Saturday 2 March 2024

There's an old mill by the stream

Friday was the first day of March and also the first day of spring, but the weather was anything but spring like with heavy torrential rain, driven by a strong and very biting north westerly wind. March can often be a very changeable month, and an old saying claims that March comes roaring in like a lion, and goes out meekly like a lamb, or the other way around. In my experience, it is pretty rare for the third month of the year to come creeping in softly, lamb-like or not, and I’m not sure either, about going out with the noise of a fierce, roaring lion!

So, with Friday’s weather, doing its best make the day a complete washout, and Mrs PBT’s not keen on going out anywhere, I decided no matter what was happening in the stratosphere, I was going to go out to explore somewhere a bit different. My plan was to take the bus over from Tunbridge Wells to East Grinstead, which is the town where son Matthew is employed. I have obviously been there several times in the past, but it would be good to have a closer look around, visit a couple of pubs, and maybe enjoy a spot of light lunch. I could then cadge a lift home from my son after he had finished his shift.

So far so good, and Matthew knew to expect me some time in the afternoon. He reckoned he would finish around about 3:00 pm which would be ideal, so imagine my frustration when I received a text message from him asking what time would I be over, as he would be finishing at 1:00 pm. Kids, who said they get easier, once they’re grown up? I was still waiting at the bus stop in Tonbridge when the call came through, and my arrival time in East Grinstead depended on connecting services from Tunbridge Wells. There are three buses every hour, over from Tonbridge, but it is an hourly service only, between the Wells and East Grinstead.

Fortunately, I was in time for the 10:52 am 291 Metrobus service from Tunbridge Wells and reached my destination at 11:45 am. That allowed time for at least one pub visit, and as my chosen pub was a 20-minute walk from the town centre, I would reach the 15th Century, Old Dunnings Mill, just after opening time. The semi-derelict Dunnings Mill was rescued by a local entrepreneur and converted into a pub in 1970 and has been adapted and extended over the years into a cosy and welcoming pub.

Today the Old Mill is owned by Harvey’s of Lewes, but I do recall a visit there, at sometime in the dim and distant past, when the bar was at set a much lower level, and the pub itself was much smaller in size. After following a road leading off from the High Street, and heading downhill for some considerable distance, I reached the area of East Grinstead known as Dunnings. I was surprised at just how hilly the town is, given its situation on the edge of Ashdown Forest, it is not really surprising. 

The pub straddles one of the Wealden tributaries of the River Medway and is now something of a show pub for Harvey’s.  I entered via the extensive car park at the rear, without recognising anything from my previous visit, and stepped into
a large bar with dining area. The latter was already occupied with diners of pensionable age, whilst the lengthy bar counter boasted two banks of hand-pumps, dispensing a broad selection of Harvey’s cask ales.

My eye went straight to the pump with the Old Ale clip on it, but also available were Best Bitter, Kiss (Valentine’s seasonal), plus Dunnings Mill IPA which is basically a rebadge of Harvey's standard IPA. It will be no surprise to learn that I went straight for the dark stuff, as XXXX Old Ale really is one of my favourite winter ales. Cool, dark, and delicious – well-conditioned as well, but I did detect a slight hint of staleness lurking in the background. I suspect I had received the first pint out of the pump that session, but despite this slight defect, it was still a fine, and very welcome drop of Old Ale. Just as I contemplated another pint, a message came through from Matthew, asking if I had arrived yet. Replying with an affirmative and explaining where I was and how long it would take me to walk back, we decided to meet outside his shop, so bang went the chance of another beer, along with the possibility of something to eat.

That was just as well really, as with a couple of large parties seated in the adjoining dining room, there would have been a lengthy wait for food, so reluctantly I finished my beer, returned the glass to the bar, and thanked the bar staff for my brief, but pleasant stay. On the way out, I had a look at the raging torrent that runs beneath the pub. During its time as a mill, the stream powered a rotating water wheel, and whilst a replica has now replaced the original you could still get an idea of how the old mill operated.

I left the pub, and headed back up the hill, into the centre of East Grinstead. There is a bus that operates the route from Dunnings, but it only runs on a two hourly basis. Matthew was waiting for me when I arrived at his shop in London Road. We went inside and I was introduced to Matt’s boss, who seemed pleasant enough. 

Afterwards, we called in at local independent off-licence Armstrong’s, where I bought a selection of five different dark, bottled beers – mainly from Sam Smith’s. Humphrey’s policy is to only supply independent retailers, so you won’t see his beers in supermarkets, or even chain-type, convenience stores, such as Londis or One-Stop. We then headed for home. I was unable to persuade Matthew to stop for a pint on the way home – I, don’t know, the youth of today, eh!



retiredmartin said...

No, you never stop worrying about your child, do you Paul ! Hope Matthew's job is going OK.

Paul Bailey said...

My parents were the same, Martin - or at least my mother was. Dad was rather more stoical, although I'm sure he was more protective over my two sisters. I expect your parents, are the same.

Matthew's job is going alright, but it's his love life (or lack of one), that needs a boost. I trust your two lads are doing alright in their respective jobs.

Macca said...

Tell your son to get on Tinder, that's where its all at Pete.

He doesn't want to linger at home reading beer blogs when there's action out there. Me and the good wife are on there as indeed are most people.

Paul Bailey said...

You could at least try getting my name right, Macca, or has all that playing away from home addled your brain?

Macca said...

I apologize for getting your name wrong Paul but that is no excuse for being rude. I am in the early stages of dementia and sometimes I forget things. I do notice you fire from the hip now and again. I may be addled but at least I try to be polite. Have a good weekend Sir

Paul Bailey said...

Sorry to learn about your dementia diagnosis, Macca and sorry for any offence caused. Equally though, I found your suggestion that my son should get himself on Tinder rather unnecessary, and not the type of conversation I should be having with my off-spring.

There were enough childish and inappropriate comments (pineapple outside the cabin door, swinging etc), from the likes of Volvo Cruiser and Aloha Harry, back in the autumn. This was when Mrs PBT's and I were on our Mediterranean Cruise, and the aforementioned two jokers imagined the voyage involved non-stop bed-hopping.

Your unwanted suggestion about Tinder, fell into the same camp - so yes, I do occasionally fire from the hip, but only where there's good reason for doing so.