Saturday, 21 September 2019

21/09/19- London Countryway - Stage 19 - Broxbourne to Theydon Bois

Distance - 12 Miles
Start - Broxbourne
Finish - Theydon Bois
Geocaches - 5
Pubs - The Crown - Waltham Abbey, Kings Oak - Epping Forest, The Bull - Theydon Bois
Previous Stages - Stage 1Stage 2Stage 3Stage 4Stage 5Stage 6Stage 7Stage 8Stage 9Stage 10Stage 11Stage 12Stage 13Stage 14Stage 15Stage 16Stage 17, Stage 18

The London Countryway is moving towards its end.   With three legs to go, I enter Essex, the final county.

There's no better description for today's leg than "A walk of two halves".

The first half is a four mile stretch southbound on the Lea Valley County Park.  I've walked the River Lea from Source to Mouth, so know exactly what to expect.  If you haven't, imagine a relentless canal, with an arrow straight path dissecting water filled gravel pits to the opposite side.   Throw in lunatic cyclists with their painfully annoying bells and you'll be rather pleased to reach Waltham Abbey.

Lea Valley Country Park
Lea Valley Country Park in a Picture
Waltham Abbey is a place of interest - lots of history and interesting buildings with a chance of a refreshment stop.  Arriving before the sun has passed the yard arm, I choose the first pub available, the Crown.   Would have been a risk to ignore an 11am opener.   No doubt the McMullens Country Bitter was the first pull of the day and the only thing in its favour was it was not the worst pint of the day.   After navigating the town, I learn that although from the same Brewery, the Welsh Harp looked a more interesting building - separating the church from the market square.   It dripped ancient history.  One for another day.

Into Essex
Marking the entry into the final county
The Crown
A Rare 11am Opener
Country Bitter at the Crown, Waltham Abbey
What you get for being first in
Waltham Abbey Church
Impressive Church in the Abbey Grounds

The M25 has been added since Keith Chesterton wrote the guide.  It's kind of fun reading him use terms like "if it will be built".   I wonder if the same will happen with HS2 in the future?

Once the motorway is bridged, its a short section of countryside, before reaching Epping Forest.

Countryside leading to Epping Forest
Out the other side of Waltham Abbey
The forest is picked up at the Visitor Centre, where there is fine looking, rambling monster of a pub.  You can see by the skies in the pictures that it's summer's final hurrah and with plenty of time available, it would be rude not to stop.

The Royal Oak, Epping Forest Conservation Area
Kings Oak
Not wanting to risk a Greene King IPA, I think I've played it safe by going reassuringly expensive.  Yet somehow, they cannot even keep Stella Artois well.   Headless, soapy, with a scummy top.   At least they kindly filled my water bottle for the last few miles.

The second half of this walk proves a delight, the mighty trees offering plenty of shade and broad rides taking me all the way to Theydon Bois.   Only one photo required, so you can get the drift.

Into Epping Forest
Perfect Place to walk in an Indian Summer
Theydon Bois, the penultimate stop on the Eastbound Central Line, offers a couple of choices for refreshment.   The Bull, a Charles Wells Pub, proved the correct choice and the one closest to the Station.   Low ceilings inside, lovely garden outside and a good pint of Youngs Bitter saved the beer day out.

The Bull at Theydon Bois
Charming Theydon Bois
I'm back on the trail in October for another unvisited town.   Brentwood.  Who knows what I'll find.

Sunday, 15 September 2019

15/09/19 - Heart of England Way 30 - The Bell at Moreton in Marsh

Distance - 7 Miles
Geocaches - 1
Pubs - Coach and Horses, Longborough and The Bell, Moreton in Marsh
Previous Stages - Stage 1Stage 2Stage 3Stage 4Stage 5Stage 6Stage 7Stage 8Stage 9Stage 10Stage 11Stage 12Stage 13Stage 14Stage 15Stage 16Stage 17Stage 18Stage 19Stage 20Stage 21Stage 22Stage 23Stage 24Stage 25Stage 26Stage 27Stage 28, Stage 29

Out with the old and in with the new, as September sees the release of the 2020 Edition of the Good Beer Guide, known only in this blog as "the bible".   Ticks have been moved over between editions and and London appears to need completely restarting again.

