Thursday 13 October 2022

BRAPA is .... PUTTING THE SNORT IN KINGSNORTH (Kenty was Plenty Pt 3/11)

Kingsnorth is a village just south of evil Ashford.  Village might be a bit generous, it feels in danger of being swallowed up by the arsehole of mid Kent.  

But more importantly, it contains a GBG pub on the bus route back up from Tenterden, where I'd had mixed fortunes which you might or might not have read about in part 2.

I was fascinated by the Queen's Head, Kingsnorth (2390 / 3954) before I'd even arrived.

On the bus down much earlier in the day, the pub you see above looked well and truly shut at a time when it should be open.  Worrying.  

But Queen's Head had an active Facebook page (rare for Kent pubs, I'd soon discover) where half the time, they sound like they are trying to force fun and events on the local community.  Admirable. The problem with forced fun is that it never works.  The locals didn't appear to be reciprocating.  And the pub would then post their disappointment, like admonishing naughty school children.

Live bands had been cancelled of late ('there's nothing more disheartening than expecting someone to play to an empty room').  Today, they'd invited the locals to join them on some green outdoor area in Kingsnorth to commemorate the Queen's passing.  The plan then was 'all back to the pub' for a complimentary glass of something sparkling.  A nice idea in theory.  But not ONE villager had showed.  

The pub posted their disapproval .... a post which I noticed had been deleted before I arrived.

And I never did see lickle Mr & Mrs Gnome!

So it was something of a gamble even getting off the bus.  But thankfully, QH was not only open, but heaving.  A real community hub feel ran through the place.  Had the locals guilt tripped themselves into it?  Or is it always like this Sunday afternoon?  In any case, the pub must've been buoyed by the turn out.  My photos don't reflect how busy it was, but I did wholly accidentally (please believe me) twice photograph this same barmaid who kept following me from room to room, hence why she's in two shots.  I told her 'lovely to see such a busy pub ... ooh, and a pool table too!' to take the edge off,  and she thanked me.  The Chinook by Butcombe drank well, and that was that.

It took an age to get back to Maidstone, I got a bit distracted by Ashford in bloom which surely needs to comprise more than a Harry Potter quote in a bush?

So which two pubs to do before heading back to my new Sittingbourne home?  Tactically, I looked at those least likely to open during the working week.

Furthest walk first.  #BRAPA rules.   Not too far from Maidstone East in truth, hidden in da backstreets like some utter filth you'd find in East Lancs,  here it was .....

And probably my favourite of the six, Rifle Volunteers, Maidstone (2391 / 3955) was the proverbial 'step back in time' which people like me, in love with an imagined romantic centuries old pub, can really appreciate. The gnarly locals were lined up, landlord welcoming, Goachers plentiful.  Still an exciting 'new' brewery to me .... you know like when southerners come to Yorkshire and tell me how yummy Black Sheep Bitter is even though to me, it tastes like a fart in the mouth.  I got TOLD which Goachers to drink- the Fine Light.  Just out of interest, I ask if the pub is opening for Bank Holiday Queen funeral tomorrow (they normally do 5-11pm Monday) and he's like "well duh yeah, all day, it IS a Bank Holiday". That surprises a couple of listening locals too.  Sadly, I'd find this wasn't a view held by a lot of pubs.  The group next to me moved on from Radio Caroline & Luxembourg chats to 'Cuddly Toy' by Roachford, straddling the decades.  They only notice me as I'm supping up, so we have a lovely but very rushed 3 minute BRAPA conversation.  "Corrr, I wish we'd got talking sooner!" says the lady, but always good to leave the fans wanting more, so I smile sweetly and leave in a flourish (well, I got trapped in the doorway, but it was smooth otherwise).  Great pub.

And for my final act on this Sunday evening, I head over to Maidstone West where I'll need to catch a train from anyway to Strood for Sittingbourne or something confusing.  Similarly confusing was the exact location of pub six, in the kind of eerie rail side courtyard where serial killers normally dump bodies, but luckily I'd recce'd it earlier in the day.

A bit of a marmite underground micropub was the Cellars Alehouse, Maidstone (2392 / 3956), I spoke to folk this week who both loved and hated it.  Personally, I was a fan.  It was however, incredibly pongy.  Like Cobbetts in Dorking, Cracklerock in Botley or Past & Present in Gillingham.  Gives me a headache.  But I'm a sucker for any dark pub, and that underground cellar style, and this was nicely done.  Reminds me of how Lendal Cellars in York used to be circa 2000 before Jamie Oliver and Greene King fucked it over.  A group of quirky twentysomethings are in the centre of the room. One lad seems to be dressed as a ghost walk host.  Another lady might be from Derry.  She keeps saying the word 'caramel' in a crazy way.  "Coiyoymel" or something.  A group of beer geeks crowd the tiny corner bar.  Everyone is friendly, but they only have one conversation topic.  Beer.  A silent staff member goes around lighting the tealights on each table.  Mine is the only one which keeps blowing out - like a Candle in the Wind.  I tell him not to worry, and he grunts, but won't give up.  My Unbarred Joozy is a dense murk fest, very hard to drink.  My train isn't due so go up for a second.  Time & Tide.  "Tastes like a cow pat, pooey and earthy" a beer expert quips.  But it is still easier to drink.  Good place this, but you aren't forced to agree.

I was lucky with my connection back to Sittingbourne.  I got a train I had no right to.  

But in any case, I'd be having a long lie-in tomorrow morning.  State funeral bank holiday meant pub opening times had never been more uncertain.  

Apparently, not much happens in court on Fridays cos judges like a long weekend (allegedly) which means I should be back to tell you about a bit of Funeral Bank Holiday mayhem tomorrow night.

See you then, Si   

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