A.J. Walker


Bishop's Castle 2021

Bishop's Castle '21

What a busy week. Started of doing stuff down at me dad’s old house. Then there was the semifinal game on Wednesday, which I watched in the Head of Steam in Liverpool with Ste and Toe. This was followed on Thursday by an epic - and much looked forward to - day at
Top Rope Brewery watching the brilliant Frank Turner gig with my Twitter/Flash Dog buddy, Sal (will report that in a separate blog piece). And to almost top it off it was the annual pilgrimage to Bishop’s Castle on the weekend that would normally be the home of the annual Real Ale Trail. The camping in Foxholes campsite at BC on Friday and Saturday night was then to be followed by a return to Liverpool - and back out to the Head of Steam - to watch the Euro Final with many of the usual crew: yes, we did get six who managed to make it on the same day at the same time. Miracles do happen even after a tiring few days.

Didn’t leave Liverpool on Friday until almost one and the roads turned out to be a bit of a nightmare with roadworks aplenty - and several accidents as far as I could tell (four ambulances passed me at one point). But I got to BC before 3:30pm, so not too bad in the grand scheme of things I guess - about twenty five minutes longer than it should be.

Bishop's Castle being Bishop's Castle and the last of Steve's pants

All me buddies were already there, either with their tents up or working on them. I ended up doing a pretty rare thing: I sat down with some of them and had a beer BEFORE putting my tent up. A most unusual occasion. It was perfect start with it being dry but the ground softish. I didn’t even require my mallet (which this time I remembered to bring with me). The tent went up pretty quickly and once Carl had turned up on his motorbike (his tent already kindly erected for him) then everyone was there.

We listened to some tunes and headed down to BC in piecemeal fashion. We weren’t sure what the situation would be in the village. There was obviously not going to be the festival due to the restrictions and the inherent doubts about things coming up to this month. Last year as we came out of one of the lockdowns only two pubs were open on the same weekend: The Three Tuns and The Castle, and both were trying to get to grips with what the H&S rules were at the time.

This year all the pubs were open. Of course it was still constrained by the current Covid-19 rules. There’s still the scanning in or writing out your contact details at each pub, the six per table rule and the table service. There was no festival. Some pubs had three or four beers to choose from - as opposed to the usual festival of choice. One pub just had the one beer on. And of course there was no music. On Friday we managed a pint or two in each of the
Three Tuns, The Vaults and The Six Bells.

There were twelve of us there on the Friday and eleven by the Saturday - due to one of the lads having a ticket for the Men’s Final at Wimbledon. Not sure whether that’s lucky or unlucky; depends how much of a tennis fan you are I suppose. With the six person rule we couldn’t all sit together which meant the get together in the pubs was not quite the same; and the possibility of flitting between groups was limited. But at least we had more options than last year AND it remained dry during the hours we were out. There was some rain over the two days but it thankfully relented to just appear while we were in our tents in the early hours.

A lot fewer photos were taken than in the usual years as the socialising was more constrained. And we got together more back at the campsite than in the village. We had tunes playing each evening and got some scran down - including an epic chilli provided by the hostess with the mostest (that’d be Jeanette). It had to be calm in terms of spice as Steve doesn’t do hot chilli. But it was tasty nonetheless - and needed. I managed to snaffle a second portion a day later. Yes, two of us had the cast iron stomachs to deal with three day old chilli without refrigeration.

Some of the guys were a little lost without the usual pilgrimage to the chip shop at the top of the village. The owners were apparently away for a week or so for a wedding apparently. So the usual fish or sausage & chips was swapped for a Chinese - not far away down the road. I never made it to the Chinese and can’t say how good it was, but there didn’t appear to be any complaints.

Cool day in Bishop's Castle

The morning butties were provided by the
Hungry Fox within the campsite. The bacon & egg butties are a lovely start to the day.

The drinking as far as I could tell - and certainly from my perspective - was a lot less extensive than usual. You are not drinking with the same kind of group or whilst watching bands, and you are waiting for everyone on the table to be ready before putting in an order. The result was a pretty sedate affair compared to some years (especially in The Vaults).

It wasn’t as dynamic by necessity in the village. Around the fire pit and stereo at the end of the day there was some more relaxed fun and a little wobbliness from certain people - and even the apparently now annual
Burning of The Shorts: last year it was Tony, this year it was Steve's turn. Despite some unsteadiness and an incident with Dexter the Dog's sharp incisors there was nothing that quite necessitated A&E, which is always a bonus. There were some surprising moves on to shorts in the form of whisky (Haig Club and Glenlivet) no names, no pack drill: don’t worry Jeanette I wont tell anyone about you two timing gin with a night on the whisky. And separately a bottle of rum also seemed to evaporate on Saturday night - despite no one admitting drinking it.

At the end - The BC21 Team

Sunday was dry again when we got up. There was a quiet, orderly start to the day: just a butty and tents down then an early dart to get back home to catch the football. Before that Jeanette suggested we had a team photo. It was a good call. We normally have one at the start of the weekend down in the
Castle or the Three Tuns but that was impractical this year. So this year’s team photo was a more raggedy affair as an early morning “After” as supposed to a lunchtime “Before”. But it is good to have the photos to look back on. For the years ahead when we can’t remember who was there and who wasn’t as much as anything else.

Everyone got back in one piece. And six of us got back into Liverpool and the
Head of Steam in plenty of time for the football. We had a good evening there. We shared a couple of pizzas just before the match. Maybe we should have picked something a little less Italian. Sorry.

In summary, it was a busy week topped off by the as usual excellent
Annual Bishop’s Castle Bash. It was a lovely and most welcome affair. Roll on next year. Hopefully by then we may even be able to go into a pub and buy a pint at the bar. How mad would that be!?
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