Bible Change Over
Let the Ticking Re-Commence
Moreton-in-Marsh is easier.  It had one entry last year.   It has one entry this year.   The Bell remains a valid post walk destination.

From the heart of this bustling tourist trap of a town, we head west towards Batsford.   Decent paths shared with puppy walkers upsetting Mrs M with their tiny charges, who bizarrely appears to be canine broody.  Our destination, Bourton-on-the-Hill, where the truly thirsty could imbibe at the Horse and Groom.

Monarchs Way out of Moreton
Heading out on the Monarchs Way
Bourton on the Hill
Horse and Groom at the top of the Hill
It's at the church where we pick up the Heart of England Way and this little stretch is as fine as the walking gets on this LDP.   We are slightly elevated, with an endless vista of patchwork fields to the left and Sezincote Hall delivering a taste of architectural India on the right.   Even the sun comes out.  Bliss.

HOEW towards Sezincote
The finest walking on the HOEW
Sezincote Hall, peeking through the trees
For a Mr and Mrs Mappiman Selfie
At the end of this stretch?  Longborough - a quintessentially charming Cotswold Village.   I've walked through it a couple of times, always before the Coach and Horses has scrapped back the bolt to allow in thirsty ramblers.   Not today.... it's 12:03pm and as Mrs M didn't have the requisite change to use the space age loos in Moreton, facilities are required.

Its a Donnington Tied house, so we can expect a wonderful building and beer that's a slight improvement on Arkells.

Coach and Horses, Longborough
Lovely Beer Garden
Coach and Horses, Longborough
Beautiful Building.  Scrumpy drinking American consulting the Map.  Stone dog keeps watch

The walk back to Moreton is 2 miles of gentle countryside on the Monarch's Way,  delivering us to the Duck Pond.   A well walked area means there's little chance of unfound Geocaches but there is a new Church Micro, should you be able to get a car driver to pause to let you cross the road.

Paths Back
Walking Back to Moreton
Church Micro GZ at Moreton Church
For a Church Micro Geocache in a lovely location

Onto the first tick from the 2020 bible.   I've booked a table for 13:30 and its 13:28 when we breech the threshold, having looked at the tenuous signs proclaiming Tolkein significance.   Mrs M mutters under her breath about it being like Tintagel and King Arthur all over again.

The Bell, Moreton in Marsh
Ding Dong, its a gorgeous Cotswold Pub
The Bell, Moreton in Marsh
Prancing Pony, Frodo Baggins local.

Its much quieter than you would expect.   The bar staff are nearly equal to punters - of which there are four elderly diners and yours truly.

Its therefore rather disappointing to be told there's a 45 minute wait for food.   What on earth is the Chef up to?   He can't be cooking for anyone else. 

At least there's a good choice of Ales to keep me entertained.   Prescott Hill Climb and North Cotswold Shagweaver would have been more loyal to the area, but as I failed to find Timothy Taylor Landlord anywhere on our recent holiday in Austria, there could only be one winner.

14:15 and the elderly's food comes out.   A parsnip is dropped into a drink.   There are complaints about burned Yorkshire Puddings.   Al Dente Vegetables need to be rigorously defended by a harassed manager.

We are glad we don't work in Public Service Jobs. 

Although I did need to ask where the head on my Landlord had disappeared to.

The Bell, Moreton in Marsh
The Map offered no clues

Tuesday, 3 September 2019

03/09/19 - The Half Moon, Hitchin

Distance - 7 Miles
Geocaches - 11
Good Beer Guide Tick 420 - The Half Moon

I consider myself a bit of an of an expert in this part of Hertfordshire.  I spent 13 years working for a company with its head office in Hatfield and spent many evenings exploring the area.   In order of entertainment found...  Hatfield (still carry the mental scars of a soulless new town),  Stevenage, Hertford, Ware and  the Jewel in Hertfordshire's Crown - St Albans.   That became the de facto standard for overnight stays.

