Tuesday, 10 May 2011

The Trotters Inn, Cocklake

(Or as I prefer to call it “The Trotters Inn, just outside of Wedmore …”)

I’ve been wanting to visit this pub ever since I was told that if I liked the Crown at Churchill I would love this place and after a hard day doing housework on Saturday I deserve a treat. So I get to choose the Sunday walking route.

I pour over the Ordnance Survey map looking for inspiration ... and then I remember this pub. Except, normally the pub walk is supposed to involve a walk, some lunch and then a return trip … and I’m pretty certain that I’ve heard that the only food on offer at Trotters is a packet of pork scratchings .

Not to worry, I announce the walk “We’re going to walk to a pub, have a drink and then walk to another pub for lunch”.  “Why can’t we have lunch at the first pub?”. “You’ll see …”

And so the walk begins. Bother. I forgot the hill. I’m useless at hills. Can walk for miles on the flat, but chuck in a hill and I’m puffed.  Still, as a bonus the walk takes us along the edge of a golf course, and pretty soon my handbag is bulging with golf balls. (I hope they don’t do food at The Trotters, because now I will have no where to
put my left overs …)

As we round a bend in the road the ominous view of a pub sign without the actual board appears … hmmmm. Don’t tell me I’m too late and the place has closed down? (It reminds me of my couple of ill-fated trips to the Blue Flame at Nailsea, a pub that has been recommended to me, but which only seems to open when the landlord feels like it – the feeling of disappointment when you travel all that way to find the pub doors resolutely shut is incomparable). But all is not lost – well the sign might be – but the pub IS open!  Through the main door, I’m confronted by a further two doors – “The Lounge” or “The Smoking Room”, I opt for the latter and enter a low-ceiling room with a four foot bar and a smattering of local yokels.  One of whom bursts into a rousing chorus of “With rings on her ankles and bells on toes” when he espies me. Drat. Perhaps I should have worn my walking boots instead of my fancy sandals with the beads around the ankles!  “Don’t worry” the landlord says, “George is our village idiot … or at least he is when he’s had a few.” The landlord can’t see my feet, he doesn’t understand the joke.

I ask what cider is on offer. “Thatchers Gold or Natch” comes the reply. Hmmm. I’ll have the Gold then. The landlord unscrews the cap from a two litre plastic bottle of cider and pours the contents into what must be the dustiest glass I’ve ever seen – and that’s saying something, because I am the proud owner of many a dusty glass myself …

He’s not going to get any points for the cider that’s for sure … nor the tuna baguette. But that’s not everything is it?

I take a seat and marvel at the décor. Despite the fact that it’s very warm outside there is a real fire burning in the hearth. There’s a shove ha’penny board (I’ve never seen one of those before) and every available space on the nicotine-coloured walls is covered with an assortment of paintings, photos, farming paraphernalia, stuffed animals, cider jugs and cups and even some majolica plates. The sort of stuff that, if it were to be auctioned off, would pay to refurbish the pub in a grandiose style. I only hope that the landlord doesn’t realise it!

I sit back and listen to the locals talk, it’s all “baint, taint, tother, thik, thak” and “does ‘er?” It’s like being transported back to my youth … Oh yes. I like this pub. I like this pub an awful lot.

Cider – giggle
Tuna – chuckle
Atmosphere - 5

The Harbour Inn, Lyme Regis

It’s a sunny Thursday and I have a … day off.  I’m supposed to have had a week off, but I always find that things never go to plan. So what to do?  How about a trip to drool at the Beach Huts in Lyme Regis?  Two or three years ago I was very taken with the idea of buying one that I saw for sale at £20,000.  But I was talked out of it - it’s another one on the list of things I want but which I’m not allowed because “it’s not practical”, the list also includes chickens, a campervan, and an Aston Martin.   

A few hours later we arrive. Just in time for lunch. Woo hoo. Normally a visit to The Royal Standard for a crab sandwich and a pint of something would be in order, but today it’s a bit too cold to sit out in the unsheltered garden, so I opt for a table on the verandah of The Harbour Inn.  A glass of Thatchers Gold is brought forth, although actually I’m so cold I would have preferred a hot chocolate!  This being Lyme Regis when it comes to sandwiches the preferred fish-style filling option is “locally caught Lyme Bay crab”, so a crab baguette it is.  And it’s huge. More of a crab half-a-loaf.  I manage to eat half and the other half is placed in the rucksack (it’s too big for the handbag) for consumption later in the day. 

I wouldn’t really describe the Harbour Inn as a pub, it’s more of a beachside café which serves alcohol … many of the “pubs” in Lyme Regis fall into the same category. And the one’s which aren’t beachside still seem to be more food-based than beer. In fact, I’ve been to about nine pubs in Lyme Regis and only one would be what I would call a “proper” pub (The Nags Head, which is slightly out of the town centre). But then Lyme is a very popular destination for trippers, so it’s understandable that these establishments cater for their needs. 

A pleasant hour is spent mackerel fishing … the boat owner tells us a few facts about the town, he points out the beach huts and informs us that late last year one of those sold for £40,000 … hmmmph. Not only could I have been the proud owner of a beach hut for a few years but if I’d decided to sell I could have doubled my investment! Typical. As revenge I decide to leave the other half of the crab baguette to fester in the rucksack for a week …

Cider – 2
Tuna -  2 (crab)
Atmosphere – 1

The Star Inn, Watchet.

