Sunday 30 September 2018

Saltaire Brewery

I managed to squeeze in a couple of brewery visits during our recent trip to Yorkshire. They were visits, rather than tours; the difference being we visited the brewery premises to buy bottles of beer to take away with us, rather than undertaking a guided tour of the brewing plant.

Saltaire Brewery was the first place we visited, and whilst it took a bit of finding, it was well worth the effort. The brewery is situated not far from the centre of Shipley; a small town to the north of Bradford, which has now been absorbed by its larger neighbour to form a continuous urban conurbation.

The brewery is named after the nearby model village of Saltaire, a development planned and built in the mid 19th Century, by Sir Titus Salt, who was one of the leading industrialists associated with the woollen industry in Yorkshire.

As well as the large complex of woollen mills built alongside the Leeds & Liverpool canal, Salt built neat stone houses for his workers. These were a huge improvement  on the slums of Bradford, as they were provided with wash-houses and bath-houses with tap water. The village also included a hospital, an institute for recreation and education,  a library, a reading room, a concert hall, a billiard room, a science laboratory and a gymnasium.

In addition the village had a school for the children of the workers, almshouses, allotments, a park and a boathouse. The name Saltaire is a combination of the founder's surname and the name of the nearby river – the River Aire.  The village has survived remarkably complete, and in 2001, Saltaire was designated a World Heritage Site by UNESCO. The buildings belonging to the model village are individually listed. 

Salt’s Mill closed as a textile concern in February 1986, and was purchased the following year by local businessman and entrepreneur, Jonathan Silver. The new owner set about renovating the splendid looking, stone-built, former mill buildings and today the complex is home to a variety of businesses and commercial ventures, with other parts used for leisure and residential purposes.

Strangely enough, the converted mill buildings do not house the Saltaire Brewery, which instead is situated a short distance away on a former industrial site, close to the Leeds & Liverpool canal. 

The brewery was founded in 2006, and since that time has gone from strength to strength. It now produces 56,000 litres of beer each week, delivering all over Yorkshire, the North West, the North East, Cumbria and beyond. Bottled beers are available from all major supermarkets as well as selected independent wine and beer retailers.

In August this year, the brewery carried out a major re-branding exercise and at the same time launched a new range of beers, with the aim of “bridging the gap between cask and craft”. The revamped range includes a session IPA, a citrus pale ale, a black IPA and an Australian and New Zealand pale ale. The recipes have a focus on flavour with hop forward, unfiltered and easy drinking beers, which are available in 33cl bottles and kegs.  

After parking in the brewery yard, we made our way to the Brewery Tap Room, which is housed in a single storey building on the other side of the yard. The interior is laid out like a pub, with seating and a bar-counter adorned with hand-pulls and keg fonts, dispensing a range of Saltaire beers. Chilled bottled beers are available from a fridge, with the full range of Saltaire bottled beers available to take away, by the bottle or by the case.

My wife and son sat themselves down at one of the tables, whilst I grabbed us some drinks. I opted for the cask Citra and ordered the same beer for Matt. He was impressed as to how good the beer was, as was I; the only trouble was I was driving so had to limit myself to just the one beer.

I made up for this by buying a selection of different bottles, all at brewery prices, and I shall enjoy drinking them later. The Tap Room was quiet, with only one other customer (and his dog), present, but the barman assured me the place would liven up later. He also told me hat business was going well and that Saltaire had been helped by having had a presence in the area’s pubs and bar for the past 12 years.

So much like the brewery bars I visited, whilst over in the United States, it pays to have a guaranteed outlet for your beers, where you can showcase them to the world whilst encouraging people to buy them. I would certainly be a regular customer, if I lived in the area. 

After drinking up and loading the beers into the back of the car, we left, with no clear purpose in mind, apart from filling the car up with cheap northern diesel. This entailed a drive into Keighley, just five miles down the road.

After re-fuelling, we failed to find the town’s most famous brewery – Timothy Taylor’s,  although the previous day we drove past the Cross Roads Inn, on our way to Haworth. The latter was displaying the livery of the Copper Dragon Brewery; a concern which has had several changes of ownership and also moved site a number of times. The brewery is currently based in Keighley.

