• Alex @ HPT

Churnet Valley Rail Ale Trail

Last weekend, the HPT team were given the wonderful chance to attend the Churnet Valley Rail Ale Trail. With thanks to Signal 2’s great “Rail or Ale” competition, we secured four tickets and to make things even better, the first round of drinks were on the house! Upon arrival at Kingsley & Froghall, there was a small wait due to the tradition of the ticket office only opening 30 minutes before departure, giving us plenty of time to choose our first beer of the day. After much deliberation, it was time to collect our train tickets with a pint of Salopian Brewery’s Oracle to hand.

This crisp, sunflower gold ale was the perfect choice on such a warm and bright day, and so we enjoyed each refreshing sip whilst admiring the sound of the steam train pulling into the station. Once aboard, it was pleasing to see that the staff were more than happy to help passengers to find a seat and answer any questions about the intriguing history of steam trains and Churnet Valley Railway. To make the most of this journey through time, we opted to arrive to the next station in style by sitting in the first class department (the seats are much comfier than the ones you find on today’s trains!) where we had a classical booth with sliding doors to hide ourselves away from the hustle and bustle of tipsy travellers.

Refreshments were also available on board and as it was set to be a peaceful 10 minute journey to Cheddleton station, one of our team chose to sample a cider from the array on offer, and we can confirm that the sweet Explorer by Orchard Pig certainly hit the spot! A warm and friendly train conductor soon joined our carriage to check the tickets and point us to the nearest pub, which happened to be the Boat Inn. All that beer sampling suddenly made us peckish, so we couldn’t resist settling down in the beer garden with some classic pub grub… after all, it wouldn’t be a Sunday without a roast and a solid pint of a session IPA.

The pit stop at the Boat Inn left us feeling pumped for the rest of the journey, so we made our way back up to the station to truly take in the history behind Cheddleton before the next departure. The gothic-style Cheddleton station opened in 1849, and it was thankfully saved from demolition in 1974 by councillor Norman Hancock. He had noticed that workmen had moved in on his way to work one morning, and decided to take action by placing his brand new car in the path of a bulldozer! Many individuals were involved in getting Cheddleton classed as a listed building, including the poet Laureate and the late Sir John Betjeman...so thanks to their determination, it still stands here today 169 years later. We’ll cheers to that!

The building here, now a museum, depicts the living quarters of the Station Master and his family. Below you can see what it consisted of, with the entrance to the small kitchen and toilet behind the large display cabinet of memorabilia. The museum was fascinating to wander around, with the artefacts ranging from instructions for air raid precautions, brass paychecks, station name boards, and sentimental photographs to give you a feel of what railway life was truly like.

Next stop was Consall, so we climbed aboard with a pint from one of our all time favourites, Titanic Brewery. This journey was much shorter so it wasn’t long before we were taking a stroll across the canal and over the railway line to The Black Lion. Their beer garden provides a stunning view of Staffordshire’s countryside; it was the perfect location to watch over the array of water activities, admire the beauty of each steam train and wave at the passengers as they rolled by. Despite having already eaten, the aroma coming from the seemingly endless BBQ tempted us. But we stayed strong and chose to try out another beer, this time being the Black Hole from the Peakstones Brewery...this dark ale brewed with a chocolate malt was clearly popular with the pup’s too!



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