The Birthday Pub Marathon continued and on Bayswater I stopped in at the Swan, an old pub in it’s own shady grove near the Lancaster Gate. A good Victorian gaff, the place was already crowded just afternoon but far enough away from tourists (halfway between Notting Hill and Marble Arch) to get a seat out in the garden. I had a lovely Fuller’s Chiswick and a few quiet moments to enjoy the morning before soldiering on into the masses and the stupid run I had planned. Very tempting to stay here, though, and quite tempting to return.
Archive for May 2010
This was part of the Birthday Pub Marathon, but only as a backup plan. I had intended to go to the Victoria and Albert in the station, but it wasn’t open when I ran through (and also when we came through around 10 pm to catch the train back to Bicester), so I opted to go in the first bar I found. This was the Sportsbar and Grill about 5 meters closer to the street from the V&A. It was overpriced (pint of Amstel was £3.75 served in a plastic cup), loud, and looked like an airport bar. Stay away.
The Swan and Castle is a monstrosity outside, but Wetherspoons always has a large space and they do good things, and with this one the good thing is lot’s of windows and (of course) lot’s of real ale to choose from. In fact, you could go comatose trying to run the taps.
While there I picked up my 9th out of 10 stamps for the Brakspears Ale Trail and decided to finish it up at Far From the Madding Crowd up the road and back toward work. I also met a builder that was an absolute hoot and quite knowledgeable about his beer, and we had a fairly good conversation about breweries, Oxfordshire vs Cambridgeshire, small towns fighting off colonisation by the large retailers, and chicks that really ought to think twice before they go out dressed like that (and some that ought not bother). Nice way to kill off lunchtime.
I was out for a run to pick up another stamp on the Brakspear Ale Trail map, but the Crooked Pot was closed, again, during their posted business hours. On the run back into town, I tried an old neighbourhood I hadn’t visited before and (on a hunch) stopped by a grocer and got a can of Boddington’s in case there was a defunct pub along the way. Just slightly out of a park and down Marlborough Road I found the Marlborough House and enjoyed my treat on it’s wall. A surveyor was there and said that it had been closed since 2008…R.I.P.
We were in Banbury to get the M.O.T. for the car and stopped in to have a look around town. Banbury is famous for this old nursery rhyme, the Banbury Cross, and since we were cold and hungry, the pub by that name seemed an ideal stop.
All conversation abrupted as we strode in, and it feels like a proper local in other ways. However, the food is especially good (or at least the sandwiches on homemade bread and the soups–I had roast beef and Jamie had tuna , me mushroom soup and she tomato). The folks started back up with their chat and didn’t break again until we got up to leave. Funny.
No one joined me for the crawl (see earlier post, here, for the details and the actual rules of the Underround challenge), in spite of their promises to the contrary. This was probably for the best since I was ready to quit after the first 20 miles and had there been anyone along with me that also wanted to bag it we would have probably stopped even earlier.
As it was, this was a fun if lonely project, the weather was fantastic, the beer was good, and I will not be doing it again. The totals were:
29.0 miles (by GPS, originally planned 24.7 but had to double back a few times to missed stations and inadvertantly detoured a few times)
The time was 6h 23 m 45 s including the 5 pub stops on the trail. If you take out the time spent in these (I took photo/time points at entrance and exit) then the net run was 5h 38 m 45s.
There were some nice features to this adventure. A couple of Aussies that have been occasional readers of the blog were waiting at the Zetland Arms and wished me luck, bought the beer and proceededto savage the poor quality of my prose. The 400th pub (and on to the 403rd) was added to my list of pub visits (I’m behind on the updates, the most recent posted was the 395th). And, I spotted a few interesting sights along the way, as well, and they are peppered into the slides below:
If you are going to do this yourself at some point, here are the things I learned the hard way:
1) Pick a route and stick to it. If you are using a map, make sure the side streets are all labeled in case you have to make an emergency change of plan.
2) Don’t go on the first sunny, warm Sunday of the year.
3) Don’t go on a Bank Holiday weekend.
4) Avoid the tourist clusterfucks like Oxford Street and Long Acre/Great Queens Street. A few extra steps to avoid these will save you a lot of extra steps zigzagging, dodging cattle, and crashing into penshioners, children, and the generally brain dead that have been released en masse and without supervision onto these roads and pavements. A taser wouldn’t be a bad idea, but you’ll draw less attention by just going around.
5) Plan around station closings. Many of these stations are closed for the near term (I knew about Blackfriar’s and used St Pauls as an alternate). Others are closed on late nights and weekends for some work but generally are open during the main part of the work week. Others, like Liverpool Street, have some entrances closed on the weekends and it is not worth it to run around looking for an alternative entrance (if you are like me and start to not give a shit about completion once exhasuted).