Instead we took a drive out towards the town of Skipton, known as the “Gateway to the Dales”. On the way, we called in at the Naylor’s Brewery and Beer Emporium, at Cross Hills. I will write a brief piece about this enterprising establishment next time, so for the time being, it’s bye for now. 

Footnote: Saltaire are in the process of re-vamping their website, so for this reason I haven't included any links to the brewery site. It is worth bearing in mind that Saltaire beers can often be found in bottled form, in major supermarkets, and are well worth seeking out.

Thursday 27 September 2018

Dodging the Brontë sisters in Haworth

On Tuesday we visited the village of Haworth; a small village roughly 3 miles south-west of Keighley, and 10 miles west of Bradford. Haworth is  perched high up in the Pennines, and due to its literary connections as the home of the Brontë sisters (Charlotte, Emily and Anne), is a popular tourist destination. (Some might say it's too popular with tourists - more of that later.)

We drove up to Haworth with Mrs PBT's cousin and her husband. Cousin Kathleen was born in the village, and spent her formative years there, so not only was she able to act as our guide, but she could tell us what the place was like before it was overrun by tourists.

She told us that back in the sixties, Haworth was still a working village and was pretty much self-contained, with plenty of local shops (including several bakers and grocers, plus a Co-Op), a couple of banks, village schools, a garage and doctor's surgery. The only thing Haworth didn't have, was an opticians.

Now, as can be imagined, the village is a collection of tea shops, souvenir outlets, art galleries and establishments offering alternative lifestyles (New Age sort of stuff). In short, Haworth is no longer the working and "lived-in" village it once was, as even most of the remaining cottages have been turned into second homes, or holiday lets.

Drinkers will be pleased to know there are still a fair number of pubs; most of course catering for visitors rather than the few remaining locals. We didn't visit any, as neither Kathleen and her husband are drinkers, and I was driving anyway, but I would like to go back and try a few. It is possible to reach Haworth by a combination of public transport and the Keighley & Worth Valley Heritage Railway.

Despite the "dry" day, we had a really enjoyable look round. The weather was kind and, although a cold wind was blowing, we were blessed with wall-to-wall sunshine. It was especially good to have been shown round by someone who had lived in the village and could recount at first and what it had been like to have grown up there.

Before going any further, here's a  quick few words about how Mrs PBT's came to have family connections with "God's Own Country". WWII is to blame, as during that conflict her mother's brother was posted for a while to Keighley. He met a local lass there and after returning safely from the war, married her and settled down in the area.

I'm not quite sure how they ended up living in Haworth, but they spent the first two decades of married life there. The couple moved from the village when it started to become overrun with tourists. We met my wife's' aunt earlier this week, she is 95 years old and still quite sprightly, even accompanying us for a walk along the famous Bingley Five Rise locks, on the Leeds-Liverpool canal.

Returning to Haworth, we enjoyed a spot of lunch in one of the many cafés - the Cookhouse, before returning to the top of the village. Our visit was particularly good for Mrs PBT's continued recuperation, as she accomplished more walking than she has done since her discharge from hospital.

The fact that for much of the time she was walking along chatting to her relatives, meant she didn't really notice we'd descended from the top of Haworth, almost to the station at the bottom of the hill, before climbing all the way up again. This was without any encouragement from me, which had to be a plus!

So an excellent day out, made all the more enjoyable by the services of a local guide. As for Haworth's famous former residents, I'll leave you to make your own minds up about them. I'm certain though that the sisters never imagined quite how famous they and their works would be in years to come. Whatever their thoughts though, I think they'd be horrified by what happened to their village during the late 20th Century.

If you ARE interested in those Brontë girls, then buy a £9.00 ticket and queue up with all the other tourists, for a tour around the Brontë Parsonage Museum. If you think I did this, then you are wrong, but back in the late 1970's, and in a different life, I confess that I actually did step inside the place.

Wednesday 26 September 2018

Sentimental journey

We had an interesting journey from Norfolk up to Yorkshire, travelling in a north-westerly direction, across the flatlands of Lincolnshire and across into Nottinghamshire. It was a journey I have only once undertaken, but for my wife and son this was the first time either had crossed such an interesting area of England.

