East London line pub crawl

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A typical scene: Bearded barmen, retro clothes, pies – welcome to East London (photo: Sutcliffe)

IT was a bright October lunchtime when a group of regular pub crawlers congregated in south London lowlight New Cross.

The clocks would go back that night so there was still plenty of crisp daylight in which to attack their biggest challenge yet: 13 pubs in nine hours. The trendiest length of train track in the world. The East London line.

More than ever before organisation would need to be sharper than a Rotherhithe Stanley knife, swifter than a Whitechapel pickpocket, tighter than a pair of Dalston jeans.

So it was with relief that gathered among tipplers in the run down decor of the Amersham Arms were such crawl veterans as the Kenna League chairman, Vicky the bus spotter, BinksyPalts the Balt and last but not least Sutcliffe.

Under their steady guidance London’s edgiest dives and hangouts would be negotiated with as much aplomb as could be mustered after a pint for each station.

Dazza was ‘on hand’ to take analysis of dryers in the gents to unchartered levels.

Saturday 25 October 2014 at 12.30pm. The itinerary:

  1. New Cross – The Amersham Arms
  2. Surrey Quays – The Yellow House
  3. Canada Water – The Albion
  4. Rotherhithe – The Mayflower
  5. Wapping – Captain Kidd
  6. Shadwell – The George
  7. Whitechapel – The Blind Beggar
  8. Shoreditch High Street – The Owl and the Pussycat
  9. Hoxton – Howl at the Moon
  10. Haggerston – The Fox
  11. Dalston Junction – Farr’s School of Dancing
  12. Canonbury – The Snooty Fox
  13. Highbury & Islington – The Compton Arms

1. New Cross – The Amersham Arms

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Dublin Porter: A pint of flat Coke (photo: Sutcliffe)

Aromas from the previous evening were still partying hard in this single-roomed boozer, giving the impression they were permanent guests. Fortunately, attentions were quickly diverted by tap of Guinness Dublin Porter at the bar, the Russian Premier League preview on the small flatscreen and the fake ‘tweed’ jacket Sutcliffe purchased from a charity shop that morning.

The Amersham was a solid place to start for a crawl of London’s most faddish neighbourhoods. It is also Sutcliffe’s manor. The area is a curious mix of gritty south London and art students from nearby Goldsmith’s College pretending to be gritty south London. Sutcliffe has problems relating to either group, as evidenced by the polyester tweed.

The Amersham’s interior looks like it was gutted by fire before someone stuck up a few posters at jaunty angles. The resulting mood and proximity of a major art college gives the impression that at any moment someone could walk in wearing green hair, a leather trench coat and knitted mittens or another angsty combination.

No doubt the Amersham warms up in the evening. It was definitely not a lunchtime pub. Crawlers left the bearded barman on his lonesome.

01 Amersham Arms anon
Photos and words: Dazza

2. Surrey Quays – The China Hall

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The China Hall: All smiles, thankfully no Chelsea smiles (photo: Sutcliffe)

Having made the short Overground ride to Surrey Quays, crawlers met the day’s first setback. The Yellow House was closed! Not to worry, just up Lower Road the welcoming chalk board of The China Hall beckoned the party to enter.

A part of south London in no danger of becoming trendy soon. A gaggle of shaved heads and calf tattoos greets the visitor. Crawlers were quick to order rounds and file into the beer garden. A low brick wall and several wooden picnic tables became their home for enough time to see off a Stella Artois.

It’s best to visit pubs like The China Hall early in the day, before Milwall lose and the local septum duster mixes with a few pints of short-dated wifebeater.

China Hall hand dryer
Words and photo: Dazza

3. Canada Water – The Albion (closed)

Silent threat from The China Hall stalked crawlers on the short walk up Lower Road to their next destination. Internet research had shown The Albion, the only pub within sensible distance of Canada Water station, was bedecked in St George’s flag bunting. It was with some relief the establishment was discovered to have closed down.

4. Rotherhithe – The Mayflower

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The Mayflower: Plenty on the pull (photo: Sutcliffe)

Parched everyone dived into The Mayflower. At this stage of the route the party crossed the Greenwich to Tower Bridge crawl from 18 months previously, the first time crawlers would visit the same pub twice. Premonitions of torn dimensions or the day of judgement arriving with a Biblical thunderstorm were swept aside when the chairman announced the crawl would stop for two drinks to make up for the closed pub.

A mandatory pint of Black Maria was also decreed, the drink equivalent of a Caramac. The mixture proved too much for the bar’s resources and left the strange flavour of Guinness and Kahlua on the palate. A poor substitution.

The Mayflower is definitely worth a visit particularly if it’s clement enough to sit on the river terrace. The serious drinker should be warned: the pub’s history, twee architecture and proximity to the Thames make it a priority destination for tourists. Intent on finding hipsters, the East London line crawler is met instead by the rustling din of windjammers ordering coffees or halves of ale.

03 Mayflower anon
Words and photos: Dazza

5. Wapping – Captain Kidd

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Balloon dog whisperer: Soon after this photo was taken a parent demanded his son’s balloon dog be returned (photo: Sutcliffe)

There was a time when the warehouses of Wapping teemed with the Victorian activities of cheeky bootblacks, maritime swagger and tubby prostitutes. The streets retain their narrow dimensions and the buildings their towering capacity, but any human interaction is limited to yet more brightly-coloured windjammers as they explore the echoing thoroughfares. The neighbourhood is trendy, but the price per square foot is an investment banker’s weekday squeeze lair.

The Captain Kidd reflected both the area’s architecture and Saturday afternoon street traffic. Exposed brick and an excellent terrace over the River Thames are tempered by the Samuel Smith’s offer at the bar.

Many years of experimentation have demonstrated a Samuel Smiths pub doesn’t quite feel like any other boozer. Everything about Samuel Smith’s drinks tastes like a scientist tried to recreate the heritage and breweries of a normal pub using a Bunsen burner and 1930s laboratory ethics. The cheap beer tastes a few molecules away from the real thing, and has been known to induce a skull-crushing headache the next day.

Captain Kidd provided an excellent example of this lab rat approach. The concept, taste and after taste of ‘Chocolate Stout’ just goes to show what a bunch of chocolate starfish Samuel Smith’s descendants consider their punters to be.

Captain Kidd gents hand dryer review
Words and photo: Dazza


6. Shadwell – The George Tavern

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Great piss up: Dazza lays the foundations for another hand dryer test (photo: Sutcliffe)

One of the closest pubs to Shadwell Overground station is still a 10-minute walk away. The trip is worth it. The George has attracted customers from the stratosphere of musical celebrity, but now struggles against the tide of housing development in the area: ‘Save the George Tavern’.

Bowling in four pints to the good at that same hour in the afternoon, crawlers found the snug deserted save for a lone Irishman in a shell suit top at the bar. The cheery fellow proclaimed his colleague was in the cellar, it was not yet his shift but he was in a few hours early to get ‘warmed up’ for work. He decided to take the initiative and help pull a few pints for the unexpected rush. Obviously not a union man.

Like the Amersham Arms, this is certainly an interior best viewed in the evening when it could be politely called ‘heroin chic’. The windows are almost opaque and every single surface in the George is covered in graffiti, like a giant pub toilet. No surprise then that the theme was carried through to the facilities. There was no danger of an hourly cleaning rota, but who cares about hygiene when you’re shooting up with a rockstar?

