Monday 5 September 2022


Halstead seemed a fitting place to continue my recent ticking foray into Kent and South East London. 

After all, it was a man called Halstead who made my York-London journey possible, courtesy of a Grand Central 'friends and family' ticket.  Despite it stating 'standard class only', a kind lady dragged me into First Class and plied me with shortbread and coffee.  I might not get a knighthood for services to pubs, but coffee and shortbread ain't a bad runner up prize.

Your quintessential Kentish village pub, dappled in sunlight, draped in ivy, soon came into view shortly after noon. I'd walked from Knockholt station.  It was half peaceful woodland dirt-track, half pavementless road.  A bloke inconveniently stopped his car suddenly in my path, dragged something heavy out his boot, and started digging a hole in the verge.  He didn't look pleased to see me.  Wonder what he was up to?  

Rose & Crown, Halstead (2345 / 3909) put me in mind of the wonderful Five Bells at Eynsford, an understated,  effortlessly excellent village boozer.  The guv'nor is a sound bloke, three walkers tell him they really must dash, but ten minutes, they are still here.  Our host isn't pro or anti Brexit, but getting a new chef on the kind of wages British chefs demand is proving impossible.  Wet-led pub resurgence?  Yes please!  The only other customer is a Village Ancient, he should have his own ACV slapped above his head.  He's drinking a pale liquid out of a crystal glass.  Pubs where the locals have their own drinking vessels = proper pubs.  The only thing not in keeping with this gentle atmosphere is a TV showing highlights of the Red Bull Soapbox Race.  Landlord is loving it, and explains the rules to me and the Ancient.  

BRAPA Beer Verdict (BBV) : Lister's Tail Wagger.  Failed to get my tail wagging but wasn't too ruff.  C. 

Ideally, I'd have ticked off the other pubs on this train line stop by stop.  But annoyingly, even on a Sunday, one of them closes mid afternoon so I thought I'd best get this done first so I wasn't in danger of missing out. 

Classic Fort Knox style club set up here at Orpington Liberal Club, Orpington (2346 / 3910), no discernible way in, not much evidence it is even open, so when a woman helps two enthusiastic dogs up some stairs through a side door, I make sure I follow her in, and hey presto, the bar is close by.  Smaller and squarer than your average GBG club, this place has charm and cosiness, and is very companionable.  I'm waved away as I reach for my CAMRA card to prove my credentials.  Honest face you see.  The locals take it turns to step behind the bar and serve the next customer.  50p for a bag of mini cheddars in this day and age represents excellent value.  Space Raiders arguably should be cheaper.  One lady has found a very useable pickaxe buried in her back garden.  Some cockney geezer  tries to pull a fast one, claiming he's been charged twice.  But one notification is a receipt.  Nice effort though.  He was after all, a little bit 'werrr' and a little bit 'wayyy'.  No surprise a bloke eventually comes over for a chat, mainly about how amazing the club is, but also their cider festival which was on now!  Who knew?  Top place. 
BBV : Wantsum Black Pig.  Oinkalicious Baltic Porter, not too cold but fizzier than I'd like for cask.  B-

The next train is heading London-wards so I decide to get Petts Wood done next, even though I was now in danger of getting sucked too far into London and leaving gaps.  I'd need to stay disciplined.

Unashamed balls-to-the-wall micropub with an infectious sunny outlook, One in the Wood, Petts Wood (2347 / 3911) got off to a good start when barmaid Daisy has a joke with me about the animated display on the card reader keeping me entertained for hours. Little inconsequential details like this make all the difference from the usual grunts and scowls.  A slightly overly done doggie theme here, and one of those huge leafy woodland murals that you always get in micros in grey built up areas like Peterborough and errrm, Brighouse(??  okay maybe not) can therefore be viewed with minimal irritation.  One fluffy dog near me 'presented' itself to Colin, but luckily he wasn't playing.  

BBV : Cain & Abel, Kent.  At 3.3%, exactly what I need on a seven tick day, full of flavour, immaculate condition.  Beer of t' day. A*

Time to get myself back south whilst I still had a modicum of discipline.

Chelsfield station was a long walk from the required pub, and when I saw a closed road my heart sank.  But amazing what wonders a roadside urination can do for clarity of thought, and I soon realised it was easy enough to step around the 'keep out' signs which are probably just to stop vehicles.

Paranoia still reigned though when two men start walking towards me.  'They better not be road working jobsworth bastards' I mutter under my breath, and thankfully they weren't.  And even better, they stepped into a field and helped me realise there is a short cut towards the village!

Not jobsworth road workers Chelsfield bound

And after a bit more jiggery-pokery through the churchyard, and across a busy road junction, the pub came into view.

Five Bells, Chelsfield (2348 / 3912) wasn't worth the wait, in fact it was one of the lamest pubs of the weekend.  So far.  I hadn't hit Bexleyheath yet!  The main bar is a tight, cluttered mess of badly behaved kids, families and buggies spread out, a not very warm welcome either, and soon, I'd decided the benches out front were more welcoming.  After all, you couldn't get to the loos from this room.  No, you had to go outside, and enter the door around the side marked 'restaurant'.  But to me, the 'restaurant' was distinctly pubbier than the bar.  A confused pub.  Two ladies sit near me.  One reads out the 'Husband Day Care Centre' sign to her mate like it is the funniest most original thing in the world.  But I was of the same mind as Pub Curmudgeon on Twitter, who said it was vaguely amusing the first time, not so much the 50th!  A bit like 95% of all micropubs having that 'men to the left cos women are always right' toilets sign.