We had all been to Yorkshire on several previous occasions, but the journey up from Kent is relatively straight forward - M25, M11, A14, A1 and then the more local bits, depending on which part of the county we are visiting, so for all of the route we followed on Monday provided the perfect example of just how varied  and contrasting our country can be.

The route was quite simple, A47 from Dereham to Kings Lynn, and then the A17 all the way to just south of Newark, where we joined the A1. The Yorkshire section involved turning onto the M62 at Knottingley, and then the M606 towards Bradford. I didn't time the journey, or even clock the mileage, but we left Norfolk  just after 10am, and arrived at our hotel in Bingley some time after 3pm. This included a brunch stop, at a rather interesting place on the A1.

The initial stage of the journey along the A47 to Kings Lynn, was quite a familiar one, as just south of the town is the impressive Beers of Europe warehouse. This enterprise offers one of the largest selections of bottled beers in the country, and has therefore been a fairly regular stop on numerous visits to Norfolk. But once we had crossed the bridge over the Great Ouse, and turned onto the A17, we were straight into the flatlands of the Fens, and on unfamiliar territory for the other members of the Bailey family.

It was an immediate and quite dramatic contrast to Norfolk, a county which is nowhere near as flat as many people think, and this was brought home to is as we  headed out across the Lincolnshire flatlands. Apart from the fields of cabbages and brussel sprouts, the majority of the harvest had been gathered in, leaving the landscape looking quite bleak and bare. What seemed to be missing was the almost jet-black soil I associate with the Fens from previous visits travelling south towards Ely.

The A17 is a major north west-south east highway, and if ever a road needs to be upgraded to dual-carriageway, then this is one of them. There was a substantial amount of freight moving in both directions and this, coupled with the inevitable agricultural traffic, restricted our speed to an average 50 mph. With few villages or other signs of human habitation, the totally flat landscape seemed to go on forever,

I have to admit that there was some more pure nostalgia  behind this trip, as it was not the first time I have made this journey. Thirty four years ago I travelled the same road in reverse. I was a twenty-something student at the time, living in Manchester, and was on my way to Norwich, to spend the weekend with an old school friend.

My pal was studying at the University of East Anglia (UEA) in the city, and was expecting me sometime that Friday. We had purposely left the arrangements loose, as our only form of communication back then was by letter. There were obviously no mobile phones in those days, and furthermore, neither of us had access to a landline, so we relied on an element of trust that everything would run to plan.

On a whim, I decided I would hitch-hike for as much of the journey as possible, so on a bright and sunny, but rather cold early spring morning, carrying a rucksack and armed with just a Bartholomew's Road Atlas and my thumb, I set off, bound for Norwich.

My journey took me across the Pennines, via the M62, and then in a southerly direction. I can't remember the exact route, but I do recall travelling via both Chesterfield and Worksop. I also travelled in a variety of vehicles, including a couple of lorries and the odd van, but it was the final leg of the journey, along the A17 and A47 trunk roads which relates to our recent trip.

This section was also the most memorable, as I hitched a lift all the way from the outskirts of the town of Sleaford in Lincolnshire, to the section of the Norwich Ring Road, where UEA was situated. This was all thanks to a gentleman in a sports car, who was travelling in the same direction as me and kindly took me all the way.

As we sped across the flatlands of Lincolnshire and into Norfolk, we passed through a number of picturesque villages, and even a few towns, as the A47 hadn't been improved at all back in those days. This was not only my first trip along this route, but my first visit to Norwich.

Now, 34 years later, I was travelling along that very same route; albeit in the opposite direction. To crown it all, and in a moment of real serendipity, as we approached the outskirts of Sleaford, I recognised that very same roundabout where all those years ago, I had thumbed that lift to Norwich.

I have perhaps spent a little too long on this diversion from the main narrative, but I wanted to include that piece of serendipity, so last Monday, by the time we reached Sleaford, the flatlands of the Fens had already given way to more hilly country, and this contrast only increased as we approached the town of Newark.

