The day of judgement was finally upon us. The last day of my Cornish holiday and with only TWO pubs needed, it looked a doddle, on paper at least.
South Petherwin (just south of Launceston) and Chilsworthy (high up in the Tamar Valley) are pretty close together as the crow flies. But sadly, I don't have wings.
Being a Sunday didn't help. As we know, buses are more sparse on a Sunday, even if pub opening hours tend to be more generous than during the week.
After an hour of doing this over breakfast ......
.... I finally cracked it. The trusty bus 12 to Launceston. Walk to South Petherwin from Launceston Hospital (why hadn't I realised it was this walkable earlier?), bus back as far as St Budeaux which allows me 24 minutes to locate the local railway station, and pick up the Tamar Valley train to Gunnislake which was then a short(ish) uphill walk to Chilsworthy. Then back to Plymouth for tea time. Simples! (As we said in the olden days).
WHAT COULD POSSIBLY GO WRONG?
The first bit went swimmingly, bus 12 arrived on time at Launceston hospital and it was a gentle stroll along a narrow country lane. I only saw one vehicle during the entire 42 minute walk, and that was an elderly tractor driver with the face of Steve Lynex.
I was in such good time for 12 noon opening, I could even showboat with scary selfies.....
I could even afford to sit on a log, drink some water, and congratulate good ole' Retired Martin on FINALLY getting his Whitsbury tick. These tardy Hampshire completists eh? Tsk.
Still well before noon, I went to explore the handsome village church .....
Villagers were out with their pitchforks. 'Oh not again!' I thought, but realised they were actually rakes, spades and other garden implements. They were tidying up the churchyard. A couple looked at me expectantly, indicating I could join in, and I hope it wasn't blasphemy that I internally screamed 'god, jesus fucking christ, no way in hell, kiss my devilish arse' and took sanctuary in the church where Colin prayed that public transport would be kind to us .....
After ten more minutes loitering in the local bus shelter, it was 11:57am, time to 'give the pub a bit of encouragement' to use a Daddy BRAPA phrase.
Built in 1989 in the face of local opposition, it is tucked away down a country lane opposite a couple of farms cos everyone is ashamed of it.
The sickly froggie green building looked unpromising as I stepped up, but a door sprung open, and I was first inside Frog & Bucket, South Petherwin (2279 / 3842) and immediately fell in love with the place. The mouth-watering food smells mixed in with a warm traditional pub atmosphere. 1989? You'd never have guessed it. The carpet was tartan, the walls were a brilliant deep yellow. Totally going against the bollocks modern trend of ocean blues and grey, this place was a tonic flying in the face on convention. I approve of boldness, verging on gaudy or not. Vintage Beano and Dandy annuals line the wall near me, and the jolly guv'nor only bloody has Helston Blue Anchor Spingo Special on! Hook it to my veins. Not literally. Only time I'd had this before was in the famous Blue Anchor itself and it killed me. 6.6%? Pretty sure that is an underestimation. I'd feel the same here by the time I left. A local dog called Ringo (not Spingo) seems very at home here, and no wonder. "Your green highlighter has dropped on the floor sir" says a passing kitchen man, almost with a yawn, as though people are constantly coming into this pub and dropping green highlighter pens. I return my glass to the bar, I'm somewhat wobbly, 6.6% my arse! I take the locals to task on this, they won't be drawn but I'm sure they know the truth. 'Staying for another?' asks a fishwife. 'Not at that strength, it'd take me double the time to walk back to Launceston with all the swaying' I tell them and stagger out.
|Who am I gonna disturb, the local pig farmer? Not a residential property in sight!|
'One to go' I'm saying to myself as I stride back towards Launceston, that had been a cracking experience and I could afford to smile, but not quite relax. Not yet.
Half way down the narrow lane, I checked the bus was running to time. It was. I was going to be majorly early but never mind, I could loiter somewhere rural and have a wee. I then decided to check the train was running to time too .....
Absolute hatred for the Tamar Valley line. It let me down a week ago, and let me down again today. Sunday you'd think would be a reliable day. No strike on. And the kinda day where cute little families do things like explore cute little places like the Tamar Valley.
What to do now? Catch the number 12 and try and get to Chilsworthy some unknown way, or walk into Launceston centre, where I knew of SIX (mainly useless - see earlier blog) taxi firms and where the taxi rank was located.
I chose the latter, down a steep hill I skidded, into the centre of town, and to my absolute joy, a taxi was at the rank waiting! I bound towards it like a baby gazelle who'd been lost and found its Mum .....
"Sorry mate, am off to pick someone up in errrrm *glances at watch without looking at it* some time later this afternoon *yawns and takes big bite out of baguette and pulls arse back into baggy trousers*. Thing is mate, you'll struggle to get a taxi in Launceston on a Sunday, not many of us work" he concludes.
Oh I see, so you can't get a taxi in Launceston on a weekday because they are all doing the school run ALL DAY, and you can't one on a Sunday COS NO ONE WORKS, so I wonder what the Saturday excuse is? Launceston F.C. pre-season friendly at home to Frog & Bucket North End blocking the roads? I HATE THIS TOWN!
