Sunday, 15 May 2016

BRAPA - Slipping into South Buckinghamshire

I felt a bit guilty on Saturday morning, as I am supposed to be focussing on ticking off every pub in Berkshire, but spent most of the day tooling around the South Bucks countryside, imagining the disapproving looks of Berkshire luminaries like Sir Quinno and Tim Thomas. 

I'd stupidly booked myself on the 07:01 to London but had only had 4 hours sleep because my Friday Huddersfield gig had been delayed due to Snuff taking five songs to tune up and didn't finish til 1am!  All pubs today opened 12 noon so had I possessed a brain, I'd have been asleep rather than in Paddington nursing hot chocolate for two hours. 

Anywho, my second problem came when my 'alighting' station of Burnham wasn't in Burnham, but a total scroat-hole called Cippenham where everyone smokes Cannabis, drinks Dry Blackthorn and wears Thundercats t-shirts and not much else.

The walk was therefore a lot longer to my first pub, a good 3.5 miles to blow away the cobwebs.  Squint at above photo and you can see archers practicing, I was terrified one stray arrow would stray off to the right and put a swift end to BRAPA.  It was all equestrian centres and private driveways otherwise, and Burnham itself was lovely except for an odd pub policy, only regulars allowed after 11pm!  Not seen that before.  Littleworth Common also seemed a nice village, very remote by now, and I had to ask a friendly posh lady and her daughter where the pub was but they were going themselves and spoke very highly of it.

902.  Blackwood Arms, Littleworth Common

And they were right, this was a cracking little old inn and probably the quirkiest of the day, unless I was just sober and noticed more.  The pub was a warren of small rooms and partitioned areas, and seemed to run on an army of staff including about 10 chefs piled into a tiny kitchen, all of whom wanted to smile, I just don't have that many face muscles.    Woman and daughter arrived soon after, and met two upwardly mobile middle aged Harry Kane's, who all declared in hearty posh tones that whatever they ordered food-wise, they'd definitely be wanting some chips (this would be a theme of the day).  I went to sit outside on a weird table made from warped timbers, and the most South African looking man you've ever seen (except he wasn't), was painting a toilet in the middle of the lawn.  Double standards next as I note that if you are a visiting horse, you get free hay.  But visiting humans like me have to pay for their beer, plus my Cottage Duchess was a bit cloudy but tasted okay.  I learnt the posho kids were all called things like Sebastian, Elena and Mika and when two buzzards circled the garden very low down, I feared for their young lives.  A miserable old man then complained to a bar girl that as he was eating outside, his food should have been served on a hot plate.  Not sure who made him the rule maker, but she gritted her teeth and thanked him for the constructive feedback.  This whole pub experience reminded me of Chequers in Ledsham, not sure how many people will have been to both so you'll have to trust me but this was a pub of the day contender.

Note the fake S.A. toilet painter behind my cloudy Cottage.

View of the pub from the back garden.
The next leg of my walk was a bit more hair raising along a busy road with no pavement and a very overgrown grass verge.  I heard Hull City were amazingly 2-0 up and in a kind of trance, walked into a farm style caravan park by mistake but a kind man showed me the way to pub two.

Arriving at the Royal Standard with it's own phone box
903.  Royal Standard, Wooburn Common

Most people were sat outside eating lunches, plus there were a few kids running around like maniacs so I decided to stay inside for this pint.  Still in my Hull City induced trance, I didn't even see the barman trying to serve me from a wonderful selection that included beers from Leeds and Barnsley, but I went for a local Rebellion Blonde which was superb, and can see why this pub has won a local CAMRA award.  A very excitable woman came to the bar and declared she was very excited about the prospect of some chips, and I started to wonder if there'd been a potato famine that had recently subsided or whether "chips" is code for some kind of drug.  Then, three pervy men chuckled to themselves that they were going to order the pub speciality stew, "stiffy stew".  I positioned myself in a sunny window seat (well, it was a window with a cushion on it!) and debated eating the free snacks in a bucket on the wall.  Then a man grabbed a handful and gave them to his dog.  Now I see!  An irritating midwitch cuckoo girl kept tapping on the window so I showed her two fingers in case she wanted to know the Hull City score.  Staff seemed a bit less happy and on edge here, like they couldn't quite handle the lunchtime rush, and it made for an edgier pub experience than the first, but you could see it was a quality establishment.

All quiet in the "drinkers" main bar.

A bit like the Spurs sign, can be brilliant but chokes under pressure.
Luckily, turning onto Windsor Hill took me off the main busy stretch (not quite sure where the common was in Wooburn Common as it seemed to be one main road) and after a peaceful downhill sprint, I was at Wooburn Green which definitely did have a green!

