Monday 22 November 2021


Saturday 6th November.  My penultimate day of what was becoming one of the more epic BRAPA holidays of recent times.  Mid Hants, I salute you!  

As I force down more Travelodge coffee, cornflakes, a carton of OJ, a pain au chocolat and a flapjack, Col turns to me and says "look chief. we're gonna have to go south if we're gonna keep up our six pub a day progress".  And I turns to Col, and you know what I says?  I says "damn straight Col, I didn't think we'd be having to go beyond Eastleigh, but it is symptomatic of what a successful week we are having".  And he looks me straight in the eye and says "aye, best crack on then Si". 

So we hopped on a bus to take on the last two pubs which really were mid Hants.  Here was the first, just after noon, and I just had to be happy that this remote village had a decent bus service.

Home of the Flower Pots beers which I absolutely love, I was expecting big things from the Flower Pots Inn, Cheriton.  And the ale straight from the barrel was as immaculate as I'd imagined.  The pub itself left me fairly cold though.  A bare boarded, pastel decorated thing, not quite the rustic, ragged old rural retreat I'd mentally conjured up on the bus.  The locals don't quite fit either, men with colourful baggy trousers drinking out of silver tankards, the lady opposite half talking to herself, half scowling at me.  The overall 'village-life' American werewolfy feel, where irresponsible fireworks spook ponies and make them escape from nearby fields into country lanes they shouldn't tread.  I was always teetering on the edge of being included in the conversation, but it was always tantalisingly out of reach, despite the main lady throwing a lot of nods and smiles in my direction as if encouraging me to become a 'Cheriton guest star'.  But locals closed ranks skilfully enough not to appear rude, just as I was about to tell the anecdote of Daddy BRAPA nearly burning down our shed by attaching a Catherine wheel to it.   And the whole pub experience was very that, 'the nearly man' of classic pubs.  More Nicky Banger than Rodney Wallace.

I had been contemplating a very long walk to pub two.  It looked achievable, but my 'Emergency Taxi Fund' tatty envelope still had £40 in, Cheriton sapped my sense of adventure, and this bloke reluctantly agrees to come and get me, and drive me on to pub two.

A nice chap, think an Italian Andy Caddick.  We bond when a local cyclist refuses to pull into a lay-by to let us pass.  "Wot a nob 'ead" I say.  IAC liked that.  "Yes, too many blokes around here with a massive sense of entitlement" he sneers with a big Italian hand gesture like a taxi driver who has been stymied once too often, and not by StymieSi. 

It would prove an interesting prelude to pub two ......

A mass of historic GBG window stickers invariably means you are entering a good pub, and Hampshire Bowman, Dundridge was that, a warmer unspoilt version of the Flower Pots, the uneven stone floor, little wood burner bubbling away, and more great quality Flower Pots ales served straight from the barrel improved my mood no end.  I perch 'twixt bar and fire in the corner, the perfect position.  And yet.  It was so so strange on every other level.  Busy with the Saturday lunchtime crowd, many tables included dogs and children.  But it was so Bjorkesque.  Oh so quiet.  And still.  Without the loud bit, or the attacking reporters at airports bit.  How could all these people be sat so silently eating?  It was the same story in the other room where you went towards the loo.  Okay, I heard one teenage girl ask her Dad a bit loudly "can you pass the sauce?" but she immediately looked guilty and bowed her head.  Combine this with a few strict rules re mobile phones, cash, not touching hot fires, and local village stuff, I felt sort of uncomfortable, disconcerted and a bit confused.  If anyone walked by, they remained totally expressionless.  Pubs this good should not be this serious.  

As remote as Dundridge seemed, it wasn't a long walk at all to Bishop Waltham, which might not have contained a GBG pub, but was the perfect transport interchange.

Google Maps occasionally surprises me, and did so here by leading me down an unmarked path, saving me from going back to the main road.

I had my doubts, but we came out in a nice churchyard full of Autumnal leaves ......

