Monday 31 May 2021


Unless somebody knocks on my door between now and about 10pm and says "fancy letting me drive you out to that obscure GBG pub you've been wanting to do?" I think I can safely declare on 55 (FIFTY FIVE) new GBG pubs for the month of May.

My liver is crying, I'm sunburnt to a crisp, and actually relishing 4-5 days off the booze completely, that ain't normal right?   Oh, and my cauliflower is in the washing machine on a gentle cycle.  Too many grimy southern pub tables and benches has left Col a bit dishevelled. 

Col's last hurrah, yesterday in Writtle

55 is my third highest ever monthly tally, we have to go all the way back to September 2018's record breaking 59 to find the last time I did more.  

Considering I'd only done 4 of these by 15th May, 51 pubs in 15 days is possibly the most intense pub ticking period ever.  Pint in each,, two in a couple of cases, 25 minutes minimum remember, there's been no half measures!  

The BRAPA Highlight of the Month (as sponsored by Stabilo but not really) has to be the highlighting of Surrey after being frustrated in 2020:

My 'uprising' through Essex continues apace after a glorious weekend down Chelmsford way (even though I still have two Chelmsford pubs I missed out on!)  Also, the Essex GBG 'churn' is notoriously low so tackling this county feels especially valuable.

I made a little bit more progress around the south west of London, and Hampshire got a nice boost as well when I had a 'treat' day spending a fortune on taxis to ferry me around those rural bits to the east.

South Yorkshire is the county I've been looking at oop north, but I'm not really in any rush with it, but I'd LOVE to get back up to County Durham (only 8 left but very spread out) and crack it once and for all as I was getting so close before the last lockdown!  Easy to get carried away now I've got the ticking bug back.

So many blogs to catch up on, which I can do this week whilst sipping a fruity tea with aftersun on my nose and cucumber slices on my eyes.  I won't take a photo unless you demand it.

Indoor pub reopening on the 17th was SUCH a relief, but as the weather finally picked up, with the current rules in place, some pubs (I'm looking at you Maldon area!) were actually more pleasant outdoors than in.   Which shocked me.  Roll on 21st June or whenever things can be relaxed a little bit more.   The best pubs though, you'd barely notice the restrictions once you are sat down with pint.

How to pick a top 3 from 55?  Impossible.  I'll try and choose 5 though, in no particular order:

1. Cricketers, Dorking
2. Prince of Wales, Stow Maries
3. Admiral Hawke, Sunbury (for best pub atmosphere)
4. Hawkley Inn, Hawkley (for best kept beer)
5. Black Dog, Brentford

I'm sure pubs like the Bricklayers in Hersham and the Harrow in Steep would've pushed the top 5 had I been allowed to sit in.  As ever, lots depends on the circumstances you visit in!  Woolpack in Chelmsford for example, had I been as pissed as everyone else and not stone cold sober, it could've been an utter classic.  

Woolpack, Chelmsford

So what will June bring?  Well, quite a steady first 25 days with only minimal ticks cracking off!   Daddy BRAPA makes his long awaited return, he's been in storage for too long but is now like a caged tiger, ready to pounce.  We have a BRAPA debutant on 12th to excite all you Twitter followers.    

Daddy BRAPA, ready to get back in the pub!

The month will finish with a flourish at least, as I'm on holiday that last week so expect to see a spate of intense activity in that south eastern corner.  Imagine if I cracked Durham and Essex before the 2022 GBG hits in whatever month it is hitting my doormat this year.  You never know.

If so, say a prayer for all the Gloucestershironians (or whatever they are called) as that might become my new pet project by the end of the year, not that I'm ruling out a return to Cumbria, Cornwall, Devon or Dorset,  They're just, you know, difficult!  

Anyway, I'm getting carried away again, but it is great to be back.  Happy pubbing and bye for now,


Thursday 27 May 2021


Caterham's King & Queen had been lovely, but there was little time to linger, even with a belly full of ESB.  I waddled towards the station and after a bit of jiggery pokery at the Purley gates, I soon found myself in that most 'doesn't feel Surrey at all' Redhill, or to be exact, the leafier area of 'feels a bit more Surrey' Earlswood.  