Hitchin always escaped me and despite its lack of pubs, I really enjoyed the historic market town with a considerable amount of high end restaurants.   There is a single Good Beer Guide Pub, which I will come to after an evening walk, where I discovered exactly how close we are getting to the end of British Summer Time.

Geocaches present a decent 7 mile walk to the South West.   The landscape is mainly agricultural, but the paths were good. 

The OS Map suggests there is a pre-walk drink to be had in Charlton, but sadly the campaign to save the Windmill failed.

Save the Charlton Windmill
Community Action
Campaign Failed
Another Dead Soldier

After many fields, I arrived at Great Offley where the Red Lion was open for custom.   I knew I didn't have enough daylight to warrant a stop, regardless of how much I wanted to explore this bastion of patriotism.

No time to stop at the Red Lion, Great Offley
Free House
Lanes take me back to Hitchin civilisation, but not before the single battery power mini torch came out to help with route finding.  8.20pm and its time for bed.

Dusk falls on Hitchin
Evening Walking coming to an end for 2019
Pitch black by the time I find the Good Beer Guide 2019 Entry that is The Half moon.   Initial signs of high cask turnover are very promising.

The Half Mood, Hitchin
The Half Mood, Hitchin
The Half Moon by Night
A real surprise to walk into a packed pub on a Tuesday evening.   The reason - Quiz Night.   The prizes must be out of this world.   Not a free table to be had and I was not the only one forced to hover at the glass return point as the Quiz Master read out the answers to round 1.

I scored a high percentage on a literature round, where I could only shout "Hunter S Thompson" as the answer to the question, who invented the style of journalism known as Gonzo.

I continued to hover at the place where leaning was an impossibility, nursing a very decent pint of Youngs Special.   How would I fare in the 2nd round?

Nil Points, so I went in search of food, keeping Hitchin 8th best restaurant open longer then they expected.

I'm back next Tuesday. 

Its a toss up between geocaching in the dark or getting into the Half Moon early to enter a team of one into the quiz.

Sunday, 18 August 2019

18/08/19 - Heart of England Way - Stage 29 - Batsford

Distance - 6.5 Miles
Pubs - None
Geocaches - 3
Previous Stages - Stage 1Stage 2Stage 3Stage 4Stage 5Stage 6Stage 7Stage 8Stage 9Stage 10Stage 11Stage 12Stage 13Stage 14Stage 15Stage 16Stage 17Stage 18Stage 19Stage 20Stage 21Stage 22Stage 23Stage 24Stage 25Stage 26Stage 27, Stage 28

Blockley - a place that I mused on last months HOEW as to why its not as popular as the other Cotswold Honeypots.  Today, I have the answer.   The pubs are bobbins.   Last month, I had an awful Hooky Gold at the Best Western, so was keen to try the other pub.   We'll come to the Crown later, if I can bring myself to relive the memories.

If you are here for the walking, then you're fine.   This is a top quality ramble in the heart of the Cotwolds that delivers the final climb of the HOEW.   Literally, its all down hill from here to Bourton on the Water.

The path out of Blockley is shared by the Monarchs Way and the HOEW and rises gently to Batsford Arboretum.   The views are behind and worth a glance.

Looking Back to Blockley
Blockely behind
A circuit of the walls of Batsford Arboretum, eventually getting close to village.   Contained within the walls are the largest collection of privately owned trees.   A collection started by Algernon Mitford, grandfather to the Nazi sympathising sisters and buried in the church, which seems imported from France.  Handsome but unusually shaped.

Batsford Church
Nazi Grandpa's final resting place

Batsford Stud
More Architectural wonder at the Stud Farm
Back up hill for the views over Draycott.  A dry village, full of beautiful buildings but no pub.   The locals all come out to watch a man get his drill out and put up a house number.   That's what passes for entertainment in villages without boozers.

