Archive for the ‘pubs’ Category
Dry, warm clothing donned at the Stallards after the rainy run were a special joy but now the rain had stopped and I could look around on my walk back into town. On my right, I spotted the Rose and Crown which I had web-reconned and decided it looked too foodie for a stop (maybe it was the sign, maybe a review); but, the bar was crowded with fat, middle-aged blokes so I felt I could slide in unnoticed.
Turns out, they had a nice selection of ales on although it does appear to have a dining crowd in mind (with locally sourced produce featured but also largely traditional plates available). I went to the Spartan dining room next to the bar so I could sit by a window and watched a fellow demolish first a platter of burger and chips then a really large berry mess: five minutes flat and the bartender had to go get the dessert.
The longer I stayed the more it felt like a proper pub although the location is a bit unfortunate. However, almost right across the road you’ll find the rail station, so if you’re passing through and fancy a quick pint you could do a lot worse.
I was absolutely soaked as I entered the previous pub, but the run from there to the Stallards was even wetter, windier, and colder (although the temperature nearly hit double digits). It had just opened for the day (third time as first customer today), but there was already a brazier of coal started in the hearth so I knew the run was over — I had considered a loop around the outskirts of Trowbridge to pick up another pub but the thought of returning to the damp in soaked vestments was a non-starter, so the backpack was unloaded and the dry kit set on a chair to warm up.
That’s right, I didn’t change out of the wet stuff straightaway. I was hot from the exertion despite feeling outwardly chilled. I needed some time to let the internal and external temperatures equilibrate and I needed to grab a pint of nourishment, this time in the form of West Country Gold, a cider just sweet enough to appeal to the candied-cider crowd and dry enough (for a fizzy, industrial cider) not to offend the effete.
The bar seems like it might be a bit of a party shack for the young but not for youths. I get the feel of college or university educated folk or journeymen crafts people but not anyone over 40 years old. Hard to tell mid-day as the only punter in the place, but I don’t think I’m the target audience. Nice enough, but it has an atmosphere that doesn’t speak to me either as a traditional pub nor as a real dive. Perhaps a bit too tidy, or maybe the sensation that the well whisky is actually good or that brightly coloured shooters are on the menu.
“Do you think that has too much chocolate?” one girl yelled over to my bartender who was licking some sort of pastry from her fingers before pulling my Corvus Stout. “Too much chocolate? Hang on, I need to taste some more to see what you’re on about.” But, despite the charm of this banter what I liked most was that no one commented on the state of yours truly: drenched top-to-toe from a winter run in the rain and caked with mud below the knees.
I’m a fan of Corvus but I wonder why everyone serves it ice-cold. Especially today I would have savoured something other than bone-chillingly chilled (and might well have gone for an Irish coffee had I been thinking clearly). Still, it was a joy to sit in the front window (the privilege of the first customer of the day) in the Dandy Lion (this hillside pub in one of the prettiest towns in the county) and watch the road and foot traffic go on in the downpour.
Then, the skies brightened a bit and the sun threatened an appearance. Gulping down the last half of the stout, I bid farewell and headed back out to the roads to try to take in some nice weather…which just as suddenly turned to shit when the skies blackened and the rain returned with a vengeance, driving into my face from the right. Bracing.
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.
Trying unsuccessfully to find the Horse and Groom, I gave up and entered the Lounge Bar of the Crown. As I walked toward the loo, a huge dog started barking at me so once I finished I took to the Public Bar to get a 6X but there was nowhere to sit so I headed back into the Lounge where the dog recommenced his barking.
“I think it’s the hat, mate,” one of the guys at a nearby table offered. I removed it, saying, “or maybe the sheep shit on my shoes has him excited;” however, as soon as I laid the cap on the table the beast rolled over and went back to sleep. That’s right, etiquette lessons from a Great Dane.
It was another fine bar and one to linger at, but the trains were spaced by about two hours and I was really ready to head home at this point. As I left, the first raindrops fell on what had, up until then, been a stunningly beautiful — if cold — day for a wee jog:
With the bad taste of the Bell still lingering, I decided to make the stretch to the Prince of Wales a bit more of a real workout by doing a minute flat-out then a minute of recovery jog until I got there. Had I left the Bell two minutes earlier I wouldn’t have been caught behind a cattle drive at mile 5, but I was eventually able to veer off without too much of a detour.
This diligence was rewarded with a friendly barmaid, some bemused old guys to talk to, and a peek at the awesome skittles alley off to the right of the bar. We had a general discussion on travel with one sour old dude saying “I never been to the States,” and me answering, honestly, “I wouldn’t waste the money nor the time if I were you.” We then agreed on Italy with the general bar consensus being Sicily.
“What are you doing, then…orienteering?” the foul tempered one spat as he pointed to my map I used as a coaster. “I guess. I’m running pub-to-pub, so, sure, why not?” As I was leaving he cheerily called out, “enjoy your orienteering,” but on retrospect it was slathered with sarcasm.
Slightly more than a mile on from the Full Moon came the Bell, a highway-side inn that appears to cater to upper-middle class pensioners in tweed jackets with ties. I think “cool-ly polite” best sums up the reception I received.
The house could easily seat 200 for dining which made the two I spotted seem stranded. An old couple dressed for church or a meeting with their solicitor came in as I drank and passed me carefully on their way to their regular table.
Just before I left a third — much younger — couple came in and was greeted with a silent tilt of the head and raised eyebrow, the implied, “yes? Is there something you wanted?” remaining unspoken. “Is there a table free for lunch?” the woman tentatively asked. “Yes, just take any not marked ‘RESERVED,’ and we’ll be over shortly.” I drank up and left without notice from the staff.