904.  Queen and Albert, Wooburn Green

The interior though, was easily the weakest of my six pubs today - it looked like it had been refurbished by somebody who had never been in a pub before, but had watched a couple of house makeover programmes and thought "that'll do".  Though my heart sank, it was a light and friendly place and the landlady was like a sexy Pam Ayres, saying things like "mi lovely".  Two foreign student girls were eating Yorkshire Puddings, their bulldog sleeping blissfully, covering pretty much the whole pub space (a trick it later repeated outside).  When is a pub dog a good pub dog?  When it is asleep (or stuffed on the wall).  Now how can you have an IPA which is 3.7% and like a dark bitter, you'd need to ask Rebellion brewery though they were doing pretty well by me today.  And then it happened.  A very nervous looking man came in, made an inquiry on the food, then he declared how he absolutely loved the chips in here.  WHAT WAS GOING ON?  The pub garden was perhaps even nicer than that at Littleworth Common, so I was able to enjoy yet more sun and finally get a phone reception, nervously wondering why the ref was allowing so much injury time, only to then see we'd scored a third in the 98th minute!  I phoned home for a match report just as the local Wooburn youths arrived but this wasn't Elsecar so they just talked science and politics, yawn.

Pub signs from when it was a proper old man's pub probably
My first two pub ticks on "page 22" - hurray!
There's nowt more frustrating in BRAPA than being able to see your pub and not get to it.  This happened next as this huge wide river (I think they call it the "Thames"?) was in the way.  I thought about the swim, but some speedboats were looking menacing and I didn't want to become the next Kirsty MacColl.   Shane McGowan, I'm half way there!

I asked a man what the best way to cross was, he told me I needed to be on the river path to get to the bridge (well duh, I knew that!) but he kindly allowed me through his back garden which had a gate directly onto the path, hurrah! 

Crossing the river

905.  Bounty, Cookham

It didn't look like a pub, more like one of those seaside bars you see in places like Southend, the Isle of Wight and probably not Blackpool.  It was extremely quirky inside, all nautical netting and an ice cream freezer and a pool table in a raised area.  I'd spied a secluded table in the far garden under a tree away from the riff-raff, though just my luck a group of students (like the Wooburn Green ones but with an Irish Red Setter, not stuffed or asleep sadly) sat on the next table but were quite well behaved and kept science talk to a minimum.  My ale was called something "Cow" but it wasn't 'lazy', 'moody' or 'silly' so if you can think of a similar prefix, let me know so I can do a search.  It was a bit chillier here on the river but great vantage point, and I wish I'd spent more time inside too but space was at a premium.  The advantage of having to cross a bridge to get here meant no traffic, just the peace and hubbub of chatter.  On the way back over the bridge, I saw 'garden-man' and we chatted on what a great pub it was, but he didn't offer to let me back through his garden, utter bastard!

906.  Garibaldi, Bourne End

As I made my way back gradually towards Cookham station, I realised though I had been back in Berkshire (Cookham was the key focus of the day), I'd crossed back into Bucks for this pub down (what I thought was) a quiet country road to a village called Bourne End.  The "warm welcome" promised by the GBG wasn't totally forthcoming, not that it was bad, but a man sat near the loo with his son looking like two property developers on the fiddle, eyeballed me like I was not a local.  I'm not a local, I'm never a local, not even in York.  The Wellington in Hull is closest I ever came to being a local and it had to shut, presumably for that very reason.  Back to the Garibaldi then and the Chiltern Columbian Coffee Porter was the perfect night cap, if it hadn't been a sunny afternoon, so again I went outside scared of our property developer.  Apparently it has a nice rear (wa-hey!)  but I sat at the front and noticed the problem.  Thin street, parked cars, lots of people trying to get through - traffic chaos, and it has to be said it needs the "Bounty" approach i.e. make Bourne End into Venice so cars can't get through.  Well, that's what I thought after 5 pints anyway. 

One street, you've only got one street.
907.  Old Swan Uppers, Cookham

As if to remind me that Berkshire was still the heart of all that is great in 2016 BRAPA, this final pub was a return to form after a nice walk along a village green in yet another beautiful part of the world, though you do kind of get the impression that the folk of South Bucks and North East Berks dream about living in Keighley on a nightly basis.  Proper low roofed stone floored pub, friendly staff and jolly locals, it did feel a bit West Yorkshire in truth.  I saw a menu showing they sell chips,  though the excitable chip theme of the day had been broken.  I even felt comfortable enough to have a bit of an explore, finding a restaurant in the back to turn my nose up to, but saw a nice old pub sign and brunette who seemed to be glad I was acting like a tourist piece of scum!  With the hustle and bustle of locals, I made my way outside and three tanned Alan Pardews got out of a sports car, met some overly made-up women, and went inside for food, but even these all said hi to me. 

