Pub/Bar of the Month September 2013: Nursery Inn, Heaton Norris
Nursery Inn, Heaton Norris, UK
Plenty of pubs have a sporting bias. Some even have their own idiosyncratic facilities – a boules piste, an Aunt Sally pitch, a surviving skittles alley, perhaps even a cricket field. The Nursery Inn at Heaton Norris trumps all these by offering its own, full-size bowling green, complete with pavilion.
If you don't know about this hidden facet, it comes as quite a surprise when visiting this large but homely community pub, tucked away in the residential streets of southern Manchester.
Just the other side of the M60 ring road from central Stockport, The Nursery is reached via a web of leafy avenues considerably more tranquil than the motorway that runs less than a mile to the south.
Dating from just before World War II, it's a chunky, red-brick structure with a cream-washed upper storey. The colourful, traditional sign – along with subtle motifs built into the windows – reveals the horticultural origins of the pub's name.
Enter through the front door, from the cobbled road outside, and you find yourself in a wide central corridor with a hatch to the kitchen off to the right.
Some of the regulars congregate here, while others make for the wood-panelled lounge to the left, which is set for meals at lunchtime.
A further door off the corridor leads to a large second lounge where cushioned bench seating curves around the walls. Old bell pushes (for service) are just some of the original features that have been maintained and have resulted in the pub being granted listed status.
Much credit for the accolade must go the owner, Hydes brewery, which maintains the pub in pristine condition. Hydes beers – including seasonals – and guest ales feature at the bar, earning the pub many years of Good Beer Guide inclusion. There are several beer festivals a year and live music most weeks.
The bar dispensing these fine ales forms the hub between all the drinking areas, the last of which is accessed via a side entrance.
It's a rare surviving vault bar – what most of us would describe as the public bar – free of frills, as evidenced by the bare lino-type flooring.
A dartboard, hung centrally over the fireplace, and a collection of old sporting photographs confirm the priorities of this part of the pub.
The Nursery would warrant a slot in our Pub/Bar of the Month feature just on its internal merits – which also include an upstairs function room – but then, of course, there is that magnificent bowling green at the rear.
A pint or two here, following some of the slowly developing games, enjoying the last rays of the evening sun as the soft tap of wood on wood echoes around the green, must be one of life's simplest pleasures.
Nursery Inn, 258 Green Lane, Heaton Norris, SK4 2NA, UK
Tel. (0161) 432 2044
Opening Hours: 11.30–11; 11.30–11.30 Friday; 11.30–midnight Saturday; 12–11.30 Sunday