A Warm Welcome

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For the last six years The Stage Door has always been my pub of choice to finish walking the section from Abbey Wood to Dartford.

It is a warm and welcoming place, the beer is good, it is only five minutes from the station and is worth stretching those weary legs just a little further.

It is a Shepherd Neame house with Masterbrew, Spitfire and a third ‘guest’ which on my January visit was Spitfire Gold, light and hoppy but one that I enjoy more in summer.

My Masterbrew was good, the perfect refreshing pint.

For the moment, there is no food on offer but there are plans for the future.

In good weather there is the bonus of a great outdoor area at the back that in spring is bathed in pink and white cherry blossom that adds that little touch of colour after walking the Cray Marshes.

For a 150 years it was the Smith’s Arms but after a restoration in 1982 the name changed to link the pub to the Orchard Theatre behind and it provides relief for those looking for a pint at ‘half-time’. Just to reinforce its proximity to the theatre, there are publicity photographs of actors and it can be fun for some trying to put names to faces – I usually have little success.

What surprised me on my visit yesterday was that Paul the landlord knew all about 1066 Harold’s Way and happily confirmed that the many walkers and walking groups on route to Battle had finished the walk from Abbey Wood in The Stage Door – there can be no better affirmation.

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 Stage Door, Dartford will be No 26 in Beer Notes

www.1066haroldsway.co.uk

CAMRA WhatPub

www.stagedoordartford.co.uk

Merry Christmas Everyone

‘Santa Gets a Present’

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Wishing you all a

Happy Walking and Running New Year

From

David Clarke and History Walks

www.1066haroldsway.co.uk

Walks, Talks and Books. More than just footsteps on a path.

This Ship Has Stayed Afloat

P1020758It may have had a couple of changes of licensees over the recent years but my late October Saturday lunchtime it was busy with food and for a rural, isolated village that keeps The Ship alive and well.

A few years ago, I remember a wet April walk with a group of six walkers, dripping through the side door into a linoleumed bar for a couple of pints before the final two miles to Istead Rise. A brief respite from the drizzle. The next year it was a cold dry day and, with clean boots, we sat in the corner of the lounge by a roaring fire, leaving with memories of a pub fit for a walker’s dream.

Somehow, The Ship Inn of 2018 has a different flavour than before. Carpeted throughout, it has raised its game for an eating and drinking clientele. The newish ‘Orangery’ was filled with a lunchtime party and every table in this one roomed pub was complete with eaters.

There is still the old dining room tucked out of the way behind the bar and there is still an open fire but for me, it has lost a little of that old country atmosphere that wrapped around you like an old warm coat. Perhaps if it had stayed that way it would not have survived to 2018.

More to the point, my Tim Taylor’s Landlord was a treat and as this is the last pub before a ‘dry’ Istead Rise it was fitting toast to this section of 1066 Harold’s Way from Dartford but always remember that there is still a couple of miles to go to the finish and the bus to Gravesend or Meopham.

Also on offer were Sharp’s Doom, Adnams Broadside, Adnams Ghost Ship and a Wantsum Montgomery from Canterbury.

The Ship Inn would make a fine end to any walk but the vagaries of the bus service make this difficult.

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 Ship Inn, Southfleet will be No 28 in Beer Notes

www.1066haroldsway.co.uk

CAMRA WhatPub

www.shipatsouthfleet.co.uk

An Inglorious Past

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Sitting under a vivid azure blue sky in light summer clothes, it was strange to see the first leaves of autumn falling.

It was definitely an Indian Summer day when I finished the walk from Staplehurst to Sissinghurst sitting in the garden of The Milkhouse that was once known as The Bull.

The Bull was well-worn and almost confined to the old bar that served Harvey’s Best and a local Benenden cider on draft, the strength perhaps of which was never advertised. The settees would now be called ‘shabby chic’, the tables beer stained and the occasional lunchtime local, hunched over The Times crossword before their afternoon nap, decorated the bar.

