That ‘je ne sais quoi’


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


Talking the Walk

3 Castles Cranbrook U3A

This talk is an engaging account of a walk between four National Trust properties; Bodiam Castle, Sissinghurst Castle, Scotney Castle and Bateman’s, that explores the history and the industrial past of the High Weald Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, in this part of Kent and East Sussex.

Three Castles is an opportunity to take the time to explore the castles and houses and towns and villages along the route. It follows man’s ingenuity and progress and a changing industry from agriculture to iron, to sheep, to the woollen trade, smuggling, hopfields and back to agriculture.

There is a soul to the High Weald; one that reflects the passions and industry of man and also the tensions of war and rebellion. It is now a very pastoral picture with only occasional reminders of the noise, smoke and fire of the iron industry. The ironmasters and the rich woollen trade are survived by their architecture at Sissinghurst, Cranbrook and Burwash and Brightling. The derelict hoppickers cottages, next to the River Teise in Lamberhurst, provide a startling contrast to the rich and landed.

And such a varied landscape brings together tales to tell of Mad Jack Fuller and Bloody Baker, Admiral ‘Foulweather Jack’ Norris, and Captain Swing. There are tales of smugglers and Mechanical riots, Napoleon’s horse, aliens in Robertsbridge and, of course, that ‘vengeful dragon’ in Angley Wood.

For information on this and other talks visit:

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




Great News!

1066 Harold’s Way is to be a ‘Waymarked Trail’ for 2019.

Waymark v21066 Harold’s Way has been adopted by Beyond Marathon for their 2019 Ultra Marathon event to be completed over the weekend of 6th to 7th July 2019 and in the spirit of the men of King Harold’s army they aim to finish in 30 hours.

My especial thanks to Mark and Richard of Beyond Marathon who have undertaken to waymark the whole route for the benefit of the competing runners and for all future walkers inspired by King Harold’s epic march to battle.

London, 11th October 1066

“Listen carefully. Cross London Bridge and turn left at Watling Street, it should be signposted Rochester, Canterbury and Dover. When you get to the big river and the old Roman bridge stop, the army will camp there the night. Tomorrow, turn right – south, along another Roman road to Maidstone and Bodiam. Wait for me there and we will cross the estuary together before meeting with the rest of our army at the Old Hoar Apple Tree, Caldbec Hill on the 13th. Everybody knows where to meet and how to get there – good, off you go and be careful – we have a battle to fight. Don’t get lost!”

Following the new ‘Waymarked Trail’ would have helped King Harold’s men.

Walking Capital to the Coast. Walking 1066 Harold’s Way from Westminster Abbey to Battle Abbey and Hastings Castle.



I could cry in my Craft Beer

IMG_20180725_141909Once the Brewery Tap for the old Meantime Brewery.

The Old Brewery is so close to the finish of the walk, from Westminster Abbey to Greenwich, that it would be remiss not to include it in Beer Notes. It should be the perfect place to stop, just through the first gates on the right, after the Cutty Sark, and up towards the Palladian World Heritage Visitor Centre – it is some setting.

The entrance to Greenwich’s Old Brewery Pub and Restaurant is along the colonnade on the left or, through the Visitor Centre where the doors open up to an eating hall that could have been part of the University. All industrial chic with copper barrels and pipes and gauges on one wall that invoked memories of its past life as the Meantime Brewery Tap, when it brewed its world renowned ‘craft beers’ on site.

Walking between the tables leads to a rather sparse room with a bar, a basic drinks server that did little to welcome me with no chairs or tables in which to sip a quiet pint.

It is not quite what I expected after a longish hot walk.

I am not a fan of craft beer (it is normally served too cold for me and reminds me of those distant days drinking Tartan Bitter before I knew any better) but the beers that Meantime brewed at the Brewery Tap were acclaimed and on my bucket list to try but I’ve delayed too long.

Bought out, sold out, Meantime is now part of a conglomerate and the Brewery Tap is Young’s with Young’s Best, a Hawkes Urban Orchard Cherry Cider and normally a guest on offer together with the rows of craft beers and lagers that leave me ‘cold’.

But the secret of the Old Brewery is the outside courtyard. Umbrellas and tables and a continental feel on this hot day with snacks, from the standard Young’s menu, ordered from the bar and perhaps this is the reason for all those cold beers.

Towards the river and through to the colonnade, there are more tables and chairs set for dining and overlook the lawns where once there was a perfect view of the river before Zizzi’s and Nando’s took root during 2012, best to look inwards.

Weekends are busy and full, being so close to the river, and it is a time when seats and tables are difficult to find with people eating and drinking, sharing wine, enjoying an elegant restaurant to while away an afternoon. Such a scene is reminiscent of some fashionable Parisian hotel in St Germain and a few remembered ‘just retired’ lazy days in the summer of 2004 and similarly, the Old Brewery is perfect for what it is and gives just the right sense of occasion.

A pub, not really, despite my predilection for Young’s – indeed, the website makes no mention of beer but food, rum days, Pimm’s days, whisky days and they all seem a better fit for the  Old Brewery than catering for groups of hot walkers eager to talk about a good day’s walk.

I may need to walk a little further for my pint!

