Saturday, 27 January 2018

The George & Dragon - Wrotham

After renewing my acquaintance with the “revived” Rose Revived at Hadlow, last Saturday, I decided to cast the net slightly further afield. The plan was to visit the village of Wrotham the following day, and try out one, or possibly two of the pubs there.

As some of you have probably gathered by now, I am calling in at these places on my way home from visiting my wife whilst she’s in hospital over at Maidstone. There are lots of interesting places in between the county town and Tonbridge, and plenty of pubs whose acquaintance I wish to renew.

Anyway, the plan for Sunday was to make a slight diversion towards Wrotham; my interest in the village having been sparked by Retired Martin’s article which he posted just prior to Christmas. Martin described the area, which lies in the triangle bounded by the M25/M20/M26  motorways, as Weatherboarden”.

White-painted weatherboarding is quite common throughout Kent and can also be found in parts of neighbouring Sussex as well, but there’s no getting away from the fact that Wrotham seems cut off from the rest of the county, despite its proximity to several major centres of population. As I commented on Martin’s post at the time, “I’ve driven past the turning to Wrotham many times, on trips to Gravesend, but there never seems time to turn off and sample the delights of this “hidden” village. Must re-visit after reading your post.”.

Sunday however, did not turn out as planned. It was raining when I left for my journey to Maidstone, and whilst I’d spotted the odd snowflake on the windscreen,  I thought little of it until I reached Wateringbury, where it was snowing quite hard. By the time I reached the hospital it had got worse. Well there was no turning back, and as the snow seemed quite wet, and wasn’t settling, I wasn’t unduly concerned.

Eileen was looking better than she had for weeks, and we had a good chat. It wasn’t yet time to reflect, but experiences such as she’s just been through do tend to concentrate the mind and cause one to pause and reflect.  With state retirement age just over four years away, perhaps it is time to slow down and start taking things easier, and I know Eileen will be doing this.

When it was time for me to leave, I noticed the snow had thankfully turned back to rain. The sky was dull and grey and with a cold northerly wind blowing I decided it would be best to give Wrotham a miss on this occasion, and head straight home instead. I had some household chores to attend to, and a roast dinner to cook for son Matthew and I.

The following day was completely different though, and whilst it started with a visit to the dentist, the sun was already shining by the time I’d left the surgery. I’d taken the day off work, as I had some business to attend to at the hospital. I didn’t know this, but when a patient is admitted to intensive care, any jewellery they might be wearing is removed.

In order to retrieve these items it was necessary for me to call at the Cashier’s Office, which is only open Monday to Friday; hence the need for me to book a day off. This I duly did, and after completing this task and also having the chance to talk to one of the doctors treating Eileen, I left the hospital shortly after 1.30pm. Now was my chance to visit Wrotham, so after stopping for fuel, plus a few items of shopping, I pointed the car in a westerly direction and headed off along the A20 towards my destination. 

I always think of the A20 as the “old road”, as it was along this highway that I travelled on a regular basis, with my parents and my sister, on journeys to London, in order to visit my maternal grand-parents. Travelling along this road brought back some pleasant memories, including some more recent ones, such as the time my walking companion Eric and I stayed at the Pretty Maid guest house, whilst walking the Weald Way.

I left the A20 halfway up Wrotham Hill and turned down into the village. It must be 30 years or more since I last visited Wrotham, but it is not a particularly large place with a population of just under 2,000 souls. It lies at the foot of the North Downs and today is mercifully free of traffic since the A227 Gravesend-Tonbridge road was diverted around the village.

Attractions include the church of St George, which was constructed in the late 13th Century, replacing an earlier Saxon church. It is believed to be the oldest church in England dedicated to the country’s patron saint.

Of particular interest to the beer drinker is the concentration of  three pubs in the village centre, all within a hundred yards of each other. These are the Rose and Crown, the George and Dragon and the Bull Hotel. A fourth, the Three Postboys, ceased trading in 2009, and this is the establishment whose owners Retired Martin quite rightly castigated, due to the way they were advertising the place as “Not a Pub”.

The loss of this former Greene King pub left me with a choice of Shepherd Neame (Rose & Crown), or two free-houses (Bull or George & Dragon). I opted for the latter, purely because I knew I had visited the other two hostelries in a previous existence. I managed to park opposite, and after pausing to take a few photos, stepped up to the door and entered.

The first thing that struck me was the red-painted interior, quickly followed by the two leery old blokes sitting at a table to left of the door. I then clapped eyes on the centrally-located bar, complete with the landlord standing behind the counter, eating his lunch.

This was surely not the most auspicious of starts, and my question to the landlord as to which of the five cask ales he might recommend, was met by a less than helpful, “Depends on what you like”. With a beers ranging from Harvey’s Best to Exmoor Mild, with offerings from Marston’s, Otter and Sharp’s also available, I decided to opt for the latter in the form of  Sharp’s Coaster.

This 3.6% light-golden ale, proved to be a good choice, and I rated it at 3.0 NBSS. I left the landlord to finish his lunch, and plonked myself down at a table adjacent to the fireplace. Comparing my photos with those posted by Martin, we both must have sat in exactly the same seat!

I took the opportunity to flick through the latest edition of the Sevenoaks Chronicle; the sister paper to our own local rag, the Kent & Sussex Courier. Being Sevenoaks, the Chronicle seemed more up market, but that might just have been me being a bit picky.

There was a small group of middle-aged drinkers sitting a the bar, but apart from them and the two merry men by the door, the pub was more or less empty. Certainly the virtually separate dining area at the far left of the pub, was completely empty. I finished both my pint and the local paper at roughly the same time, pleased that I had visited the pub, but unlikely to make a return visit.

The local CAMRA branch (Gravesend & Darenth Valley), saw fit to include the G&D in this year’s Good Beer Guide, but the next time I divert to Wrotham, I am tempted to give the Bull a try instead.

Finally, for those not in the know, in true, and totally confusing Kentish fashion, Wrotham is pronounced "Rootam"; so now you know!

5 comments: said...

Yes, that's exactly where I sat Paul. Sounds like the Landlady is cheerier than the Landlord !

Glad to hear Eileen is getting better.

Russtovich said...

"which lies in the triangle bounded by the M25/M20/M26 motorways"

Talk about hiding in plain sight! (took a peek at Google Maps).

"we both must have sat in exactly the same seat!"

LOL, must be a beer blogger thing. :)

"Wrotham is pronounced "Rootam"; so now you know!"

Very good to know, thanks!

By the way, when I first saw the the word Wrotham my mind read it as Wortham. You probably don't know this but that's a town in the game Diablo 3 which I play a few times a week online with friends who mainly reside in the US. :)

Oh and very glad to hear Mrs PB is doing much better. (thumbs up)


PS - Don't mean to be a nag, but:

"brought back come pleasant memories, "

Some, not come. :)

"This was surely no the most auspicious of starts,"

Not, dear boy; not.

" with offering s from Marston’s"

Off with the space after offering!

(I'm sure those 'errors' are all due to your "pause and reflect". I'm in that boat myself).

Paul Bailey said...

Typos duly corrected, Russ. Thanks for pointing them out. In my defence I was dropping with tiredness last night when I bashed this post out, and as we all know you can't always rely on the spell checker.

Russtovich said...

Paul, I figured it was something to do with the strain of driving back and forth to the hospital. As long as you're ok with me pointing them out I shall continue to do so. :)


Paul Bailey said...

No problem at all, Russ. Just glad someone is paying more attention than I am!