Real fire, real grub

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.

Image result for david cameron china greene king

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.

Witney WhatPub.PNG

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.

3 Pigeons

Having only seen the market place and hideous modern shopping centre before, the old part of Witney comes as a joy.

Shop fits nose rings, I guess

I failed to identify the flag, so let’s assume it’s Plymouth Argyle, eh ?

Guess the flag. 5 points.

No street art, flags apart, but there’s a relatively vibrant independent coffee scene in Witney.  Certainly they’ve invested in some giant backboards;

Louis from One Direction ?

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.

St Mary

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.

Middle England

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.

A pub. Open at 10am.

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 ?

Cake, cask and craft lager (soon to be CAMRA approved)

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.

Crossword coffee lady

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.

Pub Grub
Proper seating

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%).

























  1. My recollection of Witney was much the same as yours and I too thought it was better than I remember it. It was once a proper working wool town that used to be famous for Witney blankets – probably long gone- then declined noticeably. But in the south prosperity now extends lengthy distances from
    cities, probably due to people moving away from unaffordable housing to relatively affordable housing, which would still be unaffordable in large parts of Scotland, Wales and the north of England. Am I on the right forum here?

    Liked by 2 people

      1. It’s not London is it?

        Just a completely random guess but I’m sure Pubmeister is looking for the ’Southern Whinge’, if I may misappropriate his whinge slightly…

        “But in the south prosperity now extends lengthy distances from the City (London), probably due to London people moving away from their expensive, unaffordable London housing to buy relatively affordable housing, which then becomes unaffordable to people who live in large parts of Southern England.”

        Yep I’m sure that’s the one….

        BTW – pretty sure that Brakspear Oxford Gold couldn’t be brewed in Witney as there is no brewery there – just a bunch of goblins brewing buckshee stuff in the woods (don’t ask me Wych wood – I don’t know).


  2. “Where is the Cotswolds’ Stockport” – ah, the eternal question. No such beast. Shipston-on-Stour has some proper pubs, and OK beer, and Evesham (see recent post) is very good, but that’s very “Greater Cotswolds”.


    1. It’s a fairly new flag that’s only been around for about 15 years.
      I only know because I travel the world watching England play cricket with chums from a village cricket club in Devon and they bring the flag with them.
      Sri Lanka later this year – I love the teardrop island.One of my favourite places.A mixture of cricket-mad fans,friendly people,corrupt officials but without the grinding filth and poverty of its neighbour India.Lion is the ubiquitous beer and the brewery has also taken over my favourite and harder to find Three Coins brewery.
      Then the Caribbean next Spring.Antigua and Barbados probs.
      Fabulous spot although much less friendly than it used to be with the younger generation more into gangsta rap,drugs and attitude than their cricket-loving elders.
      Antigua is a top venue.Five quid a day to watch cricket in a new ground,grilled lobster and fried plantain in the food stalls and oceans of rum and ginger beer.
      Barbados is gorgeous too.10 Saints Beer brewed in rum barrels is not bad if you can find it.Otherwise lashings of rum and spicy Bajan fishcakes.
      The old liver takes a fearsome pounding on that trip.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. And people think I’m lucky (I am) ? Love to go to Sri Lanka, worked with Sri Lankans and they brought a curry into work once.

        Ditto those Carribean islands, only done Jamaica.

        I did watch Zimbabwe beat India (young Tendulkar) in a test in ’98. 50p to get in, Castle 20p a bottle, steak at the Hilton £1.50. Quite sad looking back at what went wrong in Zim.


  3. “Dave”

    From the look of that photo him and that other bloke are fake beer drinkers. They’re not even letting the beer settle before drinking it!

    “Do WH Smith sell anything else these days ?”

    Over here they also sell Sudoku and the Jumble:


    I know as I buy my dear old Mom a book of Jumbles once in a while. 😉



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