Linton Corner is a handy pub stop on the fruitful Number 5 bus route south of Maidstone down to Sandhurst, and what a drag it was at rush hour on my penultimate day of mid and north Kent ticking.
And at Linton Corner itself, it was like Piccadilly Circus. Schoolkids, dirty old men and posh Mumsie ladies with buggies are all taking their chances crossing the road onto the B2163. I cross alongside a chubby schoolboy, using him as a shield to cushion me against any oncoming traffic.
My next tick may well be listed under 'Linton' but in truth it is closer to Boughton Monchelsea , which was fine cos I had a tick to do there as well.
Off down an obscure country lane, the pub, or should I say, brewery tap came into view. Of course, they deliberately scared me to death because the first word I see is 'CLOSED'. I mean, you can understand my brief moment of panic can't you?
The man at 'Kashmir Kitchen' gives me an lazy expectant nod, a bit like a lion trying to scratch his neck on a cactus, and I enter the bright but lacking in atmosphere Armoury, Linton (2407 / 3971) home of Musket brewery (who love saying stuff like 'must get a Musket'). I'd enjoyed a dark beer by them in Maidstone's Flower Pot the previous day. Hops hang everywhere, the seating is high and flimsy, the ale comes from the barrel, and the staff smile in a way which is both warm but nervous. I go for a standard bitter today, and safe to say I'm not really loving it. The place isn't deserted by any means, but despite the grey chilly air, most people have chosen to sit outside, which in retrospect, I think may've been more enjoyable. One man comes inside to ask if they do dog biscuits, of course they do, but I never saw any signs of a dog on my way in or out. Maybe he was just peckish? Although a trio of staff inject a bit of life into proceedings by chuckling over a word puzzle towards the end of my 27 minute stay, it hasn't been the most memorable experience.
Still in the GBG? - Yes, local breweries in awkward locations are well supported by CAMRA, even if they brew swill from a shed out back (not that I'm saying Musket do, but some definitely do!)
Back up on the main road, I continue my walk away from Linton Corner towards Boughton Monchelsea. Of course, the pub had to be situated at the very far end of the sprawling village but despite my desperate need for a wee, I kept the camera fairly steady.
Cock Inn, Boughton Monchelsea (2408 / 3972) was one for the pub lovers, even a Kentish one who is sick of Shepherd Neame (which seems to be the case with 90% of Kent folk I speak to). It had a low beamed ceiling, a plentiful carpet, a fruit machine, horse brasses, pillars, loos signposted 'Cockerals' (sic) and 'Hens'. Everyone was jaunty and old school, which matched the surroundings. A new Shep Neame called Summer Storm IPA promised much, but delivered little. As as the jolliest chap had a heartfelt chat with the guv'nor about Sciatica, before downing his pint in five minutes and hobbling off at quite a pace, I hit a wall - not literally, though it was dark enough. A better ticker than me would've got himself back to Linton Corner, back on the number 5, and hopped off at 'Cross-At-Hand' and walked up to the Lord Raglan, but knowing I had a tough seven tick day with a BRAPA debutant, I erred on the side of caution, went outside, rang for a taxi back to Maidstone, and opted for a quiet night back in my Shittingbourne lodgings.
Still in the GBG? - No! Bit sad about that, but the ale never got above average and the local CAMS probably don't need much excuse to ditch an SN pub.
Fast forward 16 hours and I meet our new hero, Richard Pitcher, at Rainham station. He had volunteered to drive me around a few pubs before he gets himself to Derbyshire mid afternoon. So I'm glad we had a rare but remote 11 o'clocker to get us off to the best start possible - Richard had rung ahead to check hours because he is more sensible than me.
Recent CAMRA award winner, Three Tuns, Lower Halstow (2409 / 3973) has been refurbished in a dining sorta way, but the pub is warm, the barmaid is welcoming, and a pint of mild is exactly what you to start a long 7 or 8 pint day - ESB not included because I've drunk so many, I'm immune to its alcohol content by now. Being called 'Lilac Time' I thought it might have a pinkish tinge, but it was boringly black. A random pile of logs did nothing, a dartboard looked more like a nod to the past rather than something that'd get much usage amidst the old couples with their faces in troughs of cockles, mussels and alive, alive oh's. The carpet helped, it was weirdly undulating and lumpy, like they might've buried the pub sausage dog underneath by mistake. Richard highlights the battered GBG like a season pro, the mild slips down superbly, and it is time for pub two, which I'll tell you about tomorrow.
Still in GBG? Yes, and that's what I like about hearing you're off to a CAMRA pub of the year, 99.9% nailed on inclusion next year/this year.
Join me same time tomorrow, for the penultimate part of Kenty is Plenty, then we'll get stuck into Gwenty is Plenty, which I might finish by Christmas!