A cold bank holiday. The options:- stay at home and do housework or go “somewhere” (anywhere please … save me from housework!)  and so I find myself on a day trip to Watchet.  I say “day trip” but it was more of a “three hour” trip including travelling time … Watchet is an ancient harbour town, with a solid maritime and trading history. It is home to two Museums, one dedicated to boats and the other records the history of Watchet (with quite a few boats thrown in …), The West Somerset Railway also runs through the town, which is always a bonus.  It is probably thanks to these plentiful trade-links that Watchet has several pubs … well there seemed to be quite a few to choose from anyway!

The Bell Inn looked quaint, but a forboding sign on the door told me that if I hadn’t booked a table for food I could forget it … The London Inn is almost directly opposite, the menu offered me a tuna and mayo baguette, but it’s best not to make a hasty decision until you’ve checked out the competition. The Esplanade Club didn’t sound or look very much like a pub; but apparently it is.  It’s situated on the harbour, so I would imagine it’s a popular place to stop for a glass of something on a busy, sunny day – but today is cold and windy and I want to be snug indoors. The West Somerset Hotel looked interesting – but huge doors to the courtyard, high windows and peeling paintwork gave it a barren air, and although I’m sure there was a chalk sign offering real ales, there was no sign of atmosphere – I felt as if I was waiting for the tumbleweed to come by.   From a distance The Anchor looked promising; lots of bunting and St  George’s flags - it was the weekend after the Royal Wedding after all - however, on closer inspection the flags of St George were painted on and when the door was opened it looked like a dive. Hmmmm.  

It looks like I am heading back to The London Inn. Via the scenic route i.e. through a housing estate.  But wait … what’s this?  Tucked down a side street just off the main drag through the town is The Star Inn, winner of an assortment of CAMRA awards – Most Friendliest Pub, Best Pub 2010 and Pub the Judge would most like to take home (or some such thing). Inside there are a lot of tables. An awful lot of tables.  Plenty of real ales too. And Thatchers Gold.  

A huge “Specials Board” and a printed menu but there are no sandwiches available, only proper meals. Luckily I spot that they offer a tuna salad served with a warm baguette. Ah ha. A DIY tuna baguette with assorted salad bits.  I’m in my element. I snaffle all the mayonnaise sachets from the surrounding tables and get to work.  A tuna, mayo and cucumber quarter baguette, a tuna, mayo and sweetcorn quarter baguette, a tuna, mayo and red onion quarter baguette and a tuna, mayo and full salad quarter baguette (although the latter is stashed in the handbag for later). Bliss!

Cider – 2 (Real Ale buffs – hmmph)
Tuna – 3 (Plenty of variety!)
Atmosphere – 2 (To be fair it was a cold and windy Sunday, the holidaymakers were safe caravans and the locals were probably snug at home)

So many pubs … so little time, Here, there and everywhere …

It’s been a while since I’ve managed to get round to an update, seems there just aren’t enough hours in a day to drink cider, eat baguettes and write a blog … and now I’m stuck with having to remember where I’ve been and what I’ve had.
Ages ago I visited the twenty-ager in Bournemouth and she took me to her local down the road which had recently reopened after an extensive renovation. I remember they had Aspall’s on draught and that I had something to eat, but all I remember is that it wasn’t a tuna baguette and then, to make matters worse, I can’t even remember the name of the place … so no point giving any points for that at all!

I also spent a day at the Tuckers Maltings Beer Festival in Newton Abbot … where I was horrifed to discover that despite having two hundred and thirty something real ales for the punters they had absolutely NO cider on offer. None. Not even a sip.  Luckily the Maltings shop next door had some local bottle cider available to purchase, so I sampled the delights of Winkleigh Cider Co. Sam’s Dry and Green Valley’s Sparkling Vintage and Dragon Tears. At 8.3% the Sparkling Vintage was probably the strongest cider I’ve ever had, and I had to have a nap on the grass to recover!

As well as being home to one of the few remaining Maltings in the UK Newton Abbot also boasts a Cider House – Ye Olde Cider Bar – serving noth9ing BUT cider, I shall have my revenge on those real ale buffs on a return visit to the town one day!

Then last month I went to the New Inn at Cross, where I probably had a pint of Thatcher’s Gold (because I know they serve it there!) and I also had an evening meal, so again no baguette. The New Inn is a good pub if you want a delicious meal, sometimes they have exotic things like Ostrich on the menu and the whitebait is scrummy. I wish I could mention the sandwich and baguette selection … but I can’t.  The evening we went the local table skittles league as in action – something of a rarity in these parts!

I’ve also had trips to The Lamb in Axbridge, a couple of pubs in Bristol that I can’t even remember and been back to The Crossways at West Hunstpill where I was delighted to find they now serve Thatchers Gold “Slush Puppy” which is probably my all time favourite summer drink! (If you’ve never sampled the delights of iced cider I recommend you do asap.  I’m looking forward to a return trip to The Crossways soon!)