05 George Tavern anon
Words and photo: Dazza

7. Whitechapel – The Blind Beggar

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Right in the boat race: The chairman demonstrates where the Krays would point their shooters should they have met today’s Blind Beggar regular (photo: Sutcliffe)

It’s impossible to mention the Blind Beggar without referring to the infamous murder of Jack ‘The Hat’ McVitie by Reggie Kray, presumably for having the most unimaginative nickname in the East End. Even though it’s fanciful to think the pub is still a den of mobsters getting rubbed out and fenced goods, it does lend some much-needed charm to the grimy decor.

A sack of coin has been thrown at a beer garden refurb, and on a late Saturday afternoon it was bubbling with people and atmosphere. It’s uncertain which popular Spanish travel and lifestyle publication is to blame but Whitechapel seems to have a growing population of chattering Iberians who were very much in evidence here, sporting white or blaugrana colours. El Clásico was about to kick off on the screens.

As for the rest of the clientele, they’re not the prettiest but an all-female bar team made a not entirely unsuccessful attempt to brighten the place up. Plastic gangsters, down-on-their-luck app developers and, in keeping with the neighbourhood’s ethnicity, a few south Asians outnumber any genuine cockneys. It’s unlikely many people die of their gunshot wounds here anymore, if only because the pub now stands opposite one of the UK’s leading major trauma centres.

Blind Beggar gents hand dryer review
Words and photo: Dazza

8. Shoreditch High Street – The Owl and the Pussycat

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Site safety:

Leaving Shoreditch High Street station and passing under the tunnel, the visitor is greeted by Boxpark – shipping containers stacked upon each other, painted bright blue and turned into shopping outlets. An innovative concept or a mocking gesture? The sight of those imposing, windowless, steel boxes can only lead a minority of the local area’s high immigrant population to get painful flashbacks of their entry into UK.

Tucked away on Redchurch Street a couple of minutes walk from the station, the Owl and the Pussycat used to be one of the few remaining boozers in London to have a bar billiards table. This game of poise, skill and other qualities lacking in crawlers now seven rounds to the good is now sadly absent from the premises. What’s left is a pub that retains so much of its traditional character but is packed with the demographic influx of young people from all over the world to the trendiest neighbourhood in the country. The L-shaped snug was rammed early evening with patrons spilling out into the small courtyard beer garden at the back.

07 Owl and the Pussycat
Words and photos: Dazza

9. Hoxton – Howl at the Moon

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Back home: Katie is yet to fully explain this picture (photo: Sutcliffe)

Taking the Overground to Hoxton, it’s a 10-minute walk to Howl at the Moon. A decade ago, when Hoxton was already synonymous with ‘trendy’, this far up Hoxton Street was still Jamaican jerk chicken joints, Nigerian travel agents, Cockney saloons and Turkish members-only clubs. Over time the wave of gentrification has increased its foothold further north and Howl at the Moon is full of young white folk sitting around candled tables drinking craft beer.

Howl at the Moon gents hand dryer review

10. Haggerston – The Fox

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Double teapot cosy: The Fat Ladies manager, a Haggerston resident, ponders how to get his side off the bottom of the Kenna League table (photo: Sutcliffe)

There was a time when it’s isolated location halfway up Kingsland Road meant the Fox was an odd place ahead of its time, catering for young professionals who preferred to ride the few stops on the bus to Shoreditch of a Saturday evening. The Fat Ladies manager was once so moved to describe its clientele as ‘yourself, but on a bad day’.

Nowadays it’s rebranded itself into ‘The Fox Craft Beer House’. There was hardly room to move in the high-ceilinged bar as punters selected from an impressive range of pilsners and pale ales.

It was at this point circumstances became too much for Sutcliffe and his tweed jacket. The high volume of people north of the river who had migrated to their capital, tripped over in Beyond Retro and put on the airs of frustrated creativity incensed a genuine south Londoner with verified artistic credentials.

The Fox Craft Beer House gents hand dryer review
(words and photo: Dazza)

11. Dalston Junction – Farr’s School of Dancing

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Shrugging marvellous: The Hoxton Pirates manager tells crawlers what appeals to him most about his religious beliefs (photo: Sutcliffe)

Back in the naughties, hipsters began moving north from Shoreditch in search of lebensraum. The migration has seen trendy bars, restaurants and nightclubs spring up among the murky Irish pubs and Caribbean street market. Farr’s School of Dancing is one such ‘vintage chic’ example, full of ‘vintage chic’ people striking ‘vintage chic’ poses. Sutcliffe and his tweed jacket were furious.

Farr's School of Dancing gents hand dryer review
(words and photo: Dazza)

12. Canonbury – The Snooty Fox

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Flash jacket: Fox regulars are not too snooty about their hi vis (Sutcliffe)

Leaving behind the stressed furniture, pretension and craft beer of Hackney, the East London line winds on to one of Islington’s quiantest suburbs, Canonbury.

Unlike the venues visited before, the Snooty Fox is not a ‘destination’. Whereas a popular Home Counties teenager spends the week staring out of the classroom window daydreaming about such matters as a forthcoming night out on Kingsland Road and whether the online designer drugs order will be delivered in time, not even Andy from accounts has grand designs for pubs like the Snooty Fox. These residential boozers are instead the backbone of middle class London drinking. A stop gap, a local bar for a midweek catch up or somewhere for a quick one before heading ‘out out’. Of course, white-collar alcoholism being what it is, the ‘quick one’ can easily escalate into a full blown session, and encountering the bustle and honest laughter of the Snooty Fox mid evening crawlers chanced upon the latter phenomenon. It was a welcome change from the posturing of Dalston.

The Snooty Fox gents hand dryer review
(words and photo: Dazza)

13. Highbury and Islington – The Compton Arms

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Underground, Overground, bungling free: The rabble reaches its the final stop (photo: Sutcliffe)

The crawl ended in the most traditional pub of the day. A low-ceilinged, carpeted bar on a quiet street near Highbury Corner. The Compton is soon likely to lose the battle to retain its local feel and commitment against the tide of rising house prices and gastropub-itis. A fairy will die when it ends up with the flatpack marketing of The Canonbury nearby.

Everyone was left to enjoy their feat of 13 pints in 12 pubs in around nine hours. Well, everyone except Sutcliffe and his tweed jacket, who had taken themselves outside to cool off.

The Compton Arms gents hand dryer review
Words and photo: Dazza

Kenna League table week 14 – 9 December 2014

Kenna table week 14 - 9 December 2014Cup fixtures this weekend

Week Team 1 Score Score2 Team 2


Sporting Lesbian



Dynamo Charlton


Young Boys



Judean Peoples’ Front


Bala Rinas



Just Put Carles


KS West Green



Team Panda Rules OK


Cowley Casuals



Hoxton Pirates


Pikey Scum



Still Don’t Know Yet


St Reatham FC



Fat Ladies


Lokomotiv Leeds



FC Testiculadew

Weekly scores





Hairy Fadjeetas Aiden   71   5


Sporting Lesbian Ben M   68   3


KS West Green Stix   61   4


Cowley Casuals Stu   61   2


Bala Rinas Lewis   59   2


Just Put Carles Carles   56   4


Judean People’s Front Sholto   54   2


St Reatham FC Mike   47   1


Still Don’t Know Yet Pete   46   2


Lokomotiv Leeds Ben S   42   1


Walthamstow Reds Dudley   42   -00


FC Tescticuladew James N   42   -00


Dynamo Charlton Alex   40   1


Team Panda Rules OK George   39   -00


Pikey Scum Jack   38   1


Piedmonte Phil   36   1


Fat Ladies Ted   35   2


Headless Chickens John N   30   2


Young Boys Denney   28   1


Hoxton Pirates Abdi   13   -00


Player of the week


Carroll, A – WHM – STR


Just Put Carles



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Croydon tram pub crawl

Croydon tram
Tram to nowhere: Many consider Croydon the end of the earth

Croydon. The word itself has become synonymous with the ills of British society.

