Dedicated charity fundraiser calls time on 40-year pub crawl

By Rebecca Weller

- Last updated on GMT

Mammoth pub crawl: Peter Hill (pictured) has raised more than £35k for charity by visiting 23,000 pubs since 1984
Mammoth pub crawl: Peter Hill (pictured) has raised more than £35k for charity by visiting 23,000 pubs since 1984

Related tags Charity Social responsibility West midlands

A mammoth pub crawl spanning all corners of the country may be a dream for many, but one man has lived the reality while raising money for charity.

Peter Hill, a 67-year-old retired engineer from West Bromwich, has spent the past four decades visiting 23,000 pubs across the UK, drinking more than 55,000 pints along the way, in a bid to raise money for community causes.

While different goals have been set during the 40-year pub crawl, each visit has been documented by Hill in his logbook along with the operator’s signature, photographs and a description of the site, including décor.

The journey first began in November 1984, inspired by a ‘Pint and Platter’ map of West Midlands’ pubs released by Marston’s following its procurement of Banks’s estate in the same year.

Joined by his father, Joe Hill, Peter and 12 other pub enthusiasts coined themselves the Black Country Ale Tasters and decided to visit all 250 sites on the map, asking for a £1 charity donation from each venue to put towards local causes.

“Around a dozen of us used to go out every Sunday night to the local pubs but we got a bit bored of it, there’s only so many pubs in the Black Country and when the map came out it set us a new adventure”, Hill told The Morning Advertiser​ (MA​).

Something different 

After visiting all the 250 pubs, Hill then asked who wanted to carry on the charitable initiative and visit every Banks’s pub in the country, which at the time was around 750, upping the goal to 1,000 pubs soon after.
“We did that, then somebody gave me a map of every pub in Hereford and Worcestershire, so I asked who wanted to carry on again and visit another 1,007 pubs.”

Hill pictured with the Black Country Ale Tasters at the milestone pub visit

Following this, Hill and his father then saw details in the Guinness Book of World Records​ of someone who had visited 3,200 pubs and Joe suggested they should try to beat the record while doing something a bit different.

“We said we’d have a drink in every county in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland and go around the coastline of Great Britain.”

The pair made it into the record books, reaching 4,200 site visits across four years, still raising money for charity on their journey.

Hill continued: “Then I decided to visit every single pub in all the Midland counties, and that took me 23 years.

“My dad wanted to visit every pub in England, I said we won’t live long enough, there’s too many, but you might live long enough to visit them all in Wales.

“That took us seven years and we raised around £11,000 for different Welsh children’s hospitals by September 2013.”

Sadly, Joe passed away in March 2014, but he had achieved his ambition to visit every pub in Wales, and the father and son duo had undertaken the majority of the previous pub trips together.

While some 80 people have come and gone over the years as part of the Black Country Ale Tasters, the group still meet annually at the Elephant & Castle pub at the Black Country Museum in Dudley, where they will celebrate their 40th​ anniversary later this year. 

“I'm on my own now, but I still meet up with the Black Country Ale Tasters on special occasions.”

Following his father’s death, Hill, who also published a book on his travels in 2011 called Beer There and Everywhere​, decided he would continue the charitable endeavours and visit every island off Great Britain and Northern Ireland with a pub.

“I thought it would be easy because there were only 69 islands, but it took me five years. I raised £4,000 for the air ambulance”.

While he mostly receives warm welcomes from the sites he visits, the charity champion has sometimes found himself in precarious situations on his adventures, including sleeping in plastic bags outside venues to save money in the ’80s and ’90s.

“I've got 380 lever arch files, 90,000 photographs, menus, postcards, etc. It’s all listed from pub number one.”

“We would find a pub out in the country with some land next to it or an old graveyard somewhere and doss there, it meant we could just come out of the pub and sleep in our plastic bags.

“We did that for almost 10 years and then The Sun​ newspaper come out with their £8.50 holidays where you could go anywhere all around the coastline of Great Britain.

“I’ve been on 126 of them now and use the campsites as a base to save me sleeping outside.”

On another occasion more recently, he arrived at a 17th​ century pub in the Isle of Man only to find the building was now somebody’s home with a listed pub sign attached.

After being greeted by the unimpressed occupier while taking photographs of the site before realising the mistake, Hill made a “quick exit” after being asked what he was doing.

Hill, whose local venue is the Rising Sun in Tipton, also remarked the face of the great British pub had changed quite a lot over the years, with widely varying opening hours and cashless policies having caused some difficulties along the way.

Everything changes 

The rise of gastropubs and Desi pubs, was also something Hill said had changed the landscape of the on-trade since he began this journey, along with changes in drinking and eating habits in pubs, the smoking ban, and rules around children in pubs.

“There’s been loads of changes, meals in pubs now are massive. Back in the early ’80s, you couldn't really get breakfast or dinner in pubs at that you had to go to a hotel or a restaurant or something like that”, he said.

Hill, whose favourite tipple is a Banks’s Sunbeam, added the rise of the craft beer scene and introduction of micropubs and breweries had also changed the pub scene.

Moreover, the pub enthusiast has also seen many much-loved venues lost due to challenges faced by the sector over the years, as well as a decline in real ale pubs.

“There were 93 pubs in West Bromwich in 1992 and at that time we had a lot of industry in the area, but the industries have gone and the breweries have either collapsed, sold up or moved on.

“A lot of my favourite pubs have been demolished, the ones I really loved, I used to like the old traditional boozers, but everything changes.”

Finally, this year, Hill embarked on his last adventure in aid of the air ambulance, visiting every pub in the 2020 Good Beer Guide​ by the Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA), which contains 4,500 pubs, finishing the milestone trip by enjoying a pint at pub number 23,000 at the end of January.

Over the decades, he has raised more than £35,000 for a variety of charities in multiple communities across the UK, from children’s hospitals to the air ambulance, funding and documenting the entire journey himself.

He concluded: “When we started on the adventure, I assumed it was going to last a year or two, but it’s been 39, [almost 40], years now.

“I've got 380 lever arch files, 90,000 photographs, menus, postcards, etc. It’s all listed from pub number one. I did it for fun and to give somebody a bit extra at the end of each challenge.”

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