Just to briefly allow you a glimpse into the fragile mind of the pub ticker, I woke in a cold sweat, 4am on the Wednesday morning on the eve of my first full day of Dorset ticking. "I NEED TO GET TO LYME REGIS ON THE EARLIEST BUS POSSIBLE IF I'M GOING TO ACHIEVE TODAY'S GOALS!" screamed my brain, and before I knew it, I had all my books, maps, google out plotting a revised schedule.
It was almost 6:00am when I finally got back to sleep, and then I'm not sure what happened to my alarm, but I was woken by house-keeping at 10:30am, I'd missed breakfast and both morning buses. Oh dear. Oh dear. Oh dear. As the late Barry Chuckle might've said.
Revised plan two, no time for Lyme Regis or the surrounding places so I went as far as Bridport instead. Still determined to get a 'difficult' tick in, I got a connecting bus up to a funny little village called Melplash where the local ferret had escaped:
A 30 minute walk down slippy country lanes on my dodgy left knee I don't like to talk about was far from ideal, but soon we (well, me) were out in the village of Waytown where my pub lurked behind a hedge like a nonce .....
1347 / 2320. Hare & Hounds, Waytown
This was my first introduction into how 'Palmers heavy' this part of the world was. Beers that obviously hold a novelty factor for me, but chatting to locals throughout my hols soon revealed how sick to the back teeth the majority of them seemed by it! I started on the Gold here, quality stuff. Not too much room in the farmhouse style main bar, and although it isn't ideal for pub observation, it was such a glorious day that I took my pint out to the garden with stunning views. Soon, a lady called Linda was shouting over at me, and seemed quite taken by the BRAPA concept, being a bit of a swashbuckling spirited outdoorsy type of gal, so she came to sit with me, and do the all important 'green highlighting'. She told me about her favourite pub, called the Drewe Arms in Devon, but I told her Devon was untapped territory to me unless you count Plymouth n Torquay. She told me to walk back to Bridport with her, it'd only be half an hour if we're quick (she had a special map), hmmm didn't quite believe her so used my knee as an excuse and said farewell. Bearing in mind I'd not had brekkie, I was snacking from my bag (I'd been to Boots in Bridport where I'd also bought nail files to sand down a tooth I'd mysteriously broken in Portland, classy) feeling quite happy to do so as outside the pub, but as much food was being brought out, I'm not sure the serving woman was too happy with me, but she didn't say anything direct. The air was fresh, the views were grand, the ale was good, my holiday really felt like it'd started here in Waytown.
The walk back to Melplash was nowhere near as long as it was getting here, amazing how often that happens! And then the bus turned up on time, which you can never quite believe in areas such as this, though the bus shelter kept me amused .....
The bus dumped me back in Bridders, as I'm now calling it, right outside one of my pubs, where incidentally Linda used to work ......
1348 / 2321. Ropemakers, Bridport
In many ways, this was your classic lazy weekday afternoon drinkers pub. A calm nautical theme, a few old codgers dotted about looking miserable but presumably smiling from the inside, it remind me a bit of Saltgrass in Sunderland or Star Inn at St Just but that bit more cavernous than both. The Wi-fi didn't work, but I didn't care. But it was far from perfect. The barman knew I was waiting, seemed to be making a point of being slow to serve me! Perhaps I was still mentally in demanding 'London mode', and although this was annoying, I had to admire the horizontal nature of Dorset life, not just in here, but throughout my stay. A lonely looking old lady brought her empties back to the bar and tried to shout 'good bye'. "She'll think yurrr bein' rude" a barblocker joked to the barman who hadn't heard her. Would he shout goodbye or run to the door to say bye? I would've done. But no, he just rolled his eyes and polished a glass. Seemed a bit rude, but when a bloke went to sit up at the top, he told him "I call this the captain's table cos it has the best view" and made a real effort with him. Soon some crazy barmaid with loud voice came along, and they were all talking about which locals n staff they liked, or not! Interesting, but rather than get enveloped in the snoozy atmosphere like I was expecting, I grew more and more restless and was glad to eventually leave, which really went against how I'd felt in those first five minutes.
Next, I decided to go to the pub further from the bus stop, trying to think strategically for later, so walked towards the Tiger. As I did so, I spied Linda outside the third pub I'd be due to go to chewing the fat with some local, so wonder if she'd really got back to Bridport in her mythical half hour. I'll never know.
Just off the main drag round the corner I found the pub ......