‘Croydon facelift’ and ‘Croydon strobe’ are two examples of how putting the name of the Greater London borough in front of a word immediately turns it into a cruel parody.

So what about ‘Croydon tram’? For those unaware of that mode of transport, it could conjure up images of a nightmare conga snaking its way through the love triangles and DNA tests of the Jeremy Kyle Show studios.

But for a committed band of pub crawlers familiar with the buses, boats and underground lines of London transport, it represented the opportunity for a few drinks.

Meandering its way through the environs of Croydon from Beckenham Junction to Wimbledon, the 39 stops may not be classic spy tale, but there were enough pubs on the way to get a slice of life on the Kent borders.

Perhaps even a Croydon facelift would be spotted in its natural habit. And during spring mating season.

Almost 14 years after its opening, the Croydon Tramlink hosted its first ever recorded pub crawl. At 1pm on Saturday 12 April 2014, tipplers met at Beckenham Junction with the following itinerary:

  1. Patrick’s, Beckenham Junction
  2. Claret Freehouse, Addiscombe
  3. The Tamworth Arms, Centrale
  4. New Addington working man’s club, New Addington
  5. The George, George Street
  6. The Dog and Bull, Church Street
  7. The Wandle Arms, Wandle Park
  8. The Crown, Mitcham
  9. The White Hart, Merton Park
  10. The Alexandra, Wimbledon

In a world first, pubs would be rated on the quality of hand dryers in the gents. Irish Jonathan did the honours.

Afterwards it turned out drinkers travelled a mammoth 22 miles, surely the longest pub crawl to date.

View Larger Map

1. Patrick’s, Beckenham Junction

The cast of crawlers convened included a few recognisable faces such as the Kenna chairmanSutcliffe, Vicky the bus spotter, Binksy and Palts the Balt. The chairman was seen making what was thought to be a deprecating note of the distinct lack of Kenna League managers present.

Patrick's hand dryerA shortage of pubs in proximity to the tram network meant it was impossible to visit a pub for every stop. The group would have the chance to sample the unique delights of each boozer for around half an hour.

In the case of Patrick’s, the lasting impression given by this bar was the bar itself, which had a greasy sheen your hands took with them.

Like most flatpack Irish pubs, it looked like a down on his luck Leprechaun had been violently sick all over the walls and ceiling. The beer was no pot o’ gold either.

There were some plus points: lots of widescreen TVs hinted this would be a good place to watch sport, it’s very close to Beckenham Junction tram stop and there’s an excellent hand dryer in the gents. Although, perhaps a little too excellent…

Having finished their drinks and posed for Sutcliffe’s patented ‘outside the pub’ selfie, crawlers crossed the road to begin an epic tram journey.

Sutcliffe’s bitter rating: 1/10 as only Guinness available (what do you expect from somewhere called ‘Patrick’s’?).

Boarding the tram for the first time that day, the party crackled with expectation. The bubble was burst when Sutcliffe started pulling out tram facts. Everyone realised he’d be at these all day.

South Norwood Country Park and Croydon driving range passed. The next intrepid stage of the journey arrived.

2. Claret Freehouse, Addiscombe

The Claret Freehouse
The Claret Freehouse: Can I get a roll please love?

The Claret Freehouse is a stone’s throw from Addiscombe tram stop. From the outside it looks like an old restaurant hardly open for business, but once inside a fully functioning single-room boozer is found.

Claret hand dryerOn the left a bar, at the back Sky Sports and on a right wall an impressive display of current and upcoming cask ales. All of which surround the Claret’s dedicated clientele, who seemed a little taken aback by the file of crawlers thrusting into their dimly lit snug.

A pint of Peroni greeted the lager drinker. In what’s becoming a rarity these days it wasn’t watered down. Sutcliffe was unusually positive about the ale on offer and the cheese rolls. A proper drinker’s pub.

Sutcliffe’s bitter rating: 9/10 and probably the best I’ve seen south of Bradford.

Trams were running about every 10 minutes, so it wasn’t long before the crawl made it’s way to Croydon town centre.

3. The Tamworth Arms, Centrale

Tamworth Arms
Tamworth Arms: Makes even crawlers look classy

The leafy suburbs left behind, this was the first taste of Croydon’s epicentre, and it wasn’t positive.

Tamworth hand dryerThe Tamworth stands alone very close to Centrale tram stop, with a few steps leading up to the front door. Once through, the visitor is greeted by a bar, an odd set of patrons and an overpowering aroma, which upon tasting the Kronenbourg was partially explained.

Let this not be a reflection on the good names of the regulars, but none of the crawlers will visit this pub ever again.

Sutcliffe’s bitter rating: 3/10 as it was a limited selection, but what there was available was quite good.

Emerging from the pungent odour of the Tamworth, crawlers were back on the tram again for the lengthiest jaunt of the day to New Addington.

4. Disappointment, New Addington


New Addington tip
New Addington tip: If one photo could sum it up

Over hills and through fields, this is the most rural leg of the network. New Addington itself is on the top of a hill, a kind of dystopian town planning nightmare, like the Rio favellas but without the sunshine, climate, pretty girls, bikinis, good footballers, glamourous location or enchanting music. All that’s left is the squalor.

Finding a pub in New Addington proved to be a task too much for the crawl. The Randall Tavern, of notorious former patronage, is the only recognised pub in the area, but too far from Fieldway tram stop for the crawl’s purposes.

A working men’s club is to be found next to the community centre, advertised by a neon OPEN sign. As the party approached at 4pm disaster struck. That’s when it shuts.

Barmen don’t come less friendly than the one in the New Addington working men’s club and he suggested we try the 21 Club around the corner, just past the tip.

Children playing pool and Argos gold greet visitors to the 21 Club, but alas it was a ‘members only’ bar. Snubbed, the crawl returned to the tram stop in low spirits and even lower blood/alcohol levels.

Ironically, despite being the oddest and least friendly bar inspected that day, it was the only one to have a Dyson Airblade in the gents.

Sutcliffe’s bitter rating: The promising bar closed just as we arrived. We sought refreshment at the nearby 21 Club and found little of it. Definitely for members only. This post apocalyptic boozer had the clientele of Mad Max 2, the decor of the Fuhrerbunker and atmosphere of 1984. Didn’t get a chance to check out the alcohol on offer but I suspect it was something along the lines of ‘Victory Gin’. The women were on the large side and looked like they regularly battered the weedy looking men into sexual submission. Maybe I could pick up a tip or two.

5. The George, George Street

The George
The George: The chairman tries to rally the troops

Almost an hour since their last round crawlers marched gasping into Croydon’s premiere Weatherspoon’s. The George is a giant reverse L-shape with a bar on the inside corner of the L at the front and another at the back. Flags of every country hung from the ceiling which may have been a nod to the nearby UK Border Agency headquarters.

