I finally picked up a copy of Boak & Bailey’s 20th Century Pub in Heffers Cambridge on Sunday, displayed alongside another classic publication (which I can’t write about until the 14th).


I’m a slow reader, so you may have to wait for anything approaching a review (see here and here for those). Already it’s clear that it’s beautifully written. and worth buying for the Viz “Flat Pack cartoon” alone.

But it’s the pages on Stevenage New Town that pulled me in, a reminder that the Pied Piper once hosted her Majesty (and I thought it was just Topsham with that honour).

Boak and Bailey note the variety of customers in that pub on their recent visit, including school children and mums in mid-afternoon.  Some of you won’t approve of children and babes in pubs, but let me tell you it was only the pubs around Stevenage that kept me sane when I went part-time to “look after” our eldest son James back in 1999.

James is off to Sheffield University this weekend, clearly unharmed by trips in infancy to the Fisherman and Crooked Billet to watch his dad drink Tetley and 6X, though perhaps the chicken dinosaurs were misjudged.


I don’t remember dragging him to the Dun Cow in Letchmore, but then I’d never heard of it until it was “recommended” to me as a place to try.

Letchmore feels a typical tight-knit Stevenage estate, but is only five minutes’ walk from the Old Town and its startling run of pubs (as seen on WhatPub).

Dun Cow.PNG

Letchmore is only noticeably defined as a separate entity by the schools and a small parcel of village green alongside the Dun Cow, which is clearly a pub on an estate rather than an estate pub.



Oh, and a couple of shops and takeaways.  You’ll be pleased to know that Fisherman’s Wharf delivered a retiredmartin standard Chinese pancake roll for £1.60.  Proper pancake rolls are a rarity these days.


Perfect pancake roll purveyor

I know people who would have snuck their snack into the pub, but not me.

You’re never quite sure what reception you’re going to get in an estate pub, even an 18th century model like this, but it’s nearly always better than you expect.  As it was here, where in my mildly scruffy but functional dress I fitted in perfectly with a wider mix of locals than you might expect at 5.30pm.  Tradesmen of all ages, of course, a lot of polo shirts, and a table playing cards.


You can trust a pub where people still tip up to play cards. Let’s face it, you won’t see folk playing cards in the Harvester. Or the Spoons. A sign of a proper pub.

A worryingly large range of cask (by Stevenage standards), almost as if someone has been encouraging them to put more pumps on.


Panicking, I picked the one closest to my eye-line, my usual fallback.

The Proper Job was near nectar (NBSS 4 +), just as it had been in a Woking estate pub running on similar principles and commitment to clean lines. The light poured in, the beer was cool and rich, I was very happy.


And there was a lot going on.

The music was totally unrecognisable, which I quite like, but I don’t think it was Godspeed You! Black Emperor. Whatever, it was the perfect accompaniment to Armenia v Denmark on the telly, and a rather more energetic game of pool behind me.

Without a train to catch, I’d have stayed for another (same again), and possibly popped back for another pancake roll.


As with similar “recommended” estate pubs in Bracknell and Peterborough and Reading, this is a giant find for the local CAMRA branch, though I doubt the Dun Cow will be seeing coachloads of beer tourists visiting from Cambridge or York.







  1. Runcorn used to have a pub on every estate in the New Town, only two left now, the Beechwood and the Tricorn. The Beechwood is good, never been into the Tricorn as I’ve been warned off it but not sure why. All others closed down.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. “never been into the Tricorn as I’ve been warned off it but not sure why”

      My guess it’s because none of their beers are lighter in colouring than Lemon Punch on a Dulux paint chart. 🙂

      Either that or it’s because they cater to Irish labouring astronauts whose pipe smoking Yorkshire relatives like to hang about in shirt sleeves the year round.


      Liked by 1 person

      1. “That’s the sort of incomprehensible answer I approve of on hear.”

        I will overlook the “hear” bit (I’m assuming you did that on purpose – heh), and apologize for coming across as obtuse (though to be honest I was not trying to not be obtuse, if that makes any sense).

        My reply was for Ms Walker (spinster) in relation to her post here:


        Serendipitously (if that makes sense) I followed a link to the above post from Boak and Bailey yesterday and low and behold here she is posting on your blog today! 🙂



      2. The lack of an edit function on here is a real problem when you’ve got clumsy fingers !

        I knew you were replying to the good lady, whose excellent blog I’ve just discovered, but it still sounded nonsensical (though probably just to me) 😁 Cheers


      3. “but it still sounded nonsensical (though probably just to me)”

        LOL, good thing we don’t take anything seriously here.

        And I agree it sounded nonsensical as it was lifted semi-verbatim from her post (and replies) which were delightfully nonsensical themselves.😁

        Cheers! 🍻

        Liked by 1 person

  2. I’m with you on Proper Job. If well kept then it’s a cracking drink. Best pint of it I’ve had was The Globe Weymouth – awesome. I’m not a St Austell fan neither, I always find their beers a touch sweet, but not PJ. The Big Job I had at GBBF (no toilet humour please!) was good too, if not a little alcohol forward.

    Getting back to your post. If the bar counter in the first photo is that mucky, then what are the parts of the pub you can’t see like???? I guess they are frightened to clean it, lest they fetch more varnish off the moulding? I reckon that’s a theme more of us should follow – cleanliness in pubs. Because after all, cleanliness is next to godliness and God likes nice clean pub in which to enjoy a well brewed and well kept pint!


      1. I think that debate has now moved onto whether that will be achieved by increasing breweries as opposed to decreasing pubs. Eventually all that the UK will have will be Sams shipping kegs to the US and bottles to Waitrose at £75 a bottle (£400 a six-pack), all home delivered to 150 story skyscrapers built on the skeletons of Victorian gin palaces.

        Liked by 1 person

  3. Interesting post- like the Whatpub screenshot. Look forward to visiting – Stevenage seems to be steadily improving beer-wise or maybe it is just better researched these days. No mention of Denmark’s scintillating win in Armenia I notice


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