Wednesday 19 August 2020

BRAPA in ...... I CHURT MYSELF TODAY (Surrey Part 13/17)

Friday was scorchio, peaking at 33 degrees, which wasn't really fair considering it turned out to be one of the most physically taxing days of my holiday.  Mileage wise, I didn't seem to be straying far from Guildford, but when trains are scarce and buses are tardy, and you are trying to get round six pubs, it doesn't exactly make for a winning combination.  

Progress though, was being made, as I ventured south and west dangerously close to the forbidden land they call 'Hampshire'.

At Farnham station, it was already sweltering and I got chatting with an elderly Spanish couple who for some strange reason, had been waiting for this bus for an hour already.  A posh lanky bloke in a boater who reminded me of Lord Emsworth joined us.  Twenty five later, the number 19 bus finally arrived, and an extra five setting off as the elderly Spaniard man struggled to reverse his scooter into the disabled space.  And then the posh blokes hat flew off in the only gust of wind all day and I had to run after it! 

The bus was packed to the coviddy gills with overweight families, spotty teens and blotchy snotty twilds all off to this place called Frensham Pond, a huge area of strangely blue water which makes it look more tropical, but might not be.  People float in it due to the high quantity of salty substances, probably.  The pub seemed much more appealing, but maybe that's just me.

Never have I been more relieved to get off a bus.  Little did I know what a struggle getting back on one would be! 

A friendly group under a canopy had to direct me towards the slightly confusing entrance hidden around the back .....

.... but I really need to stop being surprised at the greatness of some of these Surrey pubs.  Crossways Inn, Churt (1794 / 3011) was a pub I'd recommend to just about anyone, providing you can cope with a bit of bad language from the friendly, boisterous regulars.  Less lauded than Surrey Oaks, less visually striking than the Jolly Farmers in Bramley, but every bit as good as both.  The landlady made it, in a week of fabulous landlady's, and the sheer amount of generous tasters she gave me (I suspect I'd gone for her least favourite ale!) meant i probably came out of the pub an extra pint to the good!  One of the few pubs today too that managed to keep the beer cool.  The pub had a farmhouse sort of vibe, despite being dead centre on a village crossroads, and the tiled floors and basic bench seating in the side bar to the right allowed me to stay cool.  Despite the locals filling up the main bar, the landlady kept popping her head through the hatch for a chat with me and to make sure I was ok and enjoying the beer.  She even told me I could go over the road to the shop and eat my own food in the pub if I so desired.  Eventually I relented and joined the others in the main area, they thought BRAPA was a bit of a crazy concept but seemed to enjoy it.  "You must be facking thirsty!" croaked one to roars of laughter from his mates.  Colin hid in my bag at this point, needless to say, and one of the guys was originally from Leeds so he was quite excitable when he heard I worked there.

Too clever for my own good, unlucky, or just a bit rash?  It was hard to know how much to blame myself for the 100 minute wait I then had in the bus shelter as I tried to get back north from Churt.

You see, being 30 mins behind, I (probably incorrectly) assumed there was one bus on a loop, and when it got to the end of the line at Haslemere, it'd be the same one coming back up.  So I 'allowed' for this, and didn't return to the stop for 20 mins after the due time, seeing there was absolutely no way it could make up this time.

However, I think there must've been a second bus after all that HAD gone at the due time, which I therefore missed.  At least it was a proper shelter (i.e. sheltered from the sun), I had food and drink, and a secluded bramble hedge behind for a pee to save me the humiliation of returning to the pub!  My legs still have the scars of that hedge, over two weeks on!   SIX taxi numbers I tried, 3 didn't pick up, 2 couldn't help, and the wife of one just chatted to me in a mad shrill voice about everything else.  I wasn't in the mood.

A couple in a convertible eating ice cream looked like they might offer me a lift.  "Is there a beach near here?" he asks.  I tell them about Frensham pond.  "That's probably what we're thinking of!" and they speed off, with an outlandish wave.  Or was it a middle finger?  I later heard it might actually have a beach too!

Oh well, I'd avoided the peak of the extreme heat, and was totally sober again, by the time the next two hourly bus arrived and dropped me at a place called Lower Bourne which afforded a semi-rural walk to pub two.  It was beautifully situated on a stream, perhaps by a cricket pitch also because of the name, it seemed a bit too far off to be classed as 'Boundstone' but the GBG never lies ......

