Saturday though saw half dozen of us taking the No. 234 bus from Tunbridge Wells and head out into the High Weald area of the county, close to the border with Sussex. Our destination was the picturesque village of Cowden, tucked away in an idyllic corner of the county. Cowden is home to one of the finest Harvey’s pubs in the area, in the form of the Fountain; an attractive, part tile-hung pub situated on a tight bend just down from the village church.
We have done this trip before, and I have posted about the pub as well, but this time around, the Fountain offered two main attractions for me on both the beer and the food front. Beer-wise I knew that the delectable Harvey’s Old Ale would be on sale, whilst food-wise the Fountain serves some of the best pies around, and they are proper pies as well!
|Shame about the Trip Advisor sign!|
I digress! The 234 bus runs twice daily on Saturdays between Tunbridge Wells and Edenbridge, taking in the villages of Ashurst, Cowden, Mark Beech and Hever en route. The plan was to alight in Cowden, stop for lunch at the Fountain, before catching the second outward service of the day. We would then leave the bus at Mark Beech, where there would be just enough time for a pint at the Kentish Horse, before catching the bus back to Tunbridge Wells on its final return journey.
On previous occasions some of us have walked between the two pubs, but whilst the weather was bright and sunny when I left home, the clouds were beginning to build by midday, and as we journeyed towards Cowden we could see the sky growing distinctly darker away to the south of us, across Ashdown Forest.
|A trio of Harvey's finest|
|The assembled company|
Photographs taken, including some of a troop of riders on horseback, we ascended the steps and entered the pub. The much anticipated Harvey’s Old was on, alongside Best Bitter and IPA, but I opted for the former, and was not disappointed. The others had already grabbed a large table at the far end of the bar, so we went over and joined them. The Fountain has a good reputation for food, and having eaten there on several previous occasions I can attest to the quality of its cooking. The barman came over and took our respective orders, but not before we were joined by another couple who live locally.
I, of course, opted for “Pie of the day”, which was chicken, ham and onion – the latter constituent being in the form of a mild, white onion sauce, which went very well with the large chunks of meat. It arrived in the form of an individual pie, which met all the criteria outlined above, to qualify as “proper”. With a few new potatoes, and seasonal vegetables, it really was a dish fit for a king. It was also rather filling. Washed down with a few pints of dark and silky-smooth Harvey’s Old, it couldn’t have been bettered, and the food, drink, good company and fine surroundings of this lovely old village inn made the perfect combination of all that is good about the part of the country we live in. There can surely be few finer ways to spend a Saturday afternoon, in England during mid November, than this.
|The former Crown Inn - Cowden|
The bus dropped us off in Mark Beech, right opposite the Kentish Horse, but we had trouble squeezing inside as the pub was absolutely heaving. I have never seen it so busy, but we discovered that several groups of walkers, caught out by the ferocity of the weather, had decided to take shelter in the pub. The small, games area at the far end, was showing the England v Fiji rugby game, so that too had pulled in the crowds.
|Kentish Horse - alternative Christmas|
The return bus to Tunbridge Wells arrived more or less on time and we were glad to get out of the cold and the damp. Several of our party nodded off on the journey back, including me briefly, but once back in the town we all decided that a few final drinks in Fuggles would be a good way to finish the day.
Fuggles too was heaving, but we managed to find a small table towards the rear and sufficient chairs for us all to squeeze round. Downland - Hop Contract and One Mile End –Hospital Porter were the cask beers I tried, before finishing up with a half of the excellent Beavertown - Smog Rocket Porter on key-keg.
Various people came and went, and some drifted off – incredibly for another meal! My friend and I departed some time around half seven and made our way to the station, through the pouring rain, and the train back to Tonbridge.
Like with all these trips, it is worth taking advantage of public transport, and journeying out into the surrounding countryside. It is especially important to make use of local bus services and give them all the support we can, particularly when local authority spending is being reined in, and cash is tight generally. It is also good, of course, to be supporting our rural pubs in the best way possible - by drinking in them!