Tuesday, 3 May 2016

A Brief Update

My trusty steed
It’s been a bit quiet on the beer and pub front over the past couple of weeks, mainly because I’ve been busy on the home front, working to get a number of projects off the ground.I’ve also been steadily working on improving my fitness levels. It’s long been my habit of going for a stroll at lunchtime, and thanks to a clever App on my phone, I can now record things such as distance walked, number of calories used, pace, route and elevation.

Over the course of last month, I upped the distance I walk from a mile to a mile and a half.  Occasionally I follow a two mile route, but that involves dodging traffic along a busy road which some motorists regard as a racetrack. In addition the two mile walk means there is precious little time for a cup of tea and to eat my sandwiches, when I get back to the office. I pass two pubs on my normal route. They are the Little Brown Jug and the Greyhound. I wrote about them here, but it is very rare that I call in, as lunchtime drinking doesn’t make for a very productive working afternoon.

I overhauled my bike at the end of last autumn, and after some finishing touches and a few last adjustments, I’m mobile on two wheels again. I like cycling, as you can cover far more ground than on foot. The bike allows me to nip down to the centre of the town, pick up a few bits and pieces and then have a cycle around the excellent park we’ve got in Tonbridge.

Haysden Lake
Tonbridge Racecourse Sportsground, as it is correctly known, is located right in the heart of the town, next to Tonbridge’s 12th Century Castle, and is set between two meandering branches of the River Medway. It is a large 69 acre site that benefits from a large open area and a wide range of sports and leisure facilities. There are lengthy hard-surfaced paths circling the whole of the park; both along the banks of the river and through nearby woodland. The Eden Valley Walk and the Weald Way Walk national trails pass nearby the site, making the park the perfect base for longer walks out into the countryside, including the nearby Haysden Country Park.

The path out to the latter forms part of the Tonbridge to Penshurst Cycle Route, and this section is one of my favourite cycle rides. On Sunday, I took my newly re-vamped bike for a ride out to the Country Park; an old gravel pit which has been landscaped and partially returned to nature, since the local council first acquired it in 1988. There are paths around the lake, and also further along the River Medway – right up to the Leigh Flood Barrier; a combination of defensive earthworks and sluice gates designed to protect Tonbridge from flooding.

The sun was shining as I rode through the Sportsground, and it was good to feel some warmth at last, following the cold north-easterly winds which have been plaguing us for the past two weeks. As might be expected, there were lots of people about enjoying the belated, but very welcome spring sunshine.

The former Royal Oak - now private housing
It felt good to be back on the bike, and pleased with my efforts after cycling to the far end of Haysden Lake, I decided it was time for a pint. Less than a decade ago, the Royal Oak pub, a short distance away from the road entrance to the country park, would have been the ideal spot for a welcoming beer. Unfortunately this late Victorian public house closed some time around 2010, and has since been converted into two private dwellings. The landlord claimed that not enough people were using the pub, and whilst he may have been right the Royal Oak was ideally situated to capitalise on its proximity to Haysden Lake, so I can’t help feeling an opportunity was lost, somewhere along the line.

Instead I turned around and headed back into town, and made for the Humphrey Bean; Tonbridge’s JDW outlet. With its garden overlooking the river and with the backdrop of the castle walls on the other side, I could think of few pleasanter places to enjoy an al fresco drink in Tonbridge.
This was my first time inside the Bean in ages, and fortunately I timed my visit just right, as I was served more or less straight away. There was a range of different beers on; several of which I was unfamiliar with, but the two which caught my eye were from Tenterden-based Old Dairy Brewery. I opted for the 4.1% Copper Top; a highly quaffable best bitter which isn’t as widely available as the 3.8% Red Top, which was the other Old Dairy beer on tap.

The Humphrey Bean - formerly the town's main Post Office
I took my pint out into the garden and managed to find a seat in the sun. The lunchtime rush was over, which explained why I was served so quickly, but there were still plenty of families, and other groups enjoying the sunshine. I only had the one, as I didn’t want to wobble around too much on the cycle ride home. Besides, it’s all uphill to where I live and I remembered, from my experiences of walking the South Downs Way, that too long a lunch stop, and one too many pints, makes it very hard to get going again!

I’m heading up to London after work on Wednesday, to take part in one of the consultation exercises set up by CAMRA as part of its Revitalisation Project. The venue is the Southwark Brewing Company; a fairly recent (2014) arrival on the burgeoning London Brewing scene, house in a railway arch close to London Bridge station. The company’s range of beers looks interesting, especially as there’s been some involvement from legendary former Rooster’s Brewery Brewmaster, Sean Franklin. 

The meeting has a serious side to it though. I have already submitted my views regarding the way forward for CAMRA electronically, and as the online consultation exercise is now closed, it will be interesting to see what form the meeting takes.

That’s about it for the moment. With no overseas trips due until August (European Beer Bloggers & Writers Conference in Amsterdam), I will be knuckling down and getting stuck in with the various projects which are planned on the house and garden fronts. Until next time, then.

No comments: