What it lacks in classic architecture, Andover makes up for in budget hotels, ideally placed on industrial estates and service stations. Sadly the Premier Inn has a McDonald and Greene King fun pub for company.
Despite the gorgeous villages names (Middle Wallop, Enham Alamein, Anna Valley), this is an area rarely explored by me, as the lack of pink below indicates.
This year’s “just west of town” local was the Weyhill Fair, looking every bit your roadside Fullers dull diner.
There were, in fact, no diners at 2pm on a pleasant Tuesday, just a couple of Old Boys contemplating being kicked out in an hours time.
The landlord didn’t seem surprised I wanted to photograph his handpumps.
The two Old Boys at the bar were good value, cheering my beer choice (Seafarers, NBSS 3)) before returning to their debate on baked potatoes. Obviously.
KC & The Sunshine Band’s classic “Give it Up” cut through the conversation on the role of the microwave on cooking spuds, to the detriment of neither.
Almost old-school Fullers.
Crossing the border into Wiltshire takes you back into more familiar territory;
This is the Wiltshire of moletraps, helicopters and hand-chalked menus above a blazing fire. Newton Toney’s Malet Arms didn’t have helicopters in the car park but what transport it did have was barely cheaper.
Like the smartest gastropubs, it had plenty of younger professionals on the sort of extended lunch that had faded from the NHS by 1997 (sob).
A real destination pub, but I resisted the bargain sausage and mash ((£12.50) and suffered a dull Ramsbury (NBSS 2). No other drinkers, no-one drinking cask, even at decent prices.
The table opposite just had a giant jug of water. The slow death of Tuesday drinking; pubs can survive supplying tap water. But not all of them can. Expect Open Fri-Sun as standard in a large number of rural pubs soon.
On the upside, the walks into the uplands from the pub, past fresh cut grass, cherry blossom and horses, were sublime.
I caught Goodworth Clatford on a good day too.
Yummie mummies walked their privately educated charges along the stream. I walked the deserted High Street to the faded grandeur of the Clatford Arms.
It was surprisingly plain, like some of the Guide pubs east of Salisbury, and all the better for it. The only other customer, seated at the bar, was firmly on the Double Drop at 4pm.
Cool and sumptuously rich, it was good enough to convert you from the Pride (NBSS 4), and my best Flack Manor by a distance. I noted some of the best qualities of 6X and 3B, which will probably be enough to put most of you off.
There’s not much to do except nod to the fellow Flack drinker and tracksuited barmaid, terrorise the pub cat, and enjoy “All the Young Dudes” on Gold FM.
The toilets are pleasingly basic, and spoilt by Big D type soft porn, but don’t let that put you off a visit.