Wednesday was to be my penultimate day's ticking of this Kentish holiday. It was unfortunate to cut it short, but I was required in Ilkley on Saturday for the wedding evening do of a Bradford City fan whom I used to work with, and I wanted to be on top form.
On my final Kent day, a lovely man called Richard had offered to drive me around 'outer Faversham' so today was my last chance to spread my wings and do some crazy mid-Kent nonsense.
There were a few amendments to the breakfast menu, a weird purple juice had appeared, pomegranate had replaced blueberries, and a Muller light yoghurt came from nowhere. Why not have a fry up? Makes me tired and bloated before I've even started.
After the well-trodden path to Maidstone, I changed trains for a funny sounding place called Headcorn, but it fitted the local tradition of being a pretty but slightly twee town ruined by much through-traffic.
From Headcorn, I walk to pub one. A good two mile yomp, one scary bit of roadwalking at the beginning only lasting a few minutes, before it opens into a wide and relatively trouble free, picturesque country lane, although the cars I did see were absolute speed demons.
It was 12:01 when I arrived, so my heart started fluttering when I saw the pub was shut. I start exploring side entrances, and just when I'm starting to panic, 12:04pm, the pub door creaks open and I try not to look too desperate or too relieved. I wish pubs wouldn't scare me! I mean I COULD ring ahead but where's the fun in that?
Bell & Jorrocks, Frittenden (2405 / 3969 - read it and weep Si!) was one of the strongest Kent pubs I visited this week. Harvey's Sussex Best has, over the years, either been very satisfactory, or left me rushing for the dunny, so always an exciting one to order. Luckily, there were no lowly stirrings today, which was almost a shame because the gents contained one of the prettiest loo seats I've seen in BRAPA history. The landlady sounds Scottish close up, Irish when she's stood further back. Acoustics. We get chatting. She is not only super friendly, but incredibly useful. She recommends me a Headcorn pre-emptive. She gives me a more picturesque route back, which cuts out that scary bit of road walk. And most significantly, she reveals that the other Frittenden GBG entry (actually on the main A229 bus route), The Knoxbridge, where I just avoided getting off a bus on seeing it closed yesterday, is shut long term as they cannot find anyone to run it. This though, is a lovely village pub of some history, but it is great people like her who really make a place special.
Still in the GBG? Of course. I'd be fuming if not (Knoxbridge isn't, so well done local CAMRA).
The directions she gave me were bob on, I even recognised the description of a couple of sheep .....
Tap 17, Headcorn seemed to me like just the kind of place to make a future GBG, well that was until I ask about the cask and I'm told they don't currently have any on. What a shame. For once, I wanted to be the WhatsApp group pub ticker who had a new recommendations to wow my more experienced colleagues! No matter, the two ladies who greet me are fantastic. "Do I detect a Yorkshire accent?" asks the main one. I confirm it might be the case. "I know these things, I'm from Lincolnshire" she replies, a sentence I don't think I've ever heard uttered before. I take some crazy keg offering to the cute little astroturfed garden, with a long mirror so I can admire my drinking technique. I'm drinking well. I eventually return indoors for a half of something else, due to badly timed trains, and we have a lovely chat. Her passion for Boston and the South Lincs Fens is admirable, and I tell her I'll have to stop viewing it has a drab, flat wilderness full of boring pubs and pay it a bit of attention in 2023.
In 2023 GBG? No, but no surprise, considering the lack of cask today , or EVER according to Whatpub! Nice Bacon fries though.
With Laddingford and Staplehust both closing mid afternoon (the latter, I was warned, may be limited even further due to a poorly landlord), and Marden not opening til 6pm (all of which would make the 2023 GBG by the way) I found myself back in Maidstone for my final tick.
I'd heard a bit about it, none of it good, but a recent pale green and cream lick of paint suggested that they are trying to make the place appeal to a wider crowd, and not the chavvy hell hole which any sane person would avoid on a Fri or Sat evening (so I'd been told!) I could barely wait.