It was just north of here that we turned on to the A1 and headed more or less directly north. We were feeling hungry by this time and were on the look out for a suitable place to eat. Both wife and son remembered an American Diner style establishment somewhere along the Great North Road, and sure enough it wasn't long before son Matthew spotted a sign for the OK Diner.

We turned off the road and pulled in to the retro-styled  restaurant. It was great inside and we were soon seated at a table and contemplating the menu. I went for a brunch type bloomer of fried egg, bacon, sausage and hash brown, Mrs PBT's opted for a bacon sandwich, whilst son Matthew, hungry as ever, chose the mixed grill.

Suitably fed and watered we continued on our way. The traffic was heavy in places, with rather too many lorries for my liking, but we still made good progress, thanks in part to the fine weather.

I won't go into too much detail of the last leg of our journey, but we turned off the A1 at Knottingley, and headed in an easterly direction along the M62. As we approached Bradford, the terrain became increasingly more hilly, and once we'd navigated the city's "delights", we headed towards Shipley;  finally arriving at the Premier Inn, Bradford North Bingley. 

This has been our base for the past few days, but tomorrow morning we will be travelling across North Yorkshire, for an overnight, coastal stop at Bridlington. 

Tuesday 25 September 2018

A brief halt in Norfolk

Our current trip to Yorkshire involved a stopover in Norfolk, in order to call in and see my father. It had been a while since I'd last seen him so I managed to book us into a hotel, close to dad's care home. It was rather ironic to have chosen the King's Head Hotel at North Elmham, as it was one of mum and dad's favourite dining places.

It is only a short drive from where they lived in Swanton Morley, and a visit to the hotel's Sunday lunchtime carvery was a regular way of celebrating family get-togethers and other special occasions. Although our one night stay there brought back some bitter-sweet memories, they were on the whole good ones, and it was encouraging to see the improvements that have been made there.
A look around shows that a lot of money has been spent on the King's Head, bringing this traditional, country hotel, slap bang up to date. The hotel is sited on a prominent crossroads on the edge of North Elmham, which itself is a small village on the banks of the River Wensum, five miles to the north of Dereham.

The hotel is an attractive red-brick  building, constructed in typical East Anglian style, with that unmistakable Flemish influence of ornate gables and characteristic curved roof tiles. We had a couple of rooms in the former stable block, which has now been converted to provide comfortable and well appointed overnight accommodation. I say "couple of rooms" as son Matthew accompanied us on the trip.

Mrs PBT's has a number of relatives in the Bingley area of Yorkshire, and we'd been meaning to take a trip up to "God's own country" for some time. Matthew decided to come along for the ride as well, so with the large number of bags which wife and son deemed necessary to bring, we had a full car for the journey up.

Returning to Norfolk and the King's Head for a moment, after calling in to see dad, we enjoyed a hearty evening meal in the restaurant. I opted for the steak, kidney and mushroom pie, correctly guessing that it wouldn't be a "proper pie". It was still good, although why do chefs insist on using puff pastry which disintegrates the moment your cutlery gets anywhere near it, leaving flakes of the stuff all over the place.

There were three cask ales on tap in the bar, but regrettably their quality did not match that of the food. The beers were Southwold and Ghost Ship from Adnam's, plus that rarest of sights, Draught Bass; surely a beer to gladden the heart of a certain well-know devotee and prolific blogger!  The Bass was on better form than the Southwold,  but it was still a little tired. Yet again this demonstrates the complete lottery associated with cask beer.

On the plus side, the King's Head provided us with a quiet and comfortable night's sleep, and I will certainly stay there again, the next time I go to see my father. Speaking of which, although dad is starting to look rather frail, he was in good spirits, even though he wasn't talking a lot of sense.

He is in his late eighties now, so his appearance isn't exactly surprising.  It was good to see him and good also to renew our acquaintance with north Norfolk and the King's Head.

Saturday 22 September 2018

Sovereign Harbour - Eastbourne

A couple of weekends ago, Mrs PBT’s and I decided to take a drive down to Eastbourne. Why Eastbourne, you might wonder, well it’s a town which neither of us have been to for some time. In addition, it was a reasonable day, weather-wise, and it was good to get out of  the house.