The nearby church clock bonged 5pm, the time that my next pub was due to open indoors for the first time in 2021.  

This pub had only very recently confirmed their reopening hours, so my nerves were a-jangling as I got closer.  The front door seemed to reassure me.

But as I waggled the latch, nothing budged.  I walked around the back, no sign of anything doing.  I walked back around the front, and a man 'released' the door.  Seems there was a bell I had to press, but I'd missed the sign on the blackboard.  

Phew!  Welcome to Plough, Redhill (1748 / 3177).  Mr Plough (not Homer Simpson) was incredibly respectful, despite my door stupidity, calling me 'sir' throughout despite the fact I spent most of my time walking around in a confused haze with a cauliflower.  Mrs Plough was also lovely, in a ball of frisson type of way, but I couldn't help but feeling there was a lot of nervous energy about the pair, determined for first day indoor reopening to be a success, everyone following the rules to the letter.  I was soon seated around a corner in a back room with a cracking pint of Shere Drop, one of my 'go to' Surrey real ales.  The pub itself was superbly unsullied and old fashioned.  Toto's Africa played, and I turned to Colin and told him I wouldn't be blessing any rains after what we'd seen this past 24 hours, and Africa is welcome to them.  The atmosphere picked up as a trio of locals rocked up, a jovial bloke and two garrulous ladies who had an air of the readers wives swingers about them.  There was a nice symmetry as my time in this lovely pub ended as it began.  Asked to exit by the garden, I only found a padlocked gate.  Not wanting to appear foolish a second time, I asked a young couple in the outdoor smoking area what I was doing wrong, but they agreed it seemed locked.  I went back in to find Mr or Mrs Plough, but when I told Mr Swinger, he just says "HO HO, HOW MUCH YOU HAD TO DRINK LAD?" and makes his ladies laugh.  But luckily, Mrs Plough appears and confirms I ain't going mad.  Seems a ghost locked me in!  Terrific pub, but hard to get in or out of. 

From Redhill, at least I was on a direct line back towards Guildford.  But wasn't time getting away from me.  It took a while to reach Epsom, home of my final pub tonight, meaning I'd only done 5 instead of the required 6, meaning I'd turn into a pumpkin if I wasn't home for midnight.  BRAPA law.    

The rains had returned, and the short walk was a painful sludge.

Honestly, back in the summer I'd ticked off THREE Epsom pubs and was all like "wahey, cracked it!" but like so many Surrey towns, they threw in a newbie for 2021.  This one was a Wetherspoons.  

As I stepped towards the entrance at Assembly Rooms, Epsom (1749 / 3178), three burly bouncers swarm around me and I'm like 'ey up' and trying to be all northern and 'ard, but they've all got really gentle voices and speak in a cutesie way like "can ya dooooo the scanny wanny on the trackie tracey thingy on the little window til it goes 'ping' on your phoney woney?"  Everyone else had what were either west country or Norfolk accents, had I entered the twilight zone?  Inside, I ran straight for a table, powered up the 'Spoons App, and noticing the beer range was Doom or Abbot (someone tells me this is because they've upset so many local breweries of late!) , I went Doom because I could feel the invisible hands of Martin Taylor on my shoulders.  A weird warming sensation, maybe I'd just weed myself?  How sweet was this Doom Bar?  Doom Salted Caramel perhaps?  Crafty!  Two blokes on the neighbouring table had skinheads and pretended to be tough, but then scarpered quickly, leaving a huge amount of Stella.  What a waste!  There was something lacking about this 'Spoons, and it needed to be pointed out to me.  One of their classic carpets.  Yes, it certainly made the place feel chillier without it.  An old blokes dog kept glaring at Colin from a far, so much so that when I finally went to the loo, I put Colin back in my bag.  Last orders can be a very interesting time of the day to try a 'Spoons, but I still think early morning and mid Sunday afternoons are my favourite Spoonie times. 

It isn't that I didn't try for the sixth pub, but the train really dragged back to Guildford, so my required pub tick there would have to wait for another day.  It was food and bed for me, that mid afternoon ESB really had wiped me out!

