Saturday, 1 August 2009

Shoreham Pub Crawl

I can't think of many better ways of spending a wet and windy July evening than visiting a pub. Last Wednesday's CAMRA social surpassed this by taking in not one but four pubs. The village of Shoreham is situated in the picturesque Darenth Valley, between Sevenoaks and Swanley, and only a few miles from the M25. It is however, a world away from the frantic pace of the country's busiest motorway, ranking as one of the most attractive and prettiest villages in this part of Kent. With small, narrow streets, stone-built and half-timbered cottages and the River Darent running through its centre, it is hard to believe that London is less than 30 miles away.

Shoreham is readily accessible by train, so it proved the ideal venue for a crawl around its four pubs. There used to be five pubs in the village, but the Royal Oak, which many CAMRA members regarded as the best pub in Shoreham, unfortunately closed its doors for the last time several years ago. Still, four pubs in a village this size isn't bad going, especially in today's economic climate, and I am glad to report that on the night of our visit, all four were pulling in a reasonable trade.

This was the first time I have visited Shoreham in daylight, as previous pub crawls here have always been held either earlier or later in the year. It was good therefore to be able to walk down from the station along the unlit country lane without needing a torch! As we entered the vilage we passed Ye Olde George Inne, the first of Shoreham’s four pubs. The plan was to head for the furthest pub and then work our way back here, leaving ourselves handily situated for the short walk back up the hill to the station. Crossing over the fast-flowing Darent, and passing both the Kings Arms and the Two Brewers, we made our way to the Crown for our first pint of the night.

The Crown is a rambling old building with low ceilings and plenty of exposed beams. Somewhat unusually in this day and age it still has two separate bars. We chose the lower, and larger of these, and after discarding our wet weather gear, settled down to enjoy a beer or two. Greene King Abbot and Westerham Summer Perle were the beers on offer. Most of us opted for the latter, finding it an ideal summer pint; the only thing missing was summer itself!

From the Crown it was back to the Two Brewers. This pub, with its one large L-shaped bar, open-plan layout and red and gold wall-paper reminds me more of a restaurant than an actual pub. It was certainly quite busy with diners when we called in. Sheperd Neame Spitfire and Greene King IPA were the beers on tap. I am not a great fan of either of these beers, but opted for the IPA over the Sheps.

We then moved on to the white weather boarded, 16th Century Kings Arms; an altogether smaller, and perhaps more intimate pub. Although some of the internal walls have been removed, the pub effectively still has two bars. The Harveys Best was the beer of choice here, and to my mind was probably the best pint of the evening. All too soon though it was time to brave the rain again and move on to the final pub on our crawl, Ye Olde George.

The George had been closed on my previous two visits to Shoreham, as for some reason the previous licensee had kept strange, and rather erratic opening hours. Happily this is no longer the case following a change of ownership that has given the pub a new lease of life. Ye Olde George Inne lives up to its name, with low-beamed ceilings, and uneven floors, but what we found most attractive was the Batemans XB on sale. Although the brewery's stronger XXXB is occasionally seen in this neck of the woods, its weaker, but by no means less tasty stablemate is a real rarity. It was something of a pity then that we had to leave before last orders in order to catch the last train back to Sevenoaks.

So ended what had been a most enjoyable, but somewhat hectic tour of one of Kent’s prettiest villages.

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