Monday 6 December 2021


 'I just don't think you understand'.  I was quite confident about finishing Hertfordshire by the end of the wintertime, but these constant engineering works and Lincoln diversions are meaning 3.5 hour journeys to and from the south east, and that is IF you can even book a ticket on a train at a sensible time (i.e. 07:01 from York, 20:00 back home) which am generally finding unavailable. Boo!   

But at least the cross-ticking hadn't been too cruel, okay so I need a third trip to St Albans, a second trip to Hemel Hempstead, a Stevenage BRAPA debut, and stuff like Bridens Camp & Flaunden looks tricky, but on the whole, I can't complain ...... 

..... especially on days like today, where BRAPA illuminati Simon Dewhurst had kindly offered to drive me around some of those hard to reach eastern areas close to his Sawbridgeworth stomping ground.  Daddy Dewhurst was sadly unavailable, but I'm sure we'll see him again in the future.

I'd barely had chance to tuck into my Sausage n Cheese muffin and Arctic coffee breakfast before the first weirdness of the day occurred .....

We'd not even left York when an odd young lad with glazed over eyes just across from me, who has been staring weirdly for the last five minutes, suddenly says "oi mate, what time do we get into York?"  I reveal the good news that we are already here, but he ain't having it.  "Nah mate, this is Leeds" he slurs.  I tell him I am convinced this is York.  Eventually, his brain performs a full somersault, he says 'awww shit' and gets off just in time.

Cue much tutting and head shaking from the ladies behind, taking their kids on their first trip to London.  I agree with them that more decorum is required from the younger generation, fearing he has definitely exceeded the BRAPA allowance of six pints + an ESB.  He didn't look like an ESB man.

After much jiggery pokery at Tottenham Hale, where I end up in first class just because I think I'm entitled to luxury leather seats, I finally hit Sawbridgeworth where Simon is hoping the car behind him will be patient enough to wait until I've hopped in.

First stop, High Wych (pronounced Whych not Witch) according to SD.  Big car park opposite pub, but despite being well gone 12 noon, the pub looks dead as a dodo.  Noooooo!  

Shut pub alert?  Gah!  Simon looks through the window at the ales to see what I could've won.  Whilst he's doing this, I prod the wooden door with my finger end, more in hope than expectation and to my delight, it opens.  That's better!

Rising Sun, High Wych (1946 / 3510) is a great starter.  The garlic mushrooms or tempura veg of pubs.  I'm a little bit torn between whether to view this as a basic, rustic, rural style boozer of few frills, and whether it is a bit of a plain modern place that could do with a bit more pzazz.  I think looking back, I'm inclined to view it favourably.  Sure, the guv'nor was a nice deep breathing old school guy, the Tring Citra poured straight from the barrel, was of the utmost quality.  And it is quite the noble, caring, altruistic place too, requesting you open your crisp bags carefully and retain them, so they can make blankets for the homeless out of them!  Not seen that before.  And when I peer through some glass at what I think is the pub pantry, he tells me it is a food bank for those less fortunate.  A pub that cares. 

No Si, not your dinner!

Onwards and upwards, and Simon was a bit unsure what I'd think of this next one.  Daddy Dewhurst apparently describes it as a 'curate's egg' of a pub.  A bit of a 'love' or 'hate'?  Colour me intrigued!  

It was immediately apparent it was a 'love' from me, Queen's Head, Allens Green (1947 / 3511) (and I'm still not entirely confident apostrophe-wise) had a kind of 'I don't care what you think' attitude which I admired.  It was unconventional, there were no mock tudor beams, no flickering candles in settles, no throbbing gable enders, no nicotine stained ceilings nor dimly lit snugs.  This was a basic, comfortable rural drinkers pub, no fuss, no histrionics, come in, get drink, sit down / loiter, enjoy / don't.  A drinkers pub with more emphasis on cider than beer actually, though having said that, we'd missed the 'beer wall' to the right which I finally witnessed whilst predictably walking the wrong way to the gents and embarrassing myself in front of the bearded old locals.  With the Hophead drinking headily, the barman went round to grab himself a beer wall beer.  It was that kind of pub.  For some reason, I start telling Simon about my recent dental history involving root canals and tooth removals by Dundee Utd fans.  Poor SD, it was an unprovoked monologue, but again, I'll blame the pub for creating a dental non-judgemental transcendental atmosphere.  

