Thursday, 8 October 2009

A Night in Winchester

Arriving in Winchester last Friday evening, footsore and weary after finally completing the South Down's Way, our first thought was to find a pub, sit down and then study the town plan so we could find our way to our bed & breakfast accommodation. As I mentioned in my previous post, a lady dog-walker we'd met, kindly directed us to the Black Boy, an ancient old inn situated on Wharf Hill.

Although the pub seemed packed when we stepped inside (it was Friday evening after all), we managed to find a seat at a table in the furthermost room. My friend had ordered us a pint each of the well-hopped Flowerpots Bitter, which was just what the doctor ordered. The pub's clientele were mainly young, student types which of course meant there were some attractive young ladies to admire and help further brighten our evening. There appeared to be at least four rooms all leading off from the central bar. There were bare wooden floors, plus all manner of unusual objects adorning the walls and no music blaring out to distract people's conversation. There was even a log fire smouldering away in the grate next to the bar.

I would have liked to have stayed longer - after all we had something to celebrate having just completed the final stage of a 100 mile walk. This was my sort of pub for all the reasons listed above, plus the fact it specialised in selling beers from local breweries. However, it was getting dark and we thought we'd better find our accommodation before it got much later.

We reluctantly departed the Black Boy, and after crossing the River Itchen by a footbridge next to an old mill, we made our way past the ancient city walls, skirted the front of Winchester College before finally arriving in the centre of England's ancient capital. We located the bed & breakfast place without too much trouble, and after a quick wash enquired of the proprietor as to the best places to get something to eat. Our host suggested a pub called the William Walker, situated in the centre of town in a area known as the Square. We decided to give it a try.

En route we came across the Wykehan Arms, a Fullers pub that we had passed a short while before on our way to the B & B. We popped in for a quick drink, both choosing the Chiswick Bitter for its refreshing and thirst-quenching properties. The pub's clientele seemed to be drawn mainly from the nearby Winchester College. They weren't really our sort of people; to describe them as the "chattering classes" would be polite, but a few other less choice terms may have been slightly more accurate. As there was no chance of getting a bite to eat at the Wykeham, except in the rather posh and expensive restaurant, we drank up and left.

We walked through the cathedral precincts and quite by accident spotted the William Walker. There was a menu posted outside the pub, offering "pub grub" of the basic, down to earth sort of stuff that appealed to two hungry and weary walkers so we hurried inside and inquired from one of the attractive barmaids as to whether the pub had stopped serving food for the evening. We were just in time; another 5 minutes or so and we would have been too late. We ordered our food, plus a pint each (Deuchars IPA and Sharps Doom Bar), and seated ourselves at one of the high tables overlooking the bar.

The William Walker was that curious mix of an old building decorated in a modern contemporary style. Sometimes this works and other times it doesn't, but in this case it certainly, did and we were quite happy sitting on our high perches observing the goings on in the pub. We had both ordered steak in ale pie, complete with mash and peas - good hearty pub grub that was just the ticket after a hard day's walking. We had a couple more pints before deciding to call it a night and head back to the B & B for a good night's rest.

To be continued.................

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