Sunday 4 September 2016

Larkins rescue Greyhound

There’s been quite a lot happening recently with regard to the local beer scene. Several projects are still very much in the pipeline, so I won’t spoil things by releasing any details yet, but news of one very welcome development only reached me on Thursday, and on Friday lunchtime, I went along to see things for myself.

A few months ago I posted the first of a series of articles about Chiddingstone Causeway; the village where I work; and the two other nearby villages which share the name “Chiddingstone” in their title. In that article I mentioned the tiny hamlet of Charcott, which is just a 10 minute walk from my workplace, and its tucked away pub the Greyhound .

What I didn’t say in my post was the Greyhound has been up for sale for the past two years, and the people responsible are our old friends Enterprise Inns. I was aware that the landlord wished to move to pastures new, and sell on his lease, but it was only a couple of months ago that I discovered Enterprise were trying to divest themselves of the pub altogether.

It was around this time that a notice appeared affixed to the pub sign at the entrance to Charcott. The notice was on behalf of the landlord and landlady and it informed passers by that the Greyhound was still open, and that it was very much business as normal. I must admit I didn’t take a great deal of notice about this, but one thing I did pick up on was the pub didn’t always appear open at lunchtimes.

Now whilst I go for a walk most lunchtimes, I tend to vary my route, so don’t always include Charcott on my daily constitutional. A friend and work colleague of mine who does walk this route on a much more regular basis, noticed the same thing, but I don’t think that either of us were aware that the pub had closed.

Fast forward to Thursday just gone and a post on the West Kent CAMRA Facebook page shared from Larkins Brewery’s own page that Larkins would be taking over the Greyhound. I have reproduced the post below:

“We are pleased to announce that Larkins Brewery has taken over the lease on The Greyhound at Charcott. The pub will offer a range of Larkins ales as well as the usual cider, lager, wine and spirits. The opening night is this Friday (2nd Sept), so Bob and the team would love to see all our friends and neighbours for a drink. Here's to a proper local pub saved from closure! Let's keep it open! If everyone would be kind enough to share this post and spread the word we would be most grateful. Cheers!”

Given the power of social media, news of the pub’s change of ownership spread like wildfire, and yesterday (Friday) lunchtime, I just had to go along and see for myself. I arrived at around 1.15pm to find the Greyhound open. There were several people inside, and one or two outside, and next to the door was a blackboard notice outside informing people of the change in ownership, but stating that, for the time being at least, the pub would not be serving food.

I stepped inside and bumped into Jon, a friend and fellow CAMRA member who lives in Chiddingstone Causeway. He had been there a while and was on his second pint. I ordered one for myself and walked over to join him. There were two Larkins beers on tap; the well known 3.4% session beer – Traditional, plus relative newcomer to the Larkins stable, the 4.2% Pale. I opted for the latter and found it in fine form. At £3.60 a pint it was good value as well, and as I later found out the Traditional sells for just £3.20!

Jon and I had a brief chat with the landlord who incidentally was not person who had run the pub for the past seven or eight years. I also had a longer, and more in depth conversation with Guy Beckett who manages the sales at Larkins, and who was sitting outside. The bad news is Larkins only have the Greyhound on a temporary basis, until a buyer is found for the pub’s freehold.

The good news is that during the past two years that the pub has been up for sale, there has been little interest in anyone buying it. The other good news is that Larkins temporary lease with Enterprise, is “free of tie”, meaning they are free to stock and sell their beers at the Greyhound.

The walk across the old airfield to the Greyhound - see below
Guy also told me that if Larkins hadn’t stepped in, then the pub would have been boarded up until either a new tenant or owner could be found. This would have been a disaster for a pretty little place like Charcott, so hats of to Larkins for coming to the rescue.

Friday evening saw the Greyhound’s official opening night under its new (temporary) owners. Judging by the photos on Larkin’s Facebookpage the night was a roaring success. I will be calling in from time to time, just for a quick pint, to see how things are going. After all, if I am walking right past the Greyhound, it would be rude not to!

The Greyhound is a pleasant bright and breezy local, with views across the fields towards the hills that form the start of the High Weald. There still seems to be three distinct areas in the main part of the pub, although the divisions that marked the former bars are long gone. During the winter months, open fires supplement the central heating.

The pub is quite easy to reach using public transport, followed by a short walk; although a little forward planning is necessary. Southern Trains run operate an hourly service on the Tonbridge to Redhill line, and Penshurst station, just two stops from Tonbridge, is actually situated in Chiddingstone Causeway.

Exit the station opposite the Little Brown Jug pub (if arriving from Tonbridge you will need to cross the tracks via the footbridge). Cross the B2027  (take care as this road can be surprisingly busy!), then head off up the hill towards St Luke’s Church. Opposite the church, you will find a tarmac path with takes you across what was once an airfield, towards Charcott. At the end of the path, turn right onto the side road and then first left. There is a sign here for the pub. The road leads round to the right and there you will see the Greyhound on your left. Enjoy!


Greengrass said...

Good news indeed, I was surprised to read your comments on this pub earlier in the year singing its praises. The pub hasn't been the same since Arthur & Mary ( sadly no longer with us) left.
Arthur enjoyed his pint so it was always in peek condition, whereas Tony was more of a food man so the beer & the selection of beer was not always good.
We will never get back to the good old days when Noel was the landlord but this is a step in the right direction & I look forward to my visit sometime this week.

Paul Bailey said...

I don’t think I remember Arthur & Mary, Greengrass, but I do recall a former landlord eloping with a younger woman, just before Christmas one year, leaving his wife and daughters holding the fort. (It all happens in villages!).

I agree about Tony, but he was a chef, so was better in the kitchen than at the bar. His partner (wife?) always seemed pleasant though and there was often an attractive girl behind the bar; which was always a pleasant surprise.

The beer was often variable, but if you stuck with the Harvey’s it was normally OK. I like the pub, which was why I was singing its praises. It also has the added bonus of being close to my workplace.

I’m sure Larkins will make a go of the pub, and it is nice to have an outlet for their beers which offers something in addition to Trad.

RedNev said...

I obviously don't know this pub, being from Merseyside, but it is good to hear of a pub being saved. It calls into question pubco calculations showing that a pub is unviable.