Archive for the ‘Public Houses’ Tag
I claimed awhile back to have gone to every pub in RWB and no one corrected me to include the Phoenex (yes, that’s really how they spell it). But, with my daily mileage and my weekly kebab behind me and a bus every twenty minutes, this seemed like the day to put things right. The bar used to be the neighbourhood Workingman’s Club and you can still take advantage of the drink discounts by joining, but as this was just a quick one for rehydration purposes I deferred the membership for now.
A private party was being set up in the back room which was enormous and could probably hold 500 people safely. The woman singing at the sound check had a great voice and Dave, the manager, told me later that she can be even louder once she gets rolling. I, on the other hand, was mostly quiet with my pint of Carling and her private serenade as the soundtrack to some sloppily played international cricket (India v. Pakistan).
They’re open Monday-Thursday evenings, Fridays they close mid-afternoon, and all day on the weekends. Go visit.
The Plough in Kington Langley makes it three Ploughs in a row, not by design but coincidence–a happy one, but a coincidence nonetheless. I had an hour and a half to kill at the Chippenham Station and opted to get in a short run but two miles in it started raining and I took cover in this barn of a pub. The staff were pleasant enough (the cook was reading a newspaper near the bar and she had left the kitchen doors open so that the fried goodness therein could taunt the damp, hungry interloping loper). I had a cider from Kingstone Press which was fizzy and crisp but not especially impressive. It was still raining when I finished this, but not nearly as hard as at its peak so I bimbled back to town for my ride home.
The run from the Plough in Great Haseley went past the Black Bull in Great Milton (which was closed) via some lovely paths through fields. From there, the trail was a busy, narrow track with high hedges at the verges–harrowing, no pun intended as I soon found myself at yet another Plough, this one in Wheatley.
And, lo-and-behold, they had XT beer on tap as well. This time it was a 6, deep ruby in colour and with a flavour evoking burnt chestnuts…much nicer than the 4 I had at the other Plough.
Running between pubs is thirsty work
This one reopened since the last time I passed through and it appears to be a fairly modern restaurant inside the ancient walls. Too swank for my sweaty ass, I politely retired to the garden to reflect on my runs.
I arrived a little before the five o’clock opening time and talked with the builders doing the architecturally sympathetic renovations/additions to the Plough in Great Haseley. It is a fantastic old house that the villagers bought just over a year ago and are still putting the finishing touches on.
I had an XT 4 when the landlord/manager popped out and invited me in. “You’ve had this before, then?” he asked in the terrifying way that someone asks when you order something exotic. “Er, no, and I DO like Doom Bar [the other ale] but I thought I’d give this a go.”
The 4 was a bit odd, citric like underripe lemons mixed with the peels of overripe oranges. It had a very astringent, turpentine-like finish and not a lot of depth but that all makes it sound very bad and it really wasn’t bad at all. The XT Brewery is run by a couple of dudes out in Thame, a few miles away and seem to be on good terms with several of the local bartenders.
The pub is something of a secret and frequented only by the villagers for the most part. The big addition at the back will house a large dining area and a modern kitchen but if you want to have a look before the crowds descend upon it I would encourage a visit soon.
Completely off my tits at this point (counting backwards to the start of the day, this was my 11th pub stop), I got one more cider and took a quiet seat near the window. This seemed like a serious drinkers’ bar or at least it was populated by some severely drunk folk (mea culpa).
I had not lifted a cool souvenir yet (there was a camera pointed at the antique skittle pins in the window at the Bell, earlier), so I scoured the room for something that would fit in my bag. They were using the billiards table (and my collection of cue balls is substantial already) but with my change into dry clothing there was enough room for one of the items, above, in my pack (hint: it isn’t the pinball machine although it is doubtful anyone would have noticed me dragging it down the pavement). Good pub.
The pub seemed a bit rough so I didn’t take any interior photos, but the music was surprisingly good and the crowd, obviously completely bored with one another, welcomed the wasted stranger with the exotic accent and made the pint last a bit longer than it might otherwise have. One off-duty barmaid said it was her birthday today (27) and I added that it was also mine (51), which for Trowbridge might make me older than her granny. Dives are always the best places, though.