BBV - Very average Whitstable Bay, which serves me right as I'd shunned the Oakham Citra to 'try and be clever'.  Even Oakham came on Twitter to tell me to get my act together! C-

Time to get myself back towards London and within the New Eltham vicinity, where I was stopping over another night as it was Bank Holiday Monday tomorrow.  Bexleyheath had two new ticks I needed, so it made sense (on paper) to check them out. It would soon feel like Bexleyheath CAMRA were trolling the tickers.

Yacht, Bexleyheath (2349 / 3913) was a handsome, imposing roadside Greene King house, but once inside it resembled a scene from Fawlty Towers with waiters and waitresses tripping over kids, dogs and dithering elderly folk, or colliding with each other, to bring food out of a narrow kitchen.  Idiots waited at the entrance reception plinth, creating a blockage, like peak Covid pubbing.  I pushed past the losers, and finally find someone to serve me a pint - a lovely lad but he seems well confused by my low maintenance order.  A strangled cry goes up as Harry Kane does a football, but I'm shocked to see more eyes on the 'Hundred' cricket monstrosity sponsored by Stabilo pink & green, than the football!  The garden is huge.  But it is desperate.  Bleak, like the end of days, the scorched grass of this recent drought never felt more apt.  It resembles the morning after Glastonbury, the last night on the Somme, and if Brady & Hindley hosted on a pop-up food festival on Saddleworth Moor. Every table is a congealed stack of empties and dirty food plates.  Caked remnants of skid mark shit stained sticky toffee pudding remain in my eyeline the entire time.  Thankfully, I have a laugh with an elderly couple about being the 'gate monitor' on the way out, which restores my faith in humanity by 0.01%. 
BBV - London Glory, only ale on, nowt wrong with it.  C. 

But surely Bexleyheath couldn't fail me twice.  Could they?  I mean, this pub looks lovely doesn't it? 

I'd like to put a brave face on my visit to the Volunteer, Bexleyheath (2350 / 3916), after all it was a boisterous rough house local full of happy but slightly intimidating scroats (scrotes if you wanna be boring but it wouldn't do them justice) having fun.  That's what pubs are supposed to be innit?  Doom or Old Speck didn't seem the CAMRAest selection, but I'm no beer snob so I jump on the Hen as it's been a while, but fuck me, what in Gabriel Jesus's own name is this glassware?  Octagonal bottom, heavy as a brick, impossible to grasp.  WORST. GLASS.  EVER.  The loos are around the noisy side, marked 'Voilads' and 'Voiladies'.  Huh?  Ohhh, lads and ladies!  Bloke criticises my pissing technique.  Wants me to put my hands on my hips, shoulders back, stand straight.  Did he just wanna catch sight of the Special Purple Stabilo?  The perv!  Never before in 3915 previous pubs I've been asked to alter my pissing stance. Then another bloke apologises for emitting the longest burp ever. 18 seconds?  "Well, this is the place to get rid of unwanted gases" I reply, amazed that despite my recent trauma I can think of a decent reply.  He slaps my back.  I'm thinking 'don't touch me', rush back to my table, bury myself in a London CAMRA mag, struggling with the ale, and am bloody relieved to be outta here. BBV - Old Speckled Hen. Couldn't enjoy it, but how much of that was the glassware's fault I'm not sure.  D- 

The Twitter massive was pushing me for a late 7th tick and I knew time was on my side, and recent pubs had been a sobering experience.

As the light started to fade, and Bexleyheath Bank Holiday got lit like a Christmas tree with far too much tinsel to be tasteful, I caught this bus halfway up a hill to an unlikely area which seemed fairly remote and leafy in South London terms.  

The GBG had warned me this old booze hole was haunted, but the shrieking and wailing coming from within the Bull, Shooters Hill (2351 / 3915) meant it soon became clear .... this was no ghost.  Actually, a mad pissed up seven foot tall bloke playing pool and determined to throw his weight around , determined to be the centre of attention, resembling both Martin Allen and Frankenstein's monster in equal measures.  I ask the elderly landlady what ales are on, and with a world weariness of a lady who's spent 80 years telling Johnny-comes-lately's like me where the handpumps are, directs me to the back bar.  It is quiet in here, more like a club room - it smells of old pub, burnt toast and autumn chimneys.  It is great.  Too great.  Too much in my comfort zone!  So I take my pint back round to the front bar and plonk myself amongst the chaos.  People are singing.  No one is sober.  FrankenAllen is doing his "look at me, look at me!" to the landlady and anyone else who cares.  I need a piss so enjoy my second half in the back room as a couple of other quiet people are in there now.  Of course, FrankenAllen appears and starts trying to talk to people.  Makes my skin crawl even more than anything I'd witnessed in Bexleyheath.  But what a bloody lovely pub to end on after three horrorshows.  It has got very dark very quickly.  Now, how do I get to New Eltham from here?  Didn't really think this through did I?  BBV : Adam Henson's Rare Breed, Butcombe.  Been a while , but as I remember, enjoyed it was def above average.  B.  

At the far end of the road, I manage to catch a bus to a weirdly named place called Mottingham, which is a similar distance walk to my Premier Inn than from New Eltham station - there's even a Costcutter so I can pop in for late snacks n water, bonus!

So SE London is going well, and I was hoping to squeeze in a few more before the train back to York tomorrow afternoon.

I'll write that one up tomorrow night, with a Battersea bonus thrown in for good measure.  See ya then, and yes we have gone up from three parts to six. 


1 comment:

  1. Scoring beers now ? You've sold out to beer twitter now !