Hassrale Trips: Ware

Date: Saturday 24th November 2001

HASSRALE last visited Ware in 1991 and our recent Hertford trip took us through Ware station so it seemed like a good idea to revisit the area. It's another pleasant country town, somewhat smaller than Hertford and without the advantage of its own brewery but it has a charm of its own. There is a fair bit of new building in evidence suggestive of its role as a commuter town. There are some strange traits in the new buildings which I take to be nods in the direction of old occupations such as malting. The Lee navigation runs through the town and several pubs have gardens overlooking this.

Take 11:10 from Liverpool St direct to Ware or the 11:19 and change at Cheshunt (N.B. due to a pricing anomaly it is somewhat cheaper to buy a return ticket to Hertford which is the next and final station on the line). Coming out of the station it was noted that the Station Hotel we visited in 1991 is now a private residence though it still looks like a pub. Turn left from the station and walk to the end of Station road where we turn right, on your left the road crosses the railway line. A short walk along takes us to our first pint.

1. Spread Eagle - 37 Amwell End
Beers: McMullens AK

Small locals' pub with not much room for large groups. Dart board, piano and TV in evidence but not in use. Dim woody interior, two entrances suggest a former division into two bars. It looks like it hasn't been decorated in a while (which is how pubs should be).

Walking down the road we cross the Lee via a bridge. We were intending to have a drink in the Saracens Head which is just the other side of the river and boasts a patio overlooking the water but it was closed for refurbishment. A sign said that Saracens would be reopening in November 2001 (sounds a bit worrying on the real ale front). On our side of the road there was a large pub called the Bridgehouse which didn't seem to have any handpumps in use so we turned right down Star street to find ...

2. Victoria - 2 Star Street
Beers: McMullens AK

Small cosy pub, TV switched onto standard Saturday rubbish. Gents toilets outside although the Ladies loo is in the public i.e. right-hand bar. Supposed riverside beer garden but we could only see a car park. Large amount of bric-(-brac scattered around in the public bar, lots of pottery, pictures and oddly, several small side tables. Eclectic mix of furniture with plenty of seats and not a particularly busy pub. There is also a second bar accessible only from the street. It seemed to specialise in food (which was available on our visit) although there was one incongruous table with a checked plastic tablecloth, for diners in the public bar (parties of three or fewer). Note that it does accommodation.

Continuing on down Star street noting all the new buildings in "mock-maltings" style (not particularly attractive or well-constructed in our opinion) we eventually reach ...

3. Angel - 54 Star Street
Beers: Greene King IPA, Abbot Ale, Adnams bitter

Fairly large two-bar pub, this used to be a Tap & Spile from 1996 to 2000, but is now a Pubmaster establishment There isn't much to distinguish the two bars apart from one having a large TV (which was showing motor racing). As soon as we went in the other bar background music was switched on. There are some benches outside by the bus-stop so you can watch the traffic go by. Actually it looks like there are three bar areas since judging by the lighting, the bar area we were sitting in looked like it sometimes doubled as a disco. A local, whom it transpired had decorated many of the pubs in Ware between pints of Stella (no, he used paint!) said that the pub was being rewired though I couldn't see any work being done myself (new glasses?) - thanks, mine's a pint - Ed.

Walking back to the bridge you need to cross over near the Co-op dairy depot. Negotiate the roundabout and continue along the High St past Flutes which was said to sell real ale, but the survey team couldn't see any so kept on down the High St until the road divided, taking the Northern branch which is West Street (which joins back with the High Street after a short distance) to find ...

4. Old Punch House - 7 West Street
Beers: Courage Directors

Large pub not too busy and plenty of seating. Interesting ceiling in the back bar with high wooden vaulting. Projection TV thankfully not on initially, but then the rugby came on and we were forced to move as we were sitting under the screen. There is a Greene King sign outside which is a bit misleading. The beer guide says that this is two pubs knocked together. Beer garden at the back. Pool table with lilac baize covering, by the toilets.

Leaving here we continue down West St till it rejoins the High Street. It is noticeable that this side of town is older than the other side (or is it merely that there is less obvious redevelopment in the centre). At the junction is ...

5. The Wine Lodge - 102 High Street
Beers: McMullens AK

Why "Wine Lodge"? There is no evidence of it ever being anything other than a pub. Clear glass frontage with one bar interior which is fairly narrow, but opens out at the far end. Quite a variety of artifacts packed along the high shelves round the walls including collections of framed banknotes. Certainly not in the standard Mac's tradition i.e. no wood panels or beams, fairly bright by contrast. A nice old-fashioned atmosphere.

Keep on down the High Street past the churchyard as it curves to your right into Baldock Street where a short distance on we come to ...

6. Old Bull's Head - 26 Baldock Street
Beers: Wadworths 6X, Rebellion Red, Tetleys bitter, Courage Directors.

Once an old coaching inn, now transformed into a large one-bar pub with a beer garden outside. It still has old oak beams and wooden pillars dividing it into several small areas including a raised dining area. A wide range of food served all day, and in fact we ate in here seated by the large "Parliamentary" clock presumably so-called because it resembles Big Ben. The area at the rear of the pub seemed to be designated as a TV room. Toilets upstairs accessed via the courtyard.

Just outside is a roundabout where you will need to cross over Baldock St to turn left down Watton Road to reach our next port of call ...

7. Worppell - 35 Watton Road
Beers: Greene King IPA, Ruddles Organic (5.1% ABV)

Formerly the New Rose & Crown, but renamed the Worppell after the original pub's 19th Century builder. Fairly modern 1970/1980s makeover inside (presumably from the OLD Rose & Crown). Large corner pub, with a single L-shaped bar, frequented by locals. Plenty of nooks and crannies to hide from the TV in. We chose the darts corner though they must move the table and chairs if they ever do play darts here. Apparently used to serve the famous Braughing sausages from Whites the butchers (in Braughing High Street). Sadly no evidence of these on the menu now.

Walking back to Baldock Street look for a turning on the left, then either take a short cut through the scenic churchyard (where I am sure that have rearranged the headstones so they are in a line along the edge of the housing development) to Church Street or walk on to until you find the turning on your left from the High Street to Church Street. Walk on up this street noting fancy eating establishments and a church until you come to Crib Street to discover just across the road ...

8. Albion - 12 Crib Street
Beers: Wadworths 6X, Adnams bitter, Flowers IPA

A comfortable pub with one bar, quiet and beer in good condition. Oak-beamed interior gives a pleasantly rural feel to the ambience as did the lively and exaggerated behaviour of the local couples whose domestic bliss seemed somewhat strained at this juncture of the early evening. Perhaps they had been drinking all afternoon (unlike us of course)!

Bit of a walk now back down Church Street onto the High Street back over the bridge to the level crossing and over the railway line then turn left down London Road and a short walk takes us to our last pub.

9 Royal Oak - 20 London Road
Beers: Greene King IPA, Abbot

Busy two bar pub with darts in evidence. Luckily there was a quiet alcove by the entrance where one of the survey team managed to have a snooze (no names, but he has a younger brother who is not so prone to snoozing). Reasonable local's pub, literally the other side of the tracks and quite a contrast to the theatrical goings-on in the previous pub.

Leaving here we go back to the station where the trains are at 27 and 57 minutes past the hour. Don't leave it too fine as the automatic barriers come down at the level crossing a minute or so before the train. It's single track here so there is only one platform to worry about (but preferably catch a train travelling in the correct direction otherwise you'll visit Hertford East).

Trial Details:
Date: Saturday 20th October 2001
Present: John Wright, James Featherstone, Edmund Featherstone

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