Eight pubs, eight pints and about 13 miles into the day’s effort (I got, erm, ‘lost’ on my way to the town centre from the Ship), I was closed to famished and soaked through to the bones. I needed a dry place to change into my dry clothing and the King’s Arms seemed to suit the bill. I couldn’t very well go in just for that so I had a Rite Flanker by Wickwar (very floral hops in this delight) which I now think had a rugby theme (Right Flanker) but at first thought it was a play on Right Wanker.
There is a pub map of Bath that is designed like the London Underground map on the wall nearest the bar and front door. I can kick myself for not having the presence of mind to take a photograph but also am fairly proud that I DID have the presence of mind NOT to just tuck it under my arm and walk out with it.
About a quarter-mile away from the Anchor and Hope I passed, then doubled back into, the Ship Inn, a massive building with a surprisingly cozy bar. I waited for the awkward school girls to cross the street before snapping the photo but should have left them in (quite goofy looking).
“Wine, the classy way to get shitfaced!” Classy, indeed.
Sticking to the mostly cider theme of the day I had yet another Thatcher’s and listened to the couple of old dudes down the end of the bar trade solutions to the crossword they were working. The barmaid quizzed me on Georgia and Arizona and winced when I said we were living in Swindon because it was so cheap; “really? It’s much cheaper here, mate.” She also does shifts at the Anchor and Hope and either is worth a visit for that feature alone.
Running up on the Anchor and Hope from the Black Horse I apologised to the guy having a smoke in the doorway: “it’s not you, but the venue.” “It’s never me, mate. I’m not that famous.” Funny, and I hope there’s a better story to that than this one I relate to you now.
I had a Black Rat Cider, always good and surprisingly orange in hue (as the birthday boy’s picture beneath the legs of Elvis ’68 attests). They had a variety of interesting ales on tap, too, and a nature programme on giant predators (an eighteen ton shark featured as we spoke about the relatively non-traditional nature of pubs closer to the town centre).
The pub dog, just a puppy, snoozed nearby and I reckoned wouldn’t be a problem if anyone wanted to sneak in and boost the collection of miniature booze (these ALWAYS make for the most delightfully miserable hangover).
Nice crowd and staff at this diner of a pub (Americans should think Bob’s or Shoney’s “Big Boy” except with cheap booze). The selection of said cheap booze wasn’t great and I fell back on lager (Carling, as usual). After a good couple of laughs with the regulars I was back out in the rain, running for another pub (blessedly nearby, a half mile or so along the way).
“So has it started raining, then?” the landlord asked.
“Only just. Pint of 6X, please.”
John Denver mocked the situation, crooning about sunshine on his shoulders and all the happiness it bestows.
The pub was huge, a right barn and packed with dining cattle to boot. A large party of people although party might be extreme: there was something funereal about the group and it might have been a wake and a big one at that. Not too surprising as most of the customers were at deaths door or, at a minimum, ringing for reservations (fat, old, fat, decrepit). The beer was perfect, by the way.
Just out on the highway down the Church Street from the Cross Keys sits the Bell Inn, ancient and furnished with, if modern, wooden tables that look worn with age. It was also just across from my off-road trail so a perfect place to stop in for another quick one (slower and slower though these seemed to become). I also intended to come in and ask why they had the Liberty Bell on the sign but it completely slipped my mind.
The Lilley’s apple/pear cider was a real delight. Clear but with the colour of ripe and slightly oxidized pear meat, it had the acidity of cider apples and the sweet depth of a properly done-up peary. Seek this out.
The sound track here was Mumford and Sons which bothered me because I thought it was just some R.E.M. I had missed along the way. It finally dawned on me as I was leaving.
The trip to the Cross Keys from the Red Lion was blessedly short if a bit muddy. In fact, it was a bit too short as I arrived there 5 minutes before opening time. I walked a bit of the village then came back when I knew I could enter, removed the muddy shoes, and ordered up a Thatcher’s Cheddar valley–an unusually dry and orange coloured cider with almost no sweetness and a bitter aftertaste of malic acid (quite a contrast to the bog-standard Thatcher’s I had just finished).
