Peter Edwardson both wrote the Stagger and drew the map. Peter is still around as an active CAMRA member and he also blogs profusely. This Stagger actually took place in April 1986 and was the usual mixed bag. Here we go...
The April destination for our regular monthly crawl was the Stockport suburb of Offerton. This is one of the less well-known parts of the Branch area, few of us having visited any of the pubs before. However we found an interesting variety of beer and pubs, and discovered that Offerton drinkers are lucky in that there was not one keg pub among the six we visited.
We assembled at the traditional starting point for these trips, the Manchester Arms in Stockport. This is a pub charitably described as unpretentious and lively, but as usual the handpumped Robinsons Best Mild and Best Bitter were on excellent form. Old Tom was also available on gravity.
On finally arriving in Offerton, one member of the party was so disorientated by the epic 1½ mile journey that he was heard to wonder "Now where has Stockport gone - is it over there?". To be fair, he had come all the way from Edgeley. The thunderclouds which had been rolling around earlier had now disappeared, leaving a clear and mild Spring evening, perfect weather for a crawl involving some longish walks between pubs.
First call in Offerton was the White House, a Wilsons pub that has recently been refurbished to create a pleasant and comfortable interior. Ronnie & Nancy were out but we did find two handpumped beers, the mild being rated good, while the bitter was average.
The next two pubs provided an interesting contrast between the approaches of two particular national and independent brewers. The Strawberry Gardens is owned by Pennine Hosts, who have done some pretty appalling things to pubs, including Drakes further along Marple Road, which we would have visited had the minibus been available. Here, though, the refurbishment is most acceptable. The pub has an attractive cottage-style frontage, and a darts room and panelled snug have been retained at the front, with a more modern lounge extension to the rear. Some criticism was made of the pastel upholstery and plastic plants, but most of our attention was taken up by an electronic trivia machine. The handpumped Wilsons Mild and Bitter were both of above average quality.
The Victoria almost opposite was a pleasant change, still busy but enough room to sit down. It's a two-bar Greenalls' pub with mild and bitter on electric meter pumps. Greenalls' beers are sometimes dismissed as bland, but the Victoria showed that, when looked after, both beers can be a good pint. Another plus point was that Worthington White Shield was available.
As always, the opinions on pubs and beer expressed are those of individual CAMRA members on the night, and are not intended to represent an official CAMRA view.
What happened next
In the immediate aftermath, ructions of a sort. But we'll come to that later. Happily, most of these pubs have survived, too, although there have inevitably been some casualties. And it's confession time - I was the disorientated member of the party. Despite having lived in Stockport for the best part of 10 years by that time, I'd never really been to Offerton at all.
The Manchester Arms was a famous local pub - the haunt of bikers, postmen and others, the jukebox was famous. Unfortunately, Robinsons decided to spend a lot of money and turn it into Cobdens, a sort of "all day venue" which became a nightclub in the evenings. It had a troubled history - if you Google 'Cobdens' and 'Stockport' some of the first things that come up are reports of stabbings. Finally, in January 2013, Robinsons 'mothballed' it and it remains mothballed to this day. I am told they do see a future for the place but a significant investment to 'decobdenise' it will be required.
The first pub in Offerton, the White House, closed in 2008, It's still standing (complete with former sign) but is now a rather yellow children's nursery school - more perhaps the 'yellow school' than 'white house' these days.
The Fingerpost survives largely unchanged from the Stagger. There has been a slight amount of opening out but apart from that it's still a very characterful pub - with a good line in food, too. Those excellent etched windows have also survived.
Today the Strawberry Gardens, which has had subsequent refurbishments, is owned by Star Pubs & Bars (Heineken to its friends) and no longer serves cask beer.
The Gardeners Arms is also now part of the Greene King stable. It remains a good local community pub with food every day and a range of cask beers. It's probably one of the better pubs in the area these days.
Now we come to the Emigration. This pub has now been visited by various Staggers over the years and it's not always been a happy experience for the Staggerers. This was the first visit and the mixed, but not entirely negative, review went down very badly with the licensee, a Mr Ball. A letter of complaint appeared in the August issue and he then took the matter to the Stockport Licensed Victuallers Association. He managed to persuade them to 'ban CAMRA', or, as the the trade paper The Morning Advertiser put it ' Stockport LVA kick out CAMRA'.
I don't think the public reaction was quite what the LVA expected and, following a backlash, there was a certain amount of backtracking. As editor Humphrey Higgins reported in the November issue: "...to date no pub has refused to take "Opening Times" as a result of this furore - indeed the reverse is true and our outlets are increasing."
The Emigration is still open, and has Robinsons Unicorn on handpump.
Also still open is the Victoria. This has always been a good boozer and that's still the case. Now owned by some anonymous pub company, it's a while since I've been in. The online pub guide, WhatPub, tells me that no real ale is sold, but I'm not sure that's correct. It certainly won't sell Greenalls cask beers as they have long since passed into memory.
Every town of any size had its local LVA, which was basically a trade association for pub tenants. They were the official 'voice of the trade' in their areas and at one time exercised quite a bit of influence. They seem to have faded away with no-one noticing.