Just below RAF Brize Norton you run into the village (more of a hamlet, but the pub and church make it technically a village) of Black Bourton with its little ale house, The Vines (although it is more of a restaurant than a pub…more technicalities). The host seemed technically friendly but there was an actual frostiness to my less than white-tablecloth-ready appearance. I had a quick lager and got back on the road for a run and a bit less ambiguity.
Archive for the ‘Royal Wootton Bassett’ Tag
At the end of the run that took me to the Royal George (may she R.I.P.) and to Riff’s Bar (my new favourite despite the beer selection) I was entering Wootton just as the bus was leaving but it was a good thing as I headed to the Cooperative to do my dinner shopping the Crown Hotel turned out to be, for the first time in my experience, open. Hooray! I have now punched the last spot on my Royal Wootton Bassett pub ticket.
I had a Bob from Wickwar Brewery which was an interesting but not challenging ale. As I sat down, a conversation I later found to be about probate was continuing with the tantalising statement, “If I am declared incompetent to conduct my own affairs….”
The cook was a very young man and the cook’s togs he wore were more circus clown than clown that can gut a partridge in 30 seconds, but he, like the entire cast of characters, seemed friendly enough. At one point he started singing dreadfully and everyone stopped and looked at each other than back towards him, which brought their gazes in line with me. “Talk about incompetence,” I said and everyone laughed and went back to their own little dramas. As I left, everyone said goodbye, an unusual occurrence in this shy country.
Except for the Crown, which is never open, the Waggon and Horses is the last of the Wootton Bassett pubs on my checklist. Cozy and with a cheery landlady and a patient publican (quite a gabby retiree to deal with on the day of my visit). It is a fine house to rest up in on a cold midwinter afternoon.
There were four ales to choose and I went for a Braydon RWB which had an odd iodine back taste that might have suited a plate of oily fish (I’m thinking some grilled sardines or even just a tin of pilchards with some crackers) but was a bit of a stretch to wash down flu medicines with. Fine old pub, though; give it a visit.
It is a big roadway eatery and looks like they offer pretty standard fare. There is a five quid special before five pm which is advertised on boards outside and which the old couple near me commented on to the exclusion of all other topics, like “oh, it was £11.40 they charged for the food and bevvies;” “£11.40 for the food and bevvies, I don’t know how they do it;” “yes, it was five for yours and the half and five more for mine. Then there was my half;” “ooh, that was never £11.40;” “yes, £11.40. Because it was five for mine, and…” and on and on for 10 minutes.
I dropped my glass at the bar and asked where the gents was, and the barkeep said, “just between those two pillars there, m’love.” I didn’t see the door beyond and commented I didn’t think that would be especially sanitary. Walking back I heard the conversation had moved on to “yes, I think they forgot to charge for one of our halves; it was five for yours,” etc.
I need structure when preparing for a marathon or an ultra, even something like the London Marathon which will probably require walking the first mile or so due to the crowd and, as a result, I will not really take too seriously (stopping a few pubs, run a couple of miles backwards, etc). I’m following Hal Higdon’s Intermediate 1 schedule for marathons to dictate minimum distances although most of my long runs exceed the prescribed ones and I only do speed work once a month or so. Anyway, I didn’t get out Thursday due to some visitors at the lab so that 3 mile minimum got pushed to Friday and I surveyed a hilly loop in RWB that roughly would bookend with two pubs.
To start, I hopped off the bus a stop too early and got a little quarter-mile warm up jog to the Woodshaw, which I would guess is a lot older than the estate built up around it. It is an Arkell’s house and they had the Czech-style Pilsner which has to be my favourite yellow beer in this county if not countrywide. There were two customers and the barkeeper taking the piss out of each other; one customer was a dead ringer (attitude, looks and voice) for Ricky Tomlinson. I could have lingered all evening in this place but Hal is a slavedriver.
From the Three Crowns, I rolled downhill toward the rail then generally east but drifting north due to mismarked trails, finally reaching a roadway that would take me back to Royal Wootton Bassett for the bus home. Another steep climb brought me onto the High Street (although I’m not too sure if that is what it is called) and a check of the schedule showed I had 20 minutes before the bus would arrive. Plenty of time to hit the Angel and change into my dry shirt.
The Angel is an old inn and a welcoming fire was in the large fireplace near the bar. There were ales but I really fancied a lager this time and got yet another Carling then travelled the plank floors until I found a semi-private area beyond the stairs so I could strip down and re-dress. Another friendly crowd, here, I got one to snap a photo for the 100/100 challenge and listened to some incomprehensible local football chatter before gulping down the last drop and dashing out to the stop.
