However, the real ale scene is dire. The local CAMRA Branch reckon only 10 pubs sell cask beer of any kind which for a town of over 70000 people is pretty awful. Of the four Barnsley entries in the Good Beer Guide, two are clubs. One of the pubs is the Dove Inn, owned by Old Mill brewery of Snaith and selling a selection of their so-so beers; the two times I've visited (admittedly mid-afternoon) I was the only customer. The other pub is the Silkstone Inn, a modern, gloomy Wetherspoons but with an excellent selection of mainly Yorkshire beers. There's another 'Spoons pub, the Joseph Bramah, and being close to our hotel we tend to use it quite a bit. The beer choice is poorer than the Silkstone but they usually have one or two beers from the local Acorn brewery. The main problem is that it's a Lloyds Bar so volume escalates to threshold of pain levels during the evening.

The other pub I quite like is the Courthouse, which occupies a high-ceilinged Victorian building (presumably a bank or suchlike) and sells at least one Acorn beer. The clientele are a bit on the rough and ready side but the ale is good and, by Cambridge standards, cheap.

Real ale availability isn't much better in the wider area. There are many small former mining towns, now mostly on their uppers, with pubs to match. In Hoyland, for instance, (where Jane was born before being removed to the correct side of the Pennines aged three) not one of the town centre pubs and clubs offers cask beer. Mind you, the adjoining village of Elsecar has four real ale pubs, two in the GBG and one, the excellent Market Inn, the local CAMRA Pub of the Year.

An irony in all this is that two of the best microbreweries in the country are based close to Barnsley. Wentworth brew a superb selection of regular and guest beers, their WPA (known locally as Woppa) being a fabulously bitter brew while Bumble Beer, made with local honey, is a flavoursome golden ale. The aforementioned Acorn, from Wombwell, have recreated the legendary Barnsley Bitter (killed off by John Smiths in the 1970s) but it's their Blonde which ticks all the boxes for me a terrific golden ale. They also do Gorlovka Imperial Stout (6%), a seriously impressive example of the style. Oakwell Brewery is in Barnsley itself but their beers aren't often seen they mostly go to their own pubs, which are all in other parts of the country.

Like our own, the area is suffering badly from pub closures. The local Branch reported that during 2010 twenty of their 220 pubs closed permanently and several more have gone this year.

What Barnsley desperately needs is a specialist real ale pub and, lo, it's about to happen. Acorn have bought a pub on Market hill, even closer to our hotel than the Joseph Bramah, and it will be open by the next time we visit. Mine's a Blonde please.

In our neck of the woods, where only three of our pubs don't sell the stuff, we tend to take real ale for granted. Other parts of the country, like Barnsley, aren't as fortunate so, as a real ale drinker, count your blessings and make the most of what we've got.