Delighted to find the public conveniences open, I then witness the local butcher encouraging an old man to come and buy something.  He strides off without entering the shop, and seeing the forlorn look on the butcher's face, I go in and buy some pork scratchings for the bus journey.  Some whoppers in that bag!  Contactless only payment though, in a village butchers?  World's gone mad.

The bus journey was insane.  The driver was a right character, and everyone on it followed suit.  A Mum and some kids were 'jokily' told they'd be kicked off if they didn't behave.  Then a young lad dressed as Harry Potter for a late Hallowe'en party gets on which causes much excitement.  Eventually, I am the only customer left and despite being halfway back, driver shouting to me like a jolly taxi driver Cilla Black style "what'ya do chuck, and where d'ya come from?" so I bark back the BRAPA manifesto.

Well, he explains he's an ex-publican.  Suddenly, his gregarious manner make sense.  He drops me in this made-up place I've never heard of called 'Botley' cos there's a GBG tick there.  

Down a narrow side street, through a billion hopbines, and into CrackleRock Tap Room, Botley.  The place absolutely ponged of beery beer.  Oof, and I've been to Cobbett's in Dorking.  Combine this with a gorgeous warm red colour scheme, loungey airless atmosphere, and it stands out as a cut above your average bar of this type, very well conceived, and if you were here for final pint of the day, or even 5th, I could imagine it'd be easy to be swallowed up by the atmosphere, lose your mind, fall asleep, or just lose all discipline and stay for another.  Less impressive was our barmaid, cos I walk in all happy and full of the joys of autumn, and she offers nothing!  Rhiannon from Weyhill needs to get her schooled.  Seems the further south in Hants, I went, the ruder people were getting.  But then I look at Southampton the following day, and that bus ride, and you probably can't generalise.  Sure, you couldn't shut her up when two bald locals asked about her psychology degree at Pompey Uni.  Maybe I was just being deliberately 'psyched out' for a case study?  One bloke near me, waiting for Baldie 1 to bring back his pint, was left pintless for ages as a result!  The ale was good, Crackerjack I had cos the pump clip was green, no other reason.  And that was that.  Apart from singing Fraggle Rock to myself, obviously.

On the walk to Botley station, I passed something that looked so fantastically flimsy, it had pre-emptive future GBG certainty written all over it, but I didn't stop, so expect me to be kicking myself in 12 months time. 

Now, it was time to really embrace my new found South Hants other self, and the train took me to this place I'd never heard of which sounded like Portsmouth and Manchester crossed together.  Terrifying.  The mean streets were quiet, and the pub was a fair trek from the station but with the new filtering through that Hull City had actually won at Barnsley, I was feeling extra happy ......

So I was a bit thrown on entering the Cormorant, Portchester to encounter a 2020-chic "Please Wait to be Seated" reception plinth.  A smiling young lad or lady (I couldn't tell, I don't do genders #WokeSi2021) seats me on a single table right next to the plinth, and asks what beer I want.  I take out my binoculars, last used to observe a Cormorant/Shag on the Norfolk broads (maybe), scan the line up and opt for HSB, or Hampshire Sexy Bitter, if you want to try and make the locals laugh.  But they don't.  They never do.  The table service was totally at odds with the pub I'm glad to say.  A raucous massive one roomer, carpetted to the gills, every generation of person, a real family vibe, but in an 'alive' pub of old kinda way, unlike Dundridge earlier. So unfussy, so much like a pub you'd go to as a child in the 80's with your parents and grandparents for a Sunday roast.  A couple sat awkwardly together on a low leather sofa have a cute dog, and as such, are being hassled by a perky old couple.  "He looks like Muttley!" says the lady who won't leave them alone.  These twentysomethings haven't even heard of Muttley.  Tragic.    They had a dog too.  The man seemed nice, even if he reminded me of Neil Warnock and Roy Hodgson.  Greavesie's ghost drank happily at the bar.  A really great pub experience this, the HSB drank like ESB, though I was told Fullers have 'ruined' the original recipe by someone who knows.  Isn't it always when you least expect it that the pub experiences are that bit more magical.

Time to get back up the line in a Winchesterial direction for the last two pubs.  