George hand dryerOf the sea of four-seater tables only one was free, chiefly because most of them entertained a lone man drinking. The exercise of ordering from an exasperated and overwhelmed bar staff was comical.

After the disappointing mission to New Addington some were a little peckish and one of two would have eaten anything. Which was lucky.

Sutcliffe’s bitter rating: 8/10 What can I say? It was a Wetherspoons with all of the usual trimmings. Good selection of amusingly titled guest ales and stressed bar staff but they can microwave a fine hotdog (that’s not a euphemism). Also a very good place to meet other solo bearded drinkers who have also given up on life.

6. The Dog and Bull, Church Street

Dog and Bull
Dog and Bull: You’ve pulled, Your Maj

Following the tram lines along George Street for a few minutes and turning left, crawlers were presented with the jewel in Croydon’s pub crown, The Dog and Bull.

Dog and Bull hand dryerCroydon residents were keen to point out the Dog and Bull’s credentials in the build up to the crawl and it didn’t disappoint. After the disappointment of New Addington and the contemptible familiarity of Weatherspoon’s, it felt like the crawl was getting back on track standing at the island bar.

The two barmen were the only ones all day to show an interest in the enterprise, and such enthusiasm was in evidence in more than just their chat. The establishment served a pint of Young’s tidier than a tsunami.

Sutcliffe’s bitter rating: 3/10 Limited selection and pretty much the same as the Tamworth Arms. Smelt a little funny, but I think that might have been down to the market outside or the large pile of rough sleepers you had to step over top get into the place. Faded picture on the wall of the Queen Mother pulling a pint behind the bar. Probably taken on one of those ‘see how the serfs live’ walkabouts of which the Royals are so fond.

7. The Wandle Arms, Wandle Park

Wandle Arms
The Wandle Arms: The Child Catcher’s local

It’s a 10-minute walk from the Dog and Bull past Church Street and Reeves Corner tram stops to The Wandle Arms. The stroll takes in the site where the House of Reeves furniture store was razed to the ground during the London riots in 2011, now a white-picket-fenced square.

Wandle Arms jugsThe Wandle Arms was the most charming and intimate pub on the crawl, and served one of the best pints of Guinness outside Dublin. The snug is like someone’s front room and has lots of interesting old branded water jugs hanging from the ceiling. Since that most rare occurrence on these days out – the sun was shining – tipplers opted for the two picnic tables on the street outside.

The managers of Hairy Fadjeetas, Headless Chickens, Still Don’t Know Yet and FC Testiculadew joined the throng. Six weeks before he would scoop the Kenna league and cup double, it was a little premature for the FCT manager to be victoriously parading his daughter in front of his soon-to-be vanquished opposition.

Despite lack of photo evidence, be assured the hand dryer in the gents was purely deocrative. An adjacent towel wetter than an otter’s pocket is the only option for those caught short.

Sutcliffe’s bitter rating 1/10: Guinness only again. Interesting and friendly (in a passive aggressive way) little back street boozer. This is definitely a ‘Derry’ rather than ‘Londonderry’ sort of place though…

From Wandle Park the next few tram stops are in an industrial area before the welcome green of Mitcham Golf course. Sadly, a phone call a few weeks before discovered that despite its propinquity to Mitcham Junction tram stop, the clubhouse was not a public bar.

8. The Casaurina Tree (The Crown), Mitcham

The Crown: There’s a picture of the Queen in it

Is it a south Asian restuarant or is it a pub? The second royal portrait of the day gave no clue.

The ‘drinking area’ at the front felt like a takeaway and any moment a hurried man in a motorcycle helmet would barge through. The restaurant area and dancefloor could probably cater for weddings, wakes and bar mitzvahs. Certainly not a place to stand and drink after work or to spend Sunday afternoon with the papers.

The food smelt powerful. The hand dryer’s qualities remain a mystery.

Sutcliffe’s bitter rating: 4/10 They only had Doombar (not a bad pint but pretty much the ‘oxygen of ales’). Great little place that can’t decide whether it wants to be a pub or a curry house. Why choose though? Big shrine to Her Majesty in the corner was a nice touch.

9. The White Hart, Merton Park

White Hart
White Hart: The chairman shrugs off concerns

For the rest of crawl the chairman was not to live down a second bout of disappointment created when tipplers arrived at the White Hart to find it closed for a private party. It’s proximity to Merton Park tram stop and the cornucopia of prohibited buffet food inside visible from the twilit street almost fomented a full-scale rebellion.

Fortunately, the chairman’s leadership qualities shone through and before long the crawl found an alternative in the Wibbas Down Inn along the short walk to Wimbledon. It was the outing’s second Weatherspoons pub, and a busy but mediocre one at that.

Sutcliffe’s bitter rating: The White Hart was closed for a private function and another one of the chairman’s fails. The Wibbas Down Inn was another Wetherspoons which was pretty much a carbon copy of the earlier one except without the microwaved hotdog this time. Ale 8/10

10. The Alexandra, Wimbledon

The Alex
The Alex: Everyone’s bored now, Sutcliffe

Recollections are dim of Wimbledon’s flagship boozer. It was large. There were lots of people there. It was a Young’s pub.

Alex hand dryerBy this point only Sutcliffe still seemed to be with the programme.

Sutcliffe’s bitter rating: 7/10 I have only a vague memory of this place which means I was probably totally steamed or that it was pretty unmemorable.


After the Alex, crawlers repaired to the nearby Wimbledon Tandoori for a hot debrief. The party were cheered by the waiter taunting Sutcliffe and his potentially-fatal nut allergy.

Wimbledon Tandoori hand dryerIt’s fair to say that the length of the crawl and the irregular distances between pubs led to a desultory atmosphere late on. Due to events beyond the control of crawl organisers – notably the Emerson World Cup and some weddings abroad over the summer – it has taken more than five months to publish this report of the day, but lessons are still fresh in the mind.

When it comes to next month’s autumn offensive, careful consideration will be given to pacing. Pubs at regular intervals building to a crescendo of drunken bonhomie are the key to a successful day’s boozing.

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Godalming pub crawl

The Pepperpot
The Pepperpot: The Spartak Mogadishu manager does his best to be mistaken for Godalming resident Ashley Cole

GODALMING became the centre of national scandal in 1726 when a local woman began giving birth to rabbits.

Mary Toft raised herself from obscurity by convincing even King George I’s own surgeon she was capable of delivering a bumper litter of 16 bunnies, as well as bits of other animals.

The deception was uncovered when Toft was found to have inserted woodland creatures inside herself before faking the births.

Fortunately, Vicki the bus spotter was not in such capricious mood 287 autumns later when a party of regular crawlers made the day trip from London Waterloo to sample the pubs in her new Surrey home. A deer was spotted in her garden though.

A couple of Binksy’s extremely fiery Bloody Marys were more than enough to warm their house on a Saturday lunchtime and the group – including the Kenna chairman, Palts the Balt, the Spartak Mogadishu manager and of course the irrepressible Sutcliffe in a shirt of questionable taste – ambled down the hill to sample four of Godalming’s ale houses.

The first town in the world to have a public electricity supply in 1881, it was fitting the day of the pub crawl would also see the people of Godalming throng the streets to see their Christmas lights switched on.

Tipplers were made to shuffle through thoroughfares tightly packed with market stalls, carol singers and wide-eyed locals around the town’s centrepiece – the Pepperpot – as Vicki assured everyone it was ‘never normally this busy. Just old people’.

