Friday 2 September 2022


You left me in Kirkoswald.  Daddy BRAPA's next act of chauffeuristic magnificence was a trip to Appleby-in-Westmorland for a pub that'd been on my radar for far too long.  I even remember checking their Covid opening hours in March 2020 from a Lanzarote sun lounger. 

I found Midland, Appleby-in-Westmorland (2335 / 3899) a whole lot more underwhelming than I'd anticipated.  The age old 'building up a pub in your mind' problem combined with my 'fifth pub of the day syndrome' (as evidenced by this photo!) were part of the reason.  It wasn't very pubby.  Grey/blue, minimalistic, they'd obviously gone for a specific style.  Fart deco?  The sign is 'Broadway' font.  Thanks Mr Lizards!   We notice a sign saying £800 is not financially viable for Sky & BT Sports.  Wow, how much?  Not many pubs gonna be doing Sky/BT in these 'cost of living' times.  The remnants of a beer festival mean I get to try a strong furry pale that no one in the world has ever drank before, well according to Untappd, which is the universe if you think about it.  Dad keeps looking out at his car, not cos the neighbourhood is rough, it is just something to do.
BRAPA Verdict : I like staying up all night, I like being treated right, I like proving people wrong, it probably means I'll die alone.  C.

Time to squeeze a last one out?  Oooh go on then.  It is practically in North Yorkshire, and so is York, so we're sort of on our doorstep with this one.  

I've morphed into the Taggy Man, Kirby Stephen (2336 / 3900) on the pub sign by pint six,  but I'm aware enough to know that I'm in a cosier, dimly lit, infinitely more boozery pub.  Few attempts at Dickensian quirk, the gin on the bar had its own magnifying glass which must be steampunk or something.  A handsome Guinness toucan dominates, that beak could have an eye out.  We'll call him Ozan.  Hull City's new star midfielder Ozan Tufan (Toucan, damn should've been a mascot!) has become the latest player to go off injured, the heads have dropped, West Brom are pummelling us, games gone, and I'm SO glad we chose Cumbria as opposed to a football day.

BRAPA Verdict : Some mutts can't be muzzled.  B.

Fast forward a week (#ThirstyThursday cancelled as work asked me to step in due to staffing shortages) and I wanted to get the Bank Holiday weekend off to a great start, so headed down to London on the Friday evening, checked in the New Eltham Premier Inn (one of the cheapest in the area), unpacked in all of five minutes, dumped the BRAPA essentials into a guantanamo-chic duffle bag, and took a bus up to Eltham proper.  

Something very morale boosting about a bonus Friday night tick.

I've witnessed many a micropub dog blocking the floor, but never before blocking the street outside!  Stretch Barkstrong I call him.  Rusty Bucket, Eltham (2337 / 3901) was a class above your avg S London micro.  Having really disliked the Long Pond on my last visit down here, I'd not expected this place to pull up any trees, but this was full on sexy deforestation.  A man with my exact hairline is first to nod at me.  We need to support each other.  Two angelic lads serve me, one takes my order, the other pours the beer from an unseen cupboard, meaning my ale was in front of me before I could blink.  And what a drop!  Kent Prohibition.  I can't believe the bloke in white socks n sandals thinks he's gonna get lucky with the lady he's chatting up.  She gives him a sympathetic back rub, like you would to a deaf child.   The atmosphere was soothing London cafe culture, there was no pretence to make it 'pubby', and yet, it was still bloody fantastic.
BRAPA Verdict : Oi Mick, give it some stick.  Micros are rarely better.  A-

London Victoria station Boots, buying some Mucus Max Benylin was how Saturday started.  I've had a cough since Burnley that just won't go away, and a night in a legionnaires friendly Premier Inn air conditioning nightmare only made it worse.  Porters and stouts needed today, or ESB's!  

'Spoons are the pre-noon saviour for pub tickers countrywide.  Fox on the Hill, Denmark Hill (2338 / 3902) appeared almost genteel, and almost friendly, something that rarely happens in South London.  It certainly had the sort of locals vibe where old regular curmudgeons 'banter' with younger female staff.  Though on the occasions I tried to 'get involved' it became clear that this was a closed shop for people they recognise!  They're beer teases too.  I'd spied an Oakham Chocolate.  'That'll do nicely'.  Except she tells me that entire row of pumps don't work and are 'there for show'.  I think she's joking at first, having told a Mum n daughter about her trapped wind and tried to smuggle blackcurrant cordial into the girls drink only seconds earlier.  I did get a dark beer, but it was watery bottom of barrel.
BRAPA Verdict : A 'nearly' pub in every sense. C

As I was staying over a couple of nights, I wanted to push myself today and tackle a bit of rural Kent when I didn't have a Kings Cross ESB to get back for.  Sole Street was my first stop.

