There is a quote from Alun Howkins, author of ‘The English Rural Community’, writing in the New Statesman and Society;
“Real ale is an odd concept, linked more to an imagined real pub with a real fire and cheese, as much to the scientific definition of a brewing process.”
I did not imagine The Horse and Groom.
We all have that view of the country pub, perhaps with the addition of a garden and tables and benches and good company. I have moved on a little from that time long ago when I would have been happy with a swing, a packet of crisps, with those little blue bags of salt, and a drink with a straw.
There is no swing at The Horse and Groom and the ‘little blue bags’ are no more but all the rest is there to savour at the end of a walk.
Last year, I sat in the garden drinking Harvey’s Best, not just once but twice enjoying the solitude of a summer’s afternoon. This year, I promised my History Walkers that The Horse and Groom was all that they imagined a pub at the end of a walk would be. I painted a picture of that ‘imagined’ real pub that would provide that perfect ending to the walk from Battle Abbey to Rushlake Green, on 1066 Harold’s Way The Final Journey.
The sign said ‘Closed for Refurbishment, Open next Friday’ and all those fancy words for this Shepherd Neame pub were lost in disappointment.
Now re-opened, I made a special trip to savour the delights of The Horse and Groom. The pub, repainted and resplendent, fires lit offers all the opportunity for a convivial pint losing nothing of its previous attraction and, it is still a walker’s pub and the Harvey’s Best is excellent.
There was Whitstable Bay on draft and there will be a guest beer on offer too. The new tenants want to make their mark.
Lunchtime food will be bar food to replace all that energy lost during that walk but evening meals will be something a little different to enjoy. Presentation and service were first class on this early evening visit.
The garden is in the throes of new landscaping and will soon be fully accessible, last Friday it was a little chilly but warmer days are promised.
I am happy that this is still a destination pub for 1066 Harold’s Way, The Final Journey and I’m sorry that my History Walkers did not get the chance to enjoy the charm of The Horse and Groom this time.