We have a new second-hand camper van! It has a fixed bed and table and other luxuries which wild campers and one night stayers relish.
We have also taken out a years' membership of English Heritage which gives us free access to hundreds of ancient building across the country.
Recently we combined the two by taking the camper van on its first outing and visiting a number of castles, stately homes and such to the north of us. The sites we visited were great, the state of the pubs we passed was dire.
Let's take Bolsover. We didn't like it at first so went searching for other places to stay. We tried two nearby villages. Both were run down, both had boarded up pubs and clubs. It was depressing and a little scary. Sufficiently so to send us zooming back to Bolsover which then looked quite attractive!
We found a free car park which was quiet and had a space big enough for the van and then set off in search of beer, food, and good company. The pub near the car park was OK...just OK. Beer was cheap and local and decent. The place was a bit corporate, quite large and largely deserted. We had a drink and went out to explore the town, soon coming to a nicer looking pub. It was closed! Not permanently I think, just closed because there was no one about on a Tuesday night. We walked to another place standing next to the castle. It was closed, in fact it had not yet opened. It was a Wetherspoon place due, we later learned, to open in a week or so. It was called the Pillar of Rock.
We walked further up the hill and found another pub which was open, but should not have been. It smelled inside and the garden was an untamed jungle of rotting picnic benches surrounded by litter. No one spoke to us and the beer was well past its best, as was the pub.
We shared a nasty bag of fish and chips whilst gloomily watching other people popping into the various take-aways. Then we found a smashing looking pub on the main street, but on closer examination it was closed and up for sale. Then another nearby: closed. We returned to the first pub and sat in its yard where we watched the cavortings of a dog with an enormous head and worried about the pub scene.
I know the stats. I know that many pubs are closing each week. I know of many pubs that have closed. But I have never seen, or imagined, anything like this. Not on this scale. This is indeed the end of an era. To quote Hillaire Belloc once more (after carefully typing his name), ".... when you have lost your Inns drown your empty selves, for you will have lost the last of England". Don't worry too much though, Belloc had not heard of Wetherspoon and was not a member of English Heritage!