Next up Fareham, and I nearly didn't get there cos I was getting confused with Farnham and wondered why I had to change at about five stations!  

Bonfire Night was in the air, more so than official Bonfire Night yesterday.  Fareham's main drag, reminiscent of somewhere off the Tube in South London, was a feast for the senses.  You had all the bangs, snaps, crackles and pops of the fireworks, and acrid smell in the chilly night sky, combined with KFC, curry and kebab shops.  Unique!  

West Street Alehouse, Fareham was packed to the rafters on this Saturday evening, 'deservedly popular' I kept hearing people saying with a nod through their bearded half of murk.  I fought my way through the happy atmosphere, where staff were surprisingly quick to serve me as it seemed about three deep at the bar.  I took my Steam Milk Stout around the corner, in hope of unearthing a peaceful side room or upstairs balcony.  No such luck!  Being wedged between craft can fridge and the toilets wasn't ideal, so I braved the outside, where I asked the two blokes above if I could perch on their rickety bench, the kind that flips your pint up every time someone moves.  Heaton Chapel with a heart.  When they left, I sat where man on right was close to the window, convinced a rocket or red kite was about to land in my stout, such was the screeching from up above.  I'm soon joined by two more lads, chattier duo, excited to see a GBG and wanna know what my game is.  One is wearing a very Clint Eastwood patterned poncho / coat type thing, Fareham fashion? Love it. The other, a coach driver, doesn't get to drink often, so he's enjoying tonight and his top-knot swirls excitedly in the breeze.  I have to dash for my train, but from awkward uncomfy beginnings, quite a winning Micro experience.

One short train ride takes me to Eastleigh for my final pub.  

The two blokes who leave the station just in front of me, well I try and try but I just cannot overtake them.  I even try going over this grassy hillock, but it isn't the shortcut I hope and they still just remain in front.  They've got 'pub goers' written all over them, and predictably, they enter first!  Grrrr. 

There he goes, the bloody bugger!

Would've been rude not to visit Steam Town Brew Co. Eastleigh at some point this week, considering how many of their ales I've sampled.  From the Old Vine in Winchester (my second tick of the week), to the last place in Fareham (28th), I've been enjoying them.  To my delight, neither of the two unovertakerable dudes go to the bar, they both make a b-line for either the second level (people sat on repurposed train seats trying to look comfortable) or the upper third level, where "Happy Birthday Bridget" banners wrap around every surface.  I wandered up later, but a lady (possibly Bridget) looks at me like 'do I know you?' so I retreat.  Then a train seat beard looks at me like "no repurposed train seats available for BRAPA, hard cheese!" so I have to stay at ground level, where I have a brief chat with a lady about random piles of logs not doing anything.  She wants me to watch her fluffy coat.  I figure this pile of logs can at least support my bag and her coat whilst I sup my pale Steam Town beer, and watch the live music act who tries very hard to whip up the crowd as the clock strikes eight.  "Hi I'm Ben from Burlesdon" he says apologetically.  "I can do 400 songs so if you shout one out, there's a good chance I'll know it!" he adds somewhat optimistically.  Worried that Sheb Wooley's 'Purple People Eater', 'Smiling at Strangers on Trains' by Million Dead and 'Eighteen with a Bullet' by Pete Wingfield might not be in his repertoire, I keep schtum and am glad when 'Country Roads' and 'Candle in the Wind' stop me having to make a decision.  It is an amusing way to end another day's ticking.  

Fluffy coat gone AWOL

Back to Winchester, and before you ask, no still no single packets of crisps in Tesco!  

See you all tomorrow for my final day, again we'd have to hit the deep South.  Southampton in fact.



  1. "coffee, cornflakes, a carton of OJ, a pain au chocolat and a flapjack"

    You know how to live, Si.

    NB I've burnt down that Botley place you thought my be a pre-emptive so it won't annoy you next year. (Actually, it'll probably still be voted in as someone will promise to rebuild it).

  2. What is OJ?

    Is there video footage of Daddy BRAPA attempting to arson a garden shed?

    You and Martin are both utter bastards for being let into the town of Botley. They fortified the place when I attempted to go.