Archive for the ‘Berkshire’ Tag
With an hour to kill in Hungerford, I wandered looking for some street food but the chippies, kebab places, and other takeaways were closed until later in the evening. However, there are many pubs and I continued my liquid diet in the Borough Arms with a Wadworth Horizon.
There was a lot of activity at the snooker table and I was the only punter watching the football on the three screens I could spot; even this was just a ruse, though, as the other customers were especially entertaining to watch and listen to. Once again, as the only stranger in a bar that obviously doesn’t get a lot of strangers in I was left alone but suspect that staying for a second pint would have been all the invitation required for one or more of the regulars to start an interrogation…too bad I was already loaded when I arrived AND was on a deadline for the bus. I may stop in again on my next trip to Hungerford, though.
I love a Railway Tavern and this was a pretty good one with London Pride on tap, pleasant enough rock on the speakers, and a bunch of tabloid papers on the table where I sat. The barmaid was friendly and most of the other customers appeared to be regulars. The house still looks like a 19th- or early 20th-century hotel and they have live music several times a week. The only down side is the rail line doesn’t run to Swindon (you would have to change in Reading).
The return run from the Pelican came over a steep hill and descended into Hungerford eventually near the Town Hall almost directly across from the Plume of Feathers (an alternative name for pubs originally called the Prince of Wales, describing the symbology of the pub signs).
The staff get really mixed reviews but they seemed friendly enough to me (and I was drenched with rain, covered knee-high in mud, and sweating profusely thus not in a state to expect the warmest welcome). They were quite attentive to the old codgers that appeared to be in the same places they have stood since the Coronation and greeted other strangers at least cordially.
One of the ancients commented on the colour of the Oakham Citra I ordered in such a way as to suggest it was an effeminate choice but the bar lady said it had been very popular the past week or so. It was very astringent and hoppy with an almost skunky floral aftertaste…very nice.
The plan was to catch the bus to Hungerford and jog the canal path to Kintbury, grab a pint and head back. As is typical, the run started off wrong and got worse but, all tolled, was not an especially bad day out.
I thought we approached Hungerford from the south and so turned right onto the path which was a soupy and slick nightmare. With no traction, it took two to three times the number of steps to cover the distance and there was always a reasonable chance of falling into the canal.
At the road to Froxfield, I checked my map and realised I was near the Pelican and decided it would have to do as a turnaround point. Not relishing the return mud bath I went over some hilly trails to get to a single track road that, this time, actually did approach Hungerford from the south.
Hungerford is pretty. Here’s the town hall and some detail:
Another ancient house specialising in fine food and located in a posh village, the Catherine Wheel is worlds apart from the Swan I left moments before. The friendly bartendress with the moose-and-squirrel accent was a delight and probably was pretending to believe I didn’t hear her when I made her repeat the order and the charge several times.
This is the oldest pub in the village and it still acts like a pub. The big table of diners outside notwithstanding (it looked like a small company’s outing), most of the people seemed to be there for a chat and a beverage. A very social place (and they even tipped me off to several other similarly old and friendly houses in this and the neighbouring village of Streatley). Awesome.
I got a pint of Ringwood 49er which was just a bit spicy and very bitter, like it should be, to complement my bland sweetness. With the daylight starting to change and the soft breeze, there is very little else you could ask.
The village of Pangbourne is so posh that the rail station pub is a gastropub and the little children in the dining families order sparkling water with a lime twist. But, if you try to order the Swan‘s own ale they are out of it and the waitron will say “but, we have a nice IPA.” Looking at the tag you will quickly realise that the house ale is just that same Greene King IPA with a house label on it. I had a Becks.
Out on the dining decks you could cut the middle-class aires with a knife but it would come back dulled from the effort. Very sad, but, then again, just across the street a train was due every thirty minutes and I needn’t linger…I dare say, the crowd probably was happier when I left, too.
On the way to the Slough Trading Estate to see the site of The Office, I stopped in a Wetherspoons that appeared on my left housed in what seems to be an old bank building. Inside the Moon and Spoon, people were withdrawing valuables fairly quickly so I queued and my teller, the kind and efficient Gemma, disappeared momentarily to retrieve my cider from a vault around the corner.
The cider was a Mr Whitehead Newton’s Discovery, light in structure like a perry but with a depth of flavour and very slight astringence that reminds me of the Pickled Pig Cider made from local apples in Stretham (native to the Isle of Ely, anyway).
As my glasses and eyes adjusted to the light I realised the weird dude standing by the door was actually a sculpture and, in fact, made entirely of spoons.