Archive for April 2009
Caught the bus to Waterbeach with plans to run the river back to Chem after a lunch pint at The Sun but it was closed till 5 (strange hours, open at lunch a few days a week, but Thursday is not one of them). Oh well, that made the decision easy since it was the last pub I know about in Waterbeach…and I wanted to beat the rainfall back to work so off I loped.
Coming into Chesterton, though, I had a stitch in my hip and opted to stop at the Green Dragon, which has been an ale house since about 1550.
Had a pint of Farmhouse Ale from Roosters Brewery and looked around the old pub. Nice sign saying to keep the kids under control and you still have to have them out of there by 5 pm. Wooden timbers, a giant fireplace, good windows all over. And, there’s a big garden across the street on the banks of the Cam to carry your beer and get away from the atrocious muzak.
The food seems cheap and the portions generous (and it all smelled and looked great…most folks were having lunch). The beer is likewise cheap and they have a couple of guest beers (on six real ale taps plus the rest of the normal bar stuff).
The bare, unfinished wooden floor has probably seen a lot of puke from the likes of the two scum that were coming in as I was leaving. No real ales on tap, but a plethora of European fizzy beers left me with a Bitburger which was just fine.
This building is huge, but the bar is entirely on the cramped grund floor. Fantastic windows on the street repaired with old Scottish stained glass after one of the many breakages made me originally think this was aimed at tourists and folks that commute from the hectic urban nightmare that so many seem to think Cambridge is; after a quick pint, I’m more convinced that it is full of guys wanting to get fucked up (or showing up already fucked up) and start a fight.
It’s nothing I can really put my finger on. The customers I saw were half a head shorter than me, but wiry in the way you get from dashing with an old lady’s pocketbook tucked under your arm. The sparse, spartan furnishings looked like remainders after the last brawl. Bars back home where you would go for a punch up tend to play a lot of Molly Hatchet and Hank Williams Junior, but here it was a No Doubt album (which, I must say, made me want to glass someone).
Overpriced (I know) and dangerous late at night (a suspicion), there’s better places to hang out.
Next door to the Osbourne Arms stands the Flying Pig, a small pub dating to 1832 with a small, rustic seating area and a nice garden and a pretty reasonably priced lunch menu. A five minute walk from work, it is a good place for a bowl of chili and a pint at lunch (although today the chili sold out and I had a burger to accompany my Black Sheep Best Bitter).
There are a couple of nice bay windows looking out on Hills Road where you can watch the parade of locals and listen to the endless jazz playing over the loudspeakers. There’s a pool table in another room. Nice pub that is often in the Good Beer Guide but didn’t seem to make it this time around.
The Unicorn is down a side street off the High Street in Trumpington. It is a huge house and reputed to be haunted by five ghosts who appear with the customers, including a boy in the front bar and a girl sitting by the fireplace. I didn’t see them on my trip, but the barkeep says they are there.
The bar dates back to 1858 but most of the interesting features (like the exposed beams) were brought forward during a recent renovation. There are sofas by the fireplace, games around for the customers, and a gigantic dining room in back (but you can eat in the front bar).
I was waiting for my beef curry at the Red Lion in Cherry Hinton when I got the call that my kitty needed to go on oxygen and have some lung fluids pulled and a heart scan done and that he was soon going to be moved from Ely to Cambridge to do these things. Preoccupied, I didn’t really enjoy the meal as much as I might have under ordinary circumstances.
The bar is lively in the middle of the day, and really large with a huge back garden. The Thai restaurant housed within does separate business (not run off the till), but the items are all prepared fresh and do seem authentic and less cream-saucy than you get in a lot of curries here.
Although Cherry Hinton is part of Cambridge and is populated with a lot of foreigners and other non-locals, this pub has something of the air of a local…not especially welcoming or glad to see you, but still not so suspicious of strange faces as a lot of other places I’ve ducked into so far. There are, however, three other pubs on the block to try out before I give this one another go.
Found my way to the Village Inn on a run from Ely to Stretham to relieve some of the stress after my kitty died Friday morning (pneumonia and a systemic infection that got into his brain…RIP Bobo, 2000-2009).
