Friday, 15 April 2016
Whilst the majority of our party travelled to the Windmill either by bus, or by car, five of us walked over from Hildenborough station. The route we took was along country lanes to begin with, but before long we left the road and set off across some gently undulating countryside. We followed the same footpaths we had taken last year, although a look back at the diary shows that we were a month earlier this time round.
The bluebells were again in full bloom, and I imagine the mild winter had played a part in their early appearance. Like last year, I took some photos, but they don’t really do justice to the vivid blue carpet lining the banks on either side of our path.
It was much muddier underfoot this year, and we had to pick our way through some boggy conditions in a number of places. We skirted the local golf course before descending down a track past a couple of isolated cottages. We then walked through some thicker woodland (and more bluebells), towards railway line, where we crossed under the tracks by means of a narrow pedestrian underpass.
After crossing a couple of fields, we came out onto the intriguingly named Egg Pie Lane, but not before having to negotiate the wettest and muddiest spot on the entire walk We passed a riding stables, and then a farm before reaching a T-Junction, and turning right into the equally intriguing Scabharbour Road. Some fifteen minutes later we arrived at the Windmill keen to see which beers were on offer in order to quench our thirst.
The pub was busy with diners when we arrived, so some of us decided to sit out in the garden and make the most of the sunny weather. Before doing so we grabbed ourselves a beer. My first choice was Gun Extra Pale; a well-hopped 3.9%, light-golden coloured beer, which was just the sort of thirst-quenching beer I needed after my walk. Gun Brewery beers are un-fined, but mine only had the faintest of hazes. The brewery are based deep in the Sussex Weald, to the north-west of Hailsham, and pride themselves on “small batch beers”, which are big on taste. This is the second time this year I have enjoyed this beer, and I thoroughly recommend it to all concerned.
Goacher’s Dark, a 4.1% full-bodied bitter, which is quite dark in colour due to the incorporation of a high proportion of crystal malt in the mash. Billed as “The original Goacher’s Ale”, this was the first beer the company produced, when they started brewing back in 1983. It was another fine beer, and one which I knew would go well with my dinner.
We had a bit of a wait for our food to arrive, as the pub was rather full that day and the kitchen kept very busy, but it was worth the wait as my fish pie was very tasty indeed and packed full of cod, salmon and prawns. The period waiting for the food to arrive, also meant more time for drinking and chatting, but once we had all been served and were tucking in to our food, it was amazing how quiet our two tables became.
I moved up a notch for my third beer. This was In Yer Face; a 5.8% limited edition, American Pale Ale from Oxfordshire based, Loddon Brewery. The beer was aptly named, as there were hops aplenty ready to jump out at you and, like the previous ale, this too went down well with my meal.
I didn’t have room for a sweet, and besides I was ready for another beer. The rarely seen Goachers 1066 Old Ale fitted the bill nicely. Named after the beer’s original gravity, this rich and fruity 6.7% barley wine strength ale has been brewed by Goacher’s, in small quantities every winter since 1983. It was the perfect beer to finish on; dark mahogany red in colour, with a fine mellow taste to it, reminiscent of Madeira wine.
The presentation of the Windmill’s certificate took place shortly after; with the obligatory speeches and photo opportunities. The award was richly deserved though, demonstrating how attention to customer service and providing an all-inclusive atmosphere have paid off for this reborn village pub.
There was a 15 minute wait for our train back to Tonbridge, but this gave us time to rest our feet, and catch out breath. As I have said before, do give the Windmill a try if you are ever in the area. I promise you won’t regret it.