“And Then There Were Three” - is the ninth studio album by Prog-Rock heroes Genesis, and the third album recorded by the group without former lead singer, Peter Gabriel. The album was also the first Genesis album to be recorded by the group as just a trio, coming hot on the heels of the departure of inspirational guitarist, Steve Hackett.
For may fans it marked the change from the longer progressive rock material, which the band were best known for, to shorter, more pop-oriented pieces. Despite this the album still includes a number of memorable compositions, and contains at least two of my favourite Genesis tracks.
So, I hear you ask, what has this got to do with beer and travel? Well the name of the album is a reference to the number of walkers who turned out yesterday for a post-Christmas and pre-New Year ramble, but despite being diminished in numbers our trio of intrepid hikers, still managed to have a good time.
The rather loose-knit CAMRA Branch I belong to keeps in touch by means of a number of WhatsApp groups; well most of us do, as we’ve got a handful of members who are still living in a pre-digital, pre-Smart Phone age. Fortunately most can be contacted by email, but in the run-up to Christmas I asked a question on our Weekend Walking WhatsApp Group, with reference to a possible walk between the two main events of the festive season.
Nothing much came back in the way of response, apart from a reply from one particular friend. This was a suggestion for a walk to the Swan-on-the-Green, at West Peckham. Apparently the Christmas Ale at this long-established brew-pub, was uncommonly good, and the respondent recommended we try it.
Christmas came and went so the same friend and I put out another post to the walking group members, following up on the previous ones. Unbeknown to us, two other friends, who are not on WhatsApp, had put forward an idea of their own to walk to the Dovecote at Capel.
Things only sorted themselves out the afternoon before the date of proposed walk and, as I was in Whitstable at the time with no phone signal and no Wi-Fi, I was unable to respond. Basically three members of the group had dropped out; one due to work commitments, one for family reasons and the third due to illness. Ironically the latter individual was the friend who’d originally suggested West Peckham.
What happened in the end was, the two friends who’d suggested the Dovecote as the venue for our walk, discovered that the pub was closed for an extended period following Christmas, and wouldn’t be re-opening until 29th December. They also found out that the Swan closes at 3pm weekdays.
Instead the pair suggested we walk to the Greyhound at Charcott, and although I’m a fairly regular to this re-opened and re-vitalised pub, due to its proximity to my workplace, I agreed. With just three of us confirmed, and the other choices either not available or unrealistic, the Greyhound was definitely the best option, so we arranged to meet at Tonbridge station the following morning, just before 11am.
We boarded the train and alighted at Leigh, just one stop down the line from Tonbridge. We walked up into the village and then took a path which leads through the churchyard, before heading off in a northerly direction. The weather was dull and overcast, which was a shame after the previous day’s sunshine, but it was still relatively mild for the time of year.
The path basically skirts around the boundary of Hall Place, a Victorian, Grade II listed mansion set in a former deer park, beside a large lake. The house overlooks the village of Leigh and back in the day, the village would have accommodated many of the estate staff. The house with its ancillary buildings, ornate gate lodges and 1,000 acres of mixed arable and parkland, was placed on the market in 2015, for £15 million.
We eventually emerged from the woods, at the rear of the stately pile, and headed off across some open pasture. Unfortunately this section of the walk was rather muddy, especially where the ground had been churned up by cattle. The latter were tucked away somewhere in a nice warm barn, but they’d left quite a mess, particularly around the gates connecting the various fields.
I have walked this route on several occasions in the past, so knew where we were going, so I was pleasantly surprised when the friend who was leading the walk took us along a new path. This diversion meant that, apart from a very short section, we would not need to walk along the road into Charcott; a definite bonus given that the road is narrow in places and bounded by high banks.
The track we headed up, took us past a couple of very desirable properties, but after passing these we headed off across a couple of fields. Fortunately this pastureland had not been grazed, so the grass was long, thick and just right for removing all that mud which had accumulated on our boots.
This alternative route brought us into Charcott, from the opposite direction to normal, and effectively to the rear of the Greyhound . This was just before 12.30pm. There were a reasonable number of people in the pub, but it wasn’t too busy. That situation was to change later.
Before finding a table, we ordered ourselves a well-earned pint. There was an interesting selection of ales on tap, but to the disappointment of my two companions, no Larkin’s Porter. I told then they should have called in, like I did, the week before Christmas. However, as consolation for dark beer fans, there was Christmas Pudding Winter Warmer – a 5.8%, dark ale, produced by Kent Brewery and packed with spices to resemble the traditional festive dessert.
One member of our group went for this beer, whilst myself and our other companion started off on the 3.8% PALEolithic US Hopped Ale from Caveman Brewery. This proved to be a good choice, pale in colour and refreshing in taste and, for a beer of relatively low strength, packed with plenty of flavour.
We were just about to sit down by the fire, when landlady Fran, came over and asked if we would mind sitting in the dining area, at the rear of the pub. This was because she was expecting a large group of walkers and their dogs. Whilst our canine friends are welcome at the Greyhound, they are not wanted in the dining room.
All this talk of food made us realise we were a trifle peckish, and in a display of laddish solidarity, to a man we all ordered the same dish – that old pub classic, scampi and chips in a basket. The meal was actually presented in an enamel dish – much easier to clean than a basket, and whilst I felt a tiny bit guilty following the “chip episode” the previous day in Whitstable, the food was just right.
Two of us tried the second pale ale, this time a 4.5% offering from Sussex-based Greyhound Brewery called Cosmos Light Premium A.P.A. It was nice, but didn’t seem to pack in half as much flavour as the previous and much weaker beer from Caveman.
The pub had filled up nicely by the time we were ready for our final pint of the afternoon, and this had to be the Christmas Pudding Winter Warmer. I am not usually a fan of adding spices to ale, but it seemed to work with this one. At 5.8%, one was enough for me, but our friend Kevin seemed OK after three pints of it.
We left the Greyhound just after 3pm. The sun had broken through the gloom whilst we were inside the pub, and it was pleasant to watch it slowly sinking in the sky as we walked across the disused Penshurst Airfield, towards Penshurst station. It was then a short 10 minute train journey back to Tonbridge.
So nothing out of the ordinary, but still a very pleasant visit to a cracking pub which is almost on our doorsteps.