There’s nothing sweet and nothing green about Sweet Green Tavern. It may pump out the smell of coal fires and sit snug beneath snow-topped hills, but it is also surrounded by out-of-town mega-casinos and still flaunts the stink of chain-smokers years after the ban.
What counts for the beer garden is a lay-by watched over by a towing caravan slung low by flat tyres. Once I saw two drunks in hi-vis tabards rolling around on the tarmac, celebrating last orders with a fight.
Opposite, holed plastic bags rustle in leafless trees and empty lager cans buffet about in trolley bays, drowning out the ring road’s hum and seagulls’ squawks. The pub seems to have been put up the wrong way round, stubbornly facing a windswept supermarket carpark. Its squat, unseeing rear turns from pastoral views and the town’s historic buildings. It ignores moors guarded by men with pet falcons fed on raw chicken and museums duped into buying fake Egyptian statues.
Nobody opens the back gate – a brown UPVc door from Wickes. Nobody much opens the front. But I did. In this biting Boltonian cold, even Sweet Green Tavern offers a warm welcome when the train out has been cancelled.