‘The clean and commodious village ale house’

The Leather Bottle (33)

Cobham Leather Bottle 3

Cobham will always suffer in that it is far too early in the walk to Rochester to stop for a drink or food. However, visiting the historic church and a look over the church wall at the New College took up enough time to enter The Leather Bottle when it opened at 11.30 and marvel at all the Dicken’s memorabilia on display that cover the walls of every room with Pickwick and Edwin Drood taking centre stage.

Dickens called the Leather Bottle ‘the clean and commodious village ale house’ in which stayed the love-lorn Mr Tracy Tupman of the Pickwick Papers after his rejection by Rachel Wardle.

The inn is said to have acquired its name when, about 1720, a leather-bound bottle containing gold sovereigns was found on the premises. At 11.30 in the morning, the Leather Bottle is largely empty of all the visitors and tourists that come to eat, for almost all the tables are set for food – it is after all, the archetypal English Country Inn of undoubted age, black beams, leaded windows and history. At that time in the morning, I had a coffee but Tim Taylor’s Landlord, Black Sheep and Leather Bottle Best were on offer for those in need of something a little stronger on the way to Rochester.

Distance from path:       On 1066 Harold’s Way

Food: Yes  Accommodation: Yes

54-56 The Street, Cobham, Gravesend. DA12 3BZ        Tel: 01474 814 327

Beer Notes will be published in 2019 as a ‘must have’ accompaniment for the discerning walker on ‘Walking 1066 Harold’s Way’ – the long distance walk from Westminster Abbey to Battle Abbey and Hastings Castle inspired by King Harold’s epic march to the Battle of Hastings 1066. The Leather Bottle will be No 33 in Beer Notes



The Leather Bottle

Bedlam Brewery and The Bull at Ditchling

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It turned out to be a longer walk than I expected on one of the hotter days last year.

It was the next stage of 1066 Harold’s Way The Final Journey from Lewes to Hassocks, a walk of almost 12 miles to the mid point of the route from Battle Abbey to Bosham.

For a change I could use the train as both Lewes and Hassocks had stations, a walk from one railway station to another, both linked by Southern Trains. With such expert route planning what could go wrong – I’ll tell you at the end of the blog.

Magnificent Lewes with its tribute to the Protestant Martyrs of 1557, Lewes Castle and all the history of the town should have been left for another day but I walked and photographed and belatedly started the walk to Hassocks.

The sun was high, there was barely a breeze to ripple the River Ouse or disturb the long grass along the river bank on the walk towards Barcombe. It was a perfect summers day as I sat on the bench in Barcombe churchyard looking over the valley towards Cliffe Hill and the previous walk from Whitesmith to Lewes.

The walk was along the river meadow, Roman road and rural paths of Sussex, with views south to the rising bulk of the South Downs.

Around six miles of the route was on the Roman road, still in use today as a green lane but with little overhead cover or shelter from the rising heat and the sun there was need for refreshment other than water.

And that was the problem, so far there had not even been the whiff of a pub.

I missed the’ The Jolly Sportsman’, at East Chiltington, literally by half a mile – it was not on the route of The Final Journey, a mistake that will need to be rectified sooner rather than later.

Salvation came an hour and three miles later at The Bull in Ditchling.

I was sorely in need of a little respite, purely from the sun of course, that ‘made’ me enter The Bull and what a find, my first taste of Bedlam Best, pure nectar. I allowed myself a second pint, for complete rehydration, before talking to the landlady to discover that the pub was virtually the brewery tap for the Bedlam Brewery in nearby Albourne.

It also had rooms and will be added to ‘Places to Stay’

The Bull now ranks with other History Walks good pubs such as The Mayfair, The Woodcock and The Ostrich.

In customer service terms, it met my needs and exceeded my expectations – it was a WOW.

It was only a mile to Hassocks, and I was a little later than I had expected but if the connections worked, I should be home at the latest by 5pm, a journey of 90 minutes.

However, the whole Southern railway network was’ up the spout’ after a serious incident earlier in the afternoon and three and a half hours later, I arrived home with the taste of Bedlam just distant a memory.

New Years Day, 2015 and a treat to recapture that golden summer day.

Two more Christmas beers to savour, Bedlam Best and Bedlam Hoppy Golden Ale. I sat and thought of walks past and walks in the future and to leading a merry band of History Walkers into The Bull for their first taste of Bedlam.

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My Lords and Ladies, Gentlemen and their wives, please be upstanding for a New Year’s Toast, The Bull at Ditchling is to be your New Years Resolution.


The Bull                       http://thebullditchling.com/

Bedlam Brewery          http://www.bedlambrewery.co.uk/

CAMRA What Pub       http://whatpub.com/pubs/BRI/150/bull-ditchling

Facebook – LIKE         https://www.facebook.com/1066HaroldsWay

Somewhere to Stay


The Ostrich, Robertsbridge

A delightful and unique pub and hotel, close to the route of Three Castles and an Ironmaster’s House.

Already subject to an excellent Pub Blog entry, it can be used as a base for the walk.


Three Castles and an Ironmaster’s House is due to be published in April 2015 by Bretwalda Books