To be fair to him, on seeing my visible despair, he offers me a couple of taxi numbers he knows are working. I know them well, have them on speed dial from Altarnun day.
Dan's Taxis are up first cos I like the man, but I just get the familiar northern tones "ey up, Dan 'ere, if you're getting this message, I'm currently out of range but leave thee a message and ah'll get mi whippet to ring ya back".
Instead, I try Launceston Taxis with their wildly fluctuating but always horrid pick up times ranging from 3-6 hours! At least I get through. "I can't give you anything til 15:30" comes a muffled voice. Ugh, that's ages away but I reluctantly agree, I've little choice.
I tell taxi-rank man. He patently gives zero shits but acts pleased for me, and helps me select a 'pre-emptive' on Whatpub while I'm waiting. Audience participation.
It is a bloody long downhill walk off centre, AND a bridge is closed so I have to walk the scenic route .....
White Horse Inn, Launceston is quite miserable and doesn't have a hope in hell of making the GBG in its current form whilst the Bell and Frog & Bucket are performing at even 25% effectiveness. It is a bland, spartan dining house with a carvery at the far end and not a great deal of custom. Nevertheless, the youthful staff are labouring under the weight of their few awkward customers, one woman complains her coffee isn't what she asked for, another staff member is wandering in circles wondering who ordered the hot chocolate. I'm stood there for AGES waiting for a pint of the only ale on, St Austell Tribute. It is quite a nice moment then when the lad who serves me says "you've been stood here so long, I'd better make this the best pint of Tribute you've ever had!" especially as he'd borne the brunt of criticism from a bossy waitress. And besides, time was on my side, so observing this weirdly chaotic scene was of some entertainment. I take my pint to the outdoor area, as the pub offers nothing within. It is a surprisingly good quality Tribute. I consider another but I'm on a busy road corner, so even outside, I don't feel at ease with the place.
I retrace my steps back up the hill. Plenty of time for a second pre-emptive and I saw a pub very close to the taxi rank which surely can't be any worse than this?
I hesitate, wondering where to turn when a man pops up and says "you look lost!" within one second. He points me the right way into the centre. Just then, my phone rings. Unknown mobile. Taxi maybe? I answer.
It isn't a great line but it IS the taxi company. The driver is at the rank and if I'm nearby, he's ready for me now! Perfect, still only 14:50, 40 mins earlier than expected, this means I MAY be able to do the pub and get an earlier train back to Plymouth.
I sprint to the taxi -rank. He's chewing the fat with our old mate, who STILL hasn't gone anywhere or done anything apart from finishing his giant baguette, but is helping my taxi driver with the route as he's new to the country, doesn't speak much English and doesn't know the roads! Bloody 'ell. I give them the pub postcode to help, jump in the back and pray. "This could be fun" he tells me in broken English. 'Fun' isn't the word I'd have chosen but okay mate.
I'm tracking the route on my phone, nervous as a kitten. At least the dulcet tones of Kylie, Jason and 80's Madonna are sort of soothing. If Stefan Dennis 'Don't it Make You Feel Good' comes on, and I may have to take issue with it. The news comes on and when we get to the Russia-Ukraine bit, he turns the volume up to deafening levels.
The roads become narrow and impossible, but he's done it perfectly and we are here. Final pub, come on, what a moment!
I'd heard quite a lot about this place over the course of the past week. One of the most recent Cornish CAMRA pubs of the year, the White Hart, Chilsworthy (2280 / 3843) apparently featured on TV as chef Tom Kerridge came here and did 'stuff'. Part of that stuff, according to one pub landlord I spoke to, was to knock through a listed 16th century internal wall 'because he's famous and he could!' to 'open the place up a bit!' True or not, I was interested to see how much I'd enjoy this place. Short answer, I thought it was a little bit shit. It seemed to rely heavily on its majestic Tamar views, a huge modern patio conservatory dominates a huge portion of the pub and lets too much light in. The low bar counter is lined with locals, not unfriendly, but a bit insular. The ale, Devon Dreamer is poor quality, and by the end I've got the same stomach cramps I had off a bottle of the same brewery's stuff a few Christmases ago. Maybe Hunters just doesn't agree with me. The lower area seems most promising, where a friendly chap is glancing up at motorsports. He greets me warmly and apologises for the flies. Tonnes of the little blighters! That does it, I'm off outside. Beautiful in the sun, and a blissful location if it wasn't for a few posers on motorbikes rocking up like the world owes them a living. But let's not be sad, time for the inaugural greening of mainland Cornwall. Woohoo!
I underestimate the length of the walk to Gunnislake station, have to stride it out a bit, but I'm just relieved the train is running to time.
Back in Plymouth for the BRAP-After Party! And there's only one destination on my mind, the first Plymouth pub I truly loved, and the only one I've been to on each of my five visits down the years. The Fortescue hasn't changed much since 2002, perhaps not the prettiest, but still full of bonkers locals, those solid wooden, reliable furnishing and a tonne of well kept ales I'd not seen anywhere else this holiday apart from Spingo Special which of course, I had to have again, ooops.
I'm going away (AGAIN! but not much Brapping this time) , barely unpacked my Cumbrian bag, so my next blog on Wheelton, Darwen & Bromley Cross will be in about a weeks time.
Good night, Si