TAKE THE FIRST TRAIN TO ASHFORD

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My postbox is full of letters from readers asking why I never visit Ashford. The truth is that there hasn’t been a new Beer Guide pub there since The Reformation*. The answer people really expect is that Ashford is matched only by Maidenhead for its ability to create a void in the soul.

At one stage they even stopped the train that took you to Brussels, dumping you instead in France.  That’s how bad it was. At least Crewe has a Belgian beer bar.

But Ashford must be worth of investigation, I thought, the population is rocketing (75,000, unbelievably).  And it was only 15 minutes, and £8.10 (!) on the train from Folkestone.  What sights greet you;

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Would make a good micro pub

The street art turns out to be a plague-era warning to stay away.

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But the terraces of Barrow Hill are gorgeous,

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and you can never have enough tanks in your shopping centre.

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Note Tat2Ltd

The High Street isn’t buzzing though, whatever that Portas Pilot status did for Ashford isn’t apparent.  The vast supermarkets and Outlet Centre have clearly sucked the life out of the centre, Brierley Hill style.

But, as they say, you won’t starve.  Just don’t ask for crushed avocado here.

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Café society hits Ashford

I warmed to the place as the High Street revealed a cheery market, some old timbered buildings, and good use of daffodils.  As always, look up, not sideways.

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You can see how quiet it was though.

Everyone was in the Spoons, of course, waiting for the “Available Soon” beers to come on.

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Actually, they weren’t.  No more than a dozen drinkers, which is shameful really.  There might have been a dozen real ales on/nearly on; there was a further selection stretching to Gadds No.5 round the corner.  A nice, big blackboard listing the beers is clearly an innovation too far.

I only saw the usual lagers (Carling won by a head) served in the half hour I needed to consume my 3rd crushed avocado bagel and coffee of the week.  No beer review, but it’s in the Beer Guide, so it must be good, mustn’t it ?  Don’t ask how I got the photo below.

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Note anonymisation technique employed here

It’s a Spoons, so the conversational gems just keep on coming;

Grab that box to stand on and you’ll be able to see the bar” – to a bloke called Titch who may have been a jockey.

Get your wedge out H” – to a bloke called Del.

Have you got Black Label” They had Carling.   “I don’t like Carling. Only Black Label

Most folk here were under 60, on their second beer by 9.30, and engaged in an assessment of the racing odds. That’s not a criticism by the way. Far from it.  They were having a better time than you were, and the state of the furniture was not their fault.

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We want tables

The Church of St Mary’s is stunning, the other pubs less so.

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Prevailing wisdom is that a micro pub would clean up here, but prevailing wisdom is often wrong. Unusually, there’s more pubs in the suburbs than the centre, and those suburban pubs often play to the same middle-aged audience as the micros filling a gap along the coast. 

 

*The Craft Beer reformation of 2007.

15 thoughts on “TAKE THE FIRST TRAIN TO ASHFORD

  1. Is the keykeg really as old as 2007? That invention must be the real begiinning of The Reformation. I’m also fairly sure that among certain hipster types in certain craft beer bars the term Diet of Worms has probably been taken a bit too literally.

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  2. I took my wife to Ashford for a pub crawl while we were on Honeymoon staying in Folkestone,for some strange reason we went there for an evening session so i only got photos of the first three pubs we did,all with my wife either stood outside or sat on a bench,we did 15 pubs and found 3 Shepherd Neame tied houses though one was a good walk from the middle on an estate,we found 3 keg only pubs all Courage tied houses,the Man of Kent was a Whitbread Fremlins tied house,with a decent drink of Fremlins bittter on the bar.
    We did the pub crawl on the 25th September 1986 on a Thursday night session.
    So i have proof that we have had a crawl round Ashford and i did one round Dukinfield quite a few years later,another town i know well.

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    1. In the event that I have the misfortune of tying the knot, my opening gambit in the negotiation process for the honeymoon destination will be Mansfield with the more realistic aim of settling on Great Yarmouth in February.

      I think tanks and shopping centres could make a wonderful combination.

      The table is still perfectly serviceable for its primary function of placing a pint on it. I don’t see what else you could possibly want.

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  3. I grew up just outside Ashford and went to school in the town. My parents moved to the town in the late 1950s, when I was three years old and over the years we witnessed Ashford change from a pleasant market town to a concrete jungle given over to the motor car.

    The town planners literally tore the heart out of the place, knocking down all the best pubs in order to drive a totally unnecessary ring road through the town.

    There is nothing on this earth that would persuade me to return there; even for a fleeting visit. A truly ghastly place and a monument to corporate greed and municipal corruption.

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      1. The train whizzed through Ashford on its way back from Brussels last night. The fact that few Eurostar services stop there now says it all really.

        Speaking of trains I highly recommend the Eurostar- Thalys option for travel to Germany and other European destinations. Report to follow.

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