Are pubs in our National Parks missing out?

It’s difficult selling beer in a pub in the UK’s National Parks – a lack of residents, a reliance on seasonal tourists and the issues of drink driving for day visitors, particularly in Scotland, make it a tough job with limited rewards.

Of my top ‘local’ pubs for beer quality, two have changed hands in 2019 and one is up for sale. Many landlords are now in their 60s and beyond. The tough life of a rural publican means that many are calling time on their pub career and others are restricting their opening hours. Will we miss them when they’re gone? We’re already missing them.

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In addition, I wonder if these pubs face an inherent bias that means they struggle to gain their due recognition? I have no doubt that CAMRA branch volunteers and beer & pub guide compilers don’t seek to discriminate against remote pubs. However, these pubs are difficult to get to (particularly by public transport) compared to the average urban local and there are few people to provide feedback even in these days of internet tools.  The somewhat historic survey dates on WhatPub illustrate the issues, even for some current GBG pubs.

With regard to being recognised in the GBG, the pubs in the National Parks have the issue of remoteness together with a struggle to sell enough real ale to have a wide choice. The oft-reported perception that you really need to have at least three real ales or more to get in the GBG may or may not be true.  It’s certainly true that new landlords feel the pressure to ring the changes and increase the choice whatever their volumes. Pleasing beer tickers and setting up micropubs isn’t possible in my patch, without risking beer quality.

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In addition (certainly in my area of the Peak District) the pubs in the National Parks are allocated across a multitude of CAMRA branches/sub-branches, often meaning that they are on the fringe of areas dominated by a large town or city with masses of beer choices. In my relatively small patch (in terms of pub numbers) of the White Peak we’re split between Chesterfield, Ashbourne, Matlock, Sheffield, High Peak and Staffordshire Moorlands branches. The split must make it difficult to achieve consistency in selecting the best pubs in the area never mind the remoteness.

With the best will in the world it’s unlikely that these pubs in the ‘difficult to get to’ fringes will be in the forefront of CAMRA volunteers’ minds. I realise that many branches have a rural award category but in many ways that feels like ‘the exception that proves the rule’. Does creating a rural category acknowledge a problem of recognition? I think so.

In financial terms, life can be very difficult for a pub in the National Parks. It becomes even more difficult if you struggle for recognition. Perhaps it’s time for our National Park authorities to get together with CAMRA and recognise the special qualities of these pub gems before they disappear? A National Parks’ pub of the year anyone?

 

 

 

 

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6 Comments

  1. From the CAMRA point of view, it makes sense to attach National Park areas to neighbouring urban centres, as these will generate a lot of their pub visits, and the parks form their natural hinterland. Plus the transport links radiate out from the big towns. A standalone National Park branch would be unlikely to be viable.

    Branches do need to take the issue of providing coverage for their outlying areas more seriously, though.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yes, I understand the logic of branch area planning and I wasn’t suggesting that there should be a National Park branch area.

      As you say it’s important for branches to give attention to their outlying areas. I doubt that’s very effective at the moment. And of course to recognise that quality doesn’t just come from a large number of pumps. Some tidying up of branch areas wouldn’t go amiss either.

      On a positive note I think there’s an opportunity for CAMRA and the National Parks to give some recognition for these pubs.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. On the other hand, you do get CAMRA publications like Peak District Walks. Quite a few of those places (e.g. near Ashover) were excellent but dropped out of the Beer Guide when beer exhibition pubs and micros started emerging in Chesterfield.

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  3. Ian, I know you have visited the Wharfedale Brewery and met Stewart Ross. We have our own way of getting people into some of the pubs in the Yorkshire Dales National Park. We call it the Alesway. Basically visit all 17 pubs on the Alesway route (most are in the Dales NP) over a year. Buy a pint of out beer in each one and collect a stamp. When you have all 17 the collect your free pint of beer, free Alesway T Shirt and get your name on the wall of fame.

    http://www.thealesway.com/pubs

    The pubs are all in Wharfedale and roughly correspond with the routs of the Dalesway. Its 39 miles from Hubberhome to Ilkley and yes we had someone run it and have a drink in every pub in a single day.

    Liked by 1 person

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