The house is old and serves as an inn more so than a pub (from the looks of things). The kitchen appeared to be larger than the public bar and smelled wonderful (at least compared to my mud and cow shite coated shoes and, frankly, self).
I thought the Red Lion would be open at 11 and so was disappointed to find the hours posted as 11:30 on a handwritten back of a cardboard box. I had blown past a couple of pubs that WERE open thinking, hey, let’s get to the turnaround point on this trek then settle into drinking at every stop on the way back…since it looked like it was going to pour rain at any moment. Best laid plans being what they are, I settled into some more of the Bob-fest on a picnic table and waited out the storm or the doors, whichever would be first.
Inside at last, the place filled quickly with diners and the professional wait staff were all a-flutter (some literally). I took my Thatcher’s Cider to a quiet end of the bar and listened to the Sinatra they had on and rather enjoyed the surroundings for this little break. Later, I would pay for the dalliance but overall it was worth the wait and the wet.
The birthday run has to start somewhere and it frequently has started in a bar (last year was an exception for a trip to Maastricht). Early mornings dictate a Wetherspoons (most serve alcohol from 9 am) and the other ‘Spoons in Trowbridge was reviewed on my previous trip here, so the Albany Palace got the nod.
You always know what to expect food-wise (not very appetising) but the beer selection and prices are always fantastic. I had a very floral beer called Spring Daze but didn’t note the brewery, sadly.
The pub is right on the park from which I planned to start, anyway, and so I did a few minutes later.
I was absolutely drenched when I showed up at the Pearl (formerly The Navy Oak, if you look it up on Google Streetview). There were some ales on offer but as this doubles as a Chinese restaurant I decided to go native and had what turned out to be a quite nice lager: Sun Lik beer. Quite strong, too, I would assume from the advertising campaign:
I spotted the Oxford HHH hare at the train station and decided to crash the party (who’s the hare, now?). Stealthily avoiding recognition I sped up to the appointed start, the Rose and Crown, and grabbed a delicious Wye Valley Brewery Slater, floral and astringent and simply perfect. I awaited my unwitting tracker expecting him to dump off his trail marking gear and got lost in the Tom Waits album playing over the loudspeakers.
He never arrived so I whipped out into the rain to try to find another pub around the nearby Cornbury Park (actually the grounds of a stately home). I also never found any of his pre-laid trail, which made this less of a G-Had HHH trip than I hoped for but they can’t all be great. The pub, though, was top-notch.
It was burger night and I was walking to the store for some wine and didn’t want a social drink along the way. I made the right choice by diverting into the Spot for an overpriced Peroni and steaming plate of attitude from the hair-gelled ‘tender. The place specialises in juvenile drinks (shooters and items that involve energy drinks or sweetened, carbonated beverages) so it is unlikely I’ll make this mistake again. On the other hand, I’m sure it’s a good place, close to closing time, to get laid or have a fight (or both); bring your roofies, fellow creepy old guys.
The Bell has taken ages to make this list as it is almost always closed when I run through here. This time, though, I planned well and 9 or 10 miles into an orienteering trudge (actually a few miles after completion) I staggered into the abandoned house as the lone customer. The landlord and landlady were friendly and the Wiltshire Gold was delicious but there was really nothing notable about the visit. After all that effort to get in, I guess I expected more; still it was better than the kebab that awaited me at the run’s conclusion.
After an unusually strenuous hike along the Kennet and Avon Canal, a heavy lunch at the Barge (one of the best burgers I’ve had in England that I didn’t make myself), and a diversion through some manor-farm land that piled on the miles in this first of hopefully many hot days this year we opted for a brief wait for the bus to Swindon in the safe confines of the Royal Oak.
Jackie had an unusually disgusting blister on her foot and no appetite for booze (had I misplaced the woman on the tow path?) so I was left to drink alone but with dry company in this fantastic old inn in this fantastic old town.
There were some bikers having a few before heading back out to the wonderful weather but that is really all I could take in since, like the woman, I was absolutely exhausted. the pics above are from the walk, but I would really need to revisit the pub to do a just review.