Just to prove to you I do occasionally encounter good beer as well as politically incorrect toilet art on my travels, here’s a break from writing about drain pours.

Actually, it took a couple of days at home to recover from the deep trauma of finding my last Gloucestershire tick inexplicably closed for Summer, leaving me an agonising wait with a lone gap on my spreadsheet.


It’s now over 3 hours travel to my closest unticked GBG pub, assuming I start travel at 01:37am in the morning.

By Day 3 I needed a place to explore I could get to by train, tick or none.  Roll up, Bishop’s Stortford.  Or Stansted Airport West as it’s better known.

King’s hunting ground better known than Stansted and M11 in the 16th century

In the ’90s Mrs RM and I lived in Hitchin, the UK’s dullest place, but it still had more about it than Stortford.

I mean, look at this pathetic street art near the station;


But I’d only been a dozen times, mostly to buy HiFi from a now defunct Linn dealer, and it was worth the couple of hours I spent scaring locals by walking through expensive suburbs (think : Sutton Coldfield or Petts Wood).

You can follow a route around the Stort valley using this information board, itself the oldest thing in town.

Antique parchment

It’s all quite pleasant, until you get tired of bumping into runners and dog walkers after half an hour.

Something in the water

The town itself isn’t all that, unless you come from the Americas, when I presume it looks like the “Lil’ ole England” of your Fodor dreams.

Old !
Older !

I caught it on a good summer’s day, when it probably matched Hertford for interest. But there were no Japanese tourists, and the office workers from East Herts Council looked on nervously as I waited for them to get out of the way of my shot of the Star, the only Guide pub in an under-pubbed town.

A classic modern council building
Classic Hertfordshire pub design

This seemed a good test of the health of a town pub in midweek. And it feels a good spot for a modest lunch, mixing some Olde Worlde pub touches with a 1970s art collection nicked from Dulwich.

Original sign
Seen those pictures before ?

Google Maps suddenly beeped at me;

You were here three years ago

Wow.  How does it do that ?  Hopefully it’s not the same barrel of beer.

Weird jam jars

My notes say “attractive” “creeky” and “corporate“, which could conceivably be my CV, but also sums up the Star, reminding me a bit of the Pickerel in Cambridge. Not that you get Chas & Dave in Cambridge,


or expert art guide books.

Nicked one for Mark Crilley

Despite a slight haze, the middle beer (Golden from 3 Brewers of St Albans, beer bores) was rather fantastic; cool, chewy and citrusy.  NBSS 3.5, perhaps 4.

Shameless plug for local CAMRA mag

As it’s not a “Proper Pub” as defined by Beer & Pubs Forum Inc, I was able to have 3 mini tapas for a tenner with my beer. If only I hadn’t gone on to What Pub to log my score and realised I’d forgot to claim my CAMRA discount.  My soul was crushed.

Sticky ribs a winner

I was there nearly an hour and saw one more pint of cask pulled (the Golden). But mine was good. What does that prove ?  It proves nothing.

A few Old Boys came in for their Carling, a mums and daughter came in for their hunters chicken. I was delighted to see they paid separately.  But there was no office trade.

In fact, little lunchtime eating anywhere in town, bar the newish (and excellent) Spoons.

Marvel at the Port Jackson’s keg range and competitive pricing, and at the fact I’ve discovered how to use “Slideshow“*

This slideshow requires JavaScript.


Not much has changed in Stortford over 20 years; plain Greene King and Pubco places dominate the suburbs, and the big pizza chains stud the High Street.  The only real gem is the Art Deco glory of the Nag’s Head.

Proper Pub sign
McMullens stronghold – will return

Craft ?  You must be kidding.

But what’s this tucked into the corner of the Spar ?

Craft beer (of a sort) in Hitchin, Letchworth and now Stortford.  Where next, Hemel ?


*Slideshow has proved to be about as popular as a Coldplay cover of James Blunt, so that experiment is hereby ended.


  1. “The town itself isn’t all that, unless you come from the Americas” –Well, guilty as charged I must say; if people can see a building like that Black Lion and find it unremarkable, it’s testimony to what an abundance of such buildings you have over there.

    No doubt we have equivalent things over here that we don’t much notice that folks from the UK might find striking. Can’t think what they would be though!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Folk from the Americas make up a third of my regular commentators, or three-quarters when I weight for oddity, so I need to take account of their needs.

      Yes, there are gorgeous towns that will never grace Mudgie’s Top 10, and basic pubs that will never again grace the Beer Guide but are a joy to explore.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. “King’s hunting ground better known than Stansted and M11 in the 16th century”

    I like Howe Green (in the vicinity of the Hallingburys). It reminds me of that Chinese joke; how high is a Chinese mountain.
    (note there is no question mark at the end of that sentence… hint). 🙂


    They never learned how to colour coordinate for one thing.

    “Something in the water”

    Is that where the Justice League HQ spends the summer?

    “when I presume it looks like the “Lil’ ole England” of your Fodor dreams.”

    I only used Fodor’s ‘Let’s Go’ for the Continent. 🙂

    “Older !”

    Pfft. If you’ve seen the Stort valley information board you’ve already seen the oldest thing in town apparently. 😉

    “Original sign”

    I didn’t realise Lionel Richie was singing about beer way back when.

    “Wow. How does it do that ?”

    That freaks me out at times as well.

    “a mums and daughter came in”

    Is that one of those modern ‘two mums’ thingies?

    ” and at the fact I’ve discovered how to use “Slideshow”.”

    Colour me impressed! (you can use the coloured pencils that came with Mark’s Spiderman comic)

    Oh, and I could tell from the slideshow it was a Spoons when the £1.49 came up as the price of the ale special. 🙂

    “Craft beer (of a sort)”

    Ok, you’re getting carried away with this slideshow thingy; a bit like you did with that filter thingy. 🙂


    Liked by 1 person

  3. Well, well, well, the mask finally slips. After post upon post pontificating about BBB, BBP (boring, basic pubs) and generally making yourself out to be the saviour of what’s traditional, the preserve of the working man: Pooh Poohing the middle class micro and the shock of the modernist brewers and bars and generally being a martyr to the beer ticking cause. I just can’t believe you let slip that you buy hi-fi from a Linn dealer! Most of your readers can’t even afford a second hand Li, let alone hi-fi separates that cost more than a brand new family car. I don’t believe you will ever live that down, Sir. No.


  4. As a life long resident of Bishop’s Stortford it’s nice to see a fellow CAMRA member giving some recognition to the town, and more specifically the Star. Sadly I think the Star is the only pub in town to recognise CAMRA in return.

    Liked by 1 person

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