Quite a few reports from our more affluent, and therefore duller, counties to come. One of them will feature England’s worst beer and best faggots and chips, so something to look forward to.
First to Witney last Monday, where I hoped to find a recent Prime Minister stocking shelves in Waitrose, or at very least consulting as a brand ambassador for Greene King, but no luck.
My first trip west of Oxford in some years, and not one to raise the spirits on a dank January morning. You may be within spitting distance of the Cotswolds here, but Witney always strikes me as a workaday town without the workaday pubs.
I’m always happy to be proved wrong. But I don’t think Dick and Dave will be changing their travel plans on their next UK trip just yet.
Walking from the north into town over the River Windrush, you do at least get a few of the gorgeous golden stone buildings that draw Japanese tourists into the region, though even Christmas decorations and Courage Best seemed an insufficient draw for the Three Pigeons.
Having only seen the market place and hideous modern shopping centre before, the old part of Witney comes as a joy.
I failed to identify the flag, so let’s assume it’s Plymouth Argyle, eh ?
No street art, flags apart, but there’s a relatively vibrant independent coffee scene in Witney. Certainly they’ve invested in some giant backboards;
As you’d expect, this is a town of gentlefolk on a late January Monday morning made dramatic only by the impending end of Dryanuary and the sun struggling through the clouds.
I remember the Church of St Mary, oddly tucked away down a dead-end, but otherwise I don’t recognise Witney at all. I had it down as a charmless Banbury, but around the Market Place it feels closer to the Chippings. And not just because of the Barbour and pashminas.
WiFi thwarts my attempts to use WhatPub, but the Angel appears from nowhere. The Beer Guide says it opens at 10am, and amazingly the Beer Guide is right on this occasion.
Within twenty seconds, all is well with the world. Not the Hobgoblin cake, but the instant feel of being in a cosy pub well before noon, with ’70s MOR playing. Isn’t “Maggie May” a classic ?
A group of Old Boys (as opposed to Professional Drinkers) standing at the bar chatting about minor town issues (mostly roadworks) and John Terry, Some were on lager, a couple on beer, a few on mugs of builders tea, all resisting the charms of the Spoons over the road.
And a coterie of coffee drinkers, one of whom is doing a crossword in one of those book you pick up from WH Smith. Do WH Smith sell anything else these days ? I resist to urge to shout out random answers.
This alone is an advert for early retirement folks. And for English pubs. A pub grub menu had some of the cheapest lunches along the A40.
Bay windows, bench seating, beer mats and Boring Brown bitters of the highest order.
I don’t care who makes the Brakspear Oxford Gold; it could be brewed in Witney for all I care. The beer was cool, flavoursome, sherbety and left decent lacings on the half-pint glass (NBSS 3.5%).