London’s Pride was fresh on the pumps,so I had a pint and looked around at the beautiful Victorian bar wrapped around the multitiered restaurant and pub. This place was pretty nice. The clientele that afternoon ranged from a very chubby lesbian with her very thin butchy girlfriend, a young straight couple that seemed to be boarding there, another couple with many piercings and some very nice tattoo work (the guy showed me a bit of his sleeves while waiting for the bartender to return from the back), and an old guy reading a paper and enjoying a pint. A four generation group of ladies (aged anywhere from 6 to 70 years old) were heading in as I headed out.
The pub seems to be a proper gastro-pub which is to say by the beer snob standard it is no pub at all; this sort of orthodoxy is really unfair to some good locals that are just trying to make it in a frightening economy. Plus, I really like good pub food and the fact that the kitchen was still serving in mid-afternoon was pretty unusual.
Hopped off the bus home a few miles early yesterday and had a pint of Fosters (all the ale pumps were still resting but they tend to have three on when they aren’t empty) at the Travellers Rest before heading off for my run. The pub was quiet save for a father and son chatting about movies with the bartender, but an amiable atmosphere nonetheless.
The Travellers Rest is also a motel or lodge and is supposed to house a fine restaurant, but without a car it has been pretty inconvenient for us to try. We are close to purchasing one, though, and I am sure we’ll come down here for the Sunday Carve Up they advertise, or to have a meal on the way to an evening in Cambridge.
Chittering is called a village but from what I can tell it is a single row of houses on a street that goes, in the course of a mile, from two lanes to one lane to dirt to farm tracks. I could be wrong, but the compound up at the Lazy Otter, a half mile further up the A10, seems livelier. Good, quiet place on the main road, though.
About halfway between Stretham and Waterbeach, there’s this pub/lodge/restaurant called the Travellers Rest. I had planned, with some Ordnance Maps, to run from there along some fen trails back to the house after work yesterday but left the map and got turned around at the intersection of some farm roads and wound up trapped by drainage canals and running–quite illegally–along the right of way for the railroad.
The camera I generally run with has seen better days and failed on me during the run so I can’t post the pictures of long dried up morels (stock photo above) I found on the side of the tracks. But, when they are in season, I know exactly where to go to collect some and am looking forward to some tasty wild mushrooms at that time.
But the morels are only the start of my mushroom anticipation, as it turns out that Midsummer Common, across from the Jesus Green and pretty much in the city center of Cambridge, is used for grazing beef cattle from spring until fall (here’s an article about that from the Cambridge News). The temperature is wrong, but the humidity seems like it could be perfect later in the year. And, unlike in Georgia through the 70′s and 80′s, I shouldn’t have to deal with angry farmers firing shotguns my way (merely competition from the student population).
Waterbeach continues to surprise me. About 7/8 of the way through this article on the lack of St George Day celebrations I spotted this line:
“The village’s Beach Social Club will host its second annual sausage competition….”
I got no indication that Waterbeach was at all that way the last few visits, not that there’s anything wrong with it.
Cambourne would look familiar to a lot of folks in the US. In what was just fields and pasture, ground was broken for this new development in mid-1998. It is, as you might expect, a shit hole.
But, knowing nothing about it and hungry after a session at the nanosciences center the Citi-4 bus beckoned and after twenty minutes of riding without seeing a place to eat I hopped off in this English reimagining of suburban America. Fortunately, the Monkfield Arms (which opened in 2006 and resembles nothing else so much as a Pep Boys Auto Parts Warehouse) loomed and it’s promise of cheap dining and real ale lured me in.
Inside, the place was just fine and looked more like a chain restaurant the likes of which one finds next to a busy shopping mall. You know the sort: not a fast food place since they serve you at your table but the staff has a uniform.
The fish and chips were cheap and filling and surprisingly tasty. The bar is part of the Marston’s Brewery stable so I had one of their Pedigree Ales, which was pretty good if not very challenging to the palate, and like the food very cheap.
It is on the bus line to St. Neots, which is a proper town, so a trip there will probably be the only other time I ever pass through here again. Nothing wrong with the pub except the atmosphere.
I’m entirely in favour of community volunteer service but this article would be easier to take seriously if it had less in common with Tom Sawyer tricking the other kids into whitewashing a fence (“Like it? Well, I don’t see why I oughtn’t to like it. Does a boy get a chance to whitewash a fence every day?”).