On the day that I ventured in after my walk, mine host was very welcoming and a joy to talk to and the beer was good but next time I passed, it was closed.

The Bull had gone to the abattoir, another rural pub closed, the last in Sissinghurst and with its large carpark and grounds it was surely doomed to the builder’s whim. The end of future walks would indeed be dry.

Two years down the line, the Bull became The Milkhouse with its reference to the village’s inglorious past of the Hawkhurst Gang, gambling and drinking dens and all the criminal activity that you could mention. (Once known as Milkhouse Street it was in the 1850s that the village residents decided that a name change to Sissinghurst would rid them of their ‘dodgy’ past)

That shabby chic has been reinvented into a ‘dining pub with rooms’, a style that has succeeded where the Bull ultimately failed. Now the uniformed staff delight in good service, the menu is more ‘deli’ than bar snacks, the wine chosen and the beers wholesome – Harvey’s Best, Brains Reverend James and Old Dairy Green Hop from down the road at Tenterden.

It has been a special and successful transformation that has still left space for walkers in what was the old bar but, despite the wooden floor, it may be best to cover muddy boots on wet and difficult days.

On my azure day, Stef and I sat outside with my pint of Harvey’s, a white wine and more white wine with the food to celebrate the last breaths of summer and a special walking day in a pub that has stayed alive.

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 Milkhouse will be No 40 in Beer Notes

www.1066haroldsway.co.uk

CAMRA WhatPub

www.themilkhouse.co.uk

That ‘je ne sais quoi’

IMG_20181016_105410Changed.

That elusive quality, that ‘je ne sais quoi’ of the framed jigsaws on the wall have gone as has the dark carpet, plush banquettes, the rows of lager pumps, the indifferent reviews and that seventies feel to the old Abbey.

Now there are framed photographs of bygone Abbey Wood, charabancs and buses and outings.

Now there are wooden floors and high tables to stand and chat and even draft beer, Doom and a guest to savour and both on hand pump.

On my visit, the guest was Wadworths 6X at £3.50 a pint and cheerily served, an infinitely better reward for the walk from Greenwich. It was a splendid pint with a few minutes spent watching rugby on the big screen before climbing the stairs to the new Abbey Wood Station awaiting its first Elizabeth Line Train (due to open in 2019).

Even with the changes, the Abbey has not become an expression of ‘urban chic’. Cross Rail has yet to wave its magic wand and it remains that essential community pub and that community has not changed. Saturday lunchtimes continue into the afternoons watching sport and listening the local ‘banter’. It may be different on a weekday afternoon.

The Abbey is definitely worth a pint or two and is far more welcoming than its old reviews, prior to its refurbishment in 2015, would suggest.

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 Abbey Arms will be No 24 in Beer Notes

www.1066haroldsway.co.uk

CAMRA WhatPub

Huffed Hufflers

41530883955_b66d5a7d70_b[1]Those six miles of hard walking around the Cray Marshes had finished and Dartford Station was almost in sight.

Dartford is changing. With its mainline station into London Bridge, development is afoot and new building now lines the River Darent. Closer to town, new flats are being built on old factory sites with little homage to their industrial past.

Times are a-changing but sadly they have not yet touched the Hufflers Arms.

Only a few minutes from the station, it remains a no frills pub, serving cold lager and little else, and if you want a decent cask beer, now that the Station Hotel has been demolished, it is walk further down Hythe Street for that illusive pint at The Stage Door (Shepherd Neame).

Once, The Hufflers was close to a busy river, bustling with work and a huffler was a porter who carried provisions from a ship’s chandler aboard waiting vessels. I am sure that he would have been most disappointed to find no real ale being served but with all that re-development the demand for a good pint may soon herald a change in outlook.

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 Hufflers Arms will be No 25 in Beer Notes

www.1066haroldsway.co.uk

CAMRA WhatPub