In a bit of a 360 degree shift from most of my pub experiences this week, Bat & Ball, Boundstone (1795 / 3012) was a pub that a few Surreyians I'd bumped into had told me good things about, but just left me totally flat.  The tone was set by the young guy who 'greeted' me, though it was more a snarl, when I explained I was just here for a drink and hadn't booked.  No other pub this week seemed to take the hump with me quite so much.  He put me outside near a couple of blokes where the leafiness provided a canopy above this trellising.  The two young ladies walking around were similarly sullen, and if there's one key theme I'd been impressed with all week in every pub had been the quality of staff. £3.95 for a pint of Hopback seemed pretty good, but the quality wasn't great.  It just seemed too warm and furry.  I know extreme heat and all, but am not sure that is a good enough excuse, don't pubs have cellars and stuff?  I don't know, you dear reader will have a better opinion on this subject than me.  The men, whose sole conversation topic had been fibreglass insulation (not enough to brighten my mood!) may or may not, have left without paying, as the staff had a bit of a confused conflab on the subject and became a bit animated for the first time!  Was just about to press 'Tweet' on my pub checking slagging the place off, when it all changed.  When I asked for the 'bill' early (of course it was a 'pay at the end' type of place), I ended up having a really nice chat with one of the barmaid's about people 'accidentally' running off without paying - mentioning no names of course Messrs Fibreglass.  Then, working theory, she went inside and told the other two "this guy is less of a dick than he looks" cos immediately, the other barmaid comes out, smiles sweetly, and asks if I can be tempted with another drink.  Then the previously rude bloke, comes out two mins later, smiles just as sweetly, asks if everything was okay for me!  Incredible turnaround, I was touched, proof you should never tweet until you've had the full pub experience!  But why couldn't it have started like this? 

I managed to fathom out the stream crossing which suddenly made my third pub incredibly easy to walk to, even if it was on a hill.  

In fact, I'd go as far as to say it was the only easy, convenient thing that happened all day!  No rush getting here either, because depending on who you spoke to, which internet source you referred to, it was very open to debate whether the pub was opening 4pm or 5pm.

I arrived about 5pm, and was delighted to see the door nicely open and it sounded in full swing ........

A capitalised letter in the middle of a pub name is always a bit of a red flag, but most sources say it is Sandrock, Wrecclessham (1796 / 3013) so we'll just assume the front of the pub isn't quite right.  That wouldn't be the only thing that 'wasn't quite right' about this pub.  Again, a few people I'd spoken to this week had positive things to say from it, but I wasn't exactly won over by it.  The young barman smirked at me like a school bully about to nick my lunch money, and was having far too much 'bantz' with the hidden locals out to the right to be remotely interested in serving me.  The beer again was Hopback, and again was far warmer than you'd like.  A theme was developing here.  The interior was extremely drab, grey, stark and uncaring, heard the place sort of doubles as a Thai restaurant - about the only people who smiled were Thai staff in kitchens towards the back.  All that remained was to join a rugged bunch of locals smoking in the outdoor area, so much so, I'd basically become part of the circle, NOT that anyone made eye contact, never mind smiling.  Don't think they were unfriendly, just very 'locally local'.  There was an army of them, and when a lady with a pushchair turned up, everyone cooed , and then they did the same when a pregnant lady appeared.  Those two showed some signs of smileyness.  Heartening.  When one of them said "twenty, and one on the way!" it was hard to know whether they meant babies, beers or just people in their group.  A bit like Churt earlier, and pubs I'd go to later this night, the locals were noticeably more 'rumbustious' this side of Guildford.  A condition some suggested to me is evidence of 'The Aldershot Effect''.  And as much as I was enjoying this more 'stripped bare' face of Surrey, the SandRock wasn't a pub I was sad to see the back of.

Time was ticking on, and getting the full six quota was surely odds against.  But it is funny how things can turn around when you least expect.  Join me for a quite amazing Part 14 tomorrow evening.



  1. You're right, The Crossways is a classic pub, it seems the beer range has shifted in my favour from the last time I was there 3 or 4 years ago.

    1. I didn't get mentioned at all in the 'build up' so a great surprise to find yet another hidden classic, and what smashing folk too. Shame about the bus!