Too early for Death or Glory, I said at the time, see I can be sensible

Absolutely loved this table, though Colin claimed it gave him a cold arse

Wall of beer, grrrraaarrrr!

Two great pubs, two great pints.  I was loving rural East Hertfordshire.  More of the same?  Or was that being optimistic?

On the edge of the Henry Moore estate (I think he's the bloke who sculpts things near Wakefield) we arrived at the largest pub car park in the whole of Christendom.  Only a panoramic photo would've done it justice, and I didn't have the patience.  Instead, you get Simon D outside the pub.

Is it possible to find a pub's inclusion in the GBG an absolute disgrace, but also leave with a smile on your face after a winning experience?  I'd have said no before today.  But then again, I hadn't been to the madcap Hoops, Perry Green (1948 / 3512), a restaurant not even thinly disguised as a pub.  "Oooh, I'm very clumsy" says the fabulously engaging barmaid/landlady.  And then proves the point by spilling my pint.  She's one part Nanny from Count Duckula, one part Frank Spencer.  Loved her.  Wish she hadn't topped it up.  The beer in question, Oddy from Hadham which I had a very nice pint of in the summer, is dreadful.  Vinegar, and no plant pot in sight.  Bill Oddie, Bill Oddie, this is one beer I wouldn't rub all over my body.  So much for the 'one ale on at a time to guarantee quality' argument.  I'm reassured to see a gaggle of old gents trying to treat this place as a pub.  "They're the most delicious samosas you'll ever have, duckyboos" the barmaid is cooing nearby.  I tell Simon I bet she'll spy Colin and make a comment.  But to my surprise, she swoops over, totally blanking Col, and says "wow, a book that well highlighted must be pretty special".  So I explain BRAPA.  And then a guy from the largest dinery table, (with two baby high chairs, and two hungry dogs underneath, occasionally trotting off to the kitchen in search for food only to be bollocked by the chef) comes over and says he follows me on Twitter!  Mark Higgins ladies and gentlemen.  Lovely chap.  He found me through Cooking Lager!  What a time to be alive.  Never felt more famous since I was recognised in an Ely micropub.  So there you have it, a winning experience, but kinda dreadful too.  Still, as my favourite songwriter says "it doesn't have to be pure, it doesn't have to be perfect, just sort of has to be worth it".  And this 'pub' certainly was.

Past the half way point, and with the bar nicely set low again (not literally like at the Tally Ho in Broughton), it was time for pub four, which resembled something vaguely ecclesiastical in a Hereford and Worcester backwater kind of way.  

If something's going to have me immediately viewing a pub through shit-tinted spectacles, it is bar blockers.  And not just any bar blockers.  BRAPA Belmesthorpe style Bar Blockers (BBsBB's).  By which I mean utterly selfish locals who not only sit down to bar block, with not one gap between their stools, but position them in a kind of crescent shape, curving away from the bar, to make it even harder to see what ales are on, make little pretence at moving for you, and grunt.  Yes, I know I'm the outsider here, you don't have to ram it down my throat!  Welcome to Prince of Wales. Green Tye (1949 / 3513) and perhaps I was unlucky, for on the two occasions Simon was at the bar and I was otherwise indisposed, he made me aware that they were actually quite friendly.  But as far as I'm concerned, especially for this narrative, they are all heartless monsters.  Shame, cos it's a nice old village pub, the most impressive ancient atmosphere found today.  There'd been some debate about whether our Abbeydale Moonshine (strange ale to see down here) was at the bottom of the barrel, as we had our awkward service wait.  Eventually, it was presented to us as 'fine', but tasted nothing like Moonshine.  It was actually quite a nice, drink but nothing like Moonshine!  A dog came over and wanted a stroke, nice doggie, nice to see something friendly in evil Green Tye.  And sad because the Facebook evidence suggested this should be a happy pub for people called Simon, but maybe only on a Sunday.

