A SECRET SANTA OR A GIFT FOR CHRISTMAS.

The Discerning Walker’s Must Have Accompaniment

Pub Guide to 1066 Harold’s Way

Secret Santa Pub Guide v2This guide is what walkers have been waiting for since 1066 Harold’s Way was first published in 2013 – the definitive guide to all those watering holes along the 100 miles from Westminster Abbey to Battle Abbey, East Sussex that now includes the final ten miles to Hastings Castle.

Of course, if these inns and pubs had been open 950 years ago who knows what might have happened. Certainly, the march may have taken a little longer and those battle-hardened reinforcements would have been in position to defeat Duke William and the Normans. Fired up on ‘Spitfire’, ‘Bombardier’ or ‘Harvey’s Best’ they could have taken on the world – or fallen asleep on Caldbec Hill.

Just following this Pub Guide is worth the walk from Westminster Abbey. LOOK INSIDE

 

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This General Has Been Demoted To The Ranks

The Havelock

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It is now just the Havelock, the General has been demoted back to the ranks although the ranks did appear to be enjoying singing to the juke box and watching the horse racing on one of the many TVs.

Refreshed and re-opened, this renowned heritage pub has an updated appearance that belies its history and thankfully, the Grade 2 listed and protected tiled pictures that make up one wall have been preserved.

In some ways, the Havelock is more luxurious with its light coloured paint, comfy chairs, carpets and wooden flooring but it is early days and with beer at £2.50 a pint, that pristine gloss may soon disappear.

Thankfully for me, there was an alternative to the lager offerings of the two T-bars and the Doomed on handpump in the excellent Tim Taylor’s Landlord. A pint to enjoy with time to savour the tiled picture of the Battle of Hastings.

8.30pm on a Tuesday night was perhaps not the best time to visit the Havelock for a quiet pint, during the day might be better but those tiled wall pictures and the Tim Taylors were worth the visit.

In the fifteen years that I have lived in Hastings, ownership of this historic pub has changed more than once, and it has been closed two or three times with landlords struggling for profitability amidst rising town centre rents. If a juke box, TVs, a fruit machine and a weekly meat raffle keep the old General alive then I will be happy to include this new Havelock in ‘Beer Notes’ and in ‘Pub Walks in Hastings and St Leonards’.

Follow this link to read my original Blog posted in 2017

https://historywalksblog.wordpress.com/2017/02/16/the-general-havelock-to-the-pier-and-back/

The Havelock appears in ‘Pub Walks in Hastings and St Leonards’ and in the soon to be published

Beer Notes to ‘Capital to Coast, the Guide to Walking 1066 Harold’s Way’.

This pub guide is a ‘must have’ accompaniment for the discerning walker on ‘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 Havelock will be No 64 and the final entry in the Beer Notes Guide.

www.1066haroldsway.co.uk

CAMRA WhatPub

‘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

www.1066haroldsway.co.uk

CAMRA WhatPub

The Leather Bottle

Temptation: The Woodcock Flies Again

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Temptation, that desire to do something, especially something wrong or unwise. It can also suggest that it can be a thing that attracts or tempts someone suggesting enticement, seduction, a draw or a pull or equally an invitation.

And that to me sums up The Woodcock, a walk leaders’ nightmare, the pub that no one wants to leave.

But it closed in 2018 and appeared doomed, never to fly again but like a phoenix it has arisen again and it re-opened its doors in April 2019.

On 1066 Harold’s Way, there are still 6 miles to walk to Bodiam Castle, uphill and down dale and across the Kent Ditch. King Harold and his men walked this stretch but The Woodcock wasn’t open then. And when planning Three Castles and an Ironmaster’s House, I made sure that the route passed The Woodcock after all, I get to choose the route.

The good and righteous of Iden Green realised what a draw the pub would be and banished it a mile away from the village, down a narrow country lane that led to Dingleden but the villagers I spoke to know the back way – just 5 minutes down this path and on the route of 1066 Harold’s Way, and I followed their admission.

The 2019 version of The Woodcock has been refreshed rather than altered beyond recognition. A couple of walls have disappeared, some of the nooks and crannies have gone, the new bar is sleek and bright, the fire is lit and the floors levelled ready for the success that eluded the Woodcock of old.

Once it felt like an old and comfortable pair of slippers where the slightly dark atmosphere and the warmth of the fire and the conviviality of old men at the bar promised times past until Greene King’s accountants became the owners.

