Sunday 20 March 2022



Thursday would prove to be the least 'thirsty' day of my entire Hants holiday funnily enough, at least in terms of GBG ticks.  

It was another bleary-eyed early morning start, which found me on the train to Salisbury, my final remaining 'impossible' tick located on a nearby bus route.

KLO and Colin continued their squad rotation system.  Not sure my mini blueberry muffin, Tropicana multi-vitamin and Arctic Coffee was a substantial enough brekkie, but it was all a bit rushed.  I'd located a very weak hair dryer in my Premier Inn so had spent ages finally drying my shoes!

It was time to bite the bullet and see how many Hants pub I actually had remaining as that map was getting dangerously green.  Only 9 (NINE) left!  Fantastic news.  With three days left down here, that meant I should be able to get the nine done in the next two days, and still have time for a day on Isle of Wight for a nice little change of pace.  

But let's not get too far ahead of ourselves, if it could go wrong, it probably would.

And I certainly didn't want to get distracted by Salisbury, as much of an exciting multi-tick town in a neglected county (Wiltshire) it was.  It even contains the GBG pub I most want to tick but have never managed .... the Haunch of Venison, which I read about many years ago in my 'Britain's Strangest Pubs Book', the book that first made pubs fascinating to me.  This pub contains the mummified hand of a cards player who had it chopped off cos he was cheating!  I pass the pub on the high street, and it looked suitably old and impressive.

My step count was on an upward curve as the week was progressing, yesterday's Fritham epic the highest yet .....

The bus took me to Breamore (pronounced Bremmer) meaning a 54 minute walk to the pub, shorter than yesterday by four minutes!  

It had been a sunny morning (shock horror) but OF COURSE that fine misty rain that soaks you to the skin starts up about five minutes into the walk.  

Or Turds, as they are known in Hull

I'd just said 'good morning' to two hi-vis elderly cyclists, but caught them up a few minutes later changing into their 'wet weather' gear, so I sarcastically said "another fine day for it!" and that seemed to tickle them.

It was a winding but even more rural walk than yesterday, I barely remember seeing a vehicle and rang #MummyBRAPA for a long chat before the phone signal dropped as I descend into the village.  It was approaching noon, and having the same 11-3 & 6-10 opening hours as Fritham (must be a New Forest regulation), it was open and in full swing when I arrived, well once I located the unlikely side entrance.

A slightly brusque Scottish woman greets me by telling me not to stand at the bar, she'll bring it over.  'Aye aye cap'n' I want to say.  Welcome to Cartwheel Inn, Whitsbury (2096 / 3659) and my initial impressions are a comfy but non-descript dining pub, what with its fluffy cushions, table reservations, and that sense that staff are gearing themselves up for a lunchtime onslaught.  My guts are in bits, too many days on the ale, not enough good home-cooked food, and not enough sleep often does this a week into a holiday.  After a long 'comfort break', I return to find a middle aged gent sat next to me.  'I'd seen your otter and had expected a Mum and a child to return' he chuckles!  'Nope, just a pub ticker' I reply, and we get chatting.  I warm to him, a bloke on my wavelength, and he makes what might have been an average pub experience quite memorable.  "Stay for a second and I'll drive you down to Fordingbridge, where you can get a bus" he kindly offers, well I'm not going to pass up that gift horse, though he gets a bit cross when I try to buy him a drink to compensate!  He helps me see that our Scottish hostess is not so scary, and that the pub is well run (the ale is certainly quality), introducing me to barmaid, a big KLO admirer from a distance , daughter of a racing trainer (Desert Orchid was trained nearby) who keeps getting comments about the increasing length of her ponytail, which may or may not be horsey humour. Our new friend proudly reveals he's a FIFA qualified referee, doing some of the 'biggest games in Asia back in the day'.  He criticises my trousers for being muddy, so I tell him about my trials and tribulations in Bransgore two days ago.  "You could've still washed them in the sink" he tells me.  Tough crowd!  