It is a short article, but essentially it is basing family fun around the entire clan helping to muck out a clogged waterway, then spending the afternoon picking up litter. In Arizona, this is the sort of fun reserved for guys wearing orange jumpsuits, and in Georgia you’ve usually got a “camp director” with a shotgun and some dogs to play with if you are clever enough to slip your chains. But, this is a more egalitarian community, and like they say in the article: “Everyone is invited to take part.”
The Live and Let Live has an upcoming beer festival and it should be a pleasant, if crowded, couple of days. My lunch visit involved a pint of Grantham Dark, a plate of sausages, mash and onion gravy, and a bunch of guys talking shit about trains, goats, and the financial crisis.
The place is hidden away down Mawson Road and is fairly small, filled with reading material and lumber furnishings. Food is from noon till 2 and again in the evenings (closed from half-two till half-five). I could have done without the smell of Brasso, but those taps won’t polisih themselves (perhaps it would be better to do that during the afternoon closure, or maybe–probably–the regulars like the smell of petroleum distillates).
Anyway, a very nice local with real ales and scrumpy on the pumps. Plus, there is a very large selection of Belfian beers. A nice find if your timing is right.
The White Horse is a pretty big pub in Waterbeach, just off the green and not too far from the rail station. I got there for a Cambridge Hash House Harriers event by biking the 7 miles from my house. I rode through the crowd of hashers and round back of the pub to lock up and was met by the landlady who was having a smoke in the garden. She urged me to leave the bike within the gates and I pushed past her spaniel to do so. The dog came along on the run with one of the hashers, so it was good to get to know him first.
Opted not to have a beer before the run (the pub probably wasn’t even open yet), but afterward having hung out with some other finishers in the parking lot in front of the bar for awhile I joined the queue. Whilst in the lot, I had spoken with this guy about a Nissan Micra he had parked out front with a For Sale sign advertising it for £350; this turned out to be one of the bartenders and he took my order ahead of the rabble which pleased me as much as it upset them. I had the first of several Gem Ales from the Bath Brewery (I had some of this a few weeks ago at, I think, the Prince Albert in Ely and really liked it).
The pub has a snooker table in a lower bar down by the Gents, and two other bars next to one another at garden level. The garden is huge (maybe a half acre) and easily accommodated the large circle of hashers that eventually formed out there. While waiting for the circle ceremony to start, I noted several really delicious looking plates of Sunday roasts and vegetables going out to some of the other customers; they also have a large menu of Thai food.
The staff is really friendly, here, the location is convenient, and the taps are plentiful and properly attended…what more could you ask?
I had some misconceptions about the Hash House Harriers when I showed up for the Cambridge HHH run on Sunday (start and finish at the White Horse in Waterbeach). Firstly, I had been led to believe that the trail was set just ahead of the runners with the “pack” or “hounds” as they are known trying to catch the “hares” that are setting the trail; however, the hares announced at the start that they had gone out earlier in the morning and arranged for the trail. This was a little disappointing, but probably makes more sense logistically.
Secondly, they started at 11 sharp whilst I had been under the impression that this was a poorly organised and habitually late group. Indeed, after a few miles running (a few miles extra for those of us that followed all the bad trails and had to double back) we were enjoying a few glasses of Carlsberg lager by the River Cam in the shade of a barn, next to a bridge I had been past on my first bike ride a month or so ago.
Thirdly, and perhaps most disturbingly, the singing during the circle (a sort of post-run ceremony where crimes against the trail are punished with a rude song and a pint of beer, heroic acts rewarded with a rude song and a pint of beer, milestones commemorated with a rude song and a pint of beer, etc) was less spontaneous than I would have thought. They had a small group of five hashers (I was added as a sixth since I had volunteered that I knew a few of these sorts of songs), called the Choir and they had a list of about thirty songs to choose from…but even then they had to refer to the lyric sheets. Tsk, tsk.
