Friday 4th March 2022. The final day of reckoning where I would visit the five pubs required to have a fully complete Hampshire (until of course gaps start to appear in future editions when Basingstoke finally gets a micropub boom, a weird village north of Winchester inexplicably includes a Greene King only pub, and a Portsmouth opens its 15th and 16th Brewhice & Kitchens in 2033).
Of course, there had to be complications before we'd even started, this is BRAPA after all.
Snoozing my alarm for an hour wasn't a wise move, but probably borne out of recent horrid early starts in my quest to be in places like Fritham and Whitsbury for 11am.
One casualty of this crazy ticking week was my green Stabilo. It was rapidly drying up, so a quick walk down the main street found me at The Works (such a good budget stationery and book shop that Queen wrote a 1984 album about it in tribute - that's a BRAPA fact) and I hoped the green highlighter in their pack would suffice.
Today was a Colin day. No offence to KLO who's establishing himself very well in 2022, but you want your big guns out for important days like this.
My lazy lie in put pressure on my train changes at Southampton and especially Lymington which I caught with seconds to spare.
The bus should've been tight too, but it was delayed ,which would put further pressure on the amount of time allowed in my first pub at Milford on Sea. And to add insult to injury, the bus stop was occupied by a removal van. The chimps from the PG Tips advert were trying to move a grand piano into a small detached house.
Realising I wasn't local, a bloke advised me to simply ask for a single to 'Milf'. "That's what the locals call it .... but speak up cos the drivers are deaf" he said trying to stifle a grin. So I stride onto the bus and state as confidently as possible 'MILF PLEASE!", the driver looks alarmed, whole bus is wetting themselves.
(Of course, that didn't really happen but if it had, it would've been pretty standard).
I literally jogged into the first pub in this pretty coastal town, the sun was gleaming and the first bit of warmth in the air since Gosport last Sunday which seemed like a lifetime ago due to all the subsequent pain.
Just like Chandler's Ford last night, I'm encouraged away from the bar and into a waiting seat, and presented with a 'beer menu'. Plumping for a 'Square Logic' (a delightful B+ on the BRAPA NBSS), I ask if I can pay now, but evoking memories of #Peak2020 , I'm told 'not 'til the end'. Hardly ideal when you are against the clock! The only other customer near me, Geoff, if that's his real name, seems to have reserved a table just to look grumpy throughout and never smile back, what's the point? But despite the false start, I'm won over by the Wash House, Milford on Sea (2100 / 3663), , the happiest former laundrette one could hope to drink in. And before I realised its former purpose, I was trying to work out how four people had managed to lose individual socks in here, thinking the ale must be really good! Before long, the lovely landlady and her daughter appear at my table, having spied my GBG (rather than Colin) and we have a nice chat about BRAPA, which emboldens me further to ask again if I can pay for my drink now, which is accepted this time. Time to give the new highlighter a spin. Oh dear, it doesn't grip well, the shade of green is more like kale or algae, much as I hate to admit it cos Stablio are ungrateful bastards, but I realise they are a famous brand for a reason, and The Works should stick to colouring books for simpletons. Cheery little boozer, but I had to swig off the dregs and jog back to the bus stop. FOUR TO GO!
|No, just no!|
|Man in the mirror and odd socks if you squint into the distance|
|Col unhelpfully obscures the beer list|
|I like a pub loo with plentiful backed up bog roll (unless it is backed up around the U-bend)|
The bus is on time, it takes me to New Milton, which is the only way I can get back to Southampton at Reasonable O'Clock. 50% of my remaining pubs are situated in Hants Micropub Capital, let's do this!
I actually go through to St Denys, offering a shorter walk to "pub" 2. And the inverted commas have never been more apt for this banter GBG entry .....
Beer shops are hardly a new thing for me in GBG ticking, but what makes Bitter Virtue, Southampton (2101 / 3664) stand out from the crowd is that you cannot even drink in, it is take out only! Yes, they did have lovely cask beer, and as I enter and the little bell jingles, the place is absolutely festooned with cans and bottles and I have to peer through the gap to see the gentleman in charge sat behind his cluttered counter. They have two cask ales on, Perridge Pale and Goodens Gold both of Flowerpots, one of my Hants faves even if I haven't always been so enamoured by the pubs I've found their beers in. I think if I'd insisted, I could've got a single pint carry out, but he insists it 'is more worth my while' (code for he wants to make a quick buck out of me) to get a two pinter so I acquiesce. He fills up a milk carton, tells me if I bring it back when I'm done, that'd be great, but I tell him no, I live in York. I then ask for a carrier bag, but he tells me that'd be an extra 20p, and because we've completed the card transaction, I need to pay for it in cash, so manage to fish out that same one that raised a ruckus in Ringwood's Railway yesterday when I dropped it! I briefly explain BRAPA, he's sort of apologetic, I say 'no probs, it is what it is' and I toddle off.