After paying for our respective drinks despite my protestations earlier, I follow him to the pub carpark and am just about to get in the rusty hatchback when he says "no, this one" and he points at the Bentley!  "Coo I've never been in a Bentley before" I tell him, to which he seems surprised and disappointed in me all over again.  Twice he implores me not to slam the doors, "just gently close it and it'll take" he tells me.  'Aye aye cap'n' I wanna say, and he drops me at the bus stop in Fordingbridge.  BRAPA hero!

Longish wait, I'm joined by a young lady who's just finished a shift in a nail/hair salon across the road.  We exchange a few words, she puts her facemask on just as the bus approaches, and then asks for a child single to Ringwood!  She's not a day under 30 but it fools the driver.  Some kids tried the same tactic in Farnborough 'Spoons but the staff were wise to them.

I hop off at Ringwood too, giving her a 'I know what you did last summer' kind of look.   Annoyingly, the GBG pub doesn't open til 3pm but turn that frown upside down ..... our Bentley FIFA hero recommended me a pub which is much better, in his opinion .......

Star, Ringwood (which I'm thinking must've been in a GBG at some stage) was the perfect example of why the Good Beer Guide is a BEER guide, and not a pub guide.  What a gem.  Atmospheric, old, healthy crowd, young, old, men, women, a guv'nor who seems a bit of a twitchy eccentric character, sliding in a mention of his time in 'the theatre' etc. at regular intervals.  Someone on Twitter tells me he was in the Archers, which would make sense.  An excitable young couple talk about their own exploits in the 'arts', or at least whether they were more successful doing Mariah or Whitney on the karaoke.  The Landlord (Tim Taylor) is less exciting, slightly unconvincing at the start, limp and lifeless half way down, and I'm pretty much failing to detect any pulse on it by the end.  Not good at £4.80 a pint.  Oh well, at least it explains its lack of GBG inclusion.

I've nursed the ale long enough, and probably outstayed my welcome, but by 14:45 I decide to wander slowly to the edge of town where the GBG pub is situated.

Blatantly not true

Not quite sure exactly what mish-mash of pub styles the Railway, Ringwood (2097 / 3060) was trying to achieve, but whatever it was, it didn't work.  In fact, it was one of the most silent. awkward to the point of excruciating ticks of the entire week.  It was freezing cold.  It felt like an old pub which had been gutted to create something half resembling a giant micropub, but perhaps more a gig venue.  Their commitment to the GBG (posters of previous editions going back to the start of BRAPA, 2014) the only thing to raise half a smile.  The barmaid looked bored shiteless, and early on, she and a younger girl mumble about blokes who might come in to add 'life' to the place.  Which obviously didn't make me or the hairy starey man at the bar feel good about ourselves!  A sign told me there'd be a meat raffle here on Sunday at 4:30pm.  It just didn't feel that type of place.  When the younger lady left, the awkward silence was only punctuated twice.  Once by me dropping a 20 pence piece.  And again when a Royal Mail man delivered a parcel.  Just as I got up to leave, hairy starey man, who'd been freaking me out throughout, says in the friendliest softest way possible "so how many more in Hampshire have you got left to visit?"  Unexpected lovely ending, he'd obviously been working out what I was up to from a distance!  That perks up the barmaid who joins in too.  What a shame he'd not said something sooner but I guess he was a bit shy!  Nice to salvage something from a dodgy experience.  Oh, and the ale, bit cold, but much better quality than the TTL in the Star.

Not the Coeur De Lion, but it is a start 

Back at Ringwood bus depot, bit of confusion re bus times, and I'm kind of glad the 'school special' sets off without giving me chance to get on after yesterday's Shirley insanity.  

I go all the way through to Bournemouth (so now in Dorset, my third county today), leg it to the station, and a 17 minute journey takes me to New Milton, which even on a Thursday doesn't open til 5pm.  

5pm and only two pubs done, I was really having to work hard for these final Hants ticks ....

