or poor, enjoy what you pour until next week.