  2. I think you were a little unlucky in Churt with the omnibus. It was indeed the same bus that came back from Haslemere, however it gained time. Having dropped you off 26 minutes late in Churt, it left Haslemere 21 down and back in Churt only 15 minutes late. It seems to have lost a lot of time in Farnham in both directions, not sure if there are some form of engineering works going on or if it is just a car infested rathole like Carshalton. Worth noting in the timetable it had a total of 11 minutes dwell time in Haslemere.

    1. That is quality research Tom. Yes, Farnham was a terrible car infested rathole (great description) and traffic was almost at a stand still by the junction where it turns up towards the station.

      I'd actually planned to get back to the Churt stop a bit earlier, but locals kept me chatting, so who knows, I may well have just seen it if I'd have been at the stop at the time I'd originally been aiming for. I'm still amazed it caught up so much time by the time it came back through Churt though!

  3. "Friday was scorchio, peaking at 33 degrees,"

    I have a friend who lives in Georgia (USA). 35C is pretty much par for the course at this time of year (but I understand where you're coming from)

    "And then the posh blokes hat flew off in the only gust of wind all day and I had to run after it!"

    Yup. That's kinda like me with people in front of me at the grocery lineup. :)

    "The bus was packed to the coviddy gills"

    So... everyone two metres apart then? ;)

    "People float in it due to the high quantity of salty substances, probably."

    You're thinking of the Dead Sea mate.

    " Little did I know what a struggle getting back on one would be! "

    Wait till you're 70.

    "providing you can cope with a bit of bad language from the friendly, boisterous regulars"

    That let's me out then. :)

    "in a week of fabulous landlady's,"

    Unless your following that with something like 'hooters', you don't need the apostrophe. ;)

    "I could go over the road to the shop and eat my own food in the pub if I so desired"

    (and love the use of 'if I so desired') :)

    "It was hard to know how much to blame myself for the 100 minute wait I then had in the bus shelter"

    Don't they have bus route apps over there?

    " and a secluded bramble hedge behind for a pee "

    Shades of your 'a few bushes and shrubs' comment in the previous post. :)

    "A couple in a convertible eating ice cream "

    I'm picturing a Stephen King car with a grill for a mouth. :)

    "and was totally sober again,"


    "perhaps by a cricket pitch also because of the name"

    My dear old grandad used to live near a Bat and Ball; sadly it was his railway station.

    "you dear reader will have a better opinion on this subject than me"

    Except those, like me, from across the pond.

    "about people 'accidentally' running off without paying"

    We never pay in advance over here and doing a 'drink and dash' is extremely rare!

    "this guy is less of a dick than he looks"

    You misspelled 'has' as 'is'.
    (and that's a compliment! - obviously they thought you were well hung by your looks) :)

    "Again, a few people I'd spoken to this week had positive things to say from it, but I wasn't exactly won over by it."

    I call that the 'great expectations' effect.

    "When one of them said "twenty, and one on the way!" it was hard to know whether they meant babies, beers or just people in their group. "


    "Join me for a quite amazing Part 14 tomorrow evening."

    I won't be able to sleep tonight. :)


    1. Haha cheers Russ, BRAPA freebie for those who can prove at a later date that they have read all 17 parts plus the bonus features which I don't want to have to write but I will!

  4. " Don't pubs have cellars and stuff ? "

    Don't go all beer bore on us Si. Don't they just pour it from cans ?

    1. Hahahah really hoped a beer bore would reply but I don't suppose my blogs hit the right buttons for them. Once in a pub between York n Hull called Drovers, a landlord pretend to be pulling me a pint of Guinness but actually coughed over the pulling of the ring pull. Classic moment.

  5. Gutted that you failed to mention that one of the fibreglass insulation experts in the Bat & Ball, who may have or may not have paid, was a Guillem Balagué lookalike.
    Thanks to Tom for the expert bus timetable analysis in the comments, I hope it's given you some closure on making a bad decision with your timings. Move on...

    1. Oh yes Damian, gutted I forgot but it made me snort warm Crop Circle at the time when I read your comment on twitter.

      Amazing insight from Tom, great to get that closure and be able to move on and learn that buses can 'catch up' against the odds.

  6. Oh look at that wonderful floor in The Crossways! Worthy of mid-Wales.

    1. I've only been to a handful of mid-Wales pubs but I know what you mean, exactly the kind of thing I'd hope to expect. A cold floor as well, was tempted just to lie on it as the temperature rose.