Whilst that final point does not apply to the Star at Matfield, was still racking my brains to try and recall
whether or not I’d set foot in the place. I must have driven past the pub dozens of times, these passed 30 years, and walked by quite a few times as well, but until Saturday’s visit settled the matter, I could not say for certain, one way or the other.
Matfield is a small and rather attractive village, approximately five miles southeast of Tunbridge Wells, and two miles south of Paddock Wood. The village grew up around its extensive green, which I’ve just learned is the largest in Kent. Today it still acts as the centre and focal point of this picturesque Wealden village.
There is a large pond, at the northern end of the green, and is overlooked by the grade I listed, Matfield House.
The Star is situated on the northern edge of the green and is now the only pub that looks over it. Until a few years ago, the Wheelwrights Arms performed the same role, from the opposite end, but in 2017, called “Last Orders” for the final time, and the property is now a private house. Local villagers launched a campaign to keep it open, but this was ultimately unsuccessful.
It is also worth mentioning Matfield’s
other pub – The Poet, which lies a bit further down the road towards Paddock Wood, opposite the turning to Brenchley. The Poet is perhaps more of a restaurant, than a pub, but it was once a traditional village local, known as Standing’s Cross.
As Matthew and I drove through the village, following our visit to the Star, we noticed somewhat ironically, that the Poet’s former name has been adopted by a new housing development. I suppose "Standing’s Cross" makes a change from the rustically inspired, but totally predictable titles, such as lark rise, orchard close etc., that developers normally come up with.
Now for the pub itself. The Star is a solid-looking, brick-built pub, creeper-hung, particularly at one corner, and with a portico entrance. When we arrived, there were a few sitting outside at tables, lined up in front of the building. There is a patio area to left, and a children’s play area to right, just in front of the car park.
A notice next to the entrance, advised that ordering at the bar was possible, providing masks were worn. Alternatively, patrons could sit outside, for table service, if they preferred to remain unmasked. Given the current high infection rates for Covid-19 this, in my view, was a sensible policy. In addition, there was to be no standing at bar, but the Star didn’t really seem the type of pub that encouraged barflies, anyway.
Matthew and I donned our masks, primarily to have a look inside, but also to see what beers were on. Upon entering, I realised that I had been in Star before, although probably only once, and quite a few years ago. I noted there are seating areas either side of bar, plus a dining room-restaurant, leading off to rear.
I was too busy chatting to the barmaid and paying for our drinks – Harvey’s Sussex Best for me, plus a pint of Amstel for Matthew, to take a photo of the bar itself, but a beer from Tonbridge Brewery, was the other cask offering. There were no customers inside though, as all were outdoors, taking advantage of improvement in weather.
So why did we call in? and why
choose the Star? The answer is we had made a further trip to the Waste Transfer Station (WTS) and fancied a pint on the way home. I was going to suggest the Dovecote, at Capel, but according to WhatPub, it closes between 3pm and 6pm, even on Saturdays, so a bit of quick thinking led to the choice of the Star.
After our visit, we took a wander over to the village green, where a game of cricket was in full swing. There were also groups of children and their parents, attempting to catch tiddlers, from the pond with fishing nets. Along with the attractive houses, fronting onto the green, these scenes formed the perfect picture of an English summer’s day; a day made all the more perfect by a well-kept pint of traditional cask beer at an equally traditional village pub.