Archive for the ‘Buckinghamshire’ Tag
Now the Three Cups is what I long for in a drinking establishment. Packed on a Sunday afternoon with a bunch of mouthy folks taking the piss out of each other whilst cheering opposite sides in a sporting event. A big guy at the bar directed some comments toward me as I came in but I didn’t catch a word and opted instead to just order up my beer and enjoy the amibiance.
The guy to my left had three pints of lager next to him with varying levels, but I think he was tending them for someone. I spied another room through doorway in the ovate bar and noticed that the guy drinking over there perked up when the guy to my right dumped 80 pounds in coins in a pile there; he had just emptied the fruit machine, but my compatriot must have thought Mister Coinage was buying a round because he was over on our side of the bar like a shot.
There was a little dog running around that became enamoured of my shoes. “What’s ‘e licking, there?” a woman near one of the windows asked me as I shot a photo of the little guy; “sheep shit…I’ve been running through the meadows.” She smiled and nodded and left him to carry on cleaning up my footwear.
I believe it was the Milton Keynes football club playing, but whoever it was a bunch of these guys seemed to know one of the trainers who got into a post-goal celebratory scene. The bar cheered when the goal happened, but louder when the trainer came into shot, then again on every replay (but only as the trainer came into view).
Supposed to be the sign, but a nice view of Bridge Street
The Buckingham Arms is a nice pub on some fairly large grounds in Maids Moreton (just outside Buckingham). The food smelled great, but I was cooking as soon as I got home so I settled for a beer, a Bill Sutton’s Best by Slater’s Ales…sublime.
It was a bit quiet and the chef came out for a while, and a couple with a little girl tried to teach her how to throw darts badly, which she accomplished. Friendly staff, nice enough group of punters, what more could you ask?
I spotted this outside just after asking how far it is to Buckingham
The run had gone well, and from Chackmore I had planned an hour to cover some ground and hit Akeley Wood and some fields and hills before sliding into Akeley to find a pub after about an hour. I found the Bull and Butcher in about 55 minutes and was quite pleased with my orienteering skills.
The place was packed with an affable crowd. One guy made extra room for me at the bar and asked if I was just there for the facilities or if I was drinking; “drinking, of course…there’s miles of toilet out there,” I noted. He laughed, “yes, and not nearly enough beer!”
The barkeep loaded my glass but in the warm room I was suddenly sweating profusely so I headed out to the garden. There, I harvested a couple of apples and watched as the clouds rolled slowly by. This is the life! There are far too few weekends this gorgeous!
The first new (to me) pub I visited after 2 weeks overseas was the Queen’s Head in Chackmore. The place was mildly busy which is a bit surprising unless the others got a more friendly reception than I did. Perhaps the young woman at the taps had something troubling her…I’d hate to think she was just an asshole.
I got my Black Sheep and vacated the premises, taking up with a couple resting after taking their terriers for an adventure up to the arch at Stowe Gardens. A bit nippy out, but the company was so much more pleasant.
I hear the food is good, though. As a caveat, I also heard that this was a fantastic pub. The beer was alright, I must say.
It is so good to be back in the civilised world!
Sunday I took a run through a bit of Buckinghamshire I’ve never traveled before, starting in the town of Buckingham then up Stowe Avenue toward the Stowe House and Gardens. The day was a bit cool, but sunny and the breezes were mild. I was able to find pubs in Chackmore, Akeley, Maids Moreton and Buckingham and the scenery, alone, was worth the effort. After getting lost in Buckingham trying to find the car I had a total of just over 12 miles. Fantastic. Here are some photos:
The approach from Buckingham leads to the Corinthian Arch
The gardens have lakes, creeks, a moat around the House, and hundreds of acres to explore
...and pavement so you only get muddy if you really want to
I usually like Wetherspoons pubs but I usually go to the ones that are housed in salvaged buildings with some architectural and/or historical distinction. This time I just dropped in to the only open pub I spotted at the end of 25 miles of training run to tank up before catching the bus home. It, too, is a Wetherspoons but the house is ugly and prefabricated and, to be perfectly fair, precisely in keeping with the overall look of Milton Keynes. I had something called a Slewfoot or Stinkfoot for £1.99 and continued on my merry way. Yuk.
A half hour trot down the road from Cranfield I was quite peckish and decided to stop in the next dining establishment that presented itself. This turned out to be the Carrington Arms in Moulsoe, quite too nice for the likes of me but as I was only in for a quick bite before continuing on to Milton Keynes I decided to risk offending the tables filled with businessmen enjoying their lunch meetings.