Beer Notes will be published in 2019 as a ‘must have’ accompaniment for the discerning walker on ‘Walking 1066 Harold’s Way’ – the Old Brewery, once the brewery tap for the old Meantime Brewery, will be No 16.


The Old Brewery is less than 100 metres from the route of 1066 Harold’s Way.

Food:    Yes      Accommodation:         No

The Pepys Building, The Old Royal Naval College, Greenwich, London SE10 9LW

Tel: 020 3437 2222       

PS: As a footnote, the Thames path between Greenwich and ‘the Dome’ is a series of diversions that avoid all the new building on the riverbank. For Meantime fans, the diversionary route takes you past the new Meantime Brewery, shop and tap with space for tasting but remember that there is a way to go before Lesnes Abbey and I am sure that the weight of full beer bottles increases the more miles you walk.

Giggle Mug

Cutty Sark.jpg

The boats unloading at Ballast Quay have long gone and the cobbled streets and terraced cottages, that would once have been at the centre of all the hustle and bustle, are quiet.

After a hard day’s labour or maybe at the end of the week after being paid, the Cutty Sark would have been as popular in 1795 as it is today, drinking behind its large bay Georgian windows and spilling out into the cobbled street late at night.

There has probably been a beer house on the site since the early 18th century, but it changed its name from The Green Man to The Union in 1810 from which time the present building dates. When the Cutty Sark found its final berth on Greenwich Quay, the pub was quick to change its name once again to honour this cherished ship.

It is a Grade II listed building and Neil Rhind has written a very interesting and rather more complete history of the Cutty Sark Tavern than I have room for in this blog. He can be read on the internet at

The Cutty Sark is less than ten minutes from its namesake, moored on its green house, and is well worth those extra few yards especially if you are staying in Greenwich overnight.

The ground floor bar is dark wood panelled, dark wood floor boards, dark brick, low ceilings and low lighting. There are cosy corners, heavy dark tables, easy chairs and part of the ceiling by the bar can be likened to an upturned boat.

It has that feel of what a river pub should be like and whether it is a pastiche or the ‘proper job’ it works and is possibly one of the best stops for that ‘end of walk pint’, especially on a warm day sitting at a bench by the river wall and allowing the rhythm of the water to ease the aching feet.

It is a Young’s pub with Best and Special on offer as well as Sambrook’s Wandle and By The Horns Brewing Company’s Giggle Mug Amber Ale and Stiff Upper Lip IPA to wash down food from the usual Young’s Pub Menu.

The chairs might creak a little, the tables might wobble but I thoroughly enjoyed my pint at The Cutty Sark.

Beer Notes will be published in 2019 as a ‘must have’ accompaniment for the discerning walker on ‘Walking 1066 Harold’s Way’ – The ‘simple’ Cutty Sark will be No 19.

The ‘simple’ Cutty Sark  (Pubs of London 1976)


The Cutty Sark is on the route of 1066 Harold’s Way.

Food:    Yes     Accommodation:         No

4-6 Ballast Quay, Greenwich. SE10 9PD    Tel: 020 885 83146


Ripe melon, apricot and pineapple


The ‘plain comfort’ of The Yacht

Less pretentious, calmer, comfortable and with space to drink and no pressure to eat.

Easy chairs and tables by the windows that open on to the same Thames view and river life as the Trafalgar next door but the Yacht is unburdened by the history and tradition of its neighbour. Whitebait is also on offer as a starter, but no wire baskets here and at almost £3.50 cheaper it is worth sampling. Even the piped music seemed to blend into the background.

Rebuilt yet again after bombing in WWII, the Meridian Line runs through the pub.

Tradition has it that a seaman’s mission stood on the present site of The Yacht and that the premises were licensed in the early 1600s. Charles II and succeeding monarchs were frequent visitors to the tavern while Greenwich remained the fashionable centre of Court life. Bombed during WW II, The Yacht was built in modern design to command views of this busy stretch of the Thames and close to the centre of Greenwich, the Cutty Sark and the National Maritime Museum.

This is a Greene King pub with a Greene King menu of pub food and a couple of specials and Greene King beers to savour. As a session beer, GK IPA is always a treat at 3.6% and good for that post walk re-hydration, bitter and hoppy and worth a second pint before the train home.

As well as the IPA, there was Truman’s Zephyr (4.4%) which is described on the Truman’s website as ‘A brash and bold ale packed full of juicy new world Australian hops. Bursting on the nose and palate with ripe melon, apricot and pineapple, this beer has a pithy grapefruit finish balanced with a delicate caramel sweetness.’ Fine in a fruit cocktail but I’ll need a taste before I pass judgement – next time I pass perhaps!

There was also a curious World Cup Special that must be a little past its sell by date at the end of July.

All Greenwich pubs are likely to be busy at weekends but on my Wednesday lunchtime I had a very relaxing pint sat by the window and overlooking the river with just enough customers to create a little buzz.

Beer Notes will be published in 2019 as a ‘must have’ accompaniment for the discerning walker on ‘Walking 1066 Harold’s Way’ – The ‘plain comfort’ of The Yacht will be No 18.


The Yacht is on the route of 1066 Harold’s Way.

Food:    Yes      Accommodation:       No

5 Crane Street, Greenwich. SE10 9NPTel: 0208 858 0175