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A couple of days ago, I had a free day to myself - fairly rare in my life at present - and the opportunity to trip off and combine my twin pleasures of buses and beer. It was just a question of where to go. As it happened my mind was made up by a dismal weather forecast and I headed north west.

I will ignore the non beery bit of the day, lets face it you don't really want to know about transport in Wigan and Bolton, and from my co writers point of view, there was a dearth of natural history in both towns to interest them. Suffice it to say, at opening time, the weather had drawn in, it was grim,drizzling and there seemed one logical solution, go to the pub !

Since I was on the right side of Manchester, Salford seemed like a good place to go. I had not been there for a while and there are three pubs close enough together to save me getting even wetter. {If you travel from Huddersfield by train, leave the train at Manchester Piccadilly, take the number 3 free bus to Salford.Get off as it reaches Chapel St (the A6). Walk away from Manchester across the traffic lights and the first pub is in the Square on the right hand side of the road}. My first call was the 'New Oxford' in Bexley Square, just adjacent to Salford Magistrates Court. I was greeted there by Tim, the Irish landlord, like an old friend, even though it was a fair while since he had seen me. The pub is a 'must visit' place. Around 14 beers on handpull, plus plenty of foreign keg beers (no English kegs cross the threshold), and even more bottles.

Right then. Where to start. Actually it was a no brainer. Stockport Brewery was a new brewery to me, in fact it was their debut beer on the bar - 'Easy Blonde' at 3.8% was excellent; light, hoppy and full of flavour. Next up was Shin Digger brewery, another new Manchester brewery to me, with their 'Pacific Pale Ale'. A bit stronger at 4.5% but equally as flavoursome. The other pumps on the bar had a selection of interesting beers, including a Ossett, a Rat, and an Empire. Despite these I then opted for a Stroud beer, another fairly rare brewery, with their 'Beltane Dew' - brewed with Cotswold barley, and another pleasant beer. I completed my visit with a couple more local, more common breweries, and vowed to return for their beer festival next month.

Leaving the Oxford, go back to main road, turn left, retrace your steps and pass the bus stop, at the next junction turn left. Across the junction is the Salford Arms, of which more later, but follow the road down to the left and there is the 'Kings Arms'. An old Victorian pub, with plenty of atmosphere, and lots of little rooms here and there. It is owned by Paul Heaton of the Housemartins and Beautiful South fame. And he was in residence on my arrival doing a photoshoot cum interview. Putting aside my starstruckness, I checked on the beer list. A tad disappointing if truth be known, five beers on offer of which two Cottage brewery ones. I chose one of them, 'Dana Pale Ale', a very tame 5%, and one from the local(ish) Star brewery 'Tall Toad' which again seemed to be lacking a little in taste. But if you like music and old pubs then it could be for you, who knows who may be there !

The last pub on the crawl was the Salford Arms, (back towards the main road on the left hand corner). Another revitalised pub, with two distinct rooms, the real ale being on the left hand side. Six beers on offer, and judging by the pump clips on the walls they get some great stuff that turns over very quickly. My attention was drawn to an empty pump, that Ken, the owner was pulling through. He was bemoaning the fact there was no pump clip, and was not intending to sell it until he go one later in the day. A bit of persuading and I managed to sample my third new Manchester brewery of the day. 'Six o'Clock' brewery 'Overtime' was another excellent beer, the only problem being that I had no idea of the strength. There were other beers from far and wide but I chose 'Black Jack' Light Mild to finish off my mini pub crawl.

If you are in the Manchester area and fancy somewhere different, hop on the number 3 and take a look at Salford. I know I will do again before too long.

(sorry about the lack of photos but my camera battery failed after a serious hammering early in the day !)