I had a pint of First Flight, a reddish amber treat with a hint of cocoa and ordered up a lamb sandwich on ciabata. This came out a tender slices of pink lamb cooked in mint and garnished with a rocket salad and some remarkably fresh tomatos. The chips were steaming and cut from fresh potatos and the entire meal came in at a reasonable cost. The staff were mostly just waiters and hotel staff, but I don’t reckon this is treated too much as a pub. That’s a shame, as the beer selection is pretty cool, the bar is well stocked, and the house is pretty interesting. But, the business plan is for a restaurant and inn and they are doing that job flawlessly.
I caught the X5 out to Bedford with a planned 20 mile path but got sidetracked a couple of times. The actual route went along this path:
Along the way I had wet feet the entire time, a surprisingly good (Carrington Arms) and two surprisingly bad pub experiences (Cross Keys and Wetherspoons), and came within about 15 miles of connecting my east side and central/west side run routes…next is the push to tie in London and the south coast as well as the Irish Sea. Next year I’ll start pushing northwards.
J was ready for a break from the long walk in the Rushendon and Chinkwell Woods/nature preserves and we were only about a mile away from Brill so we climbed the long hill into the village and plopped our butts down in the garden of the Red Lion. I had a Sun Dance (Westgate/Greene King) and she had a white wine…as Al Murray says those are the rules: pint for the fella, glass of white wine/fruit based drink for the lady.
But, the trainee bartender was thrown by this turn of events and started grasping at random bottles on the shelf, in a state of utter confusion. Luckily there were several experienced staff around and they directed him to the fridge and the lady’s refreshing glassful was prepared. He also didn’t grouse when I pointed out that he’d left my pint about an inch shy of the top (more an American pint) and quickly topped it off.
The garden was pleasant and full of folks, but of course it would be. The weather was awesome and the garden is protected on all sides by a large hedge. There was an Aunt Sally set up, but no logs to toss; this was the first time Jackie had seen such and was surprised that it was an outdoor thing. Still a couple of miles from the car, we didn’t linger too much and set off down the hill through the village.
The Castle still had the pub markings on it when I first visited Olney a few months ago, but I caught wind that it was going to be converted into a curry house soon. Scaffolding was up and the place was gutted, so I planned to toast it at the end of my run today. Having just left the Cock, doing the same for that venerable and much older (and much less recently closed) pub I could still taste the earlier Carling as this one went down. Shame when this sort of thing happens in a town as large as Olney, but the desire for a curry seems to exceed the need for a good meeting place. R.I.P.
Running from Clifton Reynes into Olney and passing the cemetery and then following Silver End I spotted the nearly unreadable sign of the Cock Inn. It had been awhile since I toasted such an old, deceased pub and quickly set out to find a couple of beers (as I was on my way to do this also for the Castle before it opens as a curry house in the near future). Leaning against the wall, legs scraped up and bleeding and otherwise pink from nettles, drinking a can of Carling…an incongruous sight in this prosperous town. R.I.P.
I caught the end of a conversation as I ran into the Mitre on the last leg of my run from Bicester. A woman was leaving an making some comment about funding Tourette’s syndrome patients and I agreed immediately whilst jerking my neck violently to the left and letting fly a couple of expletives. No one was amused and she left. “Tough crowd,” I said as the door closed behind her, and I ordered a Hyde’s Loose Cannon at which the remaining customers and the barkeep laughed nervously.
The oldest pub in Buckingham, I had targeted the Mitre on this run more as an entrant in the 2009 Good Beer Guide, the Bible of the Campaign for Real Ale. It was a good choice, with several friendly folks to chat with, a good garden, and a nice old bar/lounge area. I lingered over this beer with a fellow about my age, chatting about world travels as a working class boy, then later I took the bartender’s advice for a run route the rest of the way to the bus stop and was treated to a creek, a disused rail bridge, and a paved wooded path nearly the entire remaining distance. Awesome.
The Cuckoo’s Nest is one of the friendlier pubs I’ve been to in recent weeks, which was pretty lucky as I hadn’t planned on going there. Instead, it just caught my eye as I emerged from a narrow street having crossed a few farms from Preston Bissett and heading on into Buckingham to hit the Mitre.