I cross the road where Southampton Common is, and behind a carpark, it I clamber over a post, hurdle a muddy path, and find myself in a sort of woodland / foresty clearing, trees around, not a soul. I take out the bottle of ale (no way I'm lugging 2 pints around all day) the GBG and Colin, and start swigging off the first pint of it from the bottle, totally secluded. I laugh at the lengths I have to go to at times!
What a funny tick. I see it has been in the GBG 24 years. A few people on Twitter tell me this type of tick was more common 'back in the day', and true, cos I remember York's Beer & Wine & Cheese Shop being in around the year 2000, oh and that one in Bubwith. People seem to think this is the only one left in the current guide though, a relic of a bygone ticking age if you like!
The ale is good, no doubt about that. Some people say 'well that qualifies it for the tick'. And I guess they are right. BUT. You ain't telling me, in the context of modern day 2022 GBG Southampton with its emphasis almost exclusively on micropubs, that if a new place opened up and only sold two Flowerpots casks, however well kept, that'd it get in the GBG, I just don't believe it. Pompey maybe. So'ton no. Oh well, THREE TO GO!
After a burp and a much needed wee behind a tree, a 20 minute walk through the mean streets finds me back at the pub that was shut on Wednesday. I'm approaching today from a different angle, and it is open .....
Through a cute little dungeon style gate, I can tell I'm going to enjoy Witch's Brew, Southampton (2102 / 3665) before I've even get to the bar. An atmospheric partitioned kind of place, a micro that feels 'old'. Not the gimmicky witchy bollocks I was half expecting, just good n proper witchy integrity. At the bar, a softly spoken young gent with a northern accent and a barn owl pin badge (I've got a frog pin badge, maybe we can be northern pin badge fwends?) serves me a pint of something black and wholesome, he could've stepped straight out of Hogwarts, lovely stuff! I'm just about to retreat to the quiet front of the pub when two gents ask me to share their bench which is lovely, and the folk in here really took me under their wing. It was more Chorley than Southampton. The glassy eyed Irish man must ask me six times no exaggeration 'how do you fund your BRAPA trips?' , each time I explain I work in a bank, each time he seems unconvinced. The other main guy is a former CAMRA chairman so he's lovin' the BRAPA thing. "You've done more pubs than me in Hants!" he says, we compare notes on local ticks. Then the moment I'd been hoping for, the famous Witch landlady Mary appears, so our CAMRA friend introduces me. "I've heard you're a bit crazy ..... in a lovely way" I tell her. Jeez, I've got a way with words. Luckily, she laughs. And to be fair, she's so spot on with everything she says, friendly and very funny. When I tell her what my next tick is, she offers to write me a 'doctor's note' so I can skip it! I hear her muttering 'hazy crafty nonsense' in background to the Barn Owl badged lad as I talk to the others, and she's a great believer in quality of beers over having too many on. #PubWitch Her story about being a mischievous witch when a couple ask her what'd help them get pregnant, she prescribes beetroot, so wife eat tonnes of it, til Mary admits she made the whole thing up ...that was a classic anecdote that sticks in my mind. Meanwhile a new bloke asks to borrow my GBG so he can 'look at Bedfordshire'. No one has ever looked at Bedfordshire before. Amazing, love them all for making me so welcome. Not one of them allows me to take a photo, not even a group shot which is kinda sad and I am sure they aren't really all wanted by the police. Anyway ..... TWO TICKS TO GO!
I walk to Millbrook station, where buses shoot down this insane side road. Of course, being my luck, there is one delayed to exactly the same minute mine is due, so my reflexes and eyesight have to be perfect - afternoon is rapidly turning to evening. Where does the time go?
A painful 40 minute bus crawl around this corner of western corner of So'ton to unchartered territory, places with names like Hythe , Dibden Purlieu and Calshot Beach, it felt like I was entering Kent.
It is dark and a very icy wind is whipping up now, and just for added 'mild peril' the bus driver explains to me and this young lady he's having to stop at a temporary stop because 'as I'm sure you know' (errm, I don't) the main stop is out of use which scares me shitless for trying to get out of this hole in 40 mins.
I walk a pointlessly long way around, until the village runs out, the last remaining turning takes me right into an industrial unit. You can tell what's coming can't you?
