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The Mermaid and the Barn Owl.

It was time to visit the Oultaws again. I'd managed to avoid/be excused from the previous trip south as an automated representative of Her Majesty's Government had informed me that my new passport was now on its way to me, in the care of TNT. As we don't have a letter box in the door through which it could be slid, relying instead on a nice lockable, steel post box on the house wall, I was also informed that the courier had to hand said passport to somebody at the address and so Mrs. Bygone Boozer had to visit her folks on her own. Needless to say that when the passport was delivered it was merely dropped into the wall-mounted receptacle without there even being a knock on the door.

With no reason/excuse available this time, not even the one of it being my birthday and that it would be nice to spend it exchanging banter with friends in the Duke of York, it was off down the M5 trying to avoid the wind-induced sidesteps of the wagons or being wiped-out by some careening caravan or other. Just why, on a day when the Severn Crossing has been closed because of high winds, do people feel that they have to take their mobile chicanes out for the first trip of the season?

One benefit of us visiting is that we can take Ma and Pa Outlaw to their dance on days when the weather is bad and they wouldn't have considered going if they'd had to catch the bus. This was one such occasion and having dropped the pair of nonagenarians at Tramways it was time to occupy a couple of hours in Wells.

A short walk from Tramways, along Tucker Street, we passed the closed Mermaid Inn.

Mermaid Tucker Street Wells
The former Mermaid Inn, Tucker Street, Wells.

The Mermaid had been going since at least 1822 when it appeared in Pigot's county directory...

Extract from Pigot's 1822 directory.

...but stopped serving several years ago. In 2010 its appearance hadn't changed much...

...since I posed outside with my bike early in the twentieth century when it was selling Oakhill Brewery's Invalid Stout. At least I could ride then. Now I just feel like a stout invalid although the saga of the subluxated shoulder does seem to be sorting itself.

Mermaid Inn, Wells.

The Mermaid's fate was probably sealed in December 2011 when a planning application was made for a change of use which, along with its associated outbuildings, would give six residential properties. This was approved in July 2012. Progress appears to have been slow though, for although almost a decade has passed it doesn't appear that anyone will be moving in anytime soon.

On we went into the city centre, for a leisurely wander around the cathedral grounds and a coffee, before returning to Tramways to collect the waltz-weary Outlaws and get back to the house for the celebrations.

With it being my birthday I was expecting a surprise party and to be presented with a Colin the Caterpillar cake in a Tupperware box. If Boris could have one in lockdown I'm sure that I could have one too, now that restrictions have gone. It was not to be. I just had to content myself with fish and chips from the shop down the road and a bottle of Barn Owl from Cotleigh Brewery. The beer had been left after a previous visit and had passed its Best Before date sometime last year.

I'd never sampled this brew before. Expecting the 4.5% Premium Ale to be something akin to Marston's Pedigree or Timothy Taylor's Landlord I was somewhat surprised to find a scent of dried fruit and caramel and a sweetish malty taste with a hint of toffee. (I was tempted to write 'a toffeey hint'!) Nothing like the classic Pedigree/Landlord Premium Ale at all. I have to say that I found it very pleasant, even though it wasn't anywhere near as bitter as my usual choices would be. Would I drink it again? Definitely yes. Will buy it again? Probably not, for Cotleigh Brewery – like the Mermaid Inn – is no more, having gone into liquidation in the autumn of 2021.

It would be nice to have another Barn Owl. It would be nice to have a Barn Owl in the Mermaid, but the chances of that occurring, I believe, are slimmer than actually seeing a mermaid emerge between the swans occupying the moat surrounding the Bishop's Palace.

Roger Cornfoot's image is copyright and is reused under this licence.

If you've read this far, then thank you. Possibly, like me, you may have some sort of interest in bygone boozers. Clicking here will take you to a searchable/sortable index which you can use to see if I've already featured any lost locals from your locality. You can also subscribe to ensure that you don't miss any future posts. Simply click here to return to the home page (opens in a new tab), follow the 'Subscribe' link and complete the form to receive an email notification of any future post. Or you could simply follow the link at the top of this page.

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