Wipe Your Feet First

The Sir Garrard Tyrwhitt-Drake Visitor Centre and Café

cobtreemanorpark

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

A Warm Welcome

smithsarms v2

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’

Check out the History Walks card on You Tube

Page 1 Blog

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

IMG_20181009_124859

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