Thursday 21 July 2022

BRAPA is ..... RUNNING UP THAT HILL (TO THE BUSH INN) : Cornwall Holiday Pt 7/10

 "And if I only could, I'd make a deal with God (or Jimmy Case), and I'd get him to swap our places.  I'm running up that road, I'm running up that hill, I'm running to that building (Bush pub)"

Kate knew what she was on about didn't she?  It had been the most painful, farcical, hilarious and weird holiday in the eight year history of BRAPA.  And it wasn't over yet.  Surely fate was going to take pity on me as we entered Day 6.  Surely?

Waterlogged GBG, crashing wakes, phantom buses, closed roads, train strikes, cancelled trains, sunburn one day, drowned rat the next, mad cap boat trips.  Now I look back, it is a wonder I didn't wave the white flag and crawl home to York defeated.  But if BRAPA's taught me one thing, it is fortitude.

All aboard the number 12 bus again from Plymouth.  Launceston had seemed a decent stretch yesterday, but Bude on the north coast was one helluva long bus ride.  I jumped off a bit sooner in a place called Stratton, which had a pre or post emptive pub called the Kings Arms.

I had time to kill, it was open, and I'm sure I'd seen it in fairly recent GBG's.  It didn't scream GBG today.  It was a lot more rough and ready than I'd imagined from the long coaching inn style exterior.  Landlord is a bit of a lad.  We accidentally play 'hide n seek' early on, which at least makes for a jolly kind of opening to the day's pubbing, once I find him!  Doom or Atlantic is the choice (actually the first time I've seen the latter this holiday.  And it was in good nick).  A few locals trot about, mainly Mums and sons.  I'd hate to be a judgey snob but there's an element of Jeremy Kyle about everyone I bumped into, whether it be toilet corridors or around shady corners.  Some young Brit no one has heard of is having is arse whipped in the tennis at Wimbledon. It is one of those 12 noon BBC Two 'no one cares' kind of matches on court 114.  The landlord and me both feign interest.  A lady with a back tattoo of a Ginsters is as confused as I am with regards the Wifi password.  Honest, stodgy sort of pub.  Having since visited the other pubs in the area, I can now say with the benefit of hindsight that I'd be surprised to see this one back in any time soon, despite the good pint.

I'd slightly underestimated the length of walk to Poughill (pronounced Pof 'ill), and was also surprised to see how rural the scenery became in a very short space of time, Stratton having almost been like a metropolis in the Cornish scale of Gweek to Truro.  

On a slight incline, the pavement having given up long ago, with finches fluttering in the hedgerows, the pub came into view on the right ....

Preston Gate Inn, Poughill (2270 / 3833) really had all the hallmarks of a winner.  It let itself down by playing ridiculously bad music at crazy volumes in what otherwise, was a hugely atmospheric 16th century two cottages knocked together.  Put me in mind of my Talbot at Alton experience, but instead of Journey upsetting my ears, it was the kind of club bangers that the Love Islanders and Fiat 500 brigade are into, babes.  Only a pub since 1983, you'd never have believed it.  The staff (mother daughter combo? ) are both so friendly, the most positive reaction Colin the Cauliflower receives all holiday.  Most Cornish folk either lick their lips, or wanna bury him in the ground and wait for 'aaaarvest.  Of course it led to BRAPA chat, and so impressed was I, it became a first 'staff highlighting the GBG of the holiday'.  "Oooh great technique you've got there!" I tell her, immediately hoping that didn't sound (too much) like flirting!  There's an old boy in one of the other booths drinking even slower than me, and I'm nursing my pint with a future bus in mind.  The plastic screens between snugs are a bit of a let down too, a Covid measure that has never gone away, I suspect.  Oh, and the beer?  Another Firebrand, gorgeous stuff, really bucking the trend of the Sharps, Skinners and St Austell you see in like every other pub.  Not complaining, just saying change is nice #BeerSnobSi 

Bonus point for fascinating cistern

"Great technique"

Note the book of East Cornwall bus times - my new best friend (sorry Col, sorry GBG)

What a beer!  Makes you wanna scrunch up a bit of random paper and put it in the tub for no reason

I'd lingered long enough and it was finally bus time.  I'd planned my entire day around this next one, high up in the middle of nowhere, eight miles north of Bude. where I'd then aim to finish my day in Bude's micro (which doesn't open til 4pm).