Mrs PBT’s is still not quite back to full strength yet, particularly with regard to walking, so we thought a few hours at the coast would do her good – sea air and all that. In the end we decided that rather going into Eastbourne itself, we would visit the development known as Sovereign Harbour, especially as neither of us had been there before.

We set off mid-morning and although I’d brought the sat-nav along, I packed it in the glove-compartment; my reason being I knew where I was going and had no need of such devices. (More about that later).

After skirting Tunbridge Wells, we took the A267 towards Eastbourne and things were going swimmingly until we reached the edge of the town of Heathfield. The road splits here, and I wasn’t paying attention, in fact I was so busy chatting that I missed the junction completely.

That wasn’t quite true as out of the corner of my eye, I spotted the sign for Eastbourne. Mrs PBT’s hadn’t noticed it because when I asked her if she’d seen the sign, she replied that she hadn’t, and was relying on me to both drive and navigate.

Now the sensible thing would have been to turn around, but confident in my abilities to follow my nose, I decided to press on, confident in the assumption there would be another road we could turn off onto, which would lead us back towards Eastbourne. To cut a long story short, there was no such road, and the road we were following (A265), was leading us in an easterly direction rather than the southerly one which would take us to our destination.

I realised this after studying the map afterwards, but my sense of direction hadn’t completely deserted me, as just after Heathfield we turned onto the B2096 in a south-easterly direction. The road took us through some interesting sounding places, such as Cade Street, Punnett’s Town and Netherfield; places neither of us had been to before, despite living just 20 miles or so away.

Of more interest were the pubs, several of which looked worthy of a visit. Before reaching Netherfield, the road climbed steeply and took us through a dense area of woodland. My imagination started to run riot; was this the route which King Harold’s army took back in 1066, after hot-footing it all the way from Stamford Bridge, for that fateful encounter with Duke William’s forces at Senlac Hill? It was quite possible, as we were fast approaching the town of Battle; the site of that decisive clash 952 years ago, which completely changed the course of English history.

I didn’t mention any of this to Mrs PBT’s; she had more important things on her mind, such as where was the nearest Ladies?  As we approached Battle, I knew where we were, and was able to navigate us through Catsfield and Ninfield, to Pevensey, which of course was where William’s army made landfall, in 1066. From there it was  a short drive along the coast to Sovereign Harbour, where there would be shops, refreshment places and that all important Ladies’ loo!

Sovereign Harbour is a development of the coastal area to the north-east of Eastbourne. It is northern Europe’s largest marina complex and boasts four linked harbours, a large, free car park and a popular Waterfront retail and restaurant development.

Opened in 1993 and formerly known as the “Crumbles”, the marina consists of four separate harbours, the aforementioned retail park and several housing developments containing a mixture of both permanent and holiday properties.

In the last decade of the 20th century Sovereign Harbour was more of a work in progress, but is now a virtually completed project, with a distinct feel of permanence about it. The local “Sovereign Harbour Yacht Club” have their imposing clubhouse there, with the aforementioned shops and restaurants close by. There are also toilet facilities for those in need which, by this time, included me!

Suitably relieved we had a quick look around a couple of clothing retailers – Matalan and TK-Max, but didn’t buy anything. I’d already bought this year’s additions to my meagre wardrobe, prior to my trip to America, and my dear wife already has enough clothes (and shoes) to start a chain of shops of her own. We were hungry and thirsty, so headed down to the waterfront to see what was on offer.

The choice was Pablo’s Italian Restaurant, the Thai Marina, a grill bar whose name escapes me and the local Harvester Restaurant. We opted for the latter, sitting outside at first, but when we saw the size and numbers of the seagulls circling overhead, moved swiftly inside.

It’s quite a few years since I last ventured into such a place, but they have a set formula, with a trans-Atlantic menu, which obviously works for both the chain and its customers. I went for one of their classic chicken and ribs combos, whilst Eileen opted for a plate of slow-cooked ribs.

The cask offering was limited to Doom Bar; the Sea-Farer’s being off. I went for a bottle/can of Brew Dog Punk IPA, which went well with my food. The restaurant was obviously a popular eatery, but given its substantial size, wasn’t packed out.

