It could be that middle age has turned me into a nicer, less critical person, or it could be just plain dumb luck, but I seem to have found a lot to praise in the pubs I've reviewed lately.
It was so good to come into the Tradesmans Arms after a harrowing drive up through the storm (again!)
It’s just as well we had a member of the clergy with us as our small Fiat Panda was buffeted and lashed in the driving wind and rain and we were at the mercy of the heavens and the vagaries of Google Maps!
Anyway, during the daylight hours, Scorriton is a timelessly pretty village with rolling green hills and gloriously hedged and shady lanes.
However, this being our only time off this week, the wife and I decided to scoop up the vicar and head east on the A38 in search of more good beer and soon found ourselves bowling along in the stormy and inky darkness down those same winding hedge lined country roads.
Situated on the eastern edge of Dartmoor National Park and close to Buckfastleigh, famous for its Abbey and resident Benedictine Monks, The Tradesmans Arms is slap bang in the middle of a rustic Nowheresville.
It is an old village pub that dates back 200 years. It appeared, a little nondescript at first glance, but it had a nice white and grey paint job at the front.
The clue to the pub’s origin is in the name – it was a gathering place for tradesmen of all kinds in the early 1800s and evidence of this is displayed on the walls.
The décor is clean and bright and has been completely upgraded by the current owners, with almost no stone left unturned.
Although traditional, the pub has a modern styling and a warm atmosphere. It was surprisingly busy, bearing in mind the weather and the day of the week when we visited, and we enjoyed a very friendly welcome from the locals.
Unfortunately, modern fire regulations have resulted in the old oak beams being removed and replaced with RSJ’s which seems like a brutal act of bureaucratic vandalism to my eyes, but ‘them’s the rules’ I guess.
The pub was refurbished and re-opened in January 2009 after being closed for 14 months and is now in the hands of owners and hosts, Kevin and Suzanne.
The Tradesmans Arms is an unashamed traditional village inn and is featured in the CAMRA Good Beer Guide and business has consistently grown during its current ownership.
We sat in the main bar but beside us was the front entrance and a snug dining area, which is the oldest part of the building. Further to the other side of the bar is a conservatory dining area and the car park side entrance, which we had come in by, seeking shelter from the storm.
I enjoyed a gorgeous pint of Dartmoor Jail Ale. A full bodied 4.8%, golden burnished brown and full of hops and caramel; a toffee tasting temptation.
The vicar could not be tempted, however and chose Guinness. Both drinks were so enjoyable, we stayed in the warmth and enjoyed another of the same before allowing our chauffer to drag us away.
The locals told us that there were also 4 en-suite letting rooms, which after tasting the beer, we considered employing, but having to go to work the next day ended our fond imaginings.
The locals also told us that outside was an enclosed gravel beer garden with bench seating with far reaching views over the stunning Little Combe Valley.
It transpired that The Tradesmans Arms is directly on the path of the Two Moors Way – and dogs are welcome too - so if you are planning to walk the whole trail, you will be delighted to learn that the Tradesmans Arms is ideally located at the end of the Ivybridge to Scorriton stretch!
You may also be delighted to learn that there is a weekly quiz night every Thursday night, starting at 9pm @ £1 per person entry fee and monies raised are donated to one of the pubs nominated charities.
There are also occasional live music nights.
So, for those who despise wall to wall sports screens and the laddish spirit of today’s cavernous pubs, pencil in The Tradesman’s Arms as a place to visit.
The beer is good and only the gentle chomp of good, traditional pub food is a distraction from good company and conversation.
That, I can live with.
Flat screens blaring MTV and the blare of one armed bandits, I cannot.
All Hail the Ale!
Rick began life in the licensed trade as a manager and took his first tenancy at the Queens Hotel in Baildon, West Yorkshire in 1985. He fell in love with the Autovac dispense system of Yorkshire beer serving a tight creamy head and vowed to recreate it in Plymouth one day. He served as a staff trainer for Tetley Brewery in the days when they still had one!
After the birth of his daughter it became his mission to raise her in Plymouth and on a trip to watch his beloved Plymouth Argyle play in the FA Cup against Everton, he saw a pub that had been closed due to fire called The Grapes. By 1989 he had signed a 10 year tenancy deal and completely refurbished the pub creating a Yorkshire theme and changed its name to the Three Ferrets, which was the name of the pub in the John Smiths TV advertising campaign. John Smiths cask ale was imported from Tadcaster especially for him and trade boomed. The pub became a destination and was packed solid at weekends. Inspired by ‘The Good Old Days’ TV show, a Sunday Night Show called ‘The Old Fat Hippy’s Golden Oldies Funshow’ became notorious and earned the pub a mention on the national news due to a ‘Clocking On’ machine for regulars.
Julian Tarrant-Boyce was his most able and trusted bar manager and the two shared many trips to beer festivals and hostelries on their quest for the perfect pint. Rick still enjoys trips to breweries up and down the country and is dismayed by the difficulties now facing the licensed trade. Several awards later he became a representative for a wine company and a fan of single malt whisky.
There is nothing that Rick enjoys more than a trip to a well-run pub that serves good local ale. Because of his knowledge of the brewing process and vast range of beers, both local and national, it makes Rick a perfect beer blogger for our ale trail. And by the way, he still performs music and comedy in pubs throughout the South West