The descent from Westwood was steep and curved and the wet tarmac incompatible with my trail shoes so once up to speed I kept an ear tuned to oncoming traffic and an eye peeled to find a soft place to bail out (because there was no way I could rapidly decelerate or drastically change direction). Fortunately, at 10:05 am I reached the bottom without incident (literally, although often enough I’ve reached bottom, figuratively, WITH incidents). Before me sat the first target: the Crossed Guns pub which opened at 10 am.
The staff were mopping the flagstone floors as I entered so I checked my shoes for mud but they were quite clean from running through the flooded roads. I removed my hat, brushed off some of the sheen of water from my sleeves and headed toward the bar where I found an array of fine brews available. Needing something substantial, I went for a Box Steam Funnel Blower, a vanilla porter I found to taste strongly of coffee and blackberries. As it turns out, the Crossed Guns is one of the brewery taps for the Box Steam brewery.
Sitting there alone, slowly drying off and really savouring the beer, I had a good look around at this 16th – or -17th-century limestone house. There’s shit hanging everywhere but it doesn’t come off as cluttered at all. The room I was in had an array of piss pots hanging from the ceiling (which made me think of Dylan’s “On the Road Again,” with the lyric I still hear as
Well, there’s piss pots in the kitchen
They’re enough to make me cry
even though I’ve known the real lines for years).
I killed some time here, thinking ahead to the next pub stop, a mile and a half away but not opening until 11. On the cliffs across the Avon, cows grazed; passenger trains whizzed through the station across the bridge without stopping; and the landlord methodically went about preparing for the lunch rush by building a fire and helping the other staff setting up the place. The lighting of the south facing windows was atmospheric and I didn’t want to leave at all, but there were miles and miles between me and my ride home and several more pubs to try.