recent visit to the Brecknock Arms at Bells Yew Green brought back memories of my first visit to this Victorian village local, which took place nearly 30 years ago. I was working in the village of Lamberhurst at the time, and had volunteered on behalf of my local CAMRA branch, to survey the Brecknock for possible inclusion in the Good Beer Guide.
A look at the map showed that Bells Yew Green was roughly five miles away, so a visit during my lunch hour would be perfectly feasible. The map also showed that part of the route along the B2169 was along a long straight section of road, known locally as the "Bayham Straight". After a 10-15 minute journey I arrived at the Brecknock and, after noting that the pub had two bars, ventured into the saloon.
The landlord, whose name I later learned was Martin, was happy to answer my questions and I had soon gathered all the information I required. Over the course of the next couple of years, whilst I was still working in Lamberhurst, I would make occasional visits to the Brecknock, bombing along the Bayham Straight at what seemed like warp factor nine!.
|Elephant's Head - Hook Green|
I’m not certain when Harvey’s acquired it, but apart from adding a conservatory at the rear, which provided some much needed space particularly for diners, they left the pub pretty much as it was. The Elephant’s Head normally sells Harvey’s seasonal ales, alongside the regular brews. I haven’t eaten there for many a year, although the food does look good. There are open fires in winter, plus a large garden at the rear for the summer months. The only drawback is the pub is virtually impossible to reach by public transport. I have walked there in the past, with friends, taking a route from Wadhurst station, which is part cross country and part along country lanes, but cycling would probably be the best option.
Returning to Bells Yew Green for a while; the village is served by Frant station, on the London-Tunbridge Wells-Hastings railway line, making a visit to the Brecknock by train, pretty easy. The last train back is at 23.33, so a long evening in the pub is perfectly feasible. Frant village though is a mile and a half along the lane which leads off to the right of the Brecknock, and the village is home to two pubs, plus an old brewery.
|The Brewery Business Centre - Frant|
|Abergavenny Arms - Frant|
The beer choice today is limited to Harvey’s Sussex Best or Young’s Bitter, but at one time it was much more extensive. It is many years since I last set foot in the Abergavenny; primarily because Frant isn’t a place I visit that often, despite is proximity to Bells Yew Green. The village’s other pub, the George Inn, is also old, dating back to 1750. Harvey’s Sussex Best and Sharp’s Doom Bar are the regular beers here, although according to Whatpub, Harvey’s Old Ale is often available during the winter.
|George Inn - Frant|
Also well worth doing is to stay on the train one stop further down the line towards Hastings, and alight at Wadhurst station. The Rock Robin Inn, next to the station, has long been demolished to make way for housing, and the Cross Keys on the hill leading up into the village, has also been closed a long time. This pub was an early pioneering brew-pub, but on the few occasions I tasted the beer there it left a lot to be desired.
I digress; the purpose of leaving the train at Wadhurst is to walk to Hook’s Green and the Elephant’s Head. The walker will need a good map as there is a maze of small lanes in this area, and it is easy to become lost. It is probably best to stick to the lanes; they are not very busy, and there is no obvious direct foot path.
|Vineyard - Lamberhurst Down|
Before wrapping up this article, I wanted to end with a brief mention of my former workplace in Lamberhurst. The village was home to Crown Chemicals, a privately-owned pharmaceutical company which specialised in veterinary medicines. I mention this because part of Crown’s village centre site was formerly the brewery and offices of Smith & Company. Smith & Co ceased brewing in 1921, when most of the firm’s 68 pubs were sold at auction. The brewery buildings were acquired the following year, by the Dartford Brewery Co Ltd.
Crown Chemicals moved to Lamberhurst during the 1940’s, after their London premises were destroyed by bombing. The laboratory building, where I worked, plus the adjoining office block, were part of the original brewery, but leading of into the side of the hill, were a couple of tunnels which had been used to store casks of beer back in the day. Unfortunately the tunnels had been sealed off (for safety reasons?), and staff were not permitted to enter them. The company relocated to the Irish Republic in the late 1980’s and the site was then sold for housing.
If you have stayed the course this far you will appreciate the rich pub and brewery heritage of this attractive border area between West Kent and East Sussex. As I have indicated, there are a number of excellent pubs here which are well worth visiting; although to appreciate them properly and make the most of any visit, a little forward planning will be necessary.