Fenman Ventures Across Borders
Fenman took several train trips in 2016 and here are a few scribbled notes and photos of those journeys.
Three Fenland stalwarts headed down south to meet up with long standing Fenland member, Wendy, to celebrate her birthday. First expedition was a train trip from Seaford alighting at Southease then a slippery walk to Rodmell and the Abergavenny for Harveys Best and Hophead. On then to Lewes with its many pubs of character and of course its famous brewery.
The Lamb, built in 1180, not only provided 2 bars with excellent ales but also a deep well. The John Harvey Tavern, is the brewery tap providing most of their range, on handpump and gravity.
The next day was a bus ride then a walk along the South Downs Way to Eastbourne where the Buccaneer was located and the Arundel house beer and more Harveys ales sampled. Then on to the Dew Drop Inn, a GK pub, and Marmalade on Toast – a beer no less, and surprisingly rather tasty.
All in all an excellent long weekend of walks, pubs, beer and grand company. Fenman had a further trip to the south coast and later popped into the Talk of the Town in Paignton to taste Stumble Bee from South Hams, also a drop of Summerskills Devon Dew and Indiana’s Bones.
Another week, another train trip – this time to Southbourne and a newly opened micro pub, Wight Bear Ale House where old Fenlandonian, Ian, now works part time. Ale is ordered from the long list of gravity fed barrels and served by knowledgeable bar staff. Also visited on this trip, during a long warm walk, were the Red Lion at Milford on Sea, Saxon Bear Ale House at Christchurch, and Brewhouse and Kitchen at Southbourne. What a plethora of ale.
A skip across the border into North Wales was next with first stop off the line being Conwy, and a trip to the Albion where 3 thirds were the order of the day with Purple Moose UFA, Nant Cwrw Forum, and Sandstone Oaked Onyx Dark, followed by Welsh Gold. On then to the Castle Hotel for a drop of Dawsons Conwy Dark – its only outlet apparently, and Welsh Pride. More Welsh beers sampled at the Bridge Inn, Fenman’s digs for the night and in his aptly named Moose Room.
Steam train from Blaenau Ffestiniog to Porthmadog and a sweaty walk to digs at Tremadog, the Golden Fleece to be precise where Purple Moose Madog and a yummy Ysgawen or Elderflower Ale, to you. A walk back to Porthmadog where the Station Inn has PM Snowdonia and the first non Welsh beer of the trip, Honey Bunny from Cottage. Spooners Bar on Harbour Station provided delicious Welsh lamb chops and mash washed down with PM Dark Side.
Spectacular ride on the Welsh Highland Railway to Caernarfon where the Marston’s Anglesey Arms was soon sought out, overlooking the bay across to the island, and a drop of Sunbeam. The (world famous ?) Black Boy visited and just a half sampled – the prices being by far the highest of the trip – Salopian Hip Hop was one of the 6 or so beers on.
A return to Cheshire and to round off a visit to the Beer Emporium in Sandbach. This micro pub stocks a huge range of bottled beers, all Cheshire brews plus, and initially had just one handpump. Such has been the success that 4 handpumps offer a range of dark and light beers with Oakham Citra being a favourite with the punters. The Market Place with its Saxon Crosses boasts 4 pubs and also has another 6 within a few hundred yards, including the Old Hall, a former hotel, and one of only two Grade 1 listed pubs. What bliss !
A longish train trip down south, changing at Gloucester, the longest platform in Britain at 1,977ft 4in, and a long hike down the platform to catch the Keynsham train.
A hilly walk, with spectacular views over the Severn Estuary, to Dursley and the Old Spot Inn. What a gem, this brew pub with its 2 bars and 7 beers, a couple from their own Old Spot brewery, Uley Ales, including one named after owner / brewer Ric.
On then to Wotton Under Edge and the Star where Wickwar Star hit the spot.
Butcombe bitter in the Ring of Bells / Blue Bowl Inn in East /West Harptree and later the Carpenters Arms in remote Stanton Wick for Bath Ales Gem. The pub has a catchy poem above the bar about real ale:-
I drink it when I’m happy, and when I’m feeling sad,
I drink it when I’m feeling good and when I’m feeling bad,
I drink when I’m all alone and when I’m in a crowd,
Sometimes I drink it quietly and sometimes rather loud,
I drink it when I’m feeling well or when I’m feeling sick,
But the best place I ever drink it,
Is that pub in Stanton Wick
(Trev Hunt – Member of the Society of Authors)
Fenman returned to the Flatlands to contemplate his expeditions and no doubt plan more travels to seek out further pubs and ales.