Archive for the ‘Berkshire’ Tag

The Borough Arms, Hungerford, Berkshire   1 comment

borough arms hungerford sign

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.

borough arms hungerford beer

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.

borough arms hungerford

The Railway Tavern, Hungerford, Berkshire   Leave a comment

railway tavern hungerford

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 Plume of Feathers, Hungerford, Berkshire   1 comment

plume of feathers hungerford sign

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).

plume of feathers hungerford beer

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.

plume of feathers hungerford

Rainy run (loop from Hungerford to Froxfield)   3 comments

2013-03-16 run route

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.

2013-03-16 hungerford outskirts church

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.

2013-03-16 hungerford canal path west of town

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.

2013-03-16 hungerford return

Hungerford is pretty.  Here’s the town hall and some detail:

2013-03-16 hungerford town hall

2013-03-16 hungerford town hall detail

The Catherine Wheel, Goring, Berkshire (pub #968)   2 comments

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.


Posted 2012/09/04 by Drunken Bunny in pubs, tourism

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The Swan, Pangbourne, Berkshire (pub #967)   1 comment

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.

Oh, if you are a fan of Jerome K Jerome, note that this was the terminal stop for Three Men In A Boat.

The Moon and Spoon, Slough, Berkshire (pub #966)   Leave a comment

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.

Posted 2012/09/04 by Drunken Bunny in pubs

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Wernham Hogg’s, Slough, Berkshire (pub #965)   7 comments

“Ever see a blind man cross the road
“Trying to make it to the other side?”

I mentioned literary tourism earlier this week and extended this to include tourism centered on television and cinema.  This is just such a case…I ran to Slough with only these two intentions: to have a beer in a pub named Wernham Hogg’s and to find the building this fictional paper company from The Office was supposed to be housed in (after the Swindon office closed when the company downsized to its Slough headquarters).

The pub was a major disappointment, though.  The only ale was Abbot and it was foamy so I got a Carling (#124 in the Challenge) and held my hand over the surface to keep the aerosol (room deoderiser? mosquito fogger?) sprayed freely by the only other person beside me and the tender.  The music was loud considering the abandoned state of the place but that would have been fine if it had been anything besides that atonal faux-R&B/dance shite you simply cannot escape here.

But, the beer was cold and it was beer so there is always a bright side.  And, the weather was lovely and I found the building:

“So what becomes of you, my love,
“When they have finally stripped you of….”

Well…stripped you of the chance to be the 1000th pub, anyway as this made # 965.

Daily runs in September (2012): Day 4 Slough and links for 1-3   2 comments

“Come friendly bombs and fall on Slough!
“It isn’t fit for humans now,
“There isn’t grass to graze a cow.
“Swarm over, Death!”  [from Slough by Betjeman]

I mentioned earlier that Jackie was off to America for a couple of weeks and I am taking the time to do some solitary tourism here.  My plan is to run every day in September and to do longer runs during this break so that I can hit a few pubs in some new territory.  The first three days of the month involved runs around Swindon (Saturday the 1st and Sunday the 2nd) and another down in Oxford (Monday the 3rd), but today I rode down to Heathrow with the spouse and once she was safely through the security check I headed off toward Slough.

Or, rather, I eventually did so with some difficulty.  Asking how to get to the cycle path elicited directions to a free shuttle bus from one ‘information desk’ attendant and, more perplexingly, a question regarding the location of my car (which, I can only assume they thought I wanted to drive over cyclists and pedestrians).  I eventually found it myself but only by running to the top of the parking decks and scouting locations from there.  After reaching Terminal 5, several miles into the journey, I got lost again and eventually just ignored the ‘no pedestrians’ designation on the bus path that took me across to Bath Road.  Jeez.

This is a creek, believe it or not

Less than a mile from the airport I was surrounded by meadows, lakes, pastures and creeks although most of these were choked with aquatic vegetation.  It was still sort of industrial, but the sort of area where piles of fill dirt are stored for later usage.  Then, it got sort of residential and very nice indeed.

This was the ugliest group of flats I could find…pretty nice, actually.

Slough has to be one of the ugliest names for a town in the English language; it is so horrible and evokes such bleak imagery that Jackie refuses to even consider it as a potential home.  I believe John Betjeman felt as strongly about it as his lines, above indicate.  But, what I saw today was a charming and affluent town with mostly semi-detached and very large houses and great parks.  The High Street is mostly pedestrianized similar to Regents Street in Swindon; and while it is overrun with the aimless shoppers you might expect, it is clean and the people seem alert, mostly fit, and civil.  I like Slough.

I planned the run through here because of the distance and access to trains that stop in small villages along the way (to do a sort of Rail Stop Pub Crawl).  My first stop was a bit of tourism, though, checking out some things related to The Office, that Ricky Gervais show with the annoying boss (but this is covered in that pub’s post).