And that should have been that but for a bit of late drama, I had to change trains at Maidenhead (spit!) and my connection back to Paddington was delayed meaning I didn't make my 8pm connection.  However, train expert Tom was on-call like a late night maverick GP to advise and offer support.  An older version of Tom at Kings X allowed me on the 9pm at no extra cost under the circs, but felt I should have left 45 mins to cross London and not 39.  Oh well, you live and learn.

I had a celebratory Upper Crust sandwich, half a Redwood in Parcel Yard, and watched a bit of Eurovision on iPlayer when I realised the brunette Geordie wasn't going to be friendly!

This was a classic BRAPA day.  The setting, scenery, fact I could walk between places but was still very rural, good weather, good quality of pub, my own company so I could take detailed notes, I wasn't even bothered I'd missed the playoff game.  And a return to East Berkshire next month.



  1. Spit is an unfortunate word to use in the context of Maidenhead Simon (I'm told).

    Concrete Cow - Bucks Brewery (tho I don't do beer)

    Jokes about Kirsty MacColl - typical BRAPA

    Top PubMan

  2. There's a guy in my street who I always think of as looking South African although he isn't ;-)

  3. Should that not be 'Sipping into South Buckinghamshire'? I'll order my taxi.

    You should not feel guilty (for going to Bucks, anyway) though, my dear friend. You are destined to visit all of the counties. If crossing county, or even national, borders is that natural thing to do, then it should be done.

    I share your disdain of smiling. I have been told it takes less muscles, than frowning, either I possess the wrong ones, they are defective or that is bollocks.

    Chips are acceptable.

    Your pub dog question is an interesting one, even if probably meant to be rhetorical. I would agree they shouldn't be too excitable, something a cat like Legs would get away with. Unlike you though, I would say that being awake is acceptable. Something along the lines of the character in the Bay Horse in Fulford, friendly but docile. I would say elderly dogs are probably best suited to the role of pub pet.

    I hate to question the Si pub logistics, but is there a reason for doing Bourne End in between the Cookham pubs, rather than both Cookham then leap on the train at Bourne End?

    I have to say, I enjoyed the late drama. It probably helped that I was sat at home on a blank fixture. My elder equivalent was quite correct, though:
    a) I thought you had allowed 44 minutes unless my arithmatic was defective
    b) at that time on a Saturday an argument can be made for 50 minutes
    c) I can't actually find the document that states how long you should give in the official public domain at present

    Georgia on Tuesday, miserable Geordie brunette on Saturday, the evidence is mounting up for blondes being better than brunettes.

  4. "Sipping" is a good pun, wish I'd thought of it.
    I know, I know but you know I like my ordered counties where possible.
    I'm quite a smiley chap but 15 members of staff is too much.
    I like chips, I wonder if they are rare in Bucks pubs cos considered a bit too vulgar and working class?
    If I was too approve of a pub dog, an old lollopy one would be best. As long as it doesn't stink.
    Garibaldi at Bourne End was closer to Cookham station than the Bounty was, very odd but true! I blame the GBG compilers.
    Yes, think it was 44 looking back. I might have a 50 rule in future then, but I was still unlucky with delay. If you find a document, great.
    It's been a dark week for brunettes!

    1. Your theory of chips being working class should be correct. However, these posh places seem to have taken them on and described them using more than one word on the menu. The Corner Pin have it right and always have.

      A 50 minute rule for Paddington in the evening is a good move, but note that the time is different for every possible cross London interchange. I am always happy to help with any others, in case you end up in Waterloo for any Berkshire visits (I can't think you'll end up anywhere else for this particular county).

    2. How is Grimsby today Tom ? Have you joined the celebrations yet ? A good swap for York anyway.

      I like the way you weigh in with praise for chips and a classic Doncaster pub, though clearly proximity to the bus station is the main attraction there.

    3. Grimsby is still its moderately shit self. I did not join any celebrations, though they caused traffic congestion and I had the misfortune of being able to hear Grimsby Town fans and their equivalent of Steve Jordan from my flat. I nearly had to close the window. Would you all like to join me in a chorus of:
      "All this shit on the south side of the bridge, de de, de de, de de de de de."

      Dagger for Duncan

      Projectile for the Preston equivalent of Duncan

      We're all off to Burton