"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.