Wednesday dawned all bright and shiny, the fog had lifted early and the sun was shimmering delicately against Poole Harbour like a very blingy local chav lady, of whom the bus station contained many such specimens. My breakfast was back on form, and I was ready for the final pub-ticking day of this epic holiday in one of England's finest counties.
"The problem with the youth of today, they don't appreciate the simple things in life like this", remarked an old lady loudly to her fellow coffin dodgers, referring to a horse & cart that had just pulled out in front of our bus en route to Wimborne, slowing our progress painfully.
A girl in uniform behind me sighed, probably late for her shift at Waitrose because of this. "FFS" murmured two spotty teen boys, probably late for some exam, lecture, tutorial. Okay, so I'm not claiming I'm representative of the 'youth of today' despite being an impish teen in disguise, but I can fully understand why old folk get so little respect in our society compared with say, Japan or somewhere far eastern (not Grimsby), with this kind of silly comment.
I was stressed anyway, today's chauffeur and pub ticking legend Martin Taylor was waiting in Waitrose car park, I'd said I was close by, he'd be thinking I'd been murdered by now. I know how he worries so.
Finally, I arrived, from the opposite direction he was expecting so he couldn't get a photo of my triumphant arrival across the bridge, I got Google Maps Sat Nav up and it was off to our first pub of the day.
The winding country lanes, the beautiful Dorset scenery, the fragrant fresh air, and bus-less villages with names like 'Gussage All Saints' are what make BRAPA truly worth it. Sadly, Mrs Google Maps hadn't read the script and had a meltdown, trying to direct us down this 'forbidden' path.
We persevered however, pub tickers of 'great spirit'(!) rarely give up on a location. I'd noted the address as 'Bowerswain Hollow' which sounded like it could be down here. And Martin was getting flashbacks of an less potholed version of the Tandle Hill Tavern in Lancs, which he likes to mention from time to time to remind me I still haven't been.
Of course, the pub was slap bang in the middle of the village. Ugh! We'd lost 10 mins already. Not good when nearly every pub in the GBG around here shuts 3pm for its mid-afternoon cleanse.
1508 / 2478. Drovers Inn, Gussage All Saints
It was open! Huge relief. Perhaps I was still scarred by Chaldon Herring. I really must get over it. Plus, I'm sure the villagers were on neighbourhood watch patrol, especially after getting lost, this certainly isn't a place that gets too many visitors. Perhaps I was expecting too much, but the village name plus the fact it had been taken over by the local community had me hoping for something better than this. Stone floored, rather basic, and a bit chilly, and let's be honest, felt more dining venue than pub (rare for Dorset GBG entries to almost Isle of Man extremes). The main barmaid was a bit too watchful, and a bit stern, the younger one a lot more smiley and warm, even giving my candle a prod at one stage (not a euphemism). Two ancient couples already had their faces fish 'n chip deep in the nosebag, choosing strangely to sit right by the bogs despite having the entire empty pub to aim at. Prices were high, as I often find in community owned ventures, almost like they soon realise it is near impossible to make a pub pay if you are flogging ale for £3 a pint and sandwiches for £4. But all in all, not much to report, bit of an anti climax to my Gussage debut.
|Sixpenny beer of good quality. Hold that thought for Pt 10.|
|A good drop, combined with RM's craft mango and a nice wood burner|
|An 'ancient' waits for food, wife went to loo|
|Gents called Drovers as exciting as it got|
|Birds on thatched roof and possible GBG stickers in window|
Being an unselfish kind of bloke, Martin was happy not just to take me round 'ticks' that he needed, but also drop me off at the odd one he knew he'd been to before if we were in the vicinity.
So when we realised the little hamlet of 'Plush' was too much of a stretch (50 mins away for heaven's sake!) we found ourselves driving through Spetisbury where I had a required tick. Martin had no memory of it, my Mum n Dad had been but not reported too favourably on it, and it looked as dead as a door nail today! What? As Martin turned the car around, I saw a damp piece of paper flapping in the wind off the side door so hopped out to investigate:
So, always sad to see a pub close down, especially when it is THE village pub. Martin thought it important we address the pub ticking elephant in the room though, if we are being totally honest, part of us thinks 'oh well, it is one more we don't have to visit!" It doesn't mean we are bastards who hate pubs, you just have to be practical innit?!