It might've been the proximity to scabby Bournemouth, but there was a reassuring belts n braces ruggedness about Hourglass, New Milton (2098 / 3661) which I initially described as 'excellent'.  I cannot say I was totally sold on the place as time went on, it had that now depressingly familiar south west Hants attitude of 'we cannot possibly be too friendly to someone we don't recognise' which is quite galling when you see what a close-knit family vibe the locals seem to have going on, most of whom were paint stained working men sinking a few jars after a long day's labouring.  The barmaid is smiley enough, though I worry I'm freaking her out by being over smiley back in my quest to find a kindred spirit here!  Main man is a nice baldie but I'd not mess with him, and the ale comes directly from barrels behind the bar - and I've really noticed a correlation between this type of pub and those of limited friendliness.  Nevertheless, I try my best to be 'engaged', make the effort, smile and chuckle at the right moments .....  an art form in this pub ticking lark.  Another stranger who'd come in just before me orders a stout, murmurs how great it is, scoots around to a hidden booth, and a minute later, and I'm not exaggerating, he reappears with an empty glass, thanks them and rushes off!  Felt like a pubby Stars in their Eyes.  If he's a ticker, he's a quick one.  Bit of drama followed which our stout friend missed. The locals who've parked outside are alerted to the fact that there is a ticket inspector on the prowl.  They sink their pints and race to their cars.  Then there's lots of 'if he slaps a ticket on me he's gonna get it grrrarrr!' style chat as everyone peers out of the glass.     

Possible rare sighting of our one minute stout legend

Parking ticket inspector drama in full swing

Three ticks only and now well into the evening!  Ooof this was a tough day.  I had to push myself just to get a late fourth.  Train to Southampton Central and a long wait on a dark, freezing platform, where a connecting train took me to Chandler's Ford.   

Tanned party girls are out (Thursday is the new Saturday around here) and sit next to me.  A miniature rolls out of the ringleaders handbag, under my seat!  I return it, being sure to look her in the face and say "looks like you're gonna have a good night!" and not at the small bit of material duct taped around her middle acting as a dress #WokeSi2022

Pub just around the corner .....

And as was so often the case this holiday, last pub of the day was best pub of the day at the superbly run Steel Tank Alehouse, Chandler's Ford (2099 / 3662).  Shut Mon-Wed, open 4pm Thurs, hence why I hadn't done it until now.  I enter with zero expectations, leave full of joy, beaming smile.  How was I to know this wasn't to be another middle of the road Micro in the outer Southampton area?  A bloke leaps on me (figuratively) seconds after I open the door - if this week had an award for 'fastest speaking liveliest friendliest bar person', this lad would've won it.  He tells me it is table service only, "sit down here next to Dave .... he's from the north, but he won't bite, LOL".  I'm given a beer menu, and Dave immediately impresses me by telling me he's no beer expert so he won't recommend me one.  I tell him I too am from the north AND am more into pubs than beer.  Ahhhh kindred spirits, like a rubbish version of First Dates innit?  "What's with all the blue and yellow bunting, Ukraine solidarity?" I ask him, but alas, the pub owner supports AFC Wimbledon!  Dave also tells me the table service is due to many pub staff having had Covid, and other bad experiences, very understandable, nice to know these things before you start going 'grrrr, rarr , table service should be a thing of the past, grrrr'.  Pub has a bright, sparky atmosphere, and I am sure the staff set the standard and customer's follow, as we often see in the best run pubs.  Like our Bentley FIFA referee earlier, I warm to Dave, and just like with him, we end up chatting weak bladders and prostates!  We then chat on Dave's hometown Stockton on Tees, but ages since he's been back, not sure he'd even heard of Golden Smog, but I tell him the Sun is one of those pubs I really want to visit one day.  And then the main man is back, manages to recommend me about 5,000 pre-emptives in the local area, zero of which I remember.  Six pints in you see.  Lovely end to a tricky day!

Dave from Stockton does the honours

Love for Wimbledon / Ukraine 

Bit of Vibrant Forest foreshadowing for tomorrow

So there we go.  Four done, five left.  Tomorrow would be an important day as I looked to get Hants fully greened up.



1 comment:

  1. "She's not a day under 30" - well, I hope you told her that, she'd have been made up. I suspect "child" is anyone under 50 in North Hants.