Finally the slice of luck I needed after my earlier London woes.
Emerging from the bowels of the station, patiently walking patiently behind a gang of young ladies, tottering on their gravity defying heels destined for the bright lights of Saturday night Chelmsford , I knew my bus was due. I can see it about to depart, and dive headfirst for the door. He manages not to trap my head, and off we go, to the edge of town for my first of two final ticks in this fine pub city.
Up first, the Endeavor, Chelmsford (1813 / 3242) and it is immediately apparent that this is the perfect tonic to the overly happy, twee, glitzy glam of central London. A proper backstreet boozer, even if it is on the main road. The beer range is as Essexy as possible, like a 'greatest hits' of most commonly seen beers in the area. We've got a bit of Mighty Oak, we've got a bit of Maldons, a cheeky Wibblers for the micro-curious, and some Adnams for any Suffolk scum that has interloped. I've read the room and can immediately see that unthinkingly flashing your plastic payment could have the assembled crowd going "what a wanker", so I ask if cash is preferable. "Cash we'd like!" shouts the elder local, doing a passable southern Tony Green off Bullseye. This is a deliciously miserable pub. If the guv'nor ain't moaning about the lack of trade, he and the locals are moaning about Spurs and whether Kane will stay, the team it seems everyone supports in Essex pabs. Despite my proximity to bar and punters, I never feel any more than an outsider, which of course I am, involving myself in that chat feels impossible, without me going to far as to call it 'unfriendly'. Good stuff all the same. I'd recommend.
Situated half way back towards the station, making the walk back very easy, is my final Chelmsford tick.
In stark contrast to the Endeavour, the Oddfellows Arms Smokehouse, Chelmsford (1814 / 3243) fails to sparkle. I'd go as far as to put it firmly in the 'utter shite' category, but I feel a bit bad for the staff who were friendly throughout. Weird font, weird outdoor tents and a near empty interior on a Saturday evening are early 'red flags' as #WokeSi2021 might say. I'm almost within touching distance of a screened bar in an empty pub, yet I'm still told to download and order through an App, despite three staff members hovering doing Sweet Fanny Adams. After much screen prodding and brow furrowing and theatrical sighing, I get an ale ordered (if anyone knows what a 'tube of ale' is, please let me know!) I glance up, and within seconds, I see the staff pulling my pint. Farcical. Loud dance music ruins any atmosphere further, I move tables to watch a distant bit of Euro 2020 (Italy making heavy weather of Austria, can't see them amounting to much!), and the place smells of BBQ. My Chelmsford Bew (sic) Blue Shack is decent, but all I can really feel satisfied about is finally completing all required Chelmsford GBG pubs! Seems years ago since I stepped into the Ivory Peg to start my quest (was actually 13th April 2019).
|"And BRAPA's done it .... in the larst minute of extra time"|
|6 pint tuuuuuuube (like a yard of ale perhaps?)|
I stride out for the station knowing the sun is setting, the clock is ticking, and I still need a late one - seems those London problems earlier had really eaten into my day.
I make good progress, and have time to pop into Tesco so I'm nicely sustained for post pub snacks, not to mention an early breakfast before my fellow ticker Eddie is upon me (ooo err) in the morning.
The train back towards my Colchester lodgings stops at Witham (pronounced Wit-ham cos the residents all have a great sense of humour and love the taste of cooked pigs. A BRAPA fact ladies & gentlemen).
Of course, they decided to build the station 15 mins from town, so I have to stride down where the not so teeming nightlife is congregated. Having said that, there is a queue (of two) outside my required pub, a Wetherspoons.
|Queuing with the lads|
Mr Whitey Nike Shoes is whining cos he can see loads of tables available, but the bouncer is doing a 'sweep of the premises' before he lets anyone else in. I sympathise with Mr WNS, it does seem a bit excessive. Worse is to follow, bouncer (not the dog from Neighbours) tells me that whilst I'm allowed to bring my Tesco bag in, I'm not allowed to eat or drink any of the contents! Well, I had no intention. Until now. Jobsworth. Jeez, welcome to life at Battesford Court, Witham (1815 / 3244) which is a beautiful old building, you can feel the history, touch the old warped beams, and you can't say that of every 'Spoons. The floor is wonky too, combined with the carpet and my five pint feel, I feel like I'm in my own magic eye puzzle. I have no qualms using the 'Spoons App as it is the only decent one out there, but bloody 'ell the staff are slow A.F. bringing me my pint. I use Colin as a shield, as Mr Bouncer is prowling the premises, I pick my moment, and pop a Tunnocks Teacake in my gob. BRAPA win. Everyone is either a single old bloke sat alone, or a group of six young people going "down it, down it!" Multiple dartboards feature strongly. I see a train isn't too far off, so I down my nicely kept Ghost Ship, great mouthfeel with the Tunnocks and with soft fluffy mallow like that, who needs a sparkler?
|Baronial return from classically 'far away' Spoons bogs|
|G'wan Col, cover for me, I've got this!|
|Darts through a perspex screen anyone?|
Next morning dawns with a sense of trepidation on my part. I'm meeting fellow pub ticker Eddie F and this is a day that I am organising. He's just WhatsApp'd me to say "I'm leaving it all in your capable hands and have looked at nothing!" so I'm bricking it in case I mess up!
