Wednesday 11 August 2021


If you were reading yesterday, I left you en route from Hazel End to Birchanger, in an Uber with a very jolly guy called Goran.

The Birchanger pub is actually a club - exciting for the humble pub ticker, you never quite know how they are going to react to your arrival.  During the last 7 years, I've ran the full gamut of club emotions, ranging from trying to chuck me out for being CAMRA scum (Penistone) to 'come and share our barbecue and meet the whole family' (Hungerford).  No wonder I approach the them with mild apprehension.

Defibrillator - good to have on standby for GBG tickers at clubs

An open door is always the first relief.  Buzzers, locks and latches are notoriously tricky, and usually lead you to being laughed at by all and sundry.  Being a 'seasoned pro' by now, I simply stride up to the bar, big cheery smile, and order a pint, just as a local would.  There are no questions, the well kept Hadham Gold is dirt cheap, and the place is rammed with jolly locals.  Birchanger Sports & Social Club (1886 / 3315) , it seems a cracker.  Beer on good form, lovely building, hell, there is even a cricket match going on behind me outside which I somehow fail to notice for the first 20 minutes!  It is clear I'm viewed as an outsider from the off.  My comments on the wonderful looking meat at the meat raffle met with voiceless stares.  Usurped from Table 8 by a bloke and his missus saying "do you mind mate?" when I'd got there first, simply because being more 'known' than me, it is their right to sit at nearer the bar amongst their chums.  Relegated to the back of the room by the stage, eventually a hybrid Ziggy Greaves and Craig Bellamy shouts over to me when he sees my GBG.  As I shout back to reply, explaining BRAPA, he cuts me off mid sentence with "it's okay mate, enjoy your day!"  Sensible fellow!  Cracking place, but reassuringly in keeping with that 'ticker visits club' tradition, a little bit odd!

Yum, much meat!

Two pubs down, two Hadham's down

Going for a wander around the various rooms also got some funny glances

Pink bloke won a prize in the meat raffle, but missed out on his preferred cut of meat 

My eventual position on the outskirts!

Simon D had been delayed, but just as I was contemplating a pee in the bushes by the boundary, hoping a batsman didn't hit a six at the wrong moment, his car pulls up.  Now we could really get the show on the road with two of the most difficult Essex ticks in the Guide, and that is saying something!   

High drama as we are driving through Essex's Newport (said no one ever before in history), as Simon comments " ...on our left, coming up to the White Horse, the GBG pub that is sadly closed for gooooo.... whaaaaat?!"  I see it too, the pub door is open!  What the flippin' flip!  I'd crossed it out of my Good Beer Guide.  Where's the Tip-Ex?   "We need to check that out later on too" says Simon.  "It'll mean seven pints, but I can DO it!" I reply, like when work set me an awful task.

More on Newport later.

For now, we drive to our furthest point north.  Could there be less of a public transport solution?  "You are so northern, you're practically Cambs!" I chant, but only in my head so as not to scare Simon.  I'm not Tom Irvin.  We pass another GBG tick, at Wendens Ambo.  But I strategically decide that is one for another day.  "Good job too" says Simon, who has spotted a man outside on a deckchair shouting at the passing traffic. 

Live footage from Wendens Ambo

A few country lanes and loss of phone signal later, we arrive ......

Don't worry, that's just the village shop, we're not in Sixpenny Handley (obscure tickers joke)

That is better!  14th century thatched fun

The sign telling us they still wanted as to 'wear masks' took me a bit by surprise, but when in Rome ...., or Chrishall in this case.  Red Cow (1887 / 3316) is a very nice pub, not pub of the day material for me, just a teensy bit too pretty and upmarket, but it does have a wonderfully peaceful ambience.  And the beer (although a moody bugger in next pub would disagree) was cracking, I had a Wherry, better than the Wherry I had in the Theydon Oak.  Simon tells me to take a look at the pub sweet shop - no not the thing outside, but hidden around a corner indoors. I eventually pluck up courage, even though it means usurping a yellow bloke called Martin and his Fred Basset hound, which growls angrily when I go over.  Martin has been moaning for ages about being forced to work from home forever, so needs a distraction, as I snap away at the giant Toblerone and the like.  The way they tear along the perforations of the polo box is apparently, another really impressive feat in an impressive pub.  Simon tries to link in the Fred Basset dog with Bertie Basset liquorice allsorts.  It is a valiant attempt.

Onto the other 'impossible without a car' pub tick of the day, back in the direction where we'd come from but still tucked deeply in the Essex countryside despite a bit of a Saffron Waldeny address. 

And speaking of the town I grew up, and in particular the Railway Arms, it was scaffolding that greeted me here too:

A contender for my favourite pub of the day, whilst still sober enough to recall it which always helps, was the Bull, Langley Lower Green (1888 / 3317).  There was just something so beautifully 'worn' yet 'easily basic' about the place, one of a kind, so very hard to think of another pub it reminded me of, maybe a Railway at Upper Killay mixed with a bit of Derby Inn in Burton mixed with a bit of Black Dog, Holmes Green.  Spent hours thinking on this!  It really was unique.  Not meaning to be awful but the atmosphere improved immeasurably when the grumpy local (he who didn't like Red Cow's beer) flicked off, and talking of flicking we were introduced by the glorious landlady to 'Pitch Penny', an old pub game where you flick rusty giant two pence coins from one end of the bar to a hole at the other.  Could have yer eye out, a 21st century health and safety inspector might say!  With a fish tank in the backroom bubbling away hypnotically (always a sign of a good pub), you could really say this is a pub not to be missed.  IF you have a friendly driver, or can twist the arm of a Royston taxi man

Now for the real moment of wonder, as we head back in the direction of civilisation, parking up in Newport (which is easier said than done), time to find out the truth! 