The Cotswolds
Looking Down towards Draycott
Unusual Wildlife
An encounter with non native beasts.   Not entirely sure they were friendly.
Arrival back in Blockley is along a wonderful street of Terraces, Park Road.   By the number of foreign cars and little key safety deposit boxes fixed to the walls, this must be prime AirBNB territory.  One's up on right move for 345K.   Its a deceptively spacious (their words, not mine) two bedder.

Its not a direct route back to the car but as mentioned at the start, I want to check out the Crown Hotel for post walk refreshment.   Normally, I wouldn't trouble something marked as a Hotel but I had noticed a little bar to the side on my last leg.

So I enter and find a bar that is empty of people (staff, punters, ghosts of former patrons) and with no hand pulls at all. 

I left before I was seen by the staff.   At push, I can take bad beer but not in a silent, empty room.

The Crown, Blockley
Footnote - last review on Pubsgalore was from legendary blogger Alan Winfield

Saturday, 17 August 2019

17/08/19 - London Countryway Stage 18 - Brookmans Park to Broxbourne

Distance - 12.6 Miles
Start - Brookmans Park
Finish - Broxbourne
Geocaches - 4
Pubs - Woodman and Olive, White Bear and The Bull at Broxbourne
Previous Stages - Stage 1Stage 2Stage 3Stage 4Stage 5Stage 6Stage 7Stage 8Stage 9Stage 10Stage 11Stage 12Stage 13Stage 14Stage 15Stage 16, Stage 17

The London Countryway is taking me to some mysterious places.   I'm not exactly sure where Brookman's Park is, but the first observed bus "labelled Luton" provides a small clue.   If the walk doesn't pan out, I can always take advantage of public transport and see the Baggies who are playing there today.

Wherever it is, it's prime commuter territory for the City Big Wigs.   The long avenue to the golf course (say no more) is resplendent with massive houses, no two architecturally the same, with the only common ground found by the high end German cars parked on the two entrance driveways.

The walking is OK.   We're not hitting the heights of the Southern Section and you know when your blog is in trouble when the only things of interest to describe are a radio transmitter and a water tower.  There's some decent agricultural footpaths and the first village, Newgate Street or Ponsbourne (as the Church labels itself) is pretty enough.   Shame its only 11am, as the Coach and Horses looked much more promising than the pubs I did find open later.

Fields of Hertfordshire
Hertfordshire Agricultural Footpaths
Ponsbourne Church
Ponsbourne Church, Newgate Street
Coach and Horses
Coach and Horses remains undiscovered due to 11am arrival
Ponsbourne House
Ponsbourne Park House

Wormley Woods is a pleasure to walk.   Ancient Woodland, boardwalks for the boggy bits and in August, home to an awful lot of dragon flies.   I'm following Dick Bowman's GPX Files and all I am going to say is he got badly lost.   There's a West-East stretch along what looks like a path on the OS Map but is actually a badly overgrown ditch.    Future London Countrway'ers should stick to the present Authority on the route - Des De Moor.  I survived and felt this should be rewarded with a pint.

Wormley Wood Selfie
Woodland Selfie
Over the Boardwalks
Lovely walking over the boggy bits
The OS Map shows a big blue cup of joy at Wormley West End.   My map is old and pubs are dying at an alarming rate, so this is no guarantee of refreshment.   But the building is there, even if its is now a Greek Restaurant.   I know this, as they have appended "& Olive" to the original name "The Woodman".

I hope the food is better than the beer.

Woodman and Olive
Christmas is just around the corner.  It's August.

Flat Italian in a Greek Pub
No ales on but you do get charged £5.10 for flat Italian Lager
Not to worry, I'll soon be in Broxbourne - where very early signage (I am at least 2 miles away) tells me it was the home of the Kayaking in the Olympics.  I simply have to navigate Baas Hill Common, cross the A10 and drop down to the village.   Really, I should be following the New River to the Station but a) I have this ear marked for a future walk and b) I need to see what Broxbourne has to offer the weary foot traveler.