There aren't many 217 buses (three a day in fact) but I'm all set for the one at 13:58, arriving at my pub 14:17 and then I could decide either to linger for the 16:57 back to Bude, or take on the walk.

Bus shelter of some repute

A round, jolly bloke with the air of a sweaty Tom Kerridge rounds the corner with a bottle of water so massive, he can barely carry it.  It's like he's nicked it off an office water cooler.  "Want any water mate, I've bought too much?!" he bellows down the street.  I tell him I'm okay thanks.

The bus is only 7 minutes late so far, I'd been tracking it from Bude so hadn't been unduly worried when another bus appears.  I signal to him "no, I don't want this one".  He winds his window down.  "Which one are you waiting for?" he asks.  I tell him.  "Oooh, it won't come round here today mate, there's a road closure a bit further down so it is missing out Poughill!"

This had to be some sort of joke.  How much more bad luck could I endure?  A local old crone (it is always a local old crone) chirps up that it DEFINITELY won't be coming this way.  Cheers crone.  I explain my predicament and what I'm doing.  They suggest I hop on this bus, go back to Bude, and try my luck with a taxi, or give up and try Morwenstow another day.

I need them both to be quiet so I can do some mental maths.  It is about 14:05.

If I set off walking now, I can make the pub for 16:17 as it stands which leaves me just enough time for a pint and the 16:57 bus back.  "I'm going to try and walk it" I declare.  They both look at me like I'm insane.  "Well good luck mate" says the bus driver.  I wave as they speed back off to Bude.  

Is this insane?  I guess I'll find out.

It is a tough start.  The sun is back out again, 24 degrees sounds cool as I sit here today in York writing this (37 degrees), but when you are walking, it is tough.  Jacket immediately comes off! 

The first straight bit, up to Stibb, is a little too hilly and has a few too many cars coming the other way for my liking.  I can't afford to stop and be polite, so I just walk purposefully, face in the hedge, waving 'thanks' at random intervals!  I wanna get ahead of schedule, and get to the pub closer to 16:00.  

An hour in, as I start to bear left, I see a morale boosting pub sign (even though I know we are still a few miles away).

For a few minutes, I actually think this is going to be fairly easy.  I even allow myself a five minute drinks break.  But as I turn the next corner and we start to approach Coombe, I notice these giant golf ball things high on a hill up above me.  GCHQ Bude!  We're going up there aren't we?  My heart sinks, and then the climb starts.  So steep.  With the baking sun on my face, I enjoy the times I'm facing west and a refreshing blast of sea air from the Hartland Heritage Coast hits me in the face.

There's barely any traffic now, but my back and legs ache,  and head is pounding.  Sweating buckets. I'm trying to ration what is left of my 'weak orange drink' from my battered old Oasis bottle.  I have to crack on though with some urgency, I've come this far.  

It might not have been as a cringy experience as the Altarnun wake yesterday, it might not have been as much of a life-threatening road walk as Bransgore in Hants, but in terms of physical exertion, this was up there with the hardest BRAPA walks of all time.  Step count in a day, I've done much more mileage, but it is the hills that get you!

I'm hoping a passing car might stop and give me a lift.  They can only be going the same direction as me now.  I try to look even more in agony than I am on the rare occasions one passes, heading north.  But all I get is a load of cheerful waves off the tourist scum.  

Heart is pounding, and I physically can't keep up the earlier pace, so as the clock ticks around towards 16:00, I hope I'm somewhere near.  And then I round the final corner, and before long, the pub comes into view, looking more like an ancient farmhouse plonked in the wilderness, which I guess it is!