The Wheelwright’s Arms, Lambourn, Berkshire (pub #959)   Leave a comment

As I mentioned in the Red Lion (Baydon) post, I only had three pubs scoped out for this run, but the helpful souls at the George Hotel insisted I must go to the Wheelwright’s Arms which I had originally written off because without a web presence I couldn’t be sure of their hours.  I needn’t have worried as this is one of those proper turf pubs (Lambourn is something of a racing town), where racing is shown and bets are made (on the phone to bookies, exclusively of course) as long as there is a race to bet on.  There was no gambling on the the ale, though, as there were three taps all marked Moreland’s Best Bitter.

“I’ll have a pint of Moreland’s Best Bitter, please.”

“Good, choice.  Do I detect a”

I cut him off. “Atlanta.  Do you know Atlanta?”

“Oooooooo, I’ve only ever been to New York, Baltimore and Florida.”

“Aqueduct, Pimlico, Hialeah?”

“Yes, how did you know?”

The George Hotel, Lambourn, Berkshire (pub #958)   1 comment

Leaving the Red Lion, I didn’t expect Lambourn to be completely downhill (and thus for the return trip to be a climb).  Oh, well, once in town it was a simple matter to find the George Hotel, an Arkells house at the market place.  Inside this nondescript house I found the most marvelous bunch of bank-holiday-weekend drunkards you could hope for.

“You look hot.”

“Thanks, sir, but you’re really not my type.”  After a suitable pause, “oh, yeah, it’s blistering outside, especially when you’ve just run from Baydon.”

“Well, at least it’s downhill.  What’d you do that for?”

“I heard there was beer here.”

“Doesn’t that defeat the purpose of running?”

“I ran from the Red Lion to get to the George.  Job done, as I see it.”

Brilliant bunch of folks and as the conversations went on (a good local has all the punters swarm a newby as they are so bored to death with the stories of each other), I got to suggest things such as marathoning (London and Snowdonia) and the Beerathon.

The Three Guineas, Reading, Berkshire   Leave a comment

Returning from Germany via Heathrow, I transferred to rail at Reading Station. While they are both towns, both Swindon and Reading seem more like cities but Reading seems like a mid-sized city and is really busy on Friday evenings. I pushed through the crowds to the bar at the station pub, The Three Guineas, and found a choice of six ales awaiting me. Welcome home, me! I got a blackberry porter and found a spot to watch the slatterns strut by.

The bar itself was pretty nice as well. There aren’t enough rail station pubs left out there and this is one of the busier hubs on the network so it is a welcome surprise. It looks like it dates to the early 20th-century but might be post-war (Reading was heavily bombed); the lore of the place seems to claim one of Brunel’s locomotives as the source for the name but I would be surprised to find out this is a 19th-century house. Regardless, the new station which is being built on the site is going to incorporate and absorb the Three Guineas so it will remain to serve us for the foreseeable future.

The beer was like a dessert drink, but quite refreshing. I don’t think I would want to make this the evening’s tipple for a long session (the hangover would be horrendous), but while awaiting a train after a long voyage it was just fine.  I was going to try to work in the phrase, “I have a cunning plan,” but thought better of it:

The Monks Retreat, Reading, Berkshire   1 comment

Wetherspoons has three styles of pubs, as far as I can tell.  Some are prefabricated steel and precast monstrosities that are usually called “Wetherspoon’s,” while at the other end of the spectrum they have buildings built for purpose–albeit a vastly different purpose than as a pub–that they remodel keeping the better architectural aspects.  The Regal in Swindon and the Penny Black in Bicester are but two examples of this second batch which tend to be fantastic drinking establishments BEFORE you factor in the deeply discounted beverages (search Wetherspoons in the search box at the upper left of this page for other examples).

The Monks Retreat is something of a hybrid, a third way.  The bars are very similar to the rote ‘Spoons in that they have just acquired some retail space.  But, it does have something of the feel of one of the renovations.  I find it strange that it is called the Monks Retreat, though: these days you would think the Catholic clergy would be steering clear of the Courthouse.

I had a Screaming Monk by Loddon Brewery, a fairly light weight ale but still very bitter as though the excess alcohol helps dissolve some of the oil and tannic material from the lightly hopped wort.  Still, it was a pleasant enough way to kill some time before the Heathrow bus was ready to depart.

Posted 2012/06/24 by Drunken Bunny in beer reviews, pubs

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The Alehouse, Reading, Berkshire   Leave a comment

It is a very short walk from Reading Station to Broad Street where I just happened upon the Alehouse, a CAMRA favourite with good reason: there were 9 ales on the pumps, 4 ciders, 3 perry, and a batch of Lyme Bay Mead (14.5% ABV).  I played it safe and had a Cotswold Lion Best in Show, a very highly hopped–sharp and bitter like myself–beer that I had never seen before.

The house is quite local down to several of the beer selections and the almost impenetrable Berks accent of the drunk on stool #2.  There are signs around instructing that mobile phone use will not be tolerated and the soundtrack is delightfully spacey instrumental rock of no discernible origin.  Climbing 4 or 5 stairs just past the bar opens up a larger area behind that belies the small façade and suggests this is a much older structure than it seems at first.   For a shopping district pub, you could do worse…a LOT worse.  Go run the taps on these guys, and let me know when you plan to do it.

Posted 2012/06/24 by Drunken Bunny in beer reviews, pubs

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