We'll end part three with my first pub of Tuesday, which once again dawned with beautiful sunshine providing a 'false dawn' which again would give way to heavy rain.

A nice low-key breakfast box was enjoyed, as I did a bit of double checking on the old planning front, Surrey greening up nicely.

Farnham was this morning's destination, a short train ride to the west, perilously close to Hampshire.

No Farnham pubs had appeared in the 2020 GBG (which surprised many a local I spoke to), but I had been there twice.  Firstly, to catch a bus to Churt.  Secondly, as part of a back breaking walk from Boundstone to Upper Hale.

Just like on both of those occasions, this morning I found the town in gridlock.  "They're cutting the grass on the verge and it is chaos" moaned the young lad opening up my first pub of the day, here it is ......

He tells me this because he isn't ready to open indoors until about 12:30pm, so I'll have to sit on the bench outside the front of the Nelson Arms, Farnham (1750 / 3179) for the time being.  I scan the room and wonder exactly how this olde worlde environment is going to be transformed to 'ready' in half an hour, but you have to play the game in these situations.  At least my Timothy Taylor Landlord in a nice branded tankard is of decent quality for Surrey TTL (not sure it quite 'held' as I went down my pint), and I lean against the pub and watched the frustrated gridlocked traffic queuing to get through town.  An old lady stops to chat, and confirms what I suspected, grass verge cutting or not, Farnham is a troubled traffic town.  By 12:20, the rain has unsurprisingly started up and is now dripping steadily onto Colin's florets and more importantly, the Surrey section of the GBG.  I decide to go in, nothing has changed inside the pub, the bloke is nowhere to be seen, and at the same time, an old local who'd been forced out the back has had the same idea as me.  When the barman returns and clocks me, he says "sorry about that dude", offers me a second pint which I of course decline, and I'm still no wiser as to what the 'setting up' entailed.   Front and back doors are both open unfortunately making it airier and nosier than this pub interior deserved, very Greyfriar Reading (let it go Si, its been 5 years!)

(I'd normally show you the lovely pic of my pint, one of the queuing traffic, and two indoor shots but Blogger is being rubbish and saying "Sorry! An unexpected error occurred while processing your selection.  Please try again later" no matter what I try so you'll just have to imagine them, and we'll just have to hope this is temporary or we'll be off to find a new home!

Anyway, with the rain teeming like an arse (as I wrote at the time), it was hat on, coat zipped right up, thanks and bye to our barman, and cross the road into the still stationary traffic in search of our second Farnham GBG tick.

With news on that, and BRAPA returns to Surbiton and Esher, join me in part 4.  It won't be til next week though as I'm off galivanting around pubs in another weird southern county over the Bank Holiday weekend. 

Til then, good bye, and thanks very much for reading.  Si 

Tuesday 25 May 2021


"Today's the day!" I actually exclaimed out loud, jumping from bed at 7:45am as my alarm went off in Room 426 of Guildford's elite Travelodge.  Colin groaned and rolled over (on the table I mean, we don't share a bed, that'd be weird!)  I wish I was this motivated on work day mornings.  Monday 17th May, pubs were opening indoors again.

After a shower and 'breakfast box', I packed a bag and trotted along the River Wey to the station.  The sun was out too, and surprisingly warm for so early in the day.   Yes, today was going to be a good day.

I decided to head out east for some of my more distant and remote 'ticks' seeing as this was day one and I had the energy.  Every source said they'd open 12 noon, not bad for a Monday, and up first was a place called Broadham Green.

When cross ticking the 2021 Good Beer Guide last October, I thought to myself 'where the bloody 'ell is that?' and the lack of train or bus symbol seemed to suggest 'middle of bloody nowhere', but the truth was it wasn't too bloody bad.

Firstly, a nice quiet train to Clapham Junction ......

And then a smaller train to a place called Hurst Green.  From here, follow the giant schoolboy swinging his P.E. kit moodily behind him, out of town, and down Tanhouse Road over the River Eden.

Accept the apologies of the two old ladies gossiping on the roadside blocking your path ..... and soon the pub appears on the left.  Barely over a mile walk.  

