Ben Barton is a champion of sorts.
The 35-year-old from Plymouth, Devon, has completed an epic 179-pub crawl that has taken him a total of four years.
The great feat quickly developed into an obsession for Ben who, with the help of the local council, created a detailed spreadsheet of all suitable venues to visit.
And now, years after he ticked off the first pub – the Fortescue – he has finally completed his journey by toasting a pint at The George.
Ben, a security worker has documented the exploits on his Pub Exploring Facebook page.
One of his most memorable moments was visiting Plymouth’s oldest pub, the Minerva Inn, where the landlady’s dog ran towards Ben, hitting him in the crotch and managing to pull off his trousers.
Ben said: ‘It never started as a challenge, but just grew into one.
‘I stumbled across a pub called the Waterloo in a backstreet and thought there must be dozens of others no one has heard of, so why don’t I visit all of them.
‘I actually came up with the idea originally around 20 years ago when I debated with a cousin if we had been to every pub in Plymouth.
‘But with all the backstreet pubs, I thought I could make a thing of this and got a list from the council and started to make my way through it.
‘I would find a group of them clumped together and try and tick off a few in an evening.
‘You can’t do it every weekend due to other commitments in life, but it was a case of picking an evening and an area and working through them.’
Ben wanted to use his marathon crawl to highlight the benefits of the pub to local communities, as many have struggled with losses caused by lockdown.
He added: ‘What I learned was that communities under the surface are far more active and vibrant than we imagine.
‘It is in the backstreet pub that you are able to see people of the community.
‘You can see what bubbles under the surface and for me, the only way to understand a community is to go to the pub.
‘That’s the main thing I picked up. Places like Devonport have such a rich culture and history and you really get a feel for it.
‘Every single one I felt welcome in. There was not one where I had a bad reception.
‘Six pubs have closed in lockdown and it is important we support them to make sure we don’t lose more.
‘Pubs are safe places to be – nowhere is enforcing social distancing more than a pub and it is important to get that message across.’
Ben went into lockdown with 15 pubs left to visit.
As soon as the establishments reopened, Ben went back to ticking off his list.
He said: ‘Having a pint in the last pub – The George – felt weird as I had nowhere new to go.
‘In a sense pursuing something keeps you going and keeps the passion burning.
‘When you get there, there is a feeling of what is there now to do?
‘Having nowhere new to go in Plymouth is bizarre. But if any new pubs open, I will be straight round there.’
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