The Star Inn

The Star Inn
The Star Inn: This sign continues ‘…a local woman who shoved dead rabbits up her lady garden.’

Having fought through the crowd, crawlers filed into the first pub, which according to the badly-punctuated sign outside has stood on the site since the Eighteenth Century, and has retained much of it’s ‘Olde Worlde’ charm.

The Star Inn chips
Sutcliffe considers eating someone else’s leftover chips

Inside the pub was a low-timbered place with one of those frustratingly small bar serving areas which cause a pseudo flash mob in one part of an otherwise quiet snug. Table service must have been the norm when people believed women were capable of siring quadrupeds.

Despite its size, the bar served an interesting array of obscure ciders. Sadly, a roll of the dice produced a vinegary snake eyes. The barman was only too happy to point out better choices afterwards.

Sutcliffe was reasonably impressed with the ale on offer, and his hypersensitive pretentiousness-o-meter, which strobes wildly in all but the most down to earth London pubs, didn’t even register. The pub was solid.

The Rose and Crown

The Rose and Crown:
The Rose and Crown: Sutcliffe unimpressed

Outside the Rose and Crown looked like a charming old building perched on a hill. Inside it was all refitted wooden floors and Jeff Stelling’s face. The cosy bar area makes it difficult to stand somewhere that isn’t blocking someone’s view of the vidiprinter.

Committed lager drinkers looking for something more than Stella Artois or Kronenbourg would be disappointed here. Committed deviants would not – the barman looked like a 10-year-old boy.

Only because the toilets were located in a separate building out the back, was it discovered the boozer has a charming beer patio and a sizeable covered area to delight any smoker.

The Richmond Arms

The Richmond Arms
The Richmond Arms: Binksy in a winter wonderland

Christmas is a difficult time for any pub. Striving to maintain tradition while giving punters the flavour for buying a few more festive rounds leaves publicans with the singular choice of decorations. At the Richmond tinsel is bar sales.

After the pokey interior of the Rose and Crown, the Richmond was a red-carpeted grand hall. The front bar is a very welcoming room with a counter bulging out from the wall opposite the entrance. Again it was a trip to gents that afforded further exploration – a large function room at the rear was the find.

One imagines loyal regulars are this pub’s lifeblood. They most certainly enjoy well-kept beer.

The Red Lion

The Red Lion
The Red Lion: Little to nothing of any note

Coming from the warmth and care of the Richmond, the Red Lion is in stark contrast. Sometimes it’s immediately apparent crossing the threshold that no one cares about a pub – not the punters, not the staff, not even its website. It’s just a set of numbers on a balance sheet in a brewery HQ hundreds of miles away. The landlord’s cutting his teeth and building his CV in the hope of moving on to a more illustrious tippler. That’s the Red Lion.

As a result this pub lacks charm, the beer’s dreadful and the only factor keeping it in the game is its size and location in the middle of town. There’s live music performed in the evenings, which appears to help give it all the character of a beer stand at the O2 Dome.

While crawlers made the best of the Red Lion’s inhospitable front bar the Godalming Christmas lights were turned on. Everyone doubled back to Vicki and Binksy’s for chilli and gin.


It was widely accepted the first boozer, The Star Inn, was the best. It did mean the rest of crawl was like a slow puncture of quality – with a small rally at the Richmond – ending in the flat Red Lion experience.

As Kenna pub crawls visit and assess more and more pubs, it’s clear that striking the delicate balance between running a business, keeping an imaginative array of beers and building an assembly of loyal regulars not too cliquey so strangers feel unwelcome is a complicated demand, and one publicans approach with varying degrees of success. A Kenna pub rating system is on the drawing board.

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Charing Cross branch pub crawl

Charing Cross branch
Charing Cross branch: The one on the right

FOR MANY the Northern line is a commute, a means to go out or a few minutes to wonder just who ever goes Colindale.

For an intrepid band of boozers who coined the 38 bus route pub crawl and the River Thames boat trip pub crawl, it’s an opportunity for a day exploring the capital’s drinkers.

Taking on the whole network during licensed hours would be optimistic and unnecessary, so on Saturday 2 November 2013 just after 1pm tipplers gathered at Kennington underground station to visit a pub for each stop of the Charing Cross branch.

The route offers excellent highlights of London’s famous landmarks and includes a river crossing. As always, this review is provided to advise and entertain the prospective pub crawler, walker or tourist. Here’s the itinerary:

  1. Kennington – The Prince of Wales
  2. Waterloo – The Kings Arms
  3. Embankment – The Princess of Wales
  4. Charing Cross – The Harp
  5. Leicester Square – The Porcupine
  6. Tottenham Court Road – Bradleys Spanish Bar
  7. Goodge Street – The Rising Sun
  8. Warren Street – The Prince of Wales Feathers
  9. Euston – The Crown and Anchor
  10. Mornington Crescent – The Lyttleton Arms
  11. Camden Town – The Worlds End

Each heading below links through to the pub profile page on the excellent Beerintheevening.com.

1. The Prince of Wales, Kennington

The Prince of Wales, Kennington
The Prince of Wales: The pub carpet and an awful shirt offered military enthusiast Sutcliffe a chance to demonstrate urban camouflage

A gem anyone would be happy to call their local. The Prince of Wales is set in the corner of a quiet square with a couple of tables and chairs outside, and a cosy snug.

Sutcliffe, Binksy and the Kenna League chairman became the only three crawlers to continue their unblemished attendance record. They were joined by the Young Boys of Vauxhall manager, the Still Don’t Know Yet manager, Lady Norman and sundry others.

One pint down, the short walk to Kennington station was taken for the route’s only tube journey. Unlike the two previous crawls, the sun was out.

Crawler comments

Sutcliffe: What can I say? Nice choice of carpet (matched my shirt). Quiet backstreet boozer. I think we shocked the locals.

Dazza: Nice area. Standard pub. Impressive carpet design like Sutcliffe’s shirt, although I think the shirt had more stains. People outside seemed confused why we were taking a photo.

2. The Kings Arms, Waterloo

The Kings Arms, Waterloo
The Kings Arms: “Dis is de autobahn.”

There are many other pubs closer to Waterloo station but they cannot compete with this firm favourite, let down only by the lack of apostrophe in the signage.

The public bar and saloon bar are served by a central counter with a singular recruitment policy. The curious conservatory area out the back was closed and pieces of a fireplace blocked a door onto the Victorian splendour of Roupell Street.

An open fire roared in the public bar where Rounders and Simon were found Kenting it up. The former Wandsworth Window Lickers manager arrived and within minutes was telling his Nurburgring story to the first person who listened.

Drinks finished, the crowd walked back past Waterloo station, alongside the Royal Festival Hall and over the River Thames, where Simon’s story of investigating Kent dogging spots as a local reporter prompted Binksy to enlighten everyone with the phrase ‘seagulling‘. Car windscreens will never look the same again.

Crawler comments

Sutcliffe: The ‘back’ was closed due to building work which meant we had to squeeze into the tiny public bar. Nice place with staff who are very understanding when you’re drunk (from experience). Unfortunately it’s usually full of rich local bankers and lawyers who wish they were working class (a la Jamie Oliver) complete with plummy mockney accents and flat caps from Harrods. Some of the team fitted right in here.

Dazza: Small and pokey. Quite dark and bloody hot in there.

The Wandsworth Window Lickers manager: A lovely pub, as always serving up some delicious beer. Shame about having a chimney by the front door.

