Achieved 13 pubs! Very pleasing effort although your average trip won't be this intense. 2 days later, I'm still recovering. Not that it was without it's problems, a bus oil leak on the train back from Ampthill meant my day one took until about 4pm to get going. In fact, Bedford bus station was being redeveloped so busses were pinging around all over the place, the locals were confused so obviously I was. And on the return journey, I missed my train from Bedford to St Pancras quite unfortunately, the train guard didn't agree, and I was charged an £83.80 excess on top of some ill-judged day rover bus journeys which cost me in total at least £25. Chatting to some random locals wasn't a problem to keep me semi-sane, I was happy throughout - and the Mill Hotel was a nice little place to stay, basic but nicer than imagined. Overall, I hope I've gained some experience from my trip, mainly financially, to set me in good stead for future journeys.
Right, let's get down to business.
Pub 1, Ampthill and the ALBION ARMS didn't let me down. Yes, there was no fanfare. Just another lone chap who came in and in a paranoid BRAPA state, wondered if he was doing the same challenge as me. Hmmmm. well, the beer range was great and from that POV, I'd love to return one day though not necessary now!
Pub 2, what felt like about 15 hours later, was the VICARS INN in Arlesey after a bus back to Bedford, check in at my accommodation, a bus to Biggleswade (50 mins) and a train to Arlesey. Phew! I could tell the pub was quite remote in that I had to check in the location as well as my beer (a first!) though the friendly barmaid encouraged me to talk to the locals in the front bar (I didn't!) and although the beer range was limited, the quality of my Wells Eagle was top notch.
Pub 3, I really needed to get back on track now (literally ho ho) as I got the train back to Biggleswade for the first of two pints, at the GOLDEN PHEASANT. A little gem which seemed to welcome me with open arms, so friendly, too much in fact as one older woman insisted on stroking my red leather jacket! This pub also heralded a theme for the weekend, lots of dogs in pubs! It had a great hubbub though and another Charles Wells local brew with DNA New World IPA, their attempt to do a modern style beer but it worked I am glad to say.
Pub 4, walked straight past it which was an achievement in itself considering how huge, white and on the corner of the main road it was .... the STRATTON HOUSE HOTEL One problem here, it wasn't a pub. The kind of place you feel almost guilty for not ordering food in. An extra stout from Lacon's in Great Yarmouth was nice but didn't really pack that 'extra' punch! Good clean, friendly place full of well to do middle class 30 somethings, yes I liked it but if I was back in Biggleswade, I'd choose Golden Pheasant every time.
Pub 5, and I decided to head back into Bedford now so I could tick off a few before bedtime, and take pressure off myself for the Sunday. What's more, the other Bigglesewade pub was on "page 3" of the guide so didn't really need to tick it off yet (itching to get back to North & Central East Beds as I write this!) So after another jolly long bus journey, I was soon in the WELLINGTON. A lovely quirky pub packed with alternative studenty types, most Wellington's are good and this was no exception. Icarus from Blindmans in Somerset was a mild (not always my fave style) but this was one of the best, more stouty than the Stout in the last place! Despite being on my own in a busy pub, I felt very much at home! Beer was obviously kicking in by now.
Pub 6, well into the dark Bedford evening now, was a trip to the CRICKETERS ARMS - also known as the Welsh Embassy, and had many Brains beers on which is fine by me. As I was in a mild mood, I went for the always superb Brains Dark and it slid down. I couldn't work the latch on the door which wasn't a good start as I was laughed at by the barstaff and locals. It was a real locals pub slightly out of town, and although I didn't find it as cosy as the Wellington, I have to say it was a real gem and it really grew on me, like a happy fungus!
Pub 7, a walk of at least a mile to a pub on the east of the city, an estate pub called the WHITE HORSE. Obviously, I didn't begrudge my time there despite the painful walk, but the lack of beer range (I had a Courage Directors which was well kept), estatey feel and locals loving a tribute act, meant part of me did wonder if this pub really belonged in the guide. No harm done.
Pub 8, I was worse for wear by now but heading back into town anyway and well before 11pm so it made some kind of sense in my addled mine to get down some backstreets to the DEVONSHIRE ARMS. Obviously, my memories are a bit hazy but it was more my kind of pub, wooden floored and panelled a bit more like the Wellington, my Epic Action by Oldershaws (chosen cos i like the shape of their pump clips - geek I am!) I described as 'wet dog hops with a hint of pedigree' so I assume i meant Marstons and not the Chum variety!
And that was it for the night.
Sunday dawned early and with 12 noon pub opening times, it was time for some gentle 'sight seeing' and a hot pork baguette sat on the River Great Ouse (trying to outdo York obviously!) and with the weather generally nice and a bench on the riverbank in solitude, this was up there with the highlights of the weekend and it didn't involve pubs or beer - note to self perhaps!
Pub 9, and I was on the bus chatting to a girl looking for One Direction shoelaces before alighting (as they say) at Silsoe and a mile walk to the little hamlet of Wardhedges, part of Flitton for a pint in the JOLLY COOPERS. Sunday lunch is a busy time in pub land, another note to self, but I spied a recently vacated lunch table and settled down to probably the best ever pint of BOMBARDIER I'd ever had. I read in the guide it tastes of raspberry jam, and I was surprised to see how true this was!
Pub 10 was the STONE JUG in Clophill, a lovely little village and area full of thatched roofs, animals in fields, it was so old England, it was beautiful. But I walked over 3 miles to get there, it was a warm day in my leather jacket, and when I was waiting at another busy bar, I deserved more than the barmaid moaning about the sudden infux of people! If only they knew the BRAPA efforts I go to. I love Otter brewery and the Amber was another superb effort. The pub was a cosy old style one, full of sleeping bulldogs and locals enjoying their post-lunch drink before presumably walking or driving home.
Not quite so simple for me, I had to either taxi or bus back to Bedford. I decided on the latter but a bit of a wait meant i went to the non-guide FLYING HORSE for a half of UBU which didn't seem spectacular but I did start a trend for sitting outside in this overly foody place. Nearly missed the bus as he stopped elsewhere, I recognised the driver by now as he seemed to be the only one going on a constant loop of this part of Beds.
I was soon back in the town, and after some much needed foody supplies from Tesco, it was Pub 11, the BEDFORD ARMS which sounded pretty dreadful reading the guide description but it had a most perfect Sunday afternoon ambiance, it was the most relaxed experience of the weekend in a pub. The Umbel ale was too southern for my tastes, but didn't affect a pleasantly surprising experience when I'd been expecting some foody sports bar!
BURNABY ARMS north of the centre was pub 12, and the sister pub of yesterday's Wellington. Same kind of crowd and feel, I even recognised yesterday's barmaid having a drink in here today, it had been a beer festival so they had beers left over and the friendly staff took me through the list, I took advantage with a lovely Black Horse Porter which was more like a mild than a porter, another theme of the weekend was that all dark beers had the same power no matter what style or percentage! A very good pub though.
I'd finally made it, the final pub on page 1 & 2 of the guide and it was a satisfying moment to tick off number 13, the THREE CUPS, a couple of hundred yards from where I'd stayed in fact, and interesting to see Greene King jumping on the trendy bandwagon with Yardbird Crafted Ale. Because Greene King are so traditional and occasionally even bland, their attempts to do a powerfully hoppy American style beer ended up with a very drinkable above average Greene King IPA, very nice!
Overall, the trip could really not have been more successful pub-wise,