From our table we had a pleasant view out across one of the inner harbours, watching the comings and goings of various boats. The whole harbour complex and surrounding area is certainly very pleasant and well laid out, and given the large number of properties, must be home to a fair number of Eastbourne’s residents.

We took a slow walk back to the car after our meal, and before heading for home, called in at the massive Asda superstore, just across from the main car park. We followed a different route back to Tonbridge, which included the road which runs across the top of Ashdown Forest.

This was a bit of nostalgia on my part, as this road formed part of my journey to work each day, when I was employed by a company based in Lewes. I enjoyed re-living the journey, but am mighty relieved I don’t have to face that drive on a twice-daily basis anymore.

So an enjoyable day out, but not a lot to report on the beer and pub front. However, for a trip to the coast and for seeing new and different things, it scored well.

Friday 21 September 2018

The sincerest form of flattery

Anyone who read my recent article on beer festivals might be forgiven for thinking that it was my last word on the subject, and to a certain extent it was, but over the course of the past week, whilst out for my lunchtime walk, I noticed preparations taking place at the village pub for a beer festival of their own.

Billed as Oktoberfest, the event is timed to coincide with the start of the grand-daddy of all beer festivals, which kicks of in Munich tomorrow (22nd September), at midday. 

Of course a small-scale beer festival, held in the garden of a village pub, is nothing like the main event, but it’s good to see pubs promoting themselves in this way and it’s good to see the acknowledgment to the real thing. After all, imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.

The Little Brown Jug, at Chiddingstone Causeway, has been running its own Oktoberfest for quite a few years now, and the fact that the event repeats itself each year, proves the pub’s owners must be doing something right.

The beer though, is very much of the traditional English variety, rather than the strong, rich Märzen beer, brewed specially for Oktoberfest in Munich. The event at the Jug takes place over the course of a long weekend, whilst the real Oktoberfest carries on for a full two weeks.

I’m sure there will be similar events taking place at pubs, up and down the country, all paying homage in their own way to the main event in Munich, and as the Bailey family embark on a few days away, here in the UK, I expect we’ll be coming across a few such events ourselves.

Tuesday 18 September 2018

Wadhurst to Tunbridge Wells on foot

On Sunday I took the opportunity to don my walking boots and head off into the clear blue yonder, for a walk in the beautiful Kent and Sussex countryside. I joined up with four friends who all live locally and three of whom are members of my local CAMRA branch.

The plan was to take the train from Tonbridge and alight four stops down the line, at Wadhurst. From there we would take a scenic walk back to Tunbridge Wells, along a number of rural footpaths, stopping off at a couple of pubs on the way.

This was the first ramble I’ve been on for some time, although to my credit I did a fair amount of walking whilst I was in the United States. During my six day stay at my sister’s, I accompanied my brother in law, on a three and a half mile walk every morning. There is a “country park” close to where they live, so every morning, after breakfast, the pair of us would head off to this attractive, wooded recreation area to do a circuit.

I was pleased to have kept this regime up for the duration of my stay, and whilst I have continued with my daily lunchtime walk (weekdays, at least), a mile and a quarter is substantially less than what I was doing in the US. It was good therefore to have the opportunity to be heading out on this ramble.

We caught the 11:10 train from Tonbridge and 20 minutes later were alighting at Wadhurst station, deep in the Sussex countryside. Our initial route took us through woodland, before opening out into some undulating countryside. This was home to several herds of cattle and the odd flock of sheep, but apart from the odd isolated settlement, we encountered very few humans along the way.

One and a half hours, and three and a half miles later, we walked into the hamlet of Bells Yew Green, home to Brecknock Arms. This small Harvey’s pub has long been a favourite amongst local branch members but has changed hands recently, following the departure of Sally and David Fawcett, who had ran the pub for the past four years.

We arrived just after 1pm, to find the pub very quiet, apart from a couple of families who seemed intent on allowing their children to run around inside. We escaped to the garden, where we sat out enjoying our beer in the mid-September sunshine.

Despite the lack of customers, the beer was on top form and I scored my pint of Sussex Best at 4.0 NBSS. According to my friends, the Hadlow IPA was also very good. Given the Brecknock’s  former reputation for good food, we were surprised not to see anyone eating there, which led us to wonder whether or not the pub has a chef at present.