16:03 when I step inside the Bush Inn, Morwenstow (2271 / 3834) and the barmaid must be used to lost walkers and stuff, because my heavy panting and blotchy face don't seem to phase her much!  That extra strong Hicks HSD beer is on, ESB style, no way I'd consider drinking anything else.  It is such an impressive unspoilt pub, the building dates from the 13th century, and the multi rooms which I explore all have their own distinct character, some great, some a bit limp.  The effort has been worth it though.  But I'm burning up so take my pint to the undulating giant garden which seems to merge into the hills.  A couple on the terrace are chattering away, looking calm, cool, unflustered, drinking cider.  She says "oooh, getting a bit chilly now isn't it?" and I say "absolutely fuck you!" which might've been an over reaction, but such was my mental state in that moment.  She didn't hear sadly.  'Tis bliss out here, all I can hear are chirrupy birds, buzzing bees, and the odd distant baaing sheep.  It feels a particularly triumphant Twitter check in and GBG greening, but the moment I press send, I realise I've written HSB instead of HSD.  'Ooh quick, delete and start again before anyone sees' I think, but within seconds, it is only the lovely Pete of Torquay pointing out yet another BRAPA beer faux pas.  His partner calls this beer High Speed Death!  Back inside for another half, partly cos I deserve it, plus I have time, plus I want to glare at chilly woman, sit inside for a bit, AND quiz the barmaid on the bus situation.  "You're probably best getting out there five minutes early, but expect it to be ten minutes late!" she tells me.  The pub is really filling up no.  "None of you have walked here like me you sad lazy wankers!" I growl under my breath, taking my extra half to a room with no one in it.  I hate people in this moment.  I best not push my luck re hanging around, and after wondering why there's no Bush or Kate Bush tribute acts at the Bush Fest, I decide to go to the bus stop outside.

And that's how to green Morwenstow!  (note the water damaged contrast in colours)

Happiest moment of the day

Cameo appearance from my trusty re-used battered Oasis bottle

There's a young lad at the bus stop.  "You waiting for the bus?" I ask hopefully, and he is.  And he's a regular.  This reassures me greatly.  He tells me it is a very unreliable service and tells me some recent stories of it not turning up.  This doesn't reassure me.  It ticks past 5pm.  I tell him not to worry.  A very brisk middle aged lady appears.  "I've heard it is still in Bude and showing no signs of setting off!" she tells us.  "Sounds about right" says the lad. 

"What now?" I wail "Does this pub do rooms for the night if needs be?"

"Tell ya what, I've got a car, I'll drop you both down in Bude" says the lady very matter of factly, before quickly adding "I'm supposed to be ferrying these two Ukrainian girls around but they need to stop relying on me so much and get to grips with public transport!"  I'm a bit open mouthed, trying to take all this in!  She disappears, to tell someone she's off, maybe her daughter?  

She remerges a few seconds later, and next thing I know, we're whizzing down the hill to Bude.  This was, for once, a fabulous turn of events after more useless bussery from Cornwall.

After a bit of BRAPA chat, they both bond over how long it takes to restore power to Morwenstow if there is ever a storm, which sounds like it takes about a month and there's about twelve storms a year.  

The lad then starts telling us how he's a junior boxing champion, just moved up a weight division from welterweight to something weight, and is having to move to Bideford to take his career to the next level!  He'll miss Morwenstow's tranquillity but knows he's doing the right thing (and they restore power within 24 hours in Bideford apparently which he's looking forward to!)  

Before I can blink, she says "right, Barrel, Bude, bye gents" I look up and we are outside the pub!  I thank her and she's like 'yeah, yeah, yeah' and speeds off.  I spin on my haunches to say good luck with the boxing to the young lad, but he's already half way down the street!  I puff out my cheeks, conscious a few local drinkers sat outside are eyeing me in a curious way.  No time to reflect on this whirlwind turn of events right now, time for the next tick .....

