It’s nearly Christmas 1066
and the Conqueror is getting anxious.
More than just footsteps on a path.
Walks, Talks and Books for 2018
A cold evening and the courtyard outside the galleried George is beginning to fill up with Friday drinkers let loose from the office. Inside it is busy and soon to get busier.
Once, there were similar medieval inns in the alleyways that lined the road from London Bridge and a haven for travellers, thieves and gambling.
First recorded around 1543, this ‘new’ building dates from 1667 after being destroyed by fire and rebuilt exactly to the same plan as before allowing 21st century drinkers to experience that touch of history as Dickens did before.
The first room is the best of all the small rooms and bars that lie end on end stretching long and thin from the main road.
Set underneath the galleried first floor is a room that was most likely two rooms at one time, each with its own fire place. Black walls, black beams, lacquered with years of paint, black fireplaces, window seats, inglenooks and a wood burner that provides that hint of wood smoke for that true medieval experience.
The Parliament Clock remains from 1797 and there are still one or two dark wood tables and benches. In 1976, there were wooden floor boards, original and left bare, but these have disappeared and the room looks higher than I remember 40 years ago.
This is the bar in which to sit and drink that timeless pint before venturing on the Greenwich although after a visit The George, the walk may end early with a trip to Borough Market to round off the day. Greenwich can wait for another time.
Beers are Greene King with a special George Inn Ale on offer at 4% as well as GK IPA, GK Abbot Reserve 6.5%, Sambrook’s House Porter, Rocking Rudolph 4,2%.
In the other bars, there are beams and pillars, stools and ledges and further along rooms with wood panelling, tables and chairs that has more a sense of Dickens than 1667.
Sit outside and in the early evening, the lights of The Shard reflect some future City of Dreams.
It is a tourist pub but one that is not a pastiche and one that should be visited at least once but is experienced at its best in the Parliament Bar.
77 Borough High Street, SE1 1NH Tel: 020 7407 2056
The Dog and Bell ‘Beer Paradise’
116 Prince Street, London SE8 3JD Tel: 020 8692 5664
Quoted in 1066 Harold’s Way as a ‘beer paradise’, five years later it does not disappoint.
Repainted a striking and vivid red, that heralded a change in licensee in November 2016, I would suggest that this hidden gem has improved still further with a new youthful energy and the charm of Ellie the licensee.
Wooden floors, polished bar and a new terrace at the back adorned heavy wooden benches and tables that will stand the test of many sessions.
On offer on this quiet warm Monday were: Stamps Brewery Blonde Momment @3.6%, Magpie Gold@4.4%, Black Jack Poker Face @4.2%, London Pride and a Broadoak cider, Pheasant Plucker@ 4.5% that was slightly sweet to taste.
The only caution is that there is still a mile or so to walk to Greenwich and further still to the station but in its favour it is a chance for a proper pint and good service before overcrowded Greenwich.
The Dog and Bell still retains it epithet as a beer paradise.
The Dog and Bell was visited in August 2017 when the sun shone on me whilst updating 1066 Harold’s Way on the walk from Westminster Abbey to Greenwich. A revised 1066 Harold’s Way should be ready for publication in 2018.
The Angel, Rotherhithe
A Sam Smith’s house, formerly Courage, of small richly painted and panelled rooms, nooks and crannies, cast iron fireplaces and historic photographs that decorate the walls. There is little of the ostentatious about this understated pub that has sought to preserve its heritage, it does not need it!
There are three panelled rooms at the front; the Public Bar, Saloon Bar and a Private Bar have a unique Victorian symmetry. That Private Bar allowed both men and women to drink together, for a small surcharge, and no doubt kept the clientele apart from the locals who worked on the quayside.
The small room at the back, that was once the kitchen, now plays host to four tables and chairs with one window that overlooks the river and another that frames up stream looking towards Tower Bridge and St Pauls with the admonition ‘WINDOW KEEP CLOSED AT HIGH TIDE’.
The photographs mostly relate to pre-second world war scenes of terraced houses streets and wharves, the black and white creates the impact to give a sense of life in Rotherhithe and add to the historical interest.
Upstairs is a lounge, carpeted and wallpapered with comfy chairs and settees to look out over the Thames, towards Execution Dock and Wapping Old Steps. Behind are prints from Wylie and Whistler, who completed his own etching of Rotherhithe in 1860 from this balcony looking similarly toward the City. No doubt they and Turner drank downstairs in the Private Bar if they ever entered the doors of The Angel.