Our final two ticks of the day took us to Bishop's Stortford, one of the towns that when I was a twild growing up in Saffron Walden, my R.A. Butler school friends would say "Mummy took me shopping in Bishop's Stortford at the weekend" nonchalantly throw their heads back in the air, and they'd get a gold star off Mrs Dodman, Miss Creber, Mr Bye but definitely not Missus Prisk. 

Meanwhile, I was getting Hoylandswaine flashbacks as we approached the 'amusing' lager encyclopaedia whiteboard with railings across cricket pitch, funny little entrance etc. 

I talk a lot about GBG clubs, mainly the unpredictability of getting in, and the varied, quirky reception / reaction you receive from staff and locals alike.  And that was my main gripe about Bishop's Stortford Sports Trust (1950 / 3514) , it just lacked any of that usual 'mild peril' and dare I say it, discernible character in general.  It was low roofed, long and carpeted enough to feel clubby, but that was where similarities ceased.  Two dead eyed young droogs served us from behind perspex, a pint of totally unremarkable Buntingford Hurricane, an ale to sum up the ambience, but at least it tasted like it was intended, and was drinkable.  It was fairly busy too, the whole place just felt like a bag of magnolia painted random logs whistling the greatest hits of Coldplay.  Two happier happenings helped to raise it to an acceptable level.  Simon saw an old friend Ella, unexpectedly working here, so they had a nice chat, and as I hummed Rhianna in my head, Hull City took the lead with a highly contentious 'ball is out of play' goal against Birmingham, so I imagined how much of a good sport Lee Bowyer was going to be about it, and that cheered me up too.  The ale tasted nicer after this too, maybe I'd just got in a bit of a mental rut after the last two pubs!

In a more convenient B.S. location, today's sixth and final tick leered at us wonkily from a dusk laden street corner like old Uncle Kevin .......

And I'm delighted to report the Star, Bishop's Stortford (1951 / 3515) was a Christmas cracker of a pub on which to end, a veritable grotto of leafy stuff, twinkly lights, jolly red faced folk and a health restoring oatmeal stout, to lead me into ESB time a bit later.  I'm aware there'll be those Scrooges of you reading that line like "bah humbug, a bit early for Christmas, hate pubs like that" but I've not explained it thoroughly.  What I'm really trying to portray is a pub that would feel festive all year round, but definitely works better in the winter time.  It had spirit, vim and vigour, not unlike the excellent and nearby Rose & Crown at Stansted Mountfitchet.  This was a return to the kind of form we hadn't had since leaving Allens Green back at pub two, though I can't remember any of the finer details!  Thanks to Simon D for another great day, and we'll be back in early 2022 for something similar but a bit further north.  

I forced my six pint brain to remember that Tottenham Hale wasn't some kind of labyrinth matrix to befuddle me, and it worked, I got myself back to Kings Cross like a sober person would.  And that was good.  Because I'd hate to miss my ESB before the train to York, it wouldn't feel right.

Join me tomorrow, or Wednesday, depending on how well I do, for tales of Thirsty Thursday frolics in and around Middlesbro'.  Why am I typing this in bold?  Is it because Middlesbro' is special?  Find out soon.

Thanks for reading, Si 



  1. That Simon D is a game lad, isn't he, doing all the hand gestures at the door. You won't get me doing that nonsense, mind.

    Drunk passengers are a bore, aren't they ? A City fan refused to join me at getting off the Manc-Sheff train, despite telling the ticket guy he was definitely getting off. He couldn't stand up. Hope he didn't have far to drive home from the station.

  2. Oh my goodness ! So you hadn't the new entry in Middlesbrough before then . I always assumed everyone did all the Boro micros in one go back in 2016 when they appeared from nowhere in that little grid of streets. Loved that Bottled Note, amazed it took 5 years to make the Guide.