I push the door, and I'm inside a pub properly for the first time since ..... HANG ON!  Not so fast BRAPA!  "Can you just step back into the porch please?" comes the voice of a fraught member of staff.  Ah, an elderly trio have wedged themselves between hand sanitiser station and QR Track & Trace 'reception desk' perilously close to the entrance door.  It was a timely reminder that whilst we might be 'back indoors', we are still far from normality.  'Patience is a virtue, we're getting there, one step at a time' I say to myself, just hoping more customers don't appear behind me wedging me into the porch!  I go again, and soon I am in, Michaela gives me a table, I'm the one non-booked non-diner, pint of 'Hay Today' in hand, able to take my jacket off, demanding to pay NOW and not 'at the end'.  Something that would blight my week.  Haycutter, Broadham Green (1745 / 3174).  Everyone else is posh, over 70, and ordering fish based starters and bottles of white wine.  Someone even pops the champers.  Do I feel out of place?  Not at all.  Brunning & Price pub, you might be surprised to learn from the above picture.  They CAN be alright, as long as they follow the BRAPA B&P Golden Rule - "Go Big or Go Home"  By which I mean, what you want from your B&P pubs are sweeping entrances, an onsite golf course, the wordiest most twee blackboard ever, suits of armour winking at you, stuffed bear, at least four roaring fires, plush rugs, a baronial hall feel, insane Victorian 'humour' on the walls.  This, like the Fox Revived before it, is a scaled back Brunning & Price.  Result - boring with none of the grandeur to save it.  The staff were drowning in their complex online tabling system (see also Fullers), not helped when the rains returned and a silly group who'd booked outdoors had to be brought in, the lady smiling at me sheepishly as if to say "if only I was BRAPA fan, perhaps I'd know how to behave in a pub".  

Action shot as reception lady takes me through to Michaela

The plant is gypsophilia (thanks M.Lawrenson)

A bit low key for a B&P

Bit of classic Victorian weirdness in the gents is a tick on the B&P bingo card

Back out into the persistent drizzle, I'm in my element as I hop, skip and jump back to Hurst Green.  One stop down the line takes me to Oxted.  It is sunny here, and has a weird subway to negotiate to leave the station.  This Myra Hindley / Ian Brady mosaic would be considered tasteless up north.

Across the road, I locate the bus stop required for pub two.  My two fellow passengers both look malnourished.  A kind middle aged dude who asks if I've dropped my facemask and reassures me the bus WILL turn up.  And a purple student girl.  The bloke compliments something about her, to which she says "thank you" but cannot hear what he says!  You don't get this up in York.

He's so relaxed about the bus, he even has time to wonder why the Ginistry hasn't reopened yet

The tiny bus huffs n puffs up the hill to Titsey and beyond.  I press the bell based on Google Maps bus stop, but it is quite evident there is no designated stopping place.  "Where do you wanna be?" says the driver.  "Errrrrm, anywhere here mate!" I shout, when I should've told him to carry on to the car park at the end.  

He brakes suddenly.  Our malnourished duo look at me like I'm mad, the four cars behind forced to brake suddenly all give me the wanker sign when I alight.  Cheers Google Maps!  

This is the highest pub in the South East, and it feels it.  The pub, with attached Titsey Brewery and 'Barn' wedding venue is a short walk from here.

I'm not expecting a great deal from Botley Hill Farmhouse, Titsey (1746 / 3175) but by crikey, not only does it look characterful from the outside, but most of that character is retained on the inside too!  Even a short arse like me has to duck to avoid the beams, it is deliciously dark, rustic bowls of vegetables make Colin feel at home, and the staff have a genuine warmth about them.  Hayley especially, who despite losing the card machine, is back from a 4 year bar management course in Australia, where as we know, all the best TV and bar staff are made.  Oh and the local beer, my Leveson is superb.  And you don't need an 'inquiry' (geddit?) to draw that conclusion.  True, it opens into a series of foodie / coffee sub sections, and like the Haycutter, it is busy first day back indoors, but at the end of the main bar, I feel very much like I'm in a pub environment.  One thing I overlooked, next bus is at 8pm.   Ooops.  I do what I've not done since Sheffield 2016 and book an Uber.  How exciting.  

