Sunday, 20 January 2013

Walking in a Winter Wonderland

On Saturday, West Kent CAMRA held a social at the Dovecote at Capel. It's a smashing pub, but one we don't often manage to get out to. Despite the recent snowy weather, six of us made it to the pub, with half our number travelling by bus (from Tunbridge Wells and Pembury), and the remainder (including myself), walking from Tonbridge.

I have done this walk on several occasions in the past, but this was the first time I have done it in wintry conditions. In actual fact, it was a good job the weather had turned cold, as the lower temperatures had hardened up the damp and soggy ground  somewhat. Even so there were many places where the surface beneath our feet was soft and springy, and several nasty surprises in the form of snow-covered  frozen puddles, which gave way when stepped on! On the whole though the walk was a pleasant one, despite the over-cast conditions, and after an hour and three-quarters we reached the pub, shortly after opening time, sufficiently warmed by our exertions and with a rosy glow to our cheeks from the cold.

The Dovecote serves its cask beers direct from casks, stored in a temperature-controlled room behind the bar. Special, extra length taps protrude through false barrel fronts set into the wall, enabling the staff to serve the perfect pint without having to disappear into the storage room each time customers place their order. Six beers were on sale when we arrived, although one (Black Cat Mild) was taken off sale as it was passed its best, (pubs struggle to sell mild in this part of the country!).. The other beers were Gales HSB (the Dovecote has stocked this brew for as long as most of us can remember), Harvey's Best, Sharp's Cornish Coaster, Whitstable Perle Pale and Woodforde's Wherry. I tried the Sharps and the Whitstable, both of which were good. I also enjoyed a large baguette, filled with prawns and accompanied by some chips and salad.

It was nice and cosy in the Dovecote, with its log-burning stove keeping us warm, and we were reluctant to leave but, somewhat unusually these days, the pub closes at 3pm for an afternoon break. We had plans to press on to Pembury, but this time just two of our party opted to travel by bus whilst the other four of us decided to brave another walk across the snow-covered fields. I'm not sure how long it took us to reach Pembury, a large village just outside Tunbridge Wells, as it was hard going underfoot and very muddy in places, especially through the woods leading into the village.

We reached our destination, the King William IV, shortly after 4pm and were glad of the warmth from the welcoming log fire that greeted us when we walked in. The King Will is a Greene King pub which normally features a couple of guest ales from other breweries. On this occasion there was just one, namely Bath Gem, a darkish  full-bodied ale which I found a bit overly malty and sweet for my taste. I therefore switched to Abbot for my second, and final pint. It is many years since I last set foot in the King Will and I was pleasantly surprised at this fine example of a proper village local. The pub had a comfortable and cosy feel and was a good place to spend a late Saturday afternoon There are also three other pubs in Pembury, which gives some idea of the size of the village.

Those of us travelling back to Tonbridge left just before 6pm and walked the short distance into the centre of Pembury, from where we caught the bus back home. Despite, or even because of the weather, it had been a good day out and proved that with a little effort it is possible to visit some of of more remote pubs without having to resort to driving.

Footnote: apologies for the cheesy sounding title; it wasn't really a winter wonderland, but more a frozen wasteland, especially where all the lovely old apple trees had been grubbed out, and the lines of alders, planted as windbreaks, had also been cut down. We passed a couple of farm labourers cutting up the logs with the aid of a tractor-powered saw, but apart from that the only other living souls we saw on our walk to Capel were a father and his two children off sledging on the bank below Somerhill House.


Anonymous said...

Great blog Paul . I realy enjoyed the shop as it was back then . Saddly it now has a limited selection . I must get out to the Dovecote as its not a pub i have visited . Cheers Dean .

Paul Bailey said...

Haven't been in my old shop for quite some time Dean, although I'd heard the beer selection was not what it used to be. I think the current owners are more interested in convenience lines, rather than sourcing and stocking an interesting range of beers!

Silly really as the demand for unusual and hard to get beers is increasing all the time and shows no sign of abating. If I was to win the lottery, I would certainly consider opening a specialist beer shop in the area.

ps. The Dovecote is well worth a visit. The non-walkers in our party caught the No.6 Arriva bus from T. Wells, and alighted at the junction of the A228 with Alders Road. It is then a short half-mile or so walk to the pub.