There is a choice of a wide range of Sam’s most popular offerings but not one on hand pump!
Food is pub food from sandwiches to pies, burgers and mains that include liver and onions which would be perhaps a little heavy for a summer’s walk.
On my Monday, walking from Westminster Abbey to Greenwich on 1066 Harold’s Way along the Thames path, it had the feel of a good local’s pub but I am assured, by one of those locals, that weekends are busy with walkers.
My half (there was still some miles to walk before Greenwich) of Old Brewery bitter was fine and the service good on this empty lunchtime but tellingly, The Angel is not listed in CAMRA’s WhatPub – but it is still worth a visit.
7th August 2017
The epitome of a beautiful English pub, tile hung, deep red bricks add the lustre of another age. Originally 15th century, there have been additions and extensions since Queen Elizabeth I’s time but the mellow brick walls remain and possibly the fireplace although those tiles are 19th century and ‘lie over the original beams and plaster for additional weather-proofing’ (Twenty Centuries in Sedlescombe by Beryl Lucey)
A hint of William Morris, creeper covered walls, brick paving and shrubs by the front door invite you to enter. Luckily, this is no pastiche for there is an attention to detail inside this now dining pub with a bar.
Times change, that country pub devoted to beer has long gone, thankfully in the case of The Queen’s Head for a few years ago the pub was doomed, dying on its feet, dark rooms, insipid beer and what food was available was advertised on fluorescent stickers pinned to the wall behind the bar.
Now food is the driver and excellent it is too with fish and chips and prime beef burgers amidst the risottos, sea bass duck breast and the ‘Specials Board’. The fish platter shared was very good and despite the walk from Bodiam Castle I forwent beer for a chilled white wine and a pint of soda water on this hot day sat in the garden – very un-Rambler like.
It has that comfortable air inside with little rooms, old table and odd chairs, fires in winter and this particular July Thursday afternoon, a choir rehearsing in the back room.
Service too is very good, attentive without being demanding.
Increased trade has increased the quality of the beer with Harvey’s Best, Long Man Blonde, Sharpe’s Doom and Fuller’s Oliver Island on offer on my walking day.
Remember before you leave add a few coins to the collecting box on the bar – for the village geese – and be especially careful when you drive away to avoid the noisy birds.
The Queen’s Head, The Green, Sedlescombe, East Sussex, TN33 0QA Tel. 01424 870228
1066 Harold’s Way Walk 4
Dartford is 1066 Harold’s Way gateway to the Downs and the Weald.
Crossing Watling Street, now Dartford’s High Street, we can say our goodbyes to London. Away from the River Darent, 1066 Harold’s Way climbs up to give a first taste of the North Downs and the beautiful views south over the Darent Valley and west along the line of the Downs towards Surrey. There is just the hint of a hidden population amidst the rolling hills and valleys, lush fields and rows of trees, as far as the eye can see.
The landscape changes as we pass under the A2 and then the M25 and the noise of the traffic gives way to the solitude of a church built from the rubble of a Roman villa 1000 years ago. It stood as Harold passed. This is old Saxon land that we are walking and Harold would have drawn support here, and on the rest of the march, for his important battle ahead.
For Harold and his army, there were only 12½ miles to march to Rochester but our quiet meanderings, away from speeding Motorway traffic, will add another 6 miles to the journey.
It is good to walk across grassland, by paddocks and fields of crops, through woods and country parks, past the occasional farm and into villages that were once prosperous but seem to have now lost their heart, with the closure of pub, post office and shop.
Despite the changes, their character still remains, from the quarry houses of Bean to the ‘crinkle crankle’ wall at Betsham.
Southfleet is different. It is old with a long history and equally important an old pub, ‘The Ship’, to savour 1066 Harold’s Way.
Southfleet is in stark contrast to the ‘new’ village of Istead Rise with its estates, shops and important bus links but it is without a pub to provide a toast at the end of the walk.
Watch ‘Memories of 1066 Harold’s Way on You Tube
Link: The Ship, Southfleet
1066 Harold’s Way is available from Amazon, Waterstones, Foyles as well as good book shops and by mail order from www.1066haroldsway.co.uk
For details of how to buy: Click Here
History Walks, 1066 Harold’s Way and The Saxon Times