Archive for the ‘Run Across Britain’ 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.
I left the Green Dragon and took a bit of a trundle into the next village on the off-chance the Churchill Arms was opening early (nope), and continued via Little Cheverell to the Owl which, on asking directions from an old guy, I found to be not only closed but converted to a private residence (doh!). Still, it wasn’t yet noon and I had a mile or more to go before reaching the Bell Inn in Great Cheverell and despite the heavier than expected traffic on the roads I had a pleasant little jog up to the hostelry.
As I reached the Bell and the old guy in the photo (above), the church bells pealed. “They must have known you were coming,” he said; “it was a logistical nightmare to arrange it, too,” I replied. He’d been out for a walk, as well, and we talked about my route and the unusual weather and, of course, if the pub was open yet. A woman appeared from the graveyard with a sack full of windfallen greenery; “first the bells, and now they’ve arranged a garland for you,” he suggested. “As it should be, sir, as it should be,” I left them with.
Inside, the publican and his assistant were nutty and nice each in their own way and I decided to sip the Doom Bar slowly and enjoy the show. A few lunchers arrived then a fellow came up to the bar and ordered a glass of wine. “A bottle, surely,” suggested the landlord. “Your hard sell belies flawless logic…go on, then,” returned the punter. I liked this place and its regulars immediately from that point.
I liked it even more after Mr. Noon-Bottle bought me another pint (a “Wiltshire half” was how he put it) and we continued the what-the-fuck-brought-you-to-Swindon conversation for a half hour longer. Very funny fellow, too. I owe him a beer now, but with so many other pubs to hit around here I hope I can make good on that, soon. Maybe a jog that starts later in the day should be scheduled.
Oh, the pub is great and I hear the ribs are absolutely sinful.
There have been days when meeting the 3 mile minimum for the Holiday Run Streak have been daunting (hangovers, bone idleness, actual injuries). Today was a joy, though.
I caught the 9 o’clock to Devizes and headed south into the slimy mud, down one steep ridge and up another and emerging, eventually, in Market Lavington. The timing was actually rubbish, though, as the only pub open before noon is the Green Dragon (no complaints, mind; it was a self-inflicted wound I would have avoided by taking the 10 o’clock bus instead).
9.4 miles out, with a beer break in Market Lavington
5.8 miles back after beer break in Great Cheverell
I thought I could kill a little time by inspecting the pubs on offer for another day and the Churchill in Littleton Panell looked worthy. The Owl in Little Cheverell was turned into a private residence a year or so ago to the dismay of the old fellow I spoke with there and the Bridge downhill from the Churchill got a recommendation from a kind gentleman I met at the Bell in Great Cheverell which I wandered up to just as it opened.
To be honest, the 9.4 miles run up to then had been like forced labour but the longer than planned (and greater fluid volume than planned) stop at the Bell recharged me. Although I thought I had restarted the GPS I arrived back in Devizes with no additional miles. This was easy enough to manually map (5.8 miles) and the voice recorder — which I failed to turn off, as well, upon leaving — showed this last leg to be 40 minutes long. There was a bit of sunshine and mostly good surfaces to run and I made the most of the opportunity…plus, I was afraid the chippy in Devizes would close at 2 and I really hankered for a bit of cod.
Good run, pleasant company, fine ales, and a treat at the end. Not a bad way to start the longest night of the year.
“Boot and Bonnet and Everything On It,” was how the regular described the classic MG body, never mounted on a frame, that a garage nearby has in its yard for sale. He had initiated a conversation with the older couple who drove up in a classic Jag E-type and before long they were discussing where to find spare parts and when the next rally trip was going to be.
Copacetic, but they were hogging the fireplace, too, although the bar was a good second choice to sit. Soon, I was joined by a newcomer in Wellies. “Where’s your car, then?” asked Mr Spare Parts. “I didn’t bring it, did I,” replied Mr Muddy Boots but in his West Country accent that came out, “Oi dinta bringih, did oi?” “How’d you come, then?” Spare Parts continued. Muddy answered, “Arn me shanks,” and slapped one of his own thighs for emphasis.
Two-thirds of the fine, old house was dedicated to the dining area through some abbey-styled windows and heavy doors. The lounge was fairly atmospheric and the carpet was another version of the red-pub-rug that we put into our dining room or the one in the Alma I spotted last week. But, if I was going to linger I would need to get out of the rapidly cooling sweaty kit and into something dry, so I drank up and headed back out to the trails.