Mind your heads, the beams are low there’s a fire lit and on warm days, there is a garden to enjoy. It is a free house again and beers are Cellar Head Amber, Long Man Best, Harveys Best, all on handpump and well kept.

There is still an old world feel but it is without ornamentation and just a little of that old warmth that catered for the mind, body and spirit has gone – perhaps a wider market beckons for The Woodcock although a television was being screwed to the wall as I left!

But, lunchtime on an Autumn day, sitting around the fire, talking amongst friends, it will still prove hard to leave and continue the walk to Bodiam Castle.

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 Woodcock  will be No 49 in Beer Notes

www.1066haroldsway.co.uk

CAMRA WhatPub

The Woodcock

Wipe Your Feet First

The Sir Garrard Tyrwhitt-Drake Visitor Centre and Café

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Cobtree Manor Park

Once the tea and coffee, soft drinks and burgers and the sandwiches were all served from a wooden hut and drunk and eaten on picnic benches outside. No worry about muddy boots or muddy dogs and on good days it was a pleasure.

But when it was damp or there was a cool wind blowing, it was less than relaxing after the climb over the North Downs from Rochester and there was still an hours walk to Maidstone along the Medway River.

Now there is a ‘posh’ new visitors centre and café serving all sorts of treats from things on toast to soup and chilli and when wet, space to sit inside but ‘wipe your feet first’.

It is a good café for dry days and days when children play on the magnificent fort or follow the trails through the park but for muddy walkers it may still be the picnic tables outside!

Cobtree Manor was once the home of Sir Garrard Tyrwhitt-Drake (1881-1964), twelve times Mayor of Maidstone and also a High Sheriff of Kent. The estate housed his private zoo, the largest in the country, and included lions and tigers and bears and elephants. On his death, he bequeathed the estate for the benefit of the people of Maidstone of which part has evolved into the Country Park.

 If you do catch a glimpse of a lion or a tiger, don’t worry, it’s carved from wood.

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 Sir Garrard Tyrwhitt-Drake Visitor Centre and Café will be No 40 in Beer Notes

www.1066haroldsway.co.uk

Spoilt for Choice

oldmill

Lancaster Bomber, Courage Best, Betty Stogs, Hardy Hanson’s Old Trip and Fuller’s Brit Hop were all on offer this week in the L-shaped Bar of the Old Mill.

The pub was built around an 18th century windmill which still stands aloof above the roof next to Plumstead Common and the Old Mill has an enviable reputation as a good beer and music pub that regularly appears in the CAMRA Good Beer Guide.

The small part carpeted bar is popular with what CAMRA’s WhatPub describes as characterful and conversational locals in residence’ who on warm and busy weekends overflow onto the street outside in high spirits that can cause somewhat of an imaginary barrier to outsiders and as a result, on my Saturday walks, I have never been tempted inside.

It is very much a locals pub.

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 Old Mill, Plumstead Common will be No 22 in Beer Notes

www.1066haroldsway.co.uk

CAMRA WhatPub

It does what it says on the tin – it’s a Café!

Thames Barrier View Cafe & Information Centre (21) – halfway point

img_20190128_101852At the half way point on the walk between Greenwich and Lesnes Abbey, the Thames Barrier Café makes an ideal stop for coffee and tea and even a snack lunch, warm and cosseted from the river’s winter chill. In summer, the tables and chairs and picnic benches allow time to wonder at those great steel barriers that would swing up from the river bed in times of flood.

The adjacent Information Centre has a working model of the Barrier, films showing inside the Barrier, its machinery and construction, boards on the Environment Agency, flooding and past, present and future of the Thames Barrier and flood defences, but it is not always open.

The Thames Barrier Café does what it says on the tin – it is a café after all with limited opening times. However, it is a welcome break after the Thames Path, before the climb up into a green London courtesy of the Green Chain Walk, especially when there is little opportunity for a ‘loo’ stop or a drink from the Thames Barrier until the end of the walk at Abbey Wood. Be warned.

Open Thursday – Sunday 11.30 am – 3.30 pm (Winter hours)

Thames Barrier, 1 Unity Road, SE18 5NJ                      Tel: 0208 305 4188

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 Thames Barrier View Café will be No 21 in Beer Notes

www.1066haroldsway.co.uk

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