Another absolute jewel in the crown of the Essex pub scene is White Horse, Newport (1889 / 3318) , a poky yet brilliant low roofed beamed delight.  It is sad I forgot to take more photos, but our time was taken up with the fantastic ladies behind the bar, proper loud lairy characters who it was hard not to love with all the effin' and blindin' under the sun.  I'm sure they were like about four generations of the same family, though I think Simon thought perhaps they were more like sisters, I dunno, never been good with ages and the beer was certainly kicking in now.  Col asks for a photo taken, and rumours of him having a prostate examination at the same time cannot be verified.  Thanks Huish Hugh on Twitter for that one.  The truth of the 'closed down' rumours was incredibly simple, it is just a small pub with no outside, and impossible to social distance in, so they'd waited til 19th July.  All of the stuff I'd heard about landlord's leaving and running out of money was pure apple sauce!  A BRAPA future lesson not to cross stuff out of your book unless you actually knocked on the door, and been told to piss off.  And even then, the pub owners might just be readers of this blog.  

Photo of the day

I were proper feelin' it now pals, but two pubs still to do.  First a village that is possible via bus from Saffron Walden, or even a decent stride out from Newport station if you are on form. 

Forgetting to take a photo of the pub frontage at any stage is partly down to my forgetful drunkenness, but partly because we approached through back garden which was spacious and full of tables.

So instead here's a shot from the not-too-private upstairs bog.  I cannot recall whether I'd pulled my trousers back up or not when I took it .....

With Simon D and Eddie F both loving the Fleur de Lys, Widdington (1890 / 3319) I'm a bit disappointed to report that it didn't wow me in quite the same way as the previous two, or next.  Simon loves sampling unique ales, ones he hasn't tried before, and this pub offers the best range in the area for the chance of something rare.  Eddie got chatting with the guv'nor from Blackburn on his visit, and being a fellow northerner, he got bought a pint!  I didn't get any of this, I didn't even see the 400 year old ghost, had I have done, it may've been different.  Am sure my increasing drunkenness swayed me too (you might say literally haha, sorry), and they did at least have a Pitch Penny again, proof West Essex folk love nothing more than tossing into a hole.  Simon, a good pub observer, noted a guy at the bar asking if he could "come to some kind of informal arrangement" with the staff, when trying to set up a tab.  Poetic, sexy or slightly creepy, the jury was out, but my pint of Bill Oddy, my third Hadham ale of the day, was drinking very nicely indeed thank you very much for caring.  Hic!

Pitch penny perfect - and look at that lovely floor

Simon getting served, alongside Dr White Shoes

Mr Informal Arrangement doesn't want to pay just yet

Back in the car, in the direction of Stansted Mountfitchet, where my day had begun all those pints ago.  "Mind over matter Si, you got this!" I was telling myself as I geared myself up for pint 7, knowing I had to drink it with some sort of pace as well if I was to catch the train I wanted back into Londonium.  

Here it was, come on, think clear headed and sober .....

The carpet was obviously the first thing to impress me at the Rose & Crown, Stansted Mountfitchet (1891 / 3320) , providing of course the photo was deliberate.  The second thing I spotted was a padded bar front like a bench seat.  Rare, but I always wonder what that says about the locals?  Do they often sleep standing up at the bar?  In York's Windmill, they installed cos there were so many fights where people were getting pushed into the bar and injured.  After that, they could just bounce off and throw another punch.  Not sure it lasted.  The ale was Wherry or Bishop Nick, the most outer Saffron Walden ale choice ever.  I went Bishop Nick.  Today's classified results read Hadham 3, Ridley 2, Youngs 1, Wherry 1.  The 80's tunes rang out, a barmaid with tight turquoise leather trousers did the rounds, not that I noticed, I was just trying to take decent gulps of ale and stop any of it coming back out of my nose.  Confession - I'm not really an ale drinker, better with red wine.  Simon looked confused .... "This is actually a great pub .... and yet I've never been until now!"  I told him the two things weren't forced to be mutually exclusive, and he said he may well return, which I encouraged by slurring my approval.   It had been a cracking day, Simon great company and the car helped, and we're already planning a future date with Essex not far from being full greened off.

I had to change at Tottenham Hale, which I made a right mess of, for my pickled brain could not comprehend that I was coming in on an OVERGROUND train and needed to get on an UNDERGROUND train, so I went to Moorgate or something insane.

All of which meant there was no time for a Parcel Yard ESB, which was sad at the time, but in the cold light of day, maybe not a bad thing.  I would try again the following week. 

Join me tomorrow, as the quest to get West Yorkshire fully green continues.

Until then, take care, Si 

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