6) When a station has several tube lines to choose from, go to the platform that is nearest the surface. Circle Line is usually a good bet, but the City Line is usually pretty far underground. Those long, spiral staircases are murder after awhile.
The long run was pleasant enough after the St Aldates Tavern and it eventually found me trotting down Cowley Road to the Cape of Good Hope where a looney was preaching to people in the garden whilst waving a blanket around. Surely, the election is already over, I thought to myself and settled into a window seat to watch the show.
The music was largely funk and 60′s afropop and samba tinged jazz in this large room with windows all the way around from Cowley Road to Iffley Road. The Doom Bar was perfect and I had a good view as the bartender went out and gently urged the kook to move along. I followed him out and looked around a bit for a fish and chip shop, but a dash back up Cowley and then down Iffley led me to none.
My first visit to the Fox and Hounds was to get a ride to a hash but I have meant to drop by with a can (Fosters was what I was able to get cold) and add it to the pub crawl list. This is a fantastic house, but probably too large to sustain itself in this neighbourhood and in this economy. Rest in peace.
Started a long run but spotted the St Aldates Tavern as I turned south and decided to get another stamp on my Brakspear Ale Trail map. Pretty nice bar, with just the one big room and a slight sunken area to the end of the bar. Lot’s of televisions showing music videos were a little distracting but not as much as this guy, who was in the Wheatsheaf when I dropped in yesterday.
The Chequers is the next alley up from the Wheatsheaf and similar in layout but quite a bit different. First, it seems geared toward drwing in the tourist pound but does it without pandering. The atmosphere suggests it is more upscale without there being anything overt to that effect. If I were to guess what background music is played I would say more Astrid Gilberto than Black Flag. Also, everyone there stayed pretty much to themselves, which was fine with me.
The Wheatsheaf is down an alley off the High Street in Oxford, and I’ve only stumbled past it at night. Usually overflowing with drunken lads in their twenties and blasting live rock out of every window, it never really appealed as a venue for a relaxing drink.
But, as it is on the Brakspear Ale Trail, I popped in for an Oxford Gold to wash down a kebab at lunchtime. They were out of the Brakspear, though, and I settled for a Hobgoblin (which was just fine).
The place was nearly empty at noon except for some really old dudes. One was pretty rickety as he stepped out for a smoke, and the other was probably a professor in one of the colleges of Oxford dressed as he was in a dogeared but once very expertly tailored suit. These two had faces from Ealing Studios casting, a nice counterpoint to the mohawked bartender.
On the way back from Aylesbury we stopped for a beverage at the Lion in Waddesdon. This is also an inn and has function rooms in the converted stables. Jackie got a V&T and I had a Thatcher’s Cider and the damage was over £9. Fuck the Lion.
Outside, we met a young couple from London (I believe she was actually portuguese or spanish), stopping off for a drink mid-hike. We had a pleasant enough conversation about the trails in the area and about Atlanta (he travels there a bit), and then we drifted back into our own private spaces.
Jackie asked how the cider was: “Is it bitter and mean, like its namesake?”
We were in Aylesbury for a bit of a shopping trip when I spotted this crime against the pub industry and, indeed, against humanity…The Oddfellow’s Arms is no longer a pub but a Dominos Pizza. A cold can of Carling seemed the only correct salute to this Grade 2 listed building on such an otherwise nice day out, but it did little to ease the pain. At least most dead pubs are allowed to rest in peace, but this poor wretch is infested by a fast food chain. Tsk.
The Crown is technically on Cornmarket Street but actually down its own alley and could be missed if you weren’t looking for it. In fact, this was the first time I noticed it in the 9 months I’ve been traveling to Oxford.
It is a nice old coaching inn and the courtyard was full of tourists on my visit, all shoveling the cheap eats down their throats with abandon. I was hungry, too, but couldn’t talk myself into the £4.99 burger, chips and beer special. From what I could see it looked a bit like a, erm, British burger (overcooked, probably breaded, dry).
But, what could be better than sitting around in a courtyard enjoying a nice pint of bitter on a warm sunny day?
Off from work early for a doctor’s appointment, I stopped in the Turl Bar to get another stamp on my Brackspear Ale Trail map.
This was my third stamp (need 10 for another item of booze related clothing) and probably the only reason I would ever have ventured into the Turl. It is on a side street and a nice enough place, but attached to the back of a Beefeater pub and usually (in past experience) overflowing with tourists.
This might explain why the Brakspear Bitter I ordered came out very cold–so cold that the flavour was ruined–but the tourist dollar/euro/pound speaks loud in the center of town. It is possible that the cellar actually is that cold, but not very likely.