Onwards and upwards, this next pub was rare in that it remained open right through the afternoon, AND it was a required tick for Martin too. Martin the Owl was getting a bit travel sick at this point, he's not used to cars yet the fragile little thing. We parked up, it looked like a right proper development / settlement type thing :
|Weird horse sculptures at the 'Orse|
1509 / 2479. White Horse Inn, Stourpaine
|The Dog Bar (probably a micropub) serving your local canine twoggy creature 0% ale|
And it really was one of those "hub of the local community" type efforts in the truest sense of the word. It is a phrase used a lot, rarely as true as here. All life was here, all sorts was going on. How can so much 'human traffic' keep passing by such a rural part of Dorset? The barmaid (with exactly the same face as the Gussage lady, but with a touch more humour, yet still well hidden) asked if we were dining as well as drinking. "No, we're just having a pint, safer that way!" I replied. What was I thinking? Martin edged away in embarrassment, I'd meant 'it is less complicated if we just have a pint and get out of your hair' but my use of the word 'safer' made it sound like I thought I was gonna be poisoned by her disgusting pub grub. Oh dear. Well, we sat at the bar, we had no choice, I may as well have been forced to wear a sack cloth. The only other drinker, a middle aged bloke of few words, had pointed at a high-up blackboard when we'd been trying to pick our beers using pump clips. Why do people always do that? It didn't offer us any information we didn't already have! He shuffled off and we counted our blessings we hadn't gone for the beer called 'Gritchie', brewed locally as it was by Guy Ritchie. Maybe it is very nice, who knows. In between trying to over compensate for my earlier comment by saying how nice the pub and ale was to the barmaid, I noticed above Martin's head it said "Look Up!" A long thin chimney going up miles, with two huge spiders in it! "Wow, are they real?" I asked, jokingly, but she claimed one of them, the closest one, was once a real tarantula. I'm calling bullshit on that, it practically had a drawn on smiley face, but I didn't tell her at the time. Martin went off the explore the local food shop and post office attached to the left of the pub. A nice lady walked in with the biggest lump of cheese I'd ever seen. "Wow, that is the biggest lump of cheese I've ever seen" I told her. She told me she had much bigger lumps of cheese. I told her I love cheese. So did she, that's why she carries it around Dorset for a living. I said I could live off it, with ale or red wine and crusty bread, maybe a few olives, crackers, chutney. She agreed. She told me I should take it out of the fridge before so it warms up a bit. I said I didn't know that. Martin returned, and wondered what he'd walked in to. I said I'll remember to warm my cheese up a bit in future. Martin looked scared. She looked thrilled, and we said cheerio. Do pub exchanges get any better?
|Closest you'll get to a Martin Taylor picture|
|Looking up was better than this in reality|
|The biggest lump of cheese I'd ever seen|
I was a bit conscious of the whole 'pubs ringing last orders before half two for the end of their 12-3 session' so I needed to squeeze in another pub that hadn't really been in today's agenda.
Again, Martin had been but this was in another amusingly named village called Child Okeford, which of course, regular readers will know I was always going to rename Twild Jokeford. It wasn't actually in the village, but outside up a hill called Gold Hill (not to be confused with the more famous Shaftesbury vehicle we'll see in part 10).
Martin pointed his car at the pub in determined manner, keen to help me get this tick:
|"THROUGH THE GAP. GO GO GO!"|
1510 / 2480. Saxon Inn, Child Okeford
|Here we go......|
Martin didn't join me inside, deciding instead to go for one his legendary 27.5 minute walks evoking memories of rural Cambridgeshire classics like Ashley, Thriplow and Leighton Bromswold. I turned the handle, and have never been so pleased to see a Twild, sat as he was, in the far corner on his mother's knee finishing a bottle of restorative milk. I ordered my pint and sat by the front door, my first thoughts was 'uh oh dining pub' but I was wrong, it was in fact a pubby pub with a bit of a lunchtime rush on. They all soon filed out when they saw me arrive, and as I do when I'm by the door, said goodbye as they left cos I know I like it when I leave a pub and locals wish me farewell, sad when no one notices and you just slope off. Funny really, as the twild proper eyeballed me, a right little Damian Omen of a creature too, almost like he knew what I'd been thinking. His Mum smiled nicely though. And in the relative calmness, just a few straggling oldies getting their chops around the cheesecake dregs, I was able to notice what a truly pubby pub this was. Especially, when I went through to the gents, almost had a WMC air about it. Carpetted and very homely. All seemed well, all seemed calm. Never rest on your laurels Simon! I returned from my happy piss to note my pint had been moved to another table. "I've moved your drink cos some wet dogs have just come in and need a bit more space!" says the local lady propped against the bar. Fair enough(!) It wouldn't happen in a Brewhouse & Kitchen, they'd be too worried they'd impinged your human rights or some guff, as me n Martin later discussed. "Not a fan of wet dogs, they smell, much prefer cats!" I told her, I seemed to be quite bold in my comments today. The barmaid agreed & pulled a 'hate wet dog' face, but local lady was a dog lover and told me she'd had drama this morning as her daughter's dog had leapt onto her kitchen counter and eaten her heart pills! Rushed to the vets, it was okay thankfully. Soon, I was BRAPsplaining and she told me she used to be a landlady, running a pub up near Hull no less in a village out towards Withernsea called Elstronwick, nearest GBG tick is Lelley where me n Dad got that afternoon karaoke session! Small world innit? Martin arrived, I'd lost track of my 27.5 mins (understandably) but it got him a sip of ale and a much better picture of wet dogs than I could manage, and soon I was on my way but what a wonderful experience that was!
|Getting on the Union Flack, cos I thought it was to do with former Exeter legend Steve.|
|Mum and obscured twild finishing off their din dins|
|Nice lady before she moved me and we got talking|
|Wet twog gang after I'd been moved|
So, halfway there! Three pubs still to do, my last three of the holiday. We were now in that twilight zone between 3-4pm when hardly anything is open in this part of Dorset on a Wednesday. How would we cope? Find out in part three.