3. The Princess of Wales, Embankment

The Princess of Wales, Embankment
The Princess of Wales: Champion beer, average pub

The traverse of Hungerford Bridge, as it so often does, sparked conversation of the 1986 massacre in the town of that name.  The good news was Sutcliffe’s encyclopedic knowledge of military hardware was present to confirm one of the semi-automatic weapons used by Michael Ryan was an American M1 carbine. The bad news was the Judean Peoples’ Front manager – a renowned lookalike of Norwegian mass murderer Anders Breivik – was mysteriously absent and could not offer his opinion on the matter.

Overshadowed by Charing Cross station, the Princess of Wales is a fairly generic central London pub with not much going for it except some interesting ales. The 50p game began.

Sadly, the future Princess of Wales wasn’t there. Only the incumbent Dulwich Red Sox manager and Vicki the bus spotter.

Crawler comments

Sutcliffe: I don’t really remember much about this one which is probably as good a description as it needs.

Dazza: Bit more trendy, very sporty. Expensive drinks. Steep stairway to the toilets, or maybe I was starting to feel drunk at that point, not sure. Michael Buble (not in person I hasten to add, that would be awesome) playing in the toilets which was nice to whistle to while taking a piss.

The Wandsworth manager: I believe that this was the introduction of the first 50p. Well done the chairman for seeing it off. Average pub, nothing to report.

4. The Harp, Charing Cross

The Harp, Charing Cross
The Harp: Matted

Crossing the Strand, crawlers were treated to one of the West End’s more compelling pubs.

The Harp has a great range of beers, although patrons are made to enjoy them in a narrow, crowded atmosphere. Unusually for an Irish pub, singing is not allowed. The sour member of staff who ordered crawlers to stop made one wonder if, for a place named after a stringed musical instrument, the barmaids should not appear more regularly plucked.

Having claimed the chairman in the Princess, the 50p game struck the Still Don’t Know Yet manager, who was still complaining of a night shift and three hours’ sleep.

Crawler comments

Sutcliffe: Cosy, little place (small and over-crowded) with an impressive collection of beer pump clips.

Dazza: Impressive collection of beer mats. Narrow pub with beer-goggle looking staff behind the bar. Lots of portraits on the wall, can’t remember who they were of though.

The Wandsworth manager: Interesting boozer with a seven per cent beer called Black Jesus, not for the faint-hearted, no-one manned up. I was given serious grief for drinking from a bottle. In hindsight I wish I had stuck to these.

5. The Porcupine, Leicester Square

The Porcupine, Leicester Square
The Porcupine: Plenty of pricks on the outside

The Porcupine sits halfway up Charing Cross Road in a swirl of tourism. Refraining from any jokes about the place being a bit pokey or full of pricks, more crawlers found themselves necking pints of ice cold, gassy lager because of the 50p coin dropped into the bottom.

50p Porcupine
Her Maj: The cause of much necking

Being part of the Nicholson’s chain, the décor goes for the ‘Olde London like Jack the Ripper used to take a drink there guv’nor’ that few of that pub franchise manage to pull off. The Porcupine is no exception.

Crawler comments

Sutcliffe: Dull, touristy, but a reliable watering hole

Dazza: I think the Still Don’t Know Yet manager 50p’d me in there. I managed to pass it on to Martin’s mate. Sutcliffe has a photo of him holding the 50p. Sutcliffe got rather excited as it was really in focus!

The Wandsworth manager: Another 50p in play, goosed! Here starts the slippery slope, besides that not a bad boozer.

6. Bradleys Spanish Bar, Tottenham Court Road

Bradleys Spanish Bar, Tottenham Court Road
Bradleys Spanish Bar: No room inside, mild bedlam outside

This bar’s website has a whole section dedicated to their ‘pride and joy and centrepiece’ – a jukebox that plays vinyl. As they crammed into the tiny bar area of Bradleys five pints down, many crawlers were rebuked by staff for knocking into the music box and causing it to skip.

Retreating outside to the quiet street just behind Tottenham Court Road station, a pint of Cruzcampo became the first casualty of the day when it smashed into the pavement.

This is a great bar, if you’re one of the five people in it.

Crawler comments

Sutcliffe: Nice Spanish back street bar. I imagine it has character but I was getting too pissed to remember at this stage. I remember Dazza getting shouted at for repeatedly bumping into the vinyl jukebox. Someone dropped their pint. I think we disgraced ourselves.

Dazza: Wasn’t this one the Spanish bar? Really small. I fell against the jukebox and skipped the track which the locals didn’t like. Someone dropped a glass outside so I’m sure the regulars loved us frequenting their dark pit of a bar.

The Wandsworth manager: Classic “don’t touch the f*cking jukbox” I believe was heard as someone again made the record jump. First breakage of the night and 50ps flying round all over the place.

7. The Rising Sun, Goodge Street

The Rising Sun, Goodge Street
The Rising Sun: Costume cobwebs were the day’s consistent eyesore

Calls throughout the day to watch the football were briefly met when crawlers filed into a packed Rising Sun. Several large screens high up on the walls of this airy pub transmitted events from Ashburton Grove to a sea of upturned faces.

Crawler comments

Sutcliffe: Don’t remember this one. I think Dazza didn’t come in due to mounting drunkeness.

Dazza: Really crowded. Much bigger bar. Lots of sport on TV. Took me ages to find the toilets (which were right by the front door). Getting seriously pissed. Eyesight starting to blur.

The Wandsworth manager: Aresnal were on, the beer was a flowing and it was starting to get a little bit messy. Very windy outside.

8. The Prince of Wales Feathers, Warren Street

The Prince of Wales Feathers, Warren Street
The Prince of Wales Feathers: Alcoholism, unmasked

The third and final pub of the day named after Welsh royalty, the Prince of Wales Feathers is an expansive place. It was still early in the evening and the party largely had the floor to themselves. Finding themselves ahead of schedule, everyone had a second drink.

It was there that the Young Boys manager paid for an ill-advised wager on Australia to beat England at rugby that afternoon. As an Englishman, there are few better sights than a Welshman having to down a glass of pink gin because your country won a match they shouldn’t have due to a controversial refereeing decision that infuriates Australians.

Crawler comments

Sutcliffe: Posh and polished but I don’t remember any character. I do remember Dazza having to sit this one out and walk up and down the street outside to try and avoid throwing up. I was talking to him with the aid of a doorway’s support when I was subtly informed by the owner of the flat above to stop ringing his doorbell with my shoulder. Someone wussed out (Martin?) and bought themselves a cup of tea instead of beer. £3.75 for a cup of tea, £4 for a pint of Peroni.

Dazza: Can’t remember much about this one. Really drunk. Had to take a breather outside.

The Wandsworth manager: My usual piss stop on the way home, so good to have a pint in it for a change (the pub not the…). I believe that Barry White made an appearance here. It would have been a good idea to get some food in at this point.

9. The Crown and Anchor, Euston

The Crown and Anchor, Euston
The Crown and Anchor: What a shower

On the other side of Euston Road, the Crown and Anchor offers a pleasant bar area. Apparently the place does good food, but if in Drummond Street it’s better to try one of its amazing traditional Indian restaurants.

The Hairy Fadjeetas manager, Spartak Mogadishu manager, PSV Mornington manager and the Headless Chickens manager – whose team currently sits on top of the Kenna – swelled the crowd.

Crawler comments

Sutcliffe: No idea.

