The hijacking of the Transpennine Rail Ale Trail.
I completed the Transpennine Rail Ale Trail on Saturday in the company of the lads from the brewery, on our Christmas do! It was a good day but a Saturday wasn’t the best day for us to lose our Rail Ale Ears, as our trip was blighted by the sheer number on this ale excursion.
The Station bars were all excellent, the pubs and plastic glasses not so and the ale quality varied, (that is when we finally got served). Perhaps I’m just getting old but it really isn’t that much fun, standing, sardined in a train carriage, the air thick with farts and booze, with fat, half-dressed mutton and boorish women drinking Koppaberg and such like & can drinking tribal men been there usual stupid fucking selves.
The Trail was originally designed so Real Ale drinkers could sample some of the area’s best brews without having to drive. However thanks to the first episode of the 2009 BBC TV series, Oz and James Drink to Britain, in which, Oz Clarke and James May followed the Ale Trail, the route has since exploded in popularity and been hijacked, mainly at weekends, by binge non-ale drinking tribes and hen, stag, office and birthday parties, who are now spoiling the experience for the majority of decent Real Ale enthusiasts.
At 5.45p.m on a mid-Winter Saturday night, on Marsden’s west bound platform, three years ago, you would have been lucky to see one man and his dog alight from the Manchester bound train. On Saturday, at this time, say 100 people, mostly men, but with a good cohort of women, spilt out onto the short, narrow platform and boisterously and nosily swayed down the slope and hill to Marsden’s pubs. For they’re on the Ale Trail, a rail tour of trackside bars and pubs from Stalybridge to Batley or in reverse and determined to have a drink laden good time.
The trail has clearly brought a welcome boost to what were primarily village pubs in Mirfield, Marsden, Slaithwaite and Greenfield but at what price. I read local residents are now regularly complaining about the noise, litter and drinkers urinating in public view and last year meetings between agencies, including police, rail operators and Kirklees Council, were called to tackle the increasing problem. Now British Transport Police are tasked every weekend with riding the Ale Trail and there was also on Saturday a noticeable Police presence at Huddersfield Station. That is what it has come to.
Whilst I can understand the appeal to people from the surrounding areas, the fact that stag and hen parties from Southern England now make the journey up north just for this train ride, is frankly incredible. Though the bars and pubs on the line are good they’re not so special they deserve that much effort to see them. Simply it must be the lemming approach as I’m sure many local stopping services across the country could provide a simple beer trail. And if one is happy to drink anything, like many of those now on the Trans Pennine Rail Ale Trail then it most definitely can be done from most local trains.
I’d do the Ale Trail again for sure but only on a weekday to hopefully get served in proper glasses and with no crowds.