One of the joys of a new Good Beer Guide, when it’s released, is exploring the large scale map to find out where on earth places such as Ynyshir and how do I get there when they only open after the buses have finished for the year. Throw in odd railway station labelling and it’s all fun. If you’re a weird middled aged male who doesn’t watch Great British Bake off, anyway.
To get to Wendens Ambo, you have to take the train to Audley End, which itself is a big house on the edge of Saffron Walden. The Fighting Cocks is 2 minutes from the station, on one of England’s finest B roads.
You can pretty much rely on well-kept beer in neat, traditional pubs in Essex, though it’s a county short of real classics. And so the Fighting Cocks gives you a chatty barmaid, cool Jack Spitty from Colchester (NBSS 3), pool playing tradesmen and a floral display my Dad would appreciate.
The walk into Saffron is very attractive, taking me past Simon Everitt’s ancestral home at Audley End.
Saffron Walden itself is outstanding, though I was still surprised to see a fair number of tourists admiring the stained glass in the underrated parish church. It’s not a place I’ve ever seen getting the visitors it deserves.
The streets around St Mary’s are some of the finest in the country, and since everyone here works in the City of London you can take photos to your heart’s delight.
Even the Polish deli is pargeted in Saffron. A clear day really brought out the colours in the buildings, including a library almost as good as the one in Peckham.
Unfortunately the good weather also brought out the shorts and polo shirts set, carrying their bottles of Bolly to the turf maze behind castle. The castle itself has seen better days, but it will hopefully return as the micropub the town needs (on the basis all towns need micropubs) following refurbishment.
The town’s pubs certainly need competition; they represent solid old England their best and worst. The coaching inns along the main road survive the traffic quite well; the two smaller Beer Guide regulars press on unchanging, ever-present in the GBG for what seems like decades.
That said, the King’s Arms is pubby and peaceful, and the Adnams would have been decent but for the usual problem.
The Old English Gentleman is cut from the same cloth, though with a more mature afternoon crowd who fitted the pub’s name well.
A similar beer range (Adnams, Wherry, Humpty Dumpty) to the one you’d have got 20 years ago, which is fine, as was the Humpty Dumpty. Probably not enough cask custom in either pub for four pumps on a Monday, but I can’t have it all ways. All day openers are rare enough these days.
From a look at WhatPub, nothing new here at all, and a very traditional café scene as well. Saffron is a wine town, which is why it’s got an Adnams Wineshop. The promised beer on draft was no more, so I made do with a present for Mrs RM. 10%, she hated it.
And if you think there’s no call for craft here, there’s a chap older than me who makes regular trips from here to the Pint Shop in Cambridge for his Wiper and True. Folk here can afford craft.