Only a half covered Focaccia loaf upset me slightly!

Fearing a bad review on Uber, I sit in the carpark and wait on a bench the The Barn hoping no one proposes, or worse still, offers me a slice of that Focaccia.

Our main man, Pawel is soon on the scene.

The silent but effective type (like one of my night time farts) .... this is why I don't do Uber reviews. Pawel drops me back in Oxted and after a spot of lunch, I take the train back up the line to a place called Upper Warlingham for our final pub in part two.

In truth, the pub is in Caterham, just a 5 minute walk around the corner, and with its own separate trainline leading you back into London a different way.

I was delighted to get this tick done in a monkey off my back kinda way, as of all the Surrey pubs featured in the previous GBG edition, this was the only one I didn't attempt.  It looks promising.

Not sure if I walked in through back entrance by mistake, but confusion reigns as I step inside the pub, spy a miserable looking man drinking white wine and carry on through, to a second room, where I can see the back of a bar, but no means of getting to the front of it.  A few jollier looking people are dotted around the perimeter.  I stand in the middle, looking all wide eyed and confused.  Suddenly, a booming voice.  Like the mysterons.  "HELLO THERE, CAN WE HELP YOU?  TAKE A SEAT!" it booms, all disembodied and echoey.  "Hi, I'm just after a pint.  I'll go back into the room I've just come from" I squeak.  "VERY WELL, WE WILL BE WITH YOU SHORTLY" booms the reply.  Wow, welcome to the King & Queen, Caterham (1747 / 3146).  Terrified of what will happen next, I'm relieved when a smiling (behind her mask, it is all in the eyes) barmaid appears.  She rivals Hayley for genuine hospitality.  It occurs to me that the staff are relieved to be back serving indoors too.  "Is it too early for an ESB?" I ask when I'm walked through the beer options.  She laughs, it sounds genuine.  White Wine Misery glares up from his miserable publication.  'Wasn't even funny mate' his look seems to say.  Then he asks for another white wine.  He is far less lovely than me.  The ESB is top quality, really tingles my chest as it goes down.  And I could finally relax and admire just what a beautiful Fullers pub this was, in a week that'd prove generally positive re my Fullers experiences.  Sort of rustic, low key, not overly done in any way, just a very pubby pub, and you can't say fairer than that.

Hoping to get part 3 out tomorrow, I'll try my best anyway, definitely Thursday if not.  Join me for that, when we'll discuss Redhill (Earlswood), Epsom and half of Farnham.

Take care, Si 

Monday 24 May 2021



"Gorrr, you need medical 'elp!" says the only other customer, a jazzy shirted old boy sat with pint under a dripping awning at the back of the Bricklayers Arms, Herhsam (1743 / 3172).  It was a phrase he'd repeat three further times (and I'm not exaggerating) as I explain how I've come to arrive at his local, and my intentions to then walk to the Weir, Walton-on-Thames in THIS weather.   

My first of 36 (THIRTY SIX) (thanks 80's BBC Vidiprinter) pub ticks this coming week, the majority in Surrey but with the odd foray into London and Hampshire.  

Late afternoon on Sunday 16th May, the final day of 'outdoors only pubbing' before we were allowed back inside.  I felt an overwhelming sense of anticipation for tomorrow, but for now, my view was 'any extra pubs I can squeeze in today is a bonus'.

The old boy had a valid point.  My morning train from York to London was cancelled and I had to board a busier one without seat reservation.  Engineering works meant no trains were running to or from Guildford, where I was staying.  A replacement bus service from Woking was required.  The rain lashed down horizontally, occasionally pausing for breath, before starting up again.  I got all the way to Guildford and checked in to my digs first, due to the heaviness of my baggage, had a snack and cuppa, and still damp, walked back out the 20 minutes to Guildford station for a replacement bus back to Woking.  

One seat left on the bus.  At the back.  A fat kid shuffled over to make room for me, eating a dripping choc ice, eying me curiously.  I realised he was the bus drivers son, guarding his Dad's bags and coats.   And then a train to Hersham, and walk to pub.

