A random* walk in the gorgeous east Hertfordshire countryside just off the A10 is the best way to welcome Autumn to England. The only more autumnal place would be the Chequered Skipper in Ashton (Northants), home of the world conker championships.
Leaves are already falling on the many footpaths in this commuter village known only for its hazardous fords, which rather lose their appeal when elderly gentlefolk take 20 minutes to steer themselves over what is no more than a stream at present.
QUIZ TIME – What fame does Braughing share with Newmarket ?
Mrs RM and I used to live and work a few miles west of here, but rarely made it this far. When Stevenage is on your doorstep, what more do you need ?
Well, ancient houses, pargeting at its finest and lost Roman villages perhaps. Braughing is typical of the Herts/Essex borders, which really ought to promote itself better to arrivals at Stansted Airport. As his biggest fan Pub Curmudgeon will know, Jamie Oliver was born down the road, which really ought to sell a place.
The people were very cheery as well, though that might be because most of them were in the pub. (The men were, the women were in the garden centre at Ware).
Astonishingly, Braughing seems to have retained three pubs, two churches and no shops. No further comment necessary.
My extensive records show a visit to the smartish Golden Fleece a few years back produced a pint of Twitchell that scored the highest mark on my own pre-NBSS scale for beer quality. Obviously, the Fleece dropped out of the Beer Guide the very next year.
The Brown Bear, which has completely escaped my attention (and that of the OS Map) has some of the most bizarre opening hours I’ve ever seen. From 3pm to 6pm on Mondays, as if they were filling the gap when every other rural pub was closed. Actually, a pub open at all on a Monday is an increasing rarity outside of town centres.
I gave it till 4.30, enough time for what I assumed would be a short after-work session for trademen. You’re always a little apprehensive about entering pubs with little apparent custom, even in The South.
In the week that CAMRA’s Heritage Pubs Guide is launched (I’m up there tomorrow), I can again tell you there are plenty of basic ale houses nowhere near the Guide. I didn’t see the restaurant, just a one bar local straight out of “Cider with Rosie” land, only with east London accents.
Half a dozen retirees (he writes) had obviously been settled in for a while; playing cards, arguing about ferrets (honest) and old breweries (Rayments), jangling their gold bracelets.
If it’s a modern fake then it’s a very good one; net curtains, flagstone floors, curved settles, breweriana etc. And the beer, Twitchell again, was superb, albeit the coolest for a while (NBSS 3.5).
QUIZ TIME – What feature delighted me most in the Bear ?
Quite wonderful, and very friendly. Where has it been hiding ? If this was in rural Suffolk you’d never stop reading about it.
Ahead of my post on pub toilets, some classic Victorian from the Bear.
*”Random” – entirely unprompted by Good Beer Guide entries.