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The Culture


DAVE HADFIELD goes walkabout in Rochdale where he finds a Leeds Rhinos fan

The Blue Pits, Rochdale

There are times when I think I’m getting a bit old for this lark. Such a moment of self-doubt came as I climbed the second barbed wire fence separating me from Rochdale Mayfield.

It can be hard now to find a local game on a winter Saturday, but Mayfield versus Blackbrook filled the bill. The trouble was that the route I’d previously taken is now a building site, securely blocked off. You can see the pitch in the distance, but not get at it.

Along with another old dodderer with the same dilemma, we worked out that it should be possible to divert over some farmer’s fields and get there that way.

With considerable mutual assistance, we made it. It must have looked like a slowmotion version of that Christmas favourite, The Great Escape.

I’d like to say that the rugby was worth it, but in truth it wasn’t, although Mayfield did have the obligatory Fijian at loose forward and he had his moments.

What I can recommend is the Mayfield clubhouse, a welcoming space with a bustling bar. Beers are from the oftenunderrated John Willie Lees’ brewery in nearby Middleton Junction and included a very acceptable pint of hand-pulled bitter.

Lees also brew a beer called Coronation Street, under licence from Granada, although the beer they drink on TV, I found

Kings of Castleton: The Blue Pits is serviced by the underrated John Willie Lees’ brewery Marc Taylor

Crate Middleton

“An old sponsored anorak was enough to get me drawn into a discussion with the barman...”

out on a studio tour many years ago, is actually cold tea. Deciding against any more fence-climbing, I took the conventional route back to the main RochdaleManchester road and the Blue Pits.

Strictly speaking, you are not in Rochdale here, but in the village of Castleton, not to be confused with the village of the same name in Derbyshire, home to the recently established rugby league team, the Hope Valley Hawks.

Apparently, the Rochdale Castleton used to be called Blue Pits and, when the village changed its name, the pub didn’t. As to why it was called Blue Pits in the first place, the record is silent. By an astonishing co-incidence, however, the other Castleton is home to the Blue John Mine and its distinctive mineral deposits. Hmmm...

I wouldn’t call the Blue Pits a rugby league pub, but it is rugby league-friendly. An old sponsored anorak was enough to get me drawn into discussion with the barman about the Leeds Rhinos, the team which, despite living on the right side of the Pennines, he supports avidly. He used to play at Academy level for the Hornets, but busted his knee and hasn’t bothered with them since. Instead, he goes to Headingley and pulls pints of John Willie Lees.

Just down the road is a pub with an intriguing name. The Midland Beer Company sounds as if it should a) be in the Midlands and b) brew its own ale. It fulfils neither of those criteria, but it does have a fair choice, including Joseph Holt’s at typical knock down prices.

I don’t think the barmaid had ever played for Hornets, or even Mayfield, although several customers looked as though they might have done.

All in all, it was a long way from the worst afternoon I’ve had at the footy, although the torn trousers took a bit of explaining.

League friendly: The Blue Pits barman is a fan of Leeds Rhinos and an ex-Hornets academy player

NO T T O B E C O N F U S E D W I T H …

The Blue Posts, Soho The Blue Pig, Fagley The Blue Angel, Marlene Dietrich

January 2013 Forty-20 45

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