It looked a simple walk to the village of Cobham on a map, but a dangerous pavementless road meant I went the long way round.  And the long way round became even longer when the road I hoped to take, through vineyard, orchard and orangery, was a private road!  Finally, I found a path but what a gosh darn struggle.

Darnley Arms, Cobham (2339 / 3903) and not before time.  Two Iron Pier brews on, but an old couple send me around the bar.  "She'll serve you over there".  Don't you love local pub protocol?  And the landlady, with her Playboy t-shirt, makes the pub, a real lively people person.  Just as well cos the average age of the punters is about 95.  They'll never be catwalk models or playboy bunnies if they don't put their shoulders back and improve that posture.  It is quite the dining hole, and contains the most offensive pub feature to BRAPA eyes.  Fake Random Piles of Logs Not Doing Anything Wallpaper.  Yes, I nearly had to leave in disgust.  A bar blocker with a 'comedy' Oliver Reed and other alcoholics tee shirt bonds with Playboy landlady on account of looking EXACTLY like her Dad.  He tries not to look creeped out.  Luckily, the Dad is still alive.  The Iron Pier is of such quality, I can just about deal with this place.
BRAPA Verdict : I can't get over THAT wallpaper. C-

Being such a pedestrian unfriendly place, I'm delighted to see a rural footpath to the home of my next pub through churchyard, across fields, and down another closed road which I think & hope applies to vehicles rather than myself.  This pub didn't open until 2pm, I arrive about five past, so there'd not been any point in being any quicker anyway!

Oh yes, now I'd really struck gold.  Cock Inn, Luddesdown (2340 / 3904) must be one of the finest boozers in Kent. A feast for the eyes, unaltered and apparently, the gaffer loves his ale so much, he named his son Adnam!  A chirpy couple follow me in, the bloke admires the sheen on the bar so he gets a taster of the Goachers Mild.  I didn't!  Must admire more bar sheens, note to self.  Colin does his job, sparking their curiosity, and I soon get chatting with them, lovely duo.  He's got a slight north eastern twang - Bishop Auckland, so I dig out all my Green Tree, Pollards references, then we get onto Hartlepool Headland.  She throws me slightly by asking "what will you do when you finish the Good Beer Guide?"  It's a good question, I wonder what RetiredMartin is thinking about that. Become my permanent chauffeur hopefully, hey, hey?!   I can't see myself constantly filling in the gaps, I'd like a new challenge.  Every Greggs?  Is there a book?  Oh well, plenty of years to decide!
BRAPA Verdict : All the little molecules, add up to something wonderful.  A-

Back at Sole Steet station, I hop off next at Farningham Road.  Another slightly pavementless trek follows, but the majority of this 20 minute yomp has a pedestrian friendly track to stop me getting squished.

I was hoping this would be the pub I needed ..... but sadly not.

More like this ....

Bull, Horton Kirby (2341 / 3905) is the first real let down of the weekend.  Airy, terrible acoustics, an irritating clientele, who if they are not eating outside, are stomping around this bare boarded modernised mess screeching up at Sky Sports with a loud "OI OI" either because Chelsea have taken the lead or because Bournemouth are being murdered by the Scousers.  Errm, yeah.  Anyways, I wonder what Bournemouth the Computer makes of it?  (obscure reference alert).  I order a pint of 'Quiet American' which causes the unlikely and unhealthy gaggle of bar blockers to comment "ha, you don't get many of them!"  I wanna say "piss off losers, I know Crilley and at least two Southworth's" but decide to hold my tongue and take my 'ok' pint of ale to a table and watch the football scores.  At least there is a nice clock that dongs on the quarter hour.  Hull City go 3-1 just as I'm about to leave, so I give it a good air first pump, have a wee, and bugger off back to Farningham Road.

BRAPA Verdict : That don't impressa me much D+ 

I take the train back as far as Swanley, and hop on a connecting one to a village called Eynsford (pronounced Ainsford cos I couldn't stop calling it 'Aye-ns-ford').