'Here's what I could've won!' the pub seemed to be saying, as Mrs Bricklayer marched me through the interior to the garden.  Cruel.  Plenty of seats and tables undercover, "but....." her and Mr Jazzy Shirt warn me, "only one specific part of one specific table is properly rainproof!"  They weren't wrong, as another deluge hit, and the canopies flopped.

But the Hopback Crop Circle was drinking reasonably well (not quite Loggerheads Shrewsbury back in 2003, but then, that was indoors).  "I'm disappointed, I assumed you were intelligent" barks the old boy as I admit I've never heard of someone called Gerald Durrell.  He wants to talk about a tiger sanctuary on the Isle of Wight.  I'm not sure why.  He then turns to Mrs Bricklayer and tells her he'd rather have sex with her than me.  No one had asked.  I tell him I'm not too offended.  She humours him, but then both suddenly ask "you gonna be putting all this in your blog?".  "Don't worry, by the end of the week, I'll have forgotten all the details" I lie.  I'm reassuring like that.  After one final comment about how I'm mad, he reveals he is disappointed in my footwear, and the fact I don't have a Gor-Tex jacket.  Ever feel you are just one massive disappointment to some people?!

Walton-on-Thames station isn't too far from Hersham, but Walton-on-Thames itself is a good stretch further north, where last year's snoozefest GBG entries Walton Village and that boring Shepherd Neame thing with no customers are found.

It is just as far again to get to the Weir, down a muddy, flooded Thames towpath, a few glimmering gastropubs are closer, but this one feels 'end of the line', practically walking through woodland at one point, midges biting me, feet aching, slipping, sliding, clothes soaked, I really hope it is worth it.  

There is absolutely nothing going on at The Weir, Walton-on-Thames (1744 / 3173).  This is Black Horse Otley-esque in its distinct absenteeism of any staff member.  I say hi to the only customers, a youngish couple, but they go so far as to turn their heads away from me!  Ruuuude.  I only said hi cos they were staring at me as I circle the outdoor area, following the vague instructions on 'signing in, app ordering', you know the kind of shit that has made 12th April-16th May so bloody unpleasant in the lazier pubs.  I go for a beer called 'Resolute' for it totally reflects my mood (and is the only guest on!)  I refuse to have my spirit broken, however difficult this evening is becoming!  I'm amazed when a barman appears with my ale, even more surprised to find it is really good quality.  The benefits of just having one on?  With the gentle sound of the Thames, a few ducks, and the rude couple departing, I'm just noting "pleasant ghost town feel, but pretty boring".  Careful what you wish for!  Out of nowhere, a group of 'ladddddzzz' bound in, sitting directly behind me so close, the ringleaders back is touching my coat.  "HEINEKEN, HEINEKEN, DO THEY STILL DO HEINEKEN BRUV.  BRUV, BRUV, BRUV?" they chant, one of them going inside to find a real life member of staff!  More fool me.  To my horror, they are working through a tense period in their friendship, someone has cheated on someone, it seems a phone charger left in a bedroom played a significant role in unmasking the drama.  The main lad is determined to sort it out once and for all.  The others are more reticent.  They keep talking about how much 'respect' and 'love' they have for each other, but are all talking across each other.  No one is listening!  I so want to tell them this, but no way I'm turning around.  And the situation continues to fester as the rain gets worse, one of them eventually deciding to talk Pokemon and a lost original Harry Potter edition, before it quickly turns into a 'which Weir barmaids have you slept with?' chat.  That makes it tense again, and they bound off as quickly as they arrived, over a wall into the trees like the most unsavoury Animals of Farthing Wood ever.  Time I left too.

The most maddening thing about all this, my next nearest GBG tick in Sunbury is only 0.5 miles away as the crow flies.  But no bridge anywhere across the Thames, meaning a 3 mile walk around.  Even I have limits as the rain continues to bounce down!  I'll be back.  

The walk back to Walton-on-Thames station is every bit as painful as the walk here, but once back in Woking, I can catch a quieter bus back to Guildford, pick up a bit of food, and reflect I'm two pubs up on where I probably expected to be, all nicely set for a bit of indoor action tomorrow!

Join me for part two tomorrow evening for news on how the Heaventeenth May started off.

Cheers, Si