It’s been several weeks now since I wrote about the Greyhound at Charcott, and the lifeline thrown to the pub by local brewers, Larkin’s of Chiddingstone. In case anyone missed the original article, the Greyhound is a pub owned by Enterprise Inns, in the tiny hamlet of Charcott, close to where I work in Chiddingstone Causeway.
The Greyhound is a pleasant bright and breezy local, with views across the fields towards the hills which rise to form the High Weald. There still seems to be three distinct areas in the main part of the pub, although the divisions that marked the former bars are long gone. During the winter months, open fires supplement the central heating. Like many country pubs it relied heavily on the food trade, and Tony, the former licensee was a trained chef. With a separate restaurant area the Greyhound was popular with the lunchtime car-trade; mainly retired people out for a drive in the country, although it did also attract a fair number of walkers.
Something must have wrong somewhere along the line, because just over two years ago, Tony and his partner Alison decided they’d had enough of the pub trade and tried, unsuccessfully as it turned out, to sell their lease. Owners Enterprise Inns had also been attempting to sell the freehold, but matters came to a head towards the end of August, when the licensees handed back their keys and left the pub.
This was when local heroes Larkin’s stepped in, with an offer to rent the pub, on a short-term lease, provided the lease was free of tie, thereby enabling the brewery to sell its own beers. I later found out that if Larkins hadn’t stepped in, the pub would have been closed and boarded up until either a new tenant or owner could be found. This would have been a disaster for a pretty little place like Charcott, so hats of to Larkin’s for coming to the rescue.
With six weeks having now elapsed I wanted to see how the Greyhound is doing, so I popped in this lunchtime for a look, plus a quick pint. I often walk past the pub at lunchtimes, and I noticed last week, following my return from Germany, that it is now closed weekday lunchtimes, apart from Fridays, when it open between midday and 3pm.
I walked up from Chiddingstone Causeway and then followed the path across the old airfield, primarily to make sure I still got a decent lunchtime walk in. I arrived shortly after 1.15pm, and found the door propped open. To my surprise there was no-one in the pub, apart from the landlord. I was pleased though to see Larkin’s Green Hop Best on sale alongside the brewery’s Traditional and Pale Ale, so I ordered myself a pint.
I asked the landlord, who I later discovered is called Mike, as to how the pub is doing; particularly as the food side of the business has been dropped (for the time being at least). He told me the pub is well supported at weekends, attracting a good number of locals. As proof of this he walked over to the right hand section of the pub, after he’d finished serving me, and began making up the fire, in readiness for the expected evening trade.
Not long after, a second customer appeared. He was obviously a regular, as the landlord and he were on first name terms. I joined in the conversation which centred on village matters, but also included a chat about our railways. This was because landlord Mike had once worked for Railtrack – the predecessors of Network Rail. I managed to steer the conversation back to more local matters, as I was keen learn more about the still closed Castle Inn at nearby Chiddingstone.
It seems some progress is being reached made with the latter, as the National Trust, who are the owners of this unspoilt 15th Century Inn, are reported to be close to signing a lease with a new tenant. For the background to this disturbing story of greed, on behalf of one of Britain’s best known landowners, see my post here from June, this year.
Just over twenty minutes later, it was unfortunately time for me to leave and make my way back to work. The Larkin’s Green Hop Best had been excellent, with some rich pine-like resins present; from the generous hopping the beer has received. A couple of years ago, the same beer (or rather that particular year’s version), won the award for “Beer of the Festival”, at the Spa Valley Railway Beer Festival; an event run jointly by West Kent CAMRA and the Heritage Railway. The beer will feature at this year’s event, which takes place next weekend (further details to follow).
There was a distinct autumnal feel in the air, as I made my way back to work. The air was still, and the sky over-cast; with the occasional brief glimpse of the sun trying to make its way through the clouds. I was thinking that in a month or so time, Larkin’s Porter will be available, and it will be good to see it on sale at the Greyhound.
In the meantime, I trust people will continue to show support for the pub. I certainly intend to set aside Friday lunchtime for a swift pint at the Greyhound, and look forward to others doing the same.