Nervous as a kitten over Hull City, it is 3-2 now, 7th minute of injury time, so I tell myself if I say all of the exciting local Medway 'things to do' out loud on this map, we'll hold on.

I do and it works!  Phew. Thanks interesting Medway.  Now I can enjoy my ticking.

My first experience of Eynsford is a Dad encouraging his son to use the portaloo outside the station.  Son goes in.  Dad wobbles the portaloo furiously, and then hides behind a wall when son emerges.  What a joker!

The pub is an unreasonably distant trek from the train, and my legs are starting to feel it now .....

There was something incredibly satisfying about the Five Bells, Eynsford (2342 / 3906).  One of those that really gets under your skin and seeps into your pores the longer you spend here, so by the time you leave, you actually feel an attachment with it.  The Cock at Luddesdown had been like 'pow! this is ace' straight off, but there was something more understated, more basic, more untouchable, about the brilliance at work here.  And as a result, it's even more rewarding.  After a few bar jokes over my inability to say the beer name 'She Sells Sea Shells' (I couldn't risk the Harveys, it gives me the squits, northern bowels you see), I was told I was teetering on the edge of sobriety.  A pub 'character', who comes through to say goodbye to everyone, points at me from a distance and says "no more beer after that one for you!"  Had he been on my Twitter?  And then everyone chats red wine and cheeseboards, like they've been on my lockdown #WWWSI page.  Do I dare mention Wotsits and Westerns?  I decided against it, which I now regret. 

BRAPA Verdict : I left a bit of myself in that pub, but I'm not sure what bit!  A-

Back in Swanley, I'm actually feeling pretty well apart from my legs killing me.  I'm conscious (that's a start).  No, I mean I'm conscious that there is a pub about a mile walk from here, in addition to the Swanley tick.  I'd always intended on a seven pub day in the absence of a Parcel Yard ESB, so I decide to stride it out.

A handsome and quite domineering pub even from a distance, Chequers, Crockenhill (2343 / 3907) is a step back in time to the seventies or eighties.  In the absence of much ale, Courage Directors is a rare handpump - as my mate says 'you have to have courage to drink that.'  It's drinkable here, but warm like a liquified human organ. The carpet is fascinating.  Deep red, stained, spongey, you might say juicy.  It feels like every fluid has seeped into this.  My Twitter mate EL West Brom tells me he used to come to swingers parties here on a Monday evening.  A curious group appear for tea.  This elderly cockney geezer, looks like he's just fresh from a Hatton Garden raid, is serenaded to Tom Jones 'Sex Bomb' by three drunk ladies.  He dances with each and then is scandalised to learn that Martini Bianco isn't a drink they stock here.

BRAPA Verdict : Abigail's Party meets Rita, Sue and Bob too meets King of Thieves.

I stride back into Swanley, a few punk tunes on my headphones to help push me through, the entrance to tonight's final pub isn't immediately apparent.  Partly due to my 'haziness' but also the door is partially obscured by a lot of leafiness, too many blackboards, and an army of outdoor drinkers.  I'd been thinking this was a garden centre as I approached, but no. 

Comedy blackboard, never a good sign, geddit?!

Cotton Mill, Swanley (2344 / 3908) for the win, and being a narrow micropub, I'm soon forced to wait patiently in a queue.  No one seems to be rushing to serve, and my train options are plentiful which is just as well!  I sit down by the loos, or single loo, and by gum, isn't it popular?  A bloke with top knot wants some cider recommending but flinches at the word 'scrumpy' and ends up with some fruit monstrosity.  A staff bloke is walking around with a flower in his hair.  Anything goes down London way, but no, it appears he accidentally collected it whilst glass collecting.  I told you this place resembled a garden centre.  The bloke reading his broadsheet starts passive aggressively blocking the door with it.  Does he not like customers coming in?  A staff member must've had the same thought as me and quizzes him on it.  No, it seems he was just trying to get some light to read!  There you go, not bad recollections for a seven pint day. 

BRAPA Verdict : If you're going to San Francisco....  You know the rest. C+.

So there we go, back to New Eltham via Victoria, big bag of food and water, long sleep, plan is for six or seven more tomorrow.  

The biggest surprise was my step count, I knew I'd done a lot but this was my 2022 record, even eclipsing the likes of Boot-Ravenglass and Morwenstow-Bude.

See you Monday for part 3!



  1. I for one will be glad to see the back of Sky sports. 😎

    1. Haha, same Paul, doesn't add much to the pub experience does it?!