Dazza: I wandered off somewhere when we got to this pub. Managed to find my way back before everyone left. The Pirate joined us here I think, looking like Marty McFly with his life preserver.

The Wandsworth manager: Well, I remember walking up from Warren Street, even looking at street view things aren’t that clear. Did we pick up the Pirate at this point?

10. The Lyttelton Arms, Mornington Crescent

The Lyttelton Arms, Mornington Crescent
The Lyttelton Arms: “Whoa! Take it easy on the jig there, Dazza”

A key lesson learned from the number 38 bus route pub crawl was that minimal time between pubs leads to shaky decision making later in the evening. By walking between each boozer, crawlers are given adequate opportunity to take some air and regulate their intake. The tactic was paying dividends at this point in the night. Except that no one remembers what happened in the Lyttelton.

Crawler comments

Sutcliffe: …

Dazza: Sobered up a bit here. Didn’t take much notice of the pub. Crap report. Hit the lemonades!

The Wandsworth manager: Erm…not sure if I made this one, no memories….hhmmmmm.

11. The Worlds End, Camden Town

Massive. Absolutely massive pub in the epicentre of Camden. Heavy metal blared as crawlers entered the final drinker. Memories are dim, but there really was all sorts in this place. And it smelled.

Crawler comments

Sutcliffe: Can’t remember this one at all but it must have been dull because I didn’t even take a photo.

Dazza: Gothic overload. Couldn’t tell who was dressed in their usual night gear and who was dressed for Halloween.

The Wandsworth manager: Was this the rock bar? 

Bonus pub: The Abbey, Kentish Town

The crawl had finished way ahead of schedule and presented the central committee with dilemma. Follow the Edgware line to the superb Enterprise in Chalk Farm or the High Barnet line to The Abbey in Kentish Town where Sutcliffe’s mates were having a party? The bearded wonder successfully pushed for the latter and the crowd traipsed up Kentish Town Road for shooters and dancing.

Crawler comments

Sutcliffe: Bonus extra pub to join my friend’s birthday party. After the initial setback of Lady Norman farting (which cleared the room) and then blaming it on me, I warmed to this place. I vaguely remember someone losing a jacket and some very over the top Halloween costumes but I was quite far gone now. The chicken kebab in New Cross Gate made the long slog home worth it.

Dazza: Was this the bonus pub? Lady Norman lost her coat and Tim farted, which caused the back room to clear and many disgruntled people.

The Wandsworth manager: Vague recollections of dancing with the Pirate and attempting to chat to anything with boobs, skirt and a pulse.


Having organised three London transport-themed pub crawls in 12 months, the central committee patted themselves on the back at how simple and entertaining the Charing Cross branch event had been. Everyone was in good spirits, the crawl had finished way head of time and even the weather held out.

But there was something missing, and it wasn’t until the hangover had finally subsided a couple of days later that it became apparent. Blunder, or the lack of it, hadn’t visited itself on anyone. Nothing went wrong. No one truly disgraced themselves. No peculiar locals sharpened their pitchforks. The whole crawl was as functional and unobtrusive as most of the taverns visited. Even Sutcliffe lost interest in taking photos by the end.

Plans are afoot for a crawl of the Croydon tramlink in spring. The central committee can only hope the locale throws a few curved balls. Perhaps dropping into the New Addington pub where an infamous regular once turned up with a machete would be a start.

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Tour de Partridge

Norwich rail station
Norwich: “Think about it. No one had ever heard of Oxford before Inspector Morse. I mean, this could really put Norwich on the map.”

THREE days, two cyclists, one master of light entertainment.

With the summer fading fast Sutcliffe and I decided to finally get our act together and organise a cycling tour.

The Normandy landing beaches were too much to arrange in a week, so we went for something a lot more achievable: Norfolk, the home of Alan Partridge.

On Friday 6 September we found ourselves on a train from London Liverpool Street to Norwich mid-morning. Matters of accommodation and route had been taken care of by Sutcliffe.

We would take in the Norfolk countryside so eulogised by the fictional broadcaster, as well as a couple sights made famous by his work.

The account below will hopefully provide some useful advice to anyone planning a cycle trip in north Norfolk. It also contains references to Alan Partridge.

Day 1 – Norwich to Sheringham – 31 miles

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Having taken a few minutes outside Norwich rail station to inspect a map showing the extent of the city centre’s pedestrianisation, we set off heading north on the A140. I was on my Trek 1 Series road bike, Sutcliffe his mountain bike with slick tyres.

Just after passing Norwich Airport we bared left onto the B1149, going six miles past Horsford before turning right towards Oulton Street.

Three miles, a right and a left turn later we arrived outside Blickling Hall, or as Alan Partridge once tried to convince his Ukranian girlfriend, Bono’s house.

Blickland Hall
Blickland Hall: “This is Bono’s house, eureka. Those spiky trees I think are Joshua Trees.”

The Bucks Arms next door served adequate sandwiches – the bread was a little dry – and a good pint of Aspall cider. Or two.

Fed and watered we took in the National Trust property which boasts “the biggest collection of hatchbacks in the country” and “the sort of dog the Nazi’s used to chase Steve McQueen”.


We were still taking photos and worrying other visitors when it started to rain. Continuing north we went through Erpingham, Aldborough and Suested.

There is plenty of woodland here, and it was wet going in the narrow lanes as the raindrops dripped from the leaves above. By the time we got to Metton we were soaked.

A brief consultation in the pouring rain led to the decision to forego a visit to Cromer Pier, scene of the epic finale of Alpha Papa, and head straight to the youth hostel Sutcliffe had booked in Sheringham.

A soggy climb up through Great Wood vindicated the choice.

Sheringham youth hostel
Sheringham: “Youth hostelling with Chris Eubank.”

Pubs in Sheringham

Asking where was good to go in Sheringham at the counter in the youth hostel, the man behind it proudly informed us there were fishermen on the coast who couldn’t read or write. The enquiry was modified to include pubs.

It’s been a long-held view that seaside towns produce the worst pubs because they don’t need to produce good ones. When it’s sunny and everyone’s on holiday they’ll drink anywhere. Unfortunately we discovered this to be true of Sheringham.

The public bar in recent CAMRA winner the Windham Arms was the scene for first pint of the evening where there was a good range of beers and an excitable group of tradesmen playing pool.

Pint number two was in The Lobster, a pub more tourist-friendly but insipid. The Two Lifeboats on the seafront gave views of the sea, but the beer, the interior and the food all felt like it was assembled, fittingly, by Allen key.

We stopped into the Robin Hood for a nightcap on the way back – plenty of memorabilia on the walls, but like every other pub we visited lacked Friday-night zing.

Back at the hostel it turned out we were sharing the dormitory with a middle-aged man who spoke very passionately about welding. Sleep came in no time.

Day 2 – Sheringham to Hunstanton – 40 miles

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Don’t take the croissant option for breakfast at Sheringham youth hostel. Just don’t.

Sheringham fry up
Sheringham: “Minor criticism – the egg and the beans were too close together. They can mix, but I want that to be my decision. Use a sausage as a breakwater.”

A seven on ten fry up and a bright, sunny morning were an excellent start to day two.

Before leaving town I popped into the brilliantly-named Fudgetastic to pick up a present for the war office – whose indifference towards to middle-distance cycling is dwarfed only by her indifference towards Alan Partridge.

