Sunday, 14 June 2015

BRAPA - Bedfordshire Part V (Eversholt, Toddington & Harlington)

Friendly horses telling me Toddington isn't far!
After a straightforward train journey down to Kings Cross, and back up to Flitwick (which I was surprised to learn is actually a place, and not just a railway station surrounded by fields), I was catching the only bus of the week to Eversholt.

I'd had a few nervy moments when a small, rickety minibus finally appeared out of the gloom (it was grey and the rain was teeming down, despite the forecast indicating Beds would be dry).  The driver only half opened the door and said "where do you 'THINK' I am going?" and when I said Eversholt, he seemed almost disappointed.  We soon stopped at Tesco where the purpose of this bus made sense.  A collection of pensioners squeezed on with their weekly food shop, all bound for Eversholt.  I like these "captive" audiences and I was soon explaining BRAPA, though one woman took this opportunity to dive out of the bus in the middle of a field!

Interestingly, when I'd said I was bound for the Green Man pre-explanation, the old bus people assumed I was starting a new job there.  Anyway, I soon got off at the right "end", Eversholt is made up of many 'ends' including one called Witts End!  I'd be there shortly, figuratively speaking.  I stepped over some bread rolls & waved bye my bus buddies, first obstacle over with.

669 - Green Man, Eversholt 

It was nice to have made it after what seemed like months of planning.  Remote is not the word!  The village was so pretty, it was a bit of  shame to see an almost modern, immaculate clean feel to this pub, I wanted something rustic and farmhousey.  Never mind, it had comfort despite the stone floor flagstones and I read it was a Victorian building so there was still some sense of olde worlde about it.  I went for a pint of Goff's Lancer and it was probably my pint of the day, lovely clear quality stuff from Glos.  As I'm finding with so many rural pubs on my challenge, they have to do food to survive and it's fair to say that apart from me and one craggy local at the bar, the pub would have been empty otherwise.  A couple of groups were deliberating from a fancy blackboard which had been brought out by a friendly younger barmaid who even asked how I was, something of a novelty down south at times.  One woman asked what Chorizo was so I guess continental cuisine is reassuringly new to these parts.  I'd whizzed through my pint and it felt like I was leaving before I'd really had time to blink, I knew problems lay ahead......

Off the Tesco bus at Eversholt and straight into the Green Man.
And with hindsight, I'd have gone out into the village in the rain halfway through my pint, found a spot where phone reception worked, ordered a taxi, and waited in the shelter of the pub.  As it was, I decided to walk.  Two reasons for this, firstly it saved money.  Secondly, Google Maps had come up with a creative cross-field walk which looked exciting compared to the usual 'main road' routes it chooses.

To cut a long story short, I wasn't properly attired, the weather was atrocious, I was either ankle deep in mud crossing farmers tracks, or knee deep in wet crops and woodland.  It was memorable at least and the thought of writing this blog kept me going!

Flock of sheep having to move for Google Maps!
The aptly named "Washers wood" washed my muddy trainers
My hopes of getting down to Wingfield's pub before it closed at 3pm were dashed, but I wasn't too concerned as I need another pub on the same route anyway (Whipsnade), and I know Toddington had lots to offer.

670 - Oddfellows Arms, Toddington 

On entering this obviously ancient pub (700 years old apparently), a few locals scowled at my incredibly muddy jeans and shoes.  I ordered a pint of 'Red Dwarf' from the kindly barmaid, she had a maternal look so I told her about my horrendous journey here, explaining BRAPA too, she seemed mildly sympathetic.  I sat down and was straight to the toilets to try and dry off and clean up.  However, being a proper old school establishment, things like hand dryer, mirror, towel and even cubicle were considered too luxurious.  Oh how I wished to be in a Gastropub at that moment, typical!  Seriously though, I used all the paper towels and did an okay job, and got down to relaxing with my Red Dwarf, a nice dark red effort which was much needed.  This was a proper locals pub with oak beams and a pleasing creaky old feel.  They had a good few interesting ales on too, but I spent most of the time drying off so wasn't at my most observant.  

