August 1999 Trip
This is instalment seven of Postal Drinker my attempt to drink in every London postal district this year. I am keeping to my schedule of eleven pubs a month and am now over halfway through the crawl. For the first week in August I am too busy at work to do any new pubs but things slack off in the second week and I am able to get away from work by six. I decide to start the month by finishing off North West London
On the Monday I get a Northern line tube to Colindale (NW9) and walk round to the Moon Under Water, a Wetherspoon pub which disappointingly has only four beers on. As Courage Best is at a special price of £1.35 I have a pint which is in good condition. There are few customers in the pub which is not surprising as it is a Monday night. As I sit and read the Standard it occurs to me that a no music and no TV policy can have its disadvantages. If the pub has few customers it can lead to a flatter atmosphere and customers may go somewhere else on a Monday to see the football. Walking back to the station it also occurs to me that it is a bit unfair to be critical of a pub for selling four real ales. I would imagine the guvnor knows how many beers he can keep in good condition with the turnover the pub has.
The next day I again get the Northern line, this time up to Hendon. The only other time I went to Hendon I drunk in a pub called the Bear and from my memory of checking the North London guide it appears that the best pubs in Hendon are in the Church Street/Burroughs area. However when I get there I am unable to locate the Bear and the other pubs seem a disappointing lot. Eventually I find the Greyhound, a free house just off Church Street, which is the HQ of Hendon Cricket Club and appears to be a good community local. However there are only two beers on which are Courage Best and a Whitbread beer. I have a pint of Best which is OK but the pub would be improved by a more imaginative beer range, possibly one or two Courage Guest beers.
Leaving the Greyhound I walk down to Golders Green (NW11) an area with few pubs. The one I chance upon in Golders Green Lane is the White Swan which I believe is a GBG pub. This is an Allied pub with six beers on, including the latest Brakspears seasonal beer Hooray Henley at a special price of £1 per pint. This is a pale refreshing beer which is slightly stronger than most summer beers. There are notices up advertising a millennium eve party, nothing like planning ahead.
As I have a day off on Thursday I go down to Forest Hill (SE23) on the Wednesday evening. It turns out my friend who lives there is not in so I go to the Railway Telegraph, a Shepherd Neame pub. I remember going here some years ago when it was a two bar pub with the full range of Sheps beers on. It has now been refurbished into one bar in a more modern wine bar style and three beers are available.
I order a pint of Bishops Finger which is completely undrinkable but is immediately changed for another one which is also completely undrinkable. This is changed and this time I have a pint of the bitter which is in far better condition.
Although memory is not always a reliable guide it seems to me that the Railway was a better pub in its previous format. Perhaps if Shepherd Neame spent more time looking after their pubs and beer and less complaining about duty levels they may do better. Anyway for the next pub I walk down Dartmouth Road to Sydenham (SE 26) and enter the Bricklayers.
This is a Young's pub where the two bars have been knocked into one but each bit retains a separate identity. The public bit has a dart board and a television showing athletics and there is also a six-sided pool table although it is not being used. Both Young beers are on and I have a pint of Ordinary which is in good condition. Unlike previous years Young's do not seem to be brewing any seasonal beers this year. While this is an unadventurous policy a smaller range does help keep beer quality up. In past years Young's seasonal beers did not seem to sell very well and quickly fell into the ``it does not sell so it goes off so it does not sell'' vicious circle. Perhaps Young drinkers are a more conservative lot and prefer sticking to Special and Ordinary.
For the next pub I get the train up to Brockley (SE 4) for the Brockley Jack. This is a turn of the century pub named after a former local highwayman which is now a Greene King pub with all four beers on so I have a pint of Triumph. The Jack was a Magic pub so it is very cluttered with decorations and memorabilia. The former function room is now a theatre, although closed for the summer, and there are lots of leaflets available concerning local events which is a nice touch.
After work on the Friday I get a train from Waterloo to Mortlake. Although Mortlake (SE 14) has several Young's pubs I try the Railway Tavern near the station which is a Hall and Woodhouse pub with lots of plain wooden furniture. Two Badger beers are available and I have a pint of Dorset Bitter.
Afterwards I walk down to Barnes (SW13) passing the Watney brewery and the Charlie Butler, a Young's pub named after their former head horseman. This is one of the few pubs named after someone who was alive at the time. There are three Young pubs in Barnes and the one I choose is the Coach and Horses for a pint of Young's bitter. This is a small one bar pub in the High Street of an up-market area of London. The day's newspapers and various games are available. Wandering outside I find a garden with a stall selling expensive food, a boules pitch in use and slides and climbing frames for children. There is also a separate room that is used as a theatre. The Coach is a most interesting pub which with its facilities, if not its beer, tries to cram a quart in a pint pot and gets away with it. As I leave I notice a copy of an old notice detailing liquor restrictions in Wales during the First World War. Something that would no doubt interest Martin Smith.
On the Saturday I finish work at lunchtime and wander down through the West End to Charring Cross station. As there is a train to Abbey Wood about to depart I decide to have another attempt at SE 2 following my failure in June. Yet again the first three pubs, the Harrow, the Abbey Arms and the Barchpole have no real ale. Turning into Eynsham Drive I reach the site of the Pegasus which is still closed and boarded up. Checking the map in the library I find that the map in the South East London Guide has an error and I have gone past Grovebury Road, the turning for the Birchwood. Instead of turning back I head on over the railway line for the Jolly Marshman.
According to the guide I should turn right into Brancondale Road for the Jolly Marshman but when I get there and do it and reach the end of the road without finding it I ask someone for directions and am told that I should have turned left and that it is at the other end of the road. Eventually I get there and find that it has a Courage Best handpump but the landlord says he has been having trouble with the beer all day and declines to sell me any. Still it is better than selling me a pint knowing the beer to be off.
After a bottle of Pils I cross the footbridge over the railway, walk up to Eynsham Drive turn right and then left into Grovebury Road for the Birchwood. According to the guide there is no real ale but things have changed since then and Courage Bast is available and in reasonable condition. The Birchwood is a basic one bar locals pub with two televisions showing the afternoons sport and a jukebox. It is also the most easterly real ale pub in the London postal districts unless one of the first three start selling it. Having done the entire district in two hours I head back to the station to get the train back to Waterloo.
When I get to Waterloo it has stopped raining so I get a train to Putney. There several Young's pubs in Putney but they are all very crowded with Fulham fans celebrating their teams 0-0 draw against Man City especially the pubs by the river. Eventually I try the Old Spotted Horse in the High Street which is slightly less crowded and have a pint of Young's Ordinary. There is a large screen TV showing the Rugby Union international between South Africa and Australia and several South Africans start jumping up and down when their team score a last minute try and conversion to snatch victory.
As the pub is still quite crowded it is difficult to see what other facilities are available, perhaps it would have been better to visit Putney on a non-match day.
For the last pub of the month I get the train one stop back to Wandsworth (SW 18) home of the Young's brewery and fifteen of its pubs. After wandering around I eventually try the Spread Eagle a large, Victorian, two bar, street corner pub and have a pint of Special. The pub has only a few customers which is a relief after the crowds in Putney. No doubt it will get more crowded later in the evening, it certainly deserves to.