A fairly meek and mild (comparatively) lady smiles and serves me a local beer straight from the barrel here at one of the few micropubs in Cornwall, Barrel at Bude, Bude (2272 / 3835).  I did the cracking Pilchard Press down in St Ives last time out.  I did the then pre-emptive, now shut down one in St Austell (you can be too clever in this game!) and now I hear there is one on St Mary's (yes really!) and perhaps another in St Ives too.  I'm taking an action shot of my beer being pulled, as I tend to do, when the main man appears from nowhere and snaps "no photos in here, we deal only in conversation" like a young Cornish Humphrey Smith.  He then eyes my Tim Taylor sweatshirt and adds "I don't like your top either" and adds something about them undercutting smaller brewers or something.  He's certainly a character, once witnessed, never forgotten!  Best way to deal with people like this is front them up, so they don't monopolise you, so I give it the full 'I'm down from Yorkshire/BRAPA/ Cornish micros' spiel and it seems to help a tiny bit.  I wander off and feel like I'm being kept an eye on, so I ask a couple if I can sit with them so I don't get into trouble!  First thing the lad 'H' says is "I love your Tim Taylor's top, great beers".  HA!  I tell him not everyone feels the same in here.  This couple are on a beery holiday from Worthing, so we bond over the zillion Worthing micros in the GBG and they have a good thumb of my GBG.  Before long, our old mate is bringing three lads over.  "Shift up then!" he instructs me. "Yes boss" I feel like saying, swapping seats.  And he pulls up two other repurposed beer barrels.  And now there are six of us all in a little circle!  "Sit with these three, they won't bite" he tells the newbies, before pointing at me and saying "apart from this one .... he has monkeypox!!"  I was getting a bit of a complex by now.  Is this what they call bantz?  To be fair, his forced socialising plan works, as all six of us are getting on great and the pub has an electric atmosphere.  These three new guys all met randomly on holiday in Barcelona and have made a point of meeting up once a year since.  The most confident one next to me is a Londoner, a very Londonny Londoner.  The quiet one at the far end who looks a bit like Jimmy Nail and Peter Beardsley's love child lives in Madrid despite being a Brummie, so Bude does seem a random meeting point.  And the one I most warmed to most, a stick thin Irish guy called Emmett.  Unfortunately it turns out the world 'Emmett' is a derogatory term in Cornwall so when one of the locals outside heard him being addressed by his name, he came inside to make sure no one was abusing the lad!  Conversation gets a bit fragmented as happens in big groups of strangers, I get chatting with Miss Worthing, so when I have to stand up to catch my last bus of the day, and say it's been lovely to meet you all, no one really gives a monkeys (pox).  Neither staff are looking, but as soon as I leave, I hear our main man shout "OH OKAY, DON'T SAY BYE THEN.  RUUUDE!" so I rush back in, give him a beaming smile and what I think was a waca-wave off of Timmy Mallet, and thank him for what had been a memorable pub experience!

The 18:30 is the last bus of the day that runs from Bude to Plymouth so it better bloody show up.  It does!  But not before I've got chatting with an old couple.  Her eyes light up when I mention York, her Grandad lived there and she tells of one of her earliest memories.  She'd accidentally blocked the workers exit leaving the Terry's chocolate factory, so her unimpressed Grandad smacked her legs, and she ended up dropping her ice cream.  Glad to see she's got a more stable looking ice cream today, all these years later!

I sit in prime position, front of the top deck and I'm amazed I didn't need a wee all the way back home, I was more dehydrated than usual after that painful walk.  

Back in my Premier Inn with a nice bag of food from the local Spa, I lay on my bed and reflect on what has gone before.  Again, the day was so bizarre, it felt like a dream.  I daren't even predict what my final three days may hold, but what was becoming clear was that a fully greening of main land Cornwall was still on, providing fate was a bit kinder to me.

We'll see if that was the case next time in Part 8 : Long in the Tooth at Ponsanooth (working title). 

Thanks for reading, Si 


  1. A modern day epic. Love the stickers on that cistern: Arsenal and Wycombe, the auld alliance.