Whether you think Wetherspoons are on the wane, or a good example of how to maintain a profitable company, you have to admire their investment in some of our most neglected towns in recent years. They’ve brought life, as well as the first cask beer in years, to places like Spennymoor and Peterlee.
What has really impressed me has been their investment in hotels in some very challenging markets; Leighton Buzzard, Sittingbourne and March may have a few business travellers but their tourist potential is light (even by my standards). Their hotels seem to be doing very well, even at rates well above my skinflint budget.
Warminster isn’t that weird a location, well-placed for Stonehenge, Glastonbury, Longleat and Stourhead, but the Spoons hotel isn’t much cheaper than options in Bath or the matchless Frome.
It’s a decent hotel with Premier Inn levels of comfort, and a fairly average Spoons. Except the beer range, which was distinctly rubbish. Those three ales below, plus a Ruddles hidden (as is their wont) behind cardboard advertising, was the sum of the cask. That didn’t bother me; the Twisted Brewery Euros beer justified the Beer Guide listing (NBSS 3). Not what I was led to expect from the advertising though.
The best thing I can say about the Bath Arms is that it seems to have created an informal queueing system, a snake of customers ensuring the Spoons staff don’t need to shout “Right, who was next ?” in that annoying manner. That didn’t stop folk cutting in to ask about the jam for their scones at regular intervals though.
As has been the case recently, this Spoons wasn’t packed, but of course at 3.15pm many of the competition are closed completely. There was still a happy mix of cocktail jug drinkers, schoolboys slurping milkshakes, and OAPs complaining about scones. Real ale drinkers ? No, didn’t see those. Plenty of chat about radiators, no politics today.
Warminster itself isn’t astonishing, only really looking the part as you approach the northern stretch around the School. North Row has some pretty cottages too.
I like cheap and cheerful, and the town museum is possible the UK’s most basic, but punched above its weight in terms of interest. The display on Salvation Army history has some items showing pub opposition to their preaching from the 1880s.
In an underpubbed town, The Organ has been the star for a while now, belying its relatively recent shop conversion, and feeling a bit like a lived-in micro pub.
It’s the sort of town you expect to see independent enterprise, and there were a fair few new cafes, but the places has an air of unfulfilled potential. Head to similar-sized Frome to see potential fulfilled.