We only stayed for the one pint, as there was still a fair amount of ground to cover between Bells Yew Green and  Tunbridge Wells.  Our route took us along the road at the side of the pub, towards the village of Frant; a distance of one and a half miles.

On the way, we passed the former brewery of George Ware & Son which is now divided up into a number of light industrial units, but still very much retains the appearance of a traditional, Victorian tower brewery. The brewery closed in 1950, following the acquisition of the company and its 16 pubs, by E & H Kelsey of Tunbridge Wells.

Frant is quite a large village with a substantial village green, which faces onto the main A267 Tunbridge Wells to Eastbourne road. Fronting onto the road and just to north of the
village centre, is the Abergavenny Arms Hotel. This 15th Century, former coaching inn, is an attractive, part tile-hung building with a large and well-appointed bar which serves two large beamed rooms.

Both are primarily given over to dining, but one has an area for drinkers, with comfortable sofas and an open fire. There is also a smaller dining room that can be used for functions. At the front of the pub, there is an outside patio- type garden for use in warmer weather, and this is where we made ourselves comfortable.

Somewhat ironically, my wife and I had driven past the Abergavenny the previous weekend, on our way to Eastbourne. I remarked at time that it had been an age since I had last set foot inside the pub, and there I was, just a week later, enjoying a drink there. I have to say that despite the emphasis on food, I was impressed with this lovely old pub. The food looked and smelt good, and was being enjoyed by plenty of appreciative diners; unlike at the Brecknock, just down the road.

The beer was good too, with Long Man Blonde and Dark Star Hophead joining the ubiquitous Harvey’s Best. I went for the Long Man Blonde, awarding it a 3.5 NBSS. Two members of our party opted for the Hophead, and thought they detected a slight alteration in the taste of the beer, now that Fullers are brewing it. Some might argue this could have been pure imagination, but as seasoned Hophead aficionados, I am pretty certain my friends were correct in their judgement.

Again, we just stayed for the one pint, before leaving to walk back to Tunbridge  Wells. We skirted the village green, passing Frant’s other pub, the George, just before the  church. I don’t think I have been in this pub before, but from the this attractive white-painted building, looked quite busy from the outside. What surprised me the most was just how large a village Frant is, as I have only ever seen it from the main road.

After passing through the churchyard, we descended through an area of dense woodland, before slowly making our way into rear of Tunbridge Wells. It was a further  three and half miles on top of what already walked, and my knees were starting to play up. The left one especially was giving me some gip, particularly whilst going downhill.

Once we reached Tunbridge Wells the plan was to visit a couple of the pubs which were participating in the town’s Beer Weekend – see earlier post. There was the possibility that the strong, 6.0% ABV beer called “Big Bad Trad,” specially brewed by Larkin’s for the Beer Weekend, might still be available.

However, despite the promise of this intriguing beer, I decided not to join my friends in walking up to Sankey’s, especially as it would have meant a further walk downhill to the station, for the train home. In addition, I knew that son Matthew would be knocking off work fairly soon, and if I timed things right, he could give me a lift home from Tonbridge station.

I therefore said farewell to my friends and thanked them for their company. There was  20 minutes to spare before my train, so I popped into the Bedford, opposite the station where I had a swift half  of Gadds Seasider. Matthew was waiting to pick me up outside Tonbridge station which, given my sore knee and aching limbs, was most welcome.

The walk from Wadhurst station to Tunbridge Wells, was just under eight and a half miles, with the ground underfoot, very hard. I was sufficiently recovered after a nice roast pork dinner, to bash out the majority of this post, and also get things ready for work the following morning.

The scenery and the company were both excellent, and I was also very impressed with the Abergavenny Arms. The only downside was finding the Brecknock so quiet. Until the Fawcett’s came on the scene four years ago, the pub had been struggling, and with them now gone there is now concern for the pub’s future. I don’t want to end this post on a downer, so I will keep my fingers crossed that the new licensees make a go of the place. I wish them well, especially as the previous tenants will be a hard act to follow, and trust that Harvey’s will give them all the support they may need.