Not many buses being a Sunday in the obscure areas I want to take us to, and when I ring Colchester's premier taxi company according to Google, their voicemail tells me they don't work Sundays. Hahahahaha.
I ring 3 more before I finally get a miserable sounding bloke to come out.
I meet Eddie outside the Premier Inn, and soon we hop in the cab, merrily discussing all manner of pub tickery things, whilst the lank haired misery man plods solemnly on. Shame, as I have to ask him if he'll hang around for 27.5 mins, and then take us onto a second pub. To our shock and pleasure, he says yes, he'll wait in the car park.
In the time honoured Covid pub era, our hearts flutter in panic as we circle the perimeter of the Cross Inn, Great Bromley (1816 / 3245), hoping, praying, that this very shut looking pub has an open door. With hours of 12-3 Sunday and 6:30-10 Fri (plus a 10am-12 Wednesday slot for tea room / village affairs), this community owned survivor is a hard one to get done. Really felt like now or never. Thankfully, we find an obscure door around the other side, and the presence of two strangers visibly shakes the elderly couple at the helm, not to mention every single local who later enters, fully expecting to see a friendly face, but sees two notherners and a cauliflower smiling back at them. The ale is in immaculate condition, something Eddie makes a point of telling Mrs Cross as we leave. The pub is basic, nice, but feels perhaps a bit too much like an airy village hall than a lived in boozer, only thing stopping it from being a pub of the day contender.
Our taxi driver is where we left him, to my relief, so onwards to another community owned 'Great' , this one nearer Harwich.
When we arrive, I ask our driver if we can make one final demand on him, hang around again, and take us to pub three. Realising we are a decent cash cow, he suddenly starts to become a bit more talkative, even asking where we are from etc. And more importantly, he agrees to stay put one final time.
Now we were really in business as we step inside the Maybush Inn, Great Oakley (1817 / 3246) , greeted by a cheerful guv'nor, the pub teeming with laughing locals, one old boy has dressed in his suit which always makes me think 'classic pub', particularly on a Sunday. Again, the hours are restricted to weekday evenings and Sunday daytime, the location isn't ideal, so a great tick to get done. The fact these pubs are all regular GBG entries makes them feel even worthier ticks. Watch them all get replaced by Micros in 2022 now I've said that! As I locate the loo around the other side, I spy a little book exchange library, a pool table and dartboard. Yes, what was slightly lacking in Great Bromley, we found here in Oakley, Proper boozer!
|The Mole Trap was drinking well|
So it was time for the final hurrah for our taxi friend, I coughed up my remaining fortune, and after a bit of trouble locating the pub, he sped off into the distance, with me now confident that with Weeley railway station not far away, we were back on the road to civilisation (watch this space....)
|Farewell ole' friend, it has been a blast|
A pub seemingly in the same ilk as the previous two, White Hart, Weeley Heath (1818 / 3247) , the reception we received from the veteran guv'nor was lukewarm, and the beer less enjoyable than previous pints (Youngs Original in a Greene King glass), though I cannot recall whether it was lukewarm or not. The GBG tells me mine host(s) has been here over 23 years, so guess he knows pub tickers when he sees them. He did warm to us though once he realised we weren't here to share a half between us and fuck off after 2 minutes, and we had the added advantage of sitting at the far end where all the interesting pub paraphernalia had been shoehorned into one corner. Drama followed, as Eddie notices no trains run from Weeley on a Sunday, what the actual eff?! 'Any buses?', I ask more in desperation than hope. And talk about lucky, he reveals the 2 hourly bus is perfectly timed to allow us to finish our pints leisurely and walk to the nearby stop, back to Colchester. Not often luck shines on you like this, we both agree. And as it transpired, if trains HAD been running, we'd have got off at Wivenhoe, only to find the foot ferry to Rowhedge not running anyway, as I'd discover in a few days time. And Eddie had done the two Wivenhoe pubs so it'd have been a total washout. Doesn't bear thinking about does it? Time to saunter for the bus.
|Easily nicest bit of pub|
|Eddie about to discover an awful truth|
And I will tell you about the other three Sunday pubs, plus the first three Monday ones in another epic tomorrow. Sorry for such long blogs at present, but I'll never catch up otherwise!
Thanks for reading / skimming / looking at the photos, Si