[Note: this went well enough...results here.]
If anyone is in London Sunday 30th May 2010 then please join me for a variation on the London Underround trail. This is not an organised event, there are no entry fees nor any charities involved and it is being done for no particularly good reasons at all (other than it’s my birthday).
The route (shown above and with a Gmap Pedometer version linked here) includes 6 pub stops for a pint of carbohydrate rich fluids and perhaps a fatty snack or two because nutrition is paramount in this sort of endeavor.
This is NOT a hash…there are rules, however they are completely unenforceable:
1) You start with your hand on the King’s Cross Departures board (I’m starting at 11 am) and finish when you touch the Arrivals board.
2) The yellow line at the platform for each tube station must be touched before moving on.
3) Pints at the pubs must also be finished before moving to the next stop.
I’ll keep my own splits by checking the time stamps on my digital camera, but if anyone else wants to do the whole thing then you’ll be responsible for your own. Here are the planned touchpoints:
Methods in this madness:
### It is very nearly a full marathon distance. In fact it is [ 24.7 ] miles if you do the whole thing as mapped, possibly a little more once stairwells and passageways (and getting lost or detoured) are fully taken into account.
### There are 6 pubs on the route because 5 doesn’t qualify as a crawl:
Victoria and Albert, in Marylebone Station (mile 2.8)
The Swan, 66 Bayswater (mile 6.7)
The Sussex, Upper St Martins Square at Longacre (mile 10.3)
The Zetland Arms, 2 Bute Street (mile 14.2)
Ye Olde Watling, 29 Watling Street (mile 19.8)
The Betjeman Arms, in St. Pancras Station (mile 24.7)
### There are 48 total stops… one for each of 48 years (like I said, it is a birthday run).
If anyone is serious about clocking an actual Underround time, I would advise buying into it from Rory Coleman at his website (which is also full of many other endurance related events and articles, none of which, I think, have anything to do with beer). My route avoids a couple of stations that will be closed on the day I am passing through and has detours built in for the pub stops, but if you do mine and feel cheated that your time doesn’t count then only the Official version will do.
I thought this would be a really ill advised Google photo search, but I just came up with things about Willie Nelson and a woman walking her dog. I was amused into trying this when I heard this chant on the news last night and nearly spit out a mouthful of wine. Here’s an article about it:
I wouldn’t have found the Bell Inn in Adderbury on my own, but that’s just because if I had been running through town on my own plans I would already have hit 3 pubs and would need to get along to whereever it was I was actually heading. But, this is a fantastic local.
I showed up to the Oxford Hash after running a little more than 4 miles from the King’s Sutton rail station along the Oxford Canal path and then up Aynho Road. Drenched from the exertion and the high humidity and unseasonble warmth, I set myself up with a Hook Norton Dark (sort of a mild, at least in style if not in name) and sat with some of the regulars and told them the absolute minimum possible about hashing.
After the trail, we returned and the place was a little more lively and we had to spill out of the bar and into the next room down. This is a proper Inn with rooms to let and a giant dining hall. Like most of the buildings in Adderbury, it is made of this reddish sandstone and built to withstand a nuclear assault. Menu looked good, too.
Brakspear is having an ale trail in Oxford (you get a card stamped for a pint in each of 10 pubs of your choice on the trail and you get a tee shirt). I don’t really need any more booze related clothing, but there are ten pubs on the list I haven’t been to yet and one of them is (or was, after yesterday) the Honeypot near the rail station.
Nice venue. The front bar is small but old and attractive (like myself!) and there is a long room aft that leads to the garden. The young staff is friendly and played an interesting variety of bar related songs (“Hang the landlord from the top of the stairs,” some country/honky tonk stuff, some Irish punk, y’know the sort of stuff). It opens at 5 pm after the lunch break, so don’t hurry along too much (open late, though).
I ran the Oxford Canal tow path north from Jericho neighbourhood the other day and got to a ‘limited access’ zone and had to turn back, but a mile or so on the southward return I found the Plough waiting for me. I ordered a Hardy’s and Hanson’s Kimberley Bitter and some chips and went outside to the deck area to enjoy the warm weather and watch the clouds roll in.
The Bitter was strange. It had something of a fennel seed or anise aftertaste, but it wasn’t really unpleasant. Granted, I’ve drank my share of cough medicine mixed with rum in the past, so this might not be the stunning endorsement the manufacturers would hope for.
It was around 2 and except for a couple of cyclists, the place was empty. I think it might be closed between lunch and the evening shift. I peeled of the plaster from my damaged finger while there and had a good look at it, noting that one of the stitches had popped out. Quite a bit of progress in 8 days, though (or 5 days since the picture on the original post, here).