New River
The New River Path - for another day.
I am the only man in the White Bear who doesn't have a Ralph Lauren polo shirt on but I get away with it as they are all Arsenal fans and Arsenal are on the TV.   The only real ale on is Doom Bar but as the Cask Marque accreditation next the front door says "Expired", I join my Gooner friends in a Stella.

White Bear, Broxbourne
Dress Code, Ralph
Over the road is a McMullens tied house, the Bull.   I know really feel that I am in Hertfordshire.   A chainy pub but the County Bitter was pint of the day.

The Bull, Broxbourne
McMullens Bull

I'm rather looking forward to the next leg - where I will have my first visit to Waltham Abbey.   A place that I've wanted to visit since reading the first chapter of Iain Sinclair's London Orbital.

Thursday, 8 August 2019

08/08/19 - Edinburgh South Side Pubs

Distance - 2 Miles
Pubs - 4
Good Beer Guide Tick - 408
Walk Inspiration - Camra Pub Walks in Edinburgh, Walk 13

Edinburgh for the Fridge but we cannot complain.   We are some of the tourists that render the streets impossible to pass and bus rides that double in duration.   True Toonies (googled that) move out of the City in August.  We know this, as we are renting their flat on AirBNB.

And what a fine flat in Morningside it is.   It means that once the laughs with David O'Doherty are over, we can fashion a walk home through the South Side to get some harder of the harder to reach City pubs.

Dagda Bar, 93 Buccleuch Street, Oakham Citra

Only pub of the four in the 2019 Good Beer Guide.

Dagda Bar
Tenement Terrace Pub
It's a tiny one roomer with a bar across the back wall.    A battle to get through the punters but quick and friendly service for my first (believe it or not) Oakham Citra.

Decent pint, functional boozer.   Now I know where it is, I will return.

Dagda Bar
Inside a busy one roomer...
The Abbey, South Clark Street, Deuchars

Very little in the guide about this pub - just mentions its corporate make over.   Usually enough to put me off, but we were passing and when I follow a pub crawl, I like to do the author justice.

The Abbey
Corporate Abbey
It was perhaps better for its whisky than its beer and I only wish I had seen the "region samplers" where a tenner gets you three 25ml measures from a particular area.   Good value.

Instead it was a quick Deuchars, once the barman realised I hadn't said Guinness.   A Brummie in Edinburgh, divided by a common tongue.

Leslie's Bar, Ratcliffe Terrace, Timothy Taylor Landlord

The guide is far more gushing about Leslie's Bar - a place that I have stored in my phone from my previous Edinburgh visits, when it was in the 2018 Good Beer Guide.   Removed from this year's edition, which seems cruel, especially when the serve the King of Beers.

Leslie Bar
Leslie's By Night

A magnificent island bar built in 1899 and completely unchanged.   Bob Steel loved this place and I can see why.   However (and there's always an however) its not entirely practical for the newbie.  A photo lifted from their facebook page will reveal.   I'm not that brave to take one in situ.

An 1899 Bar
The left hand side has a built up bar with snob screens.... originally so the gentry would not be observed at head height.   Nice idea, but not if you don't know what beers are on offer.  So I head to the opposite side, where a row of bar hanging seats are all fully occupied and the only way to get service is to poke your head between a couple of men who are both deep in conversation and refused any more alcohol by the barstaff, presumably based upon that conversation.

The TT landlord is taken back to Gentry Side, where the glory of the place can be properly admired.

Leslie Bar
Inspiration for a future pub walk
The Old Bell, Causewayside, Lagavulin 16

My night time photo did not do the architecture justice, so another photo lifted from the net.

Old Bell
Handsome by day
I'd also told Mrs M that although we have been walking in vaguely the right direction for our AirBnB, Morningside was the best part of 2 miles away.

A nightcap, whilst summonsing up an Uber.

Marriage is all about compromise.

It came in 3 minutes - making my 16 year old malt the most expensive drink I've ever consumed, based on pence per minute.