There's been a lot happening on the beer and pub scene during my year's absence, not all of them good I have to say. Probably the most depressing thing has been the continuing demise of that great British institution - the pub. It seems everywhere one looks there are more and more of them calling time on "last orders".
I was reminded of this fact just today whilst deciding where to stop off for a lunchtime drink on Friday. My friend Eric and I have pencilled in a walk in the country, and were planning to follow part of the Wealdway footpath that we completed a couple of years ago. The idea was to head out of Tonbridge along the Medway, before ascending Bidborough Ridge - with its spectacular views over the flat ground towards the Greensand Ridge. The Hare and Hounds in Bidborough village seemed a good place to stop, but it was only after mentioning this plan to a work colleague that I was informed the pub had recently closed. A quick glance at the pubs website and the reason for the closure became all too clear!
If you click on the link you'll see that it's our old friends Enterprise Inns up to their tricks again, with the pub's proprietors stating "The business in its own right, is unable to sustain the disproportionate rent and beer surcharges of the Enterprise Inns tie." That says it all, so far as Enterprise Inns are concerned; surely the modern day equivalent of the "robber barons"? What particularly concerns me though is if a pub such as the Hare & Hounds cannot survive, what future is there for the English pub?
For those not in the know the Hare & Hounds was everything a village pub should be. Warm and welcoming with a choice of several different bars, ranging from a traditional public bar with darts, pool and a juke box, to a saloon with comfy sofas and a library of books, a main bar with tables for bar food, plus a separate restaurant to the rear. There was a good selection of beers, with food options ranging from a keenly-priced pensioners menu to gourmet dishes. The pub was home to Bidborough's many sports teams, and housed the cups and trophies won by the various clubs.
I can't say I was a frequent visitor there, but by all accounts the Hare & Hounds seemed to be doing alright. It was certainly busy when I popped in one Sunday lunchtime a couple of years ago, as described here. I therefore find it all the more disturbing to learn of the pub's closure, and can only hope this is a temporary state of affairs. However, despite the team that ran it doing everything right, one can only despair for the future of a much cherished institution all the time companies such as Enterprise are in control of things!
Bidborough is a village in the borough of Tunbridge Wells in Kent, England, north
of Tunbridge Wells and south of Tonbridge. It is situated on Bidborough Ridge, an area of high ground with spectacular views north across the Medway Valley.