I finished the run with about a one mile dash from the Marsh Farm Hotel just in time to see the 55 bus back to Swindon leaving, and so I had an extra 20 minutes to wait. This was cool as I had never been in the Cross Keys before and looked forward to it. It is a really nice and very old hotel, and the pub is broken into a front and back bar plus some recreation areas. There are several ales available and the food board looks marvelous (I was very close to ordering a Stilton and mushroom panini when I realised it was time to go back out to the bus). Friendly house, too.
The receptionist asked, “how did you get so hot?”
“God made me this way, but thank you.”
“No,” she corrected, “it is bloody freezing out.”
“Ooooohhhhh, that. Running, mostly lost, out from Swindon.”
A few miles from the Bolingbroke I spotted a second country inn that might have a better attitude. Indeed, the Marsh Farm made me feel quite welcome and I returned the favour by standing aside in the lobby so the smartly dressed members of the large wedding party could get by without being soiled by the sweat and farm waste covered clothing I was in.
The bar was small but very nice and there is a big and quite posh restaurant on the premises. And, everyone is as nice as can be.
The New Years Eve Run ended, for the most part, at the Prince but I still needed to catch the bus and really new the Carling Challenge ahead was going to be brutal so I continued into town and stopped at the Red Lion, poignant as the name of the first pub I hit once safely resident in England was a Red Lion (12o stumbling steps along the wall in Stretham to my front door on Pump Lane). As time goes on (nearly to 800 pubs now), this becomes statistically significant as the Red Lion is the most frequent name on my list and the most frequent name nationwide.
Anyway, the RWB Red Lion is lovely, with two small rooms well appointed and prices to cry for: £2.10 for Courage and £2.70 for Guinness (sounds rough in the States but here it is a blast from the ancient past). Nice folk, too, but RWB is pretty cool for a place that isn’t too cool. Still the same trip without the camera, so it is a Google map pic, probably originally shot in the summertime. Happy Ney Year!
Out for the last run of the year and preparing to settle into mostly Carling Black Label for the 100 Beers In !00 Places Challenge, I did a route out to RWB that dumped me off at the Prince of Wales. This was a fantastic little house out of the main town and the crowd and management were absolutely lovely. I had a Doom Bar for my beer, a conversation about drinks for hot curries and another about gambling on the Royal Wedding, then buggered off out to catch my bus back to Swindon. The photo is a screen capture (the sun does get that bright but never that high in Winter here)…forgot my camera.
“What bourbons do you have?” was a question that threw the barmaid at the Royal Inn (renamed from the Borough Arms in honour of the town’s new Royal status). ”I’m not the best one to ask,” she said as she hopelessly looked around the collection of bottles. ”Jim Beam, maybe? It’s in a clear bottle with a white label,” I helped and then added, “it’s kind of brown,” as she picked up a bottle of blue Curacao. ”Maybe you should just do me a pint of 3B, honey,” I finally settled. My bus was due soon and I didn’t have the time to waste.
A couple of builders were sitting nearby in the small bar and they, too, were rushing to down their pints before the bus. As they finished before me and headed out, I lifted mine and said, “hold that bus for me,” and the younger one immediately sat back down and said I should hold the bus for him that way he could have another round. I leaned back to the confused barmaid to say, “he says he’s buying the next round…did you ever find that whiskey?”
“Whiskey? I thought you said bourbon.” But, there was the bus.
I got a glowing recommendation for the Five Bells from a commenter on the Carter’s Rest and planned for my run from Lyneham to finish there. That guy was absolutely correct, this is a fantastic pub with a small front bar and slightly larger lounge behind and windows into the bar from all sides. The place was heaving with locals and yet I was met with the warmest of welcomes despite, or perhaps because of, my haggard appearance.
I spent the previous hour mostly lost in dark, rainy fields and briar filled copses trying to make out the readings on my compass and occasionally getting to high enough ground to see the lights of RWB; when I entered the bar I was muddy, soaked with a combination of sweat and fine mist, and bleeding fairly steadily. There were at least 6 ales on (although I wouldn’t have been surprised to find gravity barrels around the corner). The guy I sat next to while attacking the pint of Brains before me was affable and commented on my compass, the only bit of kit I stole from Uncle Sam lo these many years ago; “that’s a good compass you got there, lad…it brung you here.” Indeed.
The publican appeared in due course and sat nibbles out before each of the windows and two bowls on the bar. They were some of the most delicious Cumberland sausages I have found since moving here, grilled to perfection and best-of-all free. Another old dude showed up and we chatted awhile, too then I went and changed into some dry clothes and bade farewell. Great pub.