It was good fun, though, with the Circle starting at 1 pm to allow a period of socialisation before the fiasco. I met quite a large number of the roughly 50 attendees, but most of their names escape me now. They introduce themselves with proper names but use hashing nicknames at the time of the Circle and interchange between these two appellations throughout the run. That and the fact that I am rubbish with remembering names, anyway, left me with just these to try to associate with a face next time: Slap Head, Bastard, Double Top, Haven’t Got One, Rear Admiral, and, it seems, about twenty guys (maybe even some ladies) named Dave. One of them is supposed to give me a lift to the run next week, which is way down by Saffron Walden ( a few miles to the west of it). We’ll see how that works out.
The weather couldn’t have been better (mid-teens centigrade, sunny, slight breeze), but I’ve been out of sunlight so long since leaving Arizona that I got a pretty good sunburn. The official distance was just over 4 miles and except for the time I was at the front and found a “check” and had to wait for the pack to catch up the run was mostly continuous. Foot held up well again. This bodes well for re-starting proper training soon.
I saw this article a few months ago, but forgot about it until I was heading down the A-10 to Waterbeach, yesterday. Again, I like the small town atmosphere here, but this story is really adorable.
Went to the Live and Let Live a little too late (closed between 2:30 and 5:30) and was directed to the Salisbury Arms, but when I protested that I wanted a place I hadn’t been before, nearby (lunch pint), was sent to the Six Bells. Very nice little back street local that, in spite of these pictures, was packed and full of folks enjoying Dylan (few cuts from Bringing It All Back Home and Blood On The Tracks), Stones (odd choices off Some Girls), and I’m pretty sure that was either Television or some other Richard Hell…decent juke box, regardless, for the older crowd.
I had an Olde Trip from Greene King. This was pretty good, but almost indistinguishable from most of their other darker but not-as-dark-as mild ales. It was a pleasant treat, for me, anyway, to see a bit of the sediment as I reached the bottom of the glass.
Read a bit of old training log I had brought to work with me (although there is plenty to read in the pub). Went on a first run (since getting the all clear after removing the bandages from the stress fracture) of only two and a half miles a couple of hours after leaving the pub. This went pretty well, and the lacing diagrams I used for heel immobilisation and downsizing of the shoe served me well. Gotta make a trip to the running shop and get some fresh trainers, but these old shoes should work for my current, meager needs. A few weird looks from the other customers (who came back around when I finished my tourist photos) were a small price to pay for re-entry into the running fraternity; the foot hurt afterward, but some focused stretching eased that which makes me more confident that it is just contraction of soft tissue during the foot bondage of the last month and a half.
The Locomotive closed earlier in the year, a couple of days after the first time I passed it. It had been the target of repeated drugs raids, but was reported to be a very fun pub (sounds like!). R.I.P.
Click on the article for a full sized and easy-to-read version (from the Ely Weekly News 16 april 2009), but the gist is that an ugly crime from years past appears to have been solved. Good thing, too, since:
Coming to Europe from Atlanta Georgia (by way of a number of other violent-crime ridden American shit holes), it is easy to get lost in the bucolic simplicity and utter safety of small town England. But, it’s not all tea cozies and Women’s Institute meetings, here, no sir indeed. The complete disrespect for order and the rule of law here in the fens is illustrated here in this photo lifted from the Ely Weekly News (16 April 2009) showing the depths to which the village of Stretham has sunk:
The motto on the Salisbury Arms signage is “Sero Sed Serio” or “late, but in earnest.” That’s so true. The older psychedelic signage has been replaced, years after this became a local for this mostly conservative neighbourhood, but the trippers keep wandering in and will probably continue to do so for ever. Myself, I dropped off a rental car at the train station then legged it over to the Salisbury Arms where a delicious, pale but chocolatey Elgood’s Old Wagg waited patiently in its cask but the kitchen had already closed; sero sed serio indeed.
The pub is long and zigzags back to a dining area if you pass under the bicyclist (a full sized bike with a mannequin is suspended from the ceiling) making the whole building take up space one-house-narrow and half a block long. Lot’s of windows and the threat of pretty good food but I think the real attraction is the beer (I counted 8 ale pumps at the lower bar).
The place won the Best Ale Pub in the county for 2008 and was likewise recognised for having the best wine cellar (and decent prices). It’s very traditional in atmosphere and attitude and takes a lot of well desreved pride in its successes.