Drying off as best I could at the Oddfellows, Toddington

Cuckoo, Toddington

I crossed the village green and realised in an hour's time, I could get a bus to Harlington which wouldn't have been possible if I'd done Wingfield too.  This saved me trying to negotiate the M1 crossing, I'd had enough trauma.  A combination of the local CAMRA website and the Tesco Elders had made me aware of this new Micropub.  Toddington has the most pubs per head of population in the UK, and after a few pub closures, this is a welcome addition and a great pre-emptive tick for me.  Two notable points first,  It had a very unpleasant smell throughout, I even started wondering if I'd walked through some pigswill, but I'd not smelt it in the Oddfellows so no.  Secondly, it was the biggest micro-pub I'd ever seen.  Most can hold about eight people (I'm thinking of that new one in Driffield) but this had a totally separate lounge room, which was good cos a local woman gave me the evils when I was getting served!  The landlord seemed a good hands-on type of chap, he couldn't offer me a stout or porter but as confirmed by a local, the Cuckoo Ale brewed specially from Leighton Buzzard was delicious.  A unisex toilet (more typical of a micropub) allowed me to make a better attempt of getting clean, dry etc.  And a cuckoo clock sounded every quarter hour I think, and it went absolutely mental on the actual hour!  I made a fool of myself when leaving as the door got stuck and I convinced myself I was in a lock-in, but all bodes well for the future for this new pub.  

New 'macro' pub on the edge of Toddington's Green
671 - Carpenters Arms, Harlington

Four minutes of bus ride later and I was sort of on the home stretch.  Drying off and happier, I found my first of two pubs just a minute or so walk from the railway station, where the bus dropped me off.  It was a strange kind of place, it had a bit of a 'commutery passing through feel', a bit impersonal and lacking in love despite a fairly low roofed cosy layout.  All the staff were male and cockney and there seemed to be an air of machismo around the place though the main guy at least made an effort to be friendly.  A young family came in and the youngest daughter was encouraged to play with a dog she obviously didn't want to!  Even when said dog rolled over to have it's tummy tickled, there was something a bit testosterone fuelled about the whole scene.  Reminded me a bit of the Harpenden pub from last month, the general hubbub and atmosphere.  I was comfy enough and my Purity Mad Goose was a cracking pint, it varies in quality but this pub deserves to the in the GBG for this alone.  

Great beer, interesting atmosphere at the Carpenters.

672 - Old Sun Inn, Harlington 

I'd read a few mixed reviews about this pub in the build up, but it's fair to say I was as pleased as punch with it.  I arrived at this very old and 'lived in' feeling pub to find it in a state of semi-chaos, as they were putting up the decorations for a 50th Wedding Anniversary (John & Thelma if you must know).  The barmaid was very friendly, even setting it up for me to explain BRAPA, always the best type of getting served experience!  I climbed a small set of steep stairs to a glorious little room where the walls had a sauna style effect - best pub room for a long time and I had it all to myself.  A small girl came along with some decorations and explained some of the guests had wanted a sit down meal before the celebrations so now the pressure was on to get everything organised for 6:30pm.  I promised her I'd be gone by then!  Then the pub dog Pippin (quite golden) bounded along and was all over the chairs and tables, may have sniffed out my chicken bites and scotch egg I had in my bag.  As dogs go, a delightful creature! My Castle Rock Harvest Pale wasn't the best (I think the brewery isn't making it as nice as it used to so pub not to blame).  Overall, great experience.  

The sun was shining on me after a good session in the Old Sun, Harlington.
I'd originally planned to either get an extra pub 'tick' in at either Luton, St Albans or London itself but time had ticked on (as it often does!) and I was done with adventures for one day so retired to the Parcel Yard in Kings Cross station for what was a very relaxing "swift half" once I realised I hadn't actually lost my phone!

And back in time for most of England Women's second half win v Mexico.  A good day!

Only 4 new GBG pubs may feel a bit disappointing, but it's enough to push Bedfordshire up into 4th place in the league above East Yorkshire and three of the ticks were on "page 4" which is my most pressing BRAPA concern, having completed pages 1-3.  

Bedfordshire - Coming Soon

My next trip is July 18th, I have unfinished business in Dunton and Sandy after their stupid opening times messed up my March trip. An interesting quirk of this is that friend Clare has recently moved to nearby Gamlingay (I went through it on the bus in March) and wonder if meeting up with her could add an extra dimension to the day.  Ideally, I'd get Great Barford and Felmersham done too but I think the later may be a journey too far, being a fair bus ride north of Bedford.  Plenty to plan.

We have no Beds date in August (a combination of unknown football fixtures plus punk festival saw to that) but in a moment of genius, Tom Irvin has told me that being an international 'blank' weekend, I could plan a Beds trip for the first Saturday in September, which I plan to.  This will encompass Leighton Buzzard, Heath & Reach and at least some of Luton. 

It seems unlikely I'll finish Bedfordshire by the end of the year, especially as a new GBG is bound to make things harder in mid September, but I'll be looking to keep chipping away at it.  I'm thinking another 'outer Bedford trip' for October,  

See you soon for what I hope will be a report on a Tuesday trip to Ledsham.


No comments:

Post a Comment