It turned out the friendly lady in the fudge shop was a huge Partridge fan. Apparently some of the cast of Alpha Papa stopped by after filming had finished at Cromer and she’d met Sean Pertwee. I got the impression she’d wanted to do a lot more than sell him fudge.

Setting off at 10am west along the A149 we reached Weybourne after three miles up and down along small rolling gradients.

Just after Weybourne is The Muckleburgh Collection, a private museum of tanks and other military hardware. With quite a few miles to cover that day, we decided not to part with the £8 entry fee and settled for a peek through the fence.

This was fortunate. Sutcliffe gets a bit intense around tanks…


At Kelling we bared left onto Wood Lane and climbed up to join a national cycle route. It was around six miles from Sheringham I realised my waterproof jacket was still in the youth hostel drying room.

Rather than add 12 miles to my day while Sutcliffe gloated and dozed in a hedgerow I decided to get them to post it to me later (which they did). Anyway, the weather showed no signs of rain…

We passed through Wiveton, Langham, Binham, stopped for some Terry’s Chocolate Orange on the River Stiffkey at Warham and headed into Wells-Next-The-Sea.

Warham chocolate orange
Warham: “You might find some superficial damage to the box, but the chocolate’s perfectly edible. I’ve given them to all the ladies I know aged fifty and under. Over fifty just seems sarcastic.”

The rest of the coast may have gone into hibernation for the winter, but Wells was alive with tourists.

On the sea front we stopped at The Golden Fleece for refreshment. It was Sutcliffe’s round so I didn’t really see the inside. It gave the impression of being a bit ‘dog on a string’. Sutcliffe quite liked it.

An aperitif later we decided to dine on the Albatross, a pub pancake Dutch boat moored at the quay. It was full of families and the crepes took 45 minutes to arrive. Sutcliffe seethed and I lost count of the number of times he used the phrase ‘sh1tting out kids’.

After lunch we took the tourist cycle route around Pinewood Holiday Park, which boasted many static homes but to the ear no air bass being played.


The ‘cycle’ route became very sandy. It would be inadvisable to attempt this on a road bike. Even Sutcliffe’s mountain bike struggled.

Back on tarmac, we took the A149 to Burnham Overy Staithe rather than the more well-cycled route through Holkham Hall because Sutcliffe wanted to revisit the holiday cottage of his youth. One flashback to his first experience with an older man later, we turned left up to Burnham Market.

Most of the local folk we’d met in Norfolk had been friendly, helpful and even glad to see us. The women in the shop in Burnham where we stopped to get ice cream had such appalling customer skills it felt like we hadn’t given her a much-hoped-for second series.

The weather was fresh and sunny for most of the day, but somewhere along Burnham Road near Cresent Wood the heavens opened.

Crescent Wood
Crescent Wood: “It’s funnier than rain!”

Having brought two waterproofs with him, Sutcliffe was overjoyed as I pulled on his budget poncho. We took refuge in a hedgerow for 10 minutes as the shower passed over.

Needless to say, I didn’t have the last laugh.

At Ringstead we turned right and having nearly completing the day’s ride stopped at a cafe by the lighthouse in Old Hunstanton for tea and cake. In Hunstanton we checked in to the youth hostel and hit town.

Pubs in Hunstanton

Hunstanton sunset
Hunstanton: “How long did you put that in for Lynn? It’s hotter than the sun!”

Yet further evidence to prove the ‘seaside town pubs are rubbish’ theory was to be found here.

We started with a pint in Waterside Bar which was full of all sorts of human life clinging on to the summer season. The pub did offer a good view from Hunstanton’s west-facing coast and the sunset.

Feeling peckish we dined in Fishers of Hunstanton – a fully-licensed fish and chip shop – for a mountain of tasty food and bottled Peroni. It being the interval, we washed down dinner with a couple of drinks at the Princess Theatre bar nearby before heading over the green to the Golden Lion Hotel.

Hunstanton: “Which is the worst monger? Fish, iron, rumour or war?”

Sitting amongst the retirees in the hotel bar, we were quietly enjoying that most precious commodity in Norfolk, free wifi, when an unusual noise came from behind Sutcliffe which for once didn’t originate from his alimentary canal.

The only other time I had heard the metallic, vibrating sound was during an episode of Alan Partridge when he meets the Hamilton’s Water Breaks video production team in the bar the night before filming.

I surpressed a few moments of inner mirth as it dawned on us that a man was using an electrolarynx. He left with his wife before we had a chance to offer him a pint of lager, a G&T and a Baileys.


Day 3 – Hunstanton to King’s Lynn – 20 miles

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Observations on youth hostels

Having not stayed in a British youth hostel since a school trip to Stone Henge, by Sunday morning I made some curious observations of that particular accommodation.

Youth hostels in Latin America and south east Asia, likely due to climate in those regions, are full of dark, exotic, young people, bright eyed and smiling. As ready to swig the local jungle juice as buy a pillow case full of marijuanua from friendly locals.

From the available evidence in Norfolk, the inhabitants of English hostels share the same wide eyes, but it’s more of a fixed stare, growing more vacant as drops of rain gather on the windows.

In place of bikinis, ethnic jewellery and ‘holas‘ are Berghaus jackets, Ordnance Survey maps and awkward social skills. Sutcliffe was in his element.

Sandringham: “You took that on the bus? Sonja, anyone who knows us might have thought it was me inside there. Me wearing a bear costume. They’d think I’d lost it again.”

After crushing Sutcliffe’s morale over 18 holes at Blackbeard’s Adventure Golf, we followed the A149 south (Lynn Road) for a couple of miles before turning left at the Norfolk Lavender Centre.

A brief push uphill to Sedgeford and we rejoined the national cycle route through Ingoldisthorpe, on to Sandringham House. We stopped to get our picture taken with an oversized squirrel.

The cycle route struck through a forest before hitting the A149, or a tarmac way parallel to the main road. Peeling off right the last few miles went through the quaint village of Castle Rising before the suburbs of King’s Lynn and the train station. We hadn’t seen a single BP petrol station in three days.

King's Lynn
King’s Lynn: “Jet from Gladiators to host a millennium barn dance at Yeovil Aerodrome. Properly policed, it must not, repeat not, turn into an all-night rave.”

Pubs in King’s Lynn

Enjoying status as an historic port, strategic coastal town and the birthplace of Alan Partridge, I always thought King’s Lynn would be a classy, Cheltenham-on-sea type of place. I was to be heavily disappointed.

Our chief concern was to find a good pub for lunch to celebrate the completion of our tour. Even with technology at our fingertips this was an impossible task.

Upon request a chubby policeman on duty in the pedestrianised town centre suggested Weatherspoons. The sun has certainly set on King’s Lynn’s glory days.

We decided to try the Crown and Mitre next to the River Ouse. Aside from the interesting pint of obsucre German lager, a poor choice. We weren’t from around those parts.

King's Lynn burger
King’s Lynn: “You feed beefburgers to swans.”

And so we fell into the beer garden at The Globe, a Weatherspoons pub bursting with the living wage and all the finesse of turning up to a funeral in a Castrol GTX bomber jacket.

Two beers and a burger later, with the theme tune from Black Beauty in our ears we returned to the station to bring our stay in Norfolk to a close.


For those thinking right now that a visit to Blickland Hall and a weekend cycling round Norfolk hardly constitutes a ‘Tour de Partridge’, I’ll leave you with the words of Alan himself: “You could try Watchdog, but I think they’ve got bigger fish to fry.”

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