There was a couple throwing darts and having some colas, and a middle age woman who seemed in charge but had the young man behind the bar mix her a lemonade in which he stuck an umbrella. Funny kid, he also gave me an ironic pause when I asked what there was to do in Buckingham; the same pause might well have meant, “I don’t understand the question, what on earth are you on about,” in less skillfull hands, but I took it to mean, as it turned out to do, “fuck all.”
Caulcott, on the other hand, is teeming with activity not least of which is the upcoming knacker waxing at the pub. I stopped on my way out of town and asked directions from the only guy I saw and was soon on my way, sad that I’d be away for teh big event (31st July):
The White Hart is the only pub left in the small village of Preston Bissett, but it is surprising the hamlet can sustain even it. Milton, the son of the chinese owner, seems an affable if ill-informed bartender (he seemed arumentatively certain that the earth’s atmosphere was at least 22% hydrogen–kaboom!). The menu ranges from chinese to italian to english, and I’m guessing it is worth a stop for a meal, but it is sort of remote…not near any main roads and halfway between Buckingham and Bicester. I only found it because I was out for a long run in the countryside anyway.
There were a few runs of note this week. One was from Witney to Eynsham via South Leigh, and it took me along a nice dismantled railbed; however, the fuckers that should do some minimum amount of trail maintenance to keep trekkers from walking OFF the right-of-way had, in addition to pulling down all the trail marks, also piled up all the slag and concrete that originally had made up the dismantled railway and piled it on the old path. Made it a lot less of a moral dilema to trespass, though, so bless ‘em.
Got a few choice bleeders along the way, as well, shown below. There is going to be a great crop of blackberries this year as far as I can tell.
The other kind of cool path was a loop from Ludgershall to Brill and back. This route requires a 140 meter climb as you approach Brill just after passing the Vale Brewery, but yields some choice views of the countryside (there should be a few pictures in the Pheasant pub review soon to follow).
The way back also resulted in some confusion, but this was mostly my fault and the trespassing I did was entirely malicious but it did take me past some fine horses. After the trails were once again found, I spotted some good nature reserve trails and a nice old railway bridge and tunnel.
This part of England is much more interesting than East Anglia, for a runner, anyways. The topography isn’t breathtaking, but it is loads better than the flat coastal plains out east. We are planning a trip to Shropshire in a couple of weeks, though, and I really think that is going to yield some prime new territory for the run notebook and some pretty new scenery.
Are these where they farm strippers?
The run home last night was intended to take me through Elsfield, Beckley (with a pub stop), Horton cum Studley (with another pub stop), then past the Boarstall Duck Decoy before depositing me in Arncott on roads I’m familiar with and which have bike lanes to jog.
There is this habit amongst landowners here–not all, but a lot of them–of stripping the trail markers off Public Paths and Rights-of-Way in the hopes that it will discourage the legal use of the trails. Of course, they are correct, it does, however most of us that use these paths have trail maps and either a compass or, for the 21st Century hikers, a GPS bothe combinations of which result in us trampling across their farmland willy-nilly.
That’s what happened to me several times yesterday and I wound up following landmarks (pylons, hills, old Army encmpment sites, larger buildings, and farm tracks) to make sure I touched all the bases. This added more than 5 extra miles to the trip and sent me through quite a bit of deep brush, blackberry thorns, and thick forest undergrowth. What a bunch of assholes. The one bright spot in all this was, as I was off trail and in the deepest brush I spotted this bra and pantyhose discarded a few feet over (ouch!):
Anyway, both pubs were closed. It was quite humid and warmer than it has been lately. And, at about 16.5 miles I plunged my foot into a badger hole and this morning my ankle is black and swollen.
23.5 miles total, 3h 10m.
Well, probably more like 3:25, since I stopped the clock when I entered the Plough at Arncott for an ice, cold Fosters. Chat was mostly on the run…they seemed gobsmacked anyone would do something so stupid. Later, it was World Cup chat and as I finished my water (following the Fosters), someone said, “yeah, even the American’s played well this year.”
“I don’t know about that. They seemed pretty much like a club team,” I answered.
“Well, they almost beat England,” the barkeep added in.
As I reached the door, laughing, I replied, “well, that’s not exactly a stunning endorsement now, is it?” It’s probably a good thing I run a lot.
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?”
“Yes, now that you mention it, and a bit cold and it costs the workers dearly. And, it has an odd aftertaste, like it forgets what it actually is.”