My blurred photography was symptomatic of my rushing around to get this pub done in 25 minutes so I could get the next (final?) bus back to Southampton, but I'd had a couple of glugs on my milk carton of Flowerpots en route, just to lighten the load you understand, so that could be a factor. Oh well, I'm here and I'm going in. Vibrant Forest Brewery Taproom, Hardley (2103 / 3666) one of those breweries I've had plenty of their special brand of fuzzy murk from Worthing to Bournemouth and everywhere in between with varied amounts of enjoyment. Open only Fri 4-8, and the weekend, if they wanted to cock a snook at us pub tickers, they could rename their bar 'Hardley Ever Open'. I spied a further problem. "Errrm what cask ales have you got on?" I ask the young chap, resembling a friendly Canadian Brown Beer with pimples and bumfluff 'tache. "I'm not sure mate, it is my first day!" he replies, and seeing the fear in his eyes, I tell him not to worry and opt for a pint of Pupa just so I can say 'Pooper' with feeling. He's a nice lad, don't get me wrong. It is very burpy when you having to drink at pace, burning my innards in a glowing kind of way, as I squeeze down at a Pret a Manger style bench. There's an upstairs, no time to explore that sadly, might be full of warmth, comfort, carpets, snugs, etched windows, who knows? In fact, I thought I'd missed the cask when I see a sign for 'Stones : Throw Kitchen' thinking the South Yorks stalwarts had branched out into the craft market, but alas, it is 'Stones Throw Kitchen', pizza street food. Best thing about this experience? ONE TICK TO GO!
Anxious about the bus, I locate my torch, find the replacement stop going in a So'ton direction, and pretty much stand in the road. The driver screeches to a sudden stop. "LOL, I forgot about the temporary stop for a minute there!" he tells me. I laugh nervously. I hadn't fancied spending the night in Hardley.
I get myself back to Portsmouth. There are no buses to the village containing my final Hampshire tick, but my ETM (Emergency Taxi Money) envelope still has £80 in it, and taxis from Portsmouth Southsea station are plentiful on this Friday night, so that's the plan. Time to treat myself, I deserve it.
The bloke, a lovely Romanian chap with a Swedish wife and a vague plan to visit York one day seems relieved I'm not a pisshead (well, not in the conventional Pompey Fri night sense) and right on cue, his phone goes and it is a young bloke who sounds totally off his tree asking if he can get a taxi from Isambard Kingdom Brunel Wetherspoons to Portsmouth & Southsea station.
A three minute walk, Google tells me, and it takes our patient taxi man about five minutes to convince this goon that it isn't worth anyone's while. He could've walked it nearly twice by now. Bet he doesn't do 29,000 steps a day in the name of pub ticking.
Being a nice bloke, I ask if he can hang around for 27.5 mins approx and knowing I'm lovelier than what he'd go back to at P&S station, he agrees to wait. Yayyyy, now I can relax , sort of .....
... I say sort of because I'd been reading on the train back that Southwick is a quite unique, privately owned village. I'd later learn the doors have to be painted the same colour, and if you want to come and live here, you have to write an actual letter with an actual pen to the owner and ask permission! Because of this, and because of the attitude of some other villages nearby, namely Shedfield and Dundridge, I thought it might be a bit unfriendly and introverted. Nothing could have been further from the truth!! I obviously walk into Golden Lion, Southwick (2104 / 3667) in triumphant swagger, beaming smile, and from the man and his gorgeous dog both smiling back at me, everyone follows suit and I can tell I'm in a gorgeous friendly old pub, second world war decor on the wall showing the pubs history. Takes me a while to get served, busy Friday night, but everyone makes sure I haven't been forgotten about! Not sure what ale I got, but it is good, and me n Col are just basking in the glory (I'm imaging a sound of applause as BRAPA gets a standing ovation!) when the bloke behind the bar who's appeared from nowhere, clocks me from a distance, races around and introduces himself as the landlord Greg with a firm handshake ... anyone looking on might've thought I'd arranged a special interview to mark my final tick! What a lovely man, true warmth, true passion about what he does, pride in his pub, and love of the place in which he lives. It is heart warming to see, as he gives me a bit of the history and background. So important to me that Hants ended on a high, and I know I shouldn't be surprised for pubs in the vicinity of Portsmouth, but this was a truly special note on which to end.
My taxi driver panics me for a second, by moving his car to a few yards away on the other side! After telling him not to give me a heart attack at this late stage of the night, we have another nice companionable chat all the way back to Portsmouth, where I buy a few snacks, swig off the final bit of my Perridge Pale from Bitter Virtue, brew up, and climb into bed, quest complete!
Oh, and if you'd been wondering, I'd reverted to the Stabilo. Just need to press down harder.
There's been a lot of beer consumed, pubs visited, money spent, and weird and wonderful incidents since me and Mick pulled up in the Citra-mobile at the Mill House in North Warnborough on a rainy lunchtime in October 2020, but we made it. A good county. Thanks Hants. Thants.
My York night out with friends tomorrow has been cancelled (booooo!) but on the plus side, it means I can tell you all about my Isle of Wight 'aftershow party' on the Saturday.
See you tomorrow, Si