There's been far too much football on here of late so let's get back in the pub. And the main story of the week concerns an audacious project down the other end of the Colne Valley.
Four months after being taken over by Ossett, the Riverhead Brewery Tap at Marsden has had it's makeover completed. And what a transformation! It would be difficult to describe how it used to look to a newcomer and even for someone as familiar with the old pub as me it was like walking into the place for the very first time.
The most obvious change is the serving area which has been shifted to the other side of the open-plan interior, creating a much lighter environment, resembling that of a continental cafe style bar somewhat - yes, right in the middle of Marsden!
The raised areas at either end of the pub, originally the 'comfortable' places to sit (though rarely available), have vanished giving the perception of a more spacious drinking area, which in turn probably means less chance of tripping over someone's dog/bicycle/sheep on your way back from the bar.
The decor is a departure from the usual Ossett Brewery style of corporate terracotta and avacado, with predominantly cream walls adding to the pubs bright and fresh feel. The usual beer prints have made room for some nice landscape photographs of the surrounding countryside whilst dark-stained furnishings create a very rustic feel that was lacking before.
The number of handpumps serving cask ale has risen to ten with, naturally enough, Ossett and Riverhead having the lion's share. Taylors Landlord is permanent as is a rotating mild/stout/porter leaving room for a couple of guests. The quality of the Riverhead range has improved dramatically since the new owners took over and my pint of Butterley Bitter was outstanding.
A staircase leads up to a new eating area - a restaurant if you will - where food can be purchased and consumed even! Although not quite up and running yet, this will undoubtedly be a very popular move. In fact it's all rather civilised, and yet ... it's Marsden!! If this is sounding a little too fanciful by the way, then you're going to need to see this one in the flesh. These photos give you an idea, but this place is much more of an atmospheric experience than recent Ossett offerings and as such can't really be judged vicariously.
I'm not quite sure that it's my kind of pub, but then I'm here on a sunny Sunday lunchtime and it's packed with ramblers, cyclists and various types enjoying a day out. I just have this sneaking feeling though, that in the evening when the tourists are gone and the lanterns come on this place will transform back into the much - loved 'local' it's always been. If I'm right, then a very clever and unique establishment has been created here; if I'm wrong then Marsden may have lost it's best boozer. There's only one way to find out of course!
Part Two: Night Train to Marsden (Life in a northern hill town after the sheep are asleep) - Coming Soon!