1349 / 2322. Tiger Inn, Bridport
I don't know about you but I've never found pubs called 'Tiger' very convincing. I don't know if it is being a Hull City fan, but they seem to promise lots and deliver little. However, this one was different. Linda hadn't been too complimentary about it, and whilst it was nowhere near as aesthetically pleasing as the Ropemakers in terms of 'proper pub', it had a happier more genuine feel to it. The barmaid was a quirky lass, as we encountered problems pulling my pint of Otter Amber (KNEW I should've gone for the local stripey cat one!) "I'm not sure if it's getting near the end of the barrel or it's just that this tap is shit!" she revealed as the beer took ages to pull and settle. Hmmm, well if she didn't know, neither did I. Still, it didn't taste or look too bad, so despite trying to hint I'd be happy to go for another ale, she kind of encouraged me to stick with it! As I admired the fishing tackle on the ceiling, the locals soon arrived (they love their daytime drinking in Bridders which is great to see!) and a stripey topped man with the voice of Arthur Smith brought in some mini veg ornaments, including a sweet potato which most impressed the barmaid. "It's a small holding" quipped another bloke, to many groans, but I was enjoying this. On the way out, I thanked my barmaid (now outside having a pint with her boyf) and as she opened her mouth to say "bye", a bug flew into her mouth! I bet she was glad to get rid of me.
One other GBG tick in Bridders then, it was our first foray into Dorset's micro scene .....
1350 / 2323. Pursuit of Hoppiness, Bridport
In true micropub style, I hurdled a couple of dogs and their leads as I shuffled on through to the bar, of this surprisingly glorious sunny little pub. A friendly man sold me this murky orange thing that looked like mango J20 (if that's a thing) but was my favourite pint of the day, whilst an old dude, proud he still had hair when all his mates had gone bald, was showing off a new haircut which gave him that Derek Acorah edge which we all strive for at this time of year. Bald or not, they all laughed at him but I thought it was very smart. Buoyed by my inward appreciation of his haircut, he came to sit next to me (that's all it takes in a micro) but not before a student with a Corbyn t-shirt and huge art portfolio and laptop had plonked himself the other side of me and put some huge headphones on. My new friend looked at him like "the youth of today eh?" so I KNEW it fell on me to be sociable. I kicked off with "I assume this beer is supposed to be cloudy" which was my micropub equivalent of talking about the weather. He told me I needed to be more open minded! Anyway, he was a nice chap. "Sorry I keep effin' and blindin'!" he told me at one point "....but I grew up in Croydon". A classic line, one of the best of the holiday. Still, a lovely chap, one of many people I met who came to Dorset on holiday and loved it so much, they settled here. And I was rapidly beginning to see why!
|My new mate and his new hair|
|Yes, the seat to my right is free too.....|
|Art we can learn to appreciate|
Time for the long bus ride back to the Dorch, where of course I shouldn't forget I had 3 GBG pubs here to visit just like Bridport.
The nearest one to the bus stop was the Wetherspoons ...... there's not too many Dorset 'Spoons in the GBG so I concluded this one must be superb ......
1351 / 2324. Royal Oak, Dorchester
|Say bye to my bus, and hello to 'Spoons|
First thing first, dying for a wee. Now as those of you who are as familiar with Wetherspoons as me will be able to testify, they often enjoy making their bogs into climbing expeditions in a deliberate move by Timmy to help the regulars lose the odd calorie or two, or to give them a craving for further victuals once back downstairs. And in the Royal Oak in Dorchester, you won't find a much longer or steeper climb. Finally back at the bar, I was shocked to see the sheer number of people waiting, it was three deep! And the reason was clear, ONE member of staff serving. And you couldn't blame her, she found the situation as amusing as those waiting, but it led to great comradeship with people watching for who was next, helping each other out, and joking about the ridiculous staffing levels. "I only want a pint of real ale!" I whined, twildesque, "well I only want a pint of Fosters!" said the bloke next to me like this was some kind of 'getting served Top Trumps'. Eventually, I was in and took my Acorn Old Moor Porter to a high stool where I observed a man practising his apple bobbing for hallowe'en to impress his extended family. I soon got chatting to a couple who'd been queuing next to me, and can't remember what we talked about (the pubs of Dorchester I think) but they were very pleasant. I couldn't decide whether to go to Convivial Rabbit or Blue Raddle next, so I ended up doing neither cos Barnsley's finest beer (along with Gorlovka and Barnsley Bitter) had finished me off!
|It was like Sooty was takin' t'piss at my failure to get served|
|Pointless moody shot of the window|
|Apple bobbing practice, probably, or probably not.|
In any case, if I was to wake up on time for the early bus to Lyme Regis and not make the same mistakes as this morning, I had to get to bed early!
Would I make it? Would the pubs be any good? Would anyone annoy me? Or would it all be lovely?
Find out tomorrow, Si