I was very excited to read on Wikipedia about the modern art installation in Didcot. If you look very closely below you’ll see it in the middle of the photo, between New Look and Store Twenty One.
Tim from Newbury tells me this was part of Berkshire ’till 1974, when the local CAMRA branch lost the Battle of Ardington Wick to an Oxon rival equipped with better cask breather detection weaponry. At least West Berks got to keep the Bell in perpetuity. Some you lose….
According to my records, only the Wheatsheaf has represented Didcot in the Guide in the last decade or so (though not this year). At the risk of sounding sarcastic, Didcot looks like Swindon without the Ember Inns.
As with Wiltshires finest, Didcot is surrounded by attractive industrial estates, supermarkets, and pretty villages. East Hagbourne is virtually contiguous with the south end of town, but I bet the resident below doesn’t own to being from Didcot when asked.
This really is a gem of a village, its Tudor buildings and topiary putting it on a par with Finchingfield. There were a number of visitors with socks over their boots and laminated OS Maps round their necks in the little alleys connecting up with the disused railway line.
The Fleur de Lys could have been a gastro nightmare, but wasn’t.
Yes, it had young children sitting at the bar, and the sound of barking dogs competing with their shrieking would have had Pub Curmudgeon in a frenzy. That’s my excuse for failing to bring you any conversational gems, and of course I don’t make those up.
But it was a comfortable, unpretentious pub for a smart village, and was good enough for Dr Who and Sarah Jane when they arrived here to solve the Shakespeare mystery in 1602. Their disappointment that the Speckled Hen was off isn’t evident in the top photo.
No signs of its Greene King ownership except the Morland, which is a real rarity these days. I followed the locals and went for the Tyneside Blonde, which was cooler than cellar cool and a very tasty NBSS 3.5. Boltmaker and Westerham Bulldog completed a particularly solid line-up, only let down by the inevitable jam jars.
And if you want Scouse hospitality and Draught Bass, head a few miles north to here.