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  • Writer's pictureSi Everitt

BRAPA is .... POPPING UP IN THE TOWCESTER (Northants Pt 3/5)

Never before seen blogging on a Saturday morning. But I thought I'd make the most of this rare opportunity.

Thursday 9th November 2023

The roadwalk from Towcester to the village of Abthorpe is one I wouldn't recommend. All was well until the McDonald's drive-thru on the edge of town, but then the pavement ran out, and the next three miles was rather fraught.

But I concentrated, held my nerve, and reached the village sooner than expected. In 2023 BRAPA roadwalks, I'd rate it 2nd most difficult, slightly harder than Snargate, but easier than Marston / Fulbeck. Glad I'd purposefully chosen a day where the sun was out and conditions were dry.

Still only 11:40am, 20 minutes until pub opening (hopefully!) so I sit on a bench on the village green and have a snack and a drink.

Peaceful little place, until the binmen turned up and all hell broke loose. Other point to note was that most residents had a pet pig in their gardens.

At 11:57am, I decide it is time to apply a bit of pressure to the pub. It was one of those that, until it is actually open, doesn't look like it has been operational in the past 200 years. I like those types.

New Inn, Abthorpe (2519 / 4677)

A fine range of Hook Norton ales, a 9.5 carpet, a jar of pickled eggs and a landlady who warmed to me at a similar gradual pace to the woodburner were all points of note at this fair dinkum village classic. Mr Abthorpe seems more personable, but his cameo is brief, bubbly and bald. As much as I wanted to 'live in the moment' (it was a fine moment to live in), getting a taxi back to Towcester pre-occupied me. Phone reception was limited, but I got on the WiFi, and the local Uber, 'Zoom Taxis' came good. "Are we the first in?" ask a local couple 12:20am. "Not quite" says landlady. I peep my head around the corner and say yoohoo, to dash their hopes! I don't know why locals in villages love being first customer in, but they do. But no one will deny BRAPA his moment in the sun / in front of the woodburner.

The taxi is ten minutes late, but no trouble as I'm just delighted to get back to civilisation. The 13:18 bus is achievable if I don't tarry, so his decision to keep me waiting at the pub whilst he explains the Israeli / Palestine situation to me at length just puts needless pressure on!

Towcester Mill Brewery Tap, Towcester (2520 / 4678)

Once I wrestle myself free of his clutches, I find a second excellent GBG tick. Very different from the New Inn of course, but the warmth and vibrancy, distant smell of malty brewing and high ceilinged former mill charm make up for the preponderance of posing tables. I needed a neckable drink given the time constraints, and although 5.2% Black Fire Stout might not sound the most quaffable, it slips down like a silky snake. Busy for a Thursday lunchtime, most of the floor space dominated by dog walkers, not doing a lot of dog walking, but the sleepy dogs didn't seem to mind too much. The loos are of 'Spoons levels of verticalness just to put a bit more pressure on this bus connection, but I did a bit of jogging and made it with two minutes to spare, phew!

Yes, buses are like gold dust in this part of Northants. Manage to catch one and it feels like a mistake ever getting off. But getting off I had to do, at a place called 'Tiffield Turn', one of those impossible dual carriageway stops where even if you push the bell a mile from the stop, driver still has to burn some serious rubber to brake in time!

No one told me Tiffield was still a good 25 minute walk from Tiffield Turn, I didn't pass a soul as pub #3 appears on the horizon ......

George Inn, Tiffield (2521 / 4679)

.... and the feeling of isolation continues because, for my first 5 minutes in here, I couldn't find anyone to serve me. An abandoned laptop, set of keys and mug of tea. I explore and find today's first Northamptonshire skittles table. The woodburner very much like in Abthorpe, is trying its best but needs serious attention. Finally, our guv'nor appears munching a pork pie, totally shocked to see a customer, and pulls me ale from the local Great Oakley (bit farty). It had been an inauspicious start, but by the end of my time here, it had become a pub of the week contender. Landlord finally starts chatting to me once pork pie is digested, a bunch of utterly bonkers locals arrive and sit within stroking distance of me in a little semi-circle, really making me feel at home. Landlord says if I stay for a second pint, he'll give me a lift back to Tiffield Turn! Salesman extraordinnaire. Second pint is excellent. He's as good as his word, temporarily putting the drunkest lady in charge until his return. "Hope we don't get any customers, I won't 'av a clue!" she hiccups.

Give it a prod (the fire, not Colin)

Off we set,withabitofChelseachatter!

Space bar stopped working on captions again, sorry!

Pain getting back into Northampton at rush hour, but we make it, and a connecting bus takes me north east of centre for tick 4.

Pitch black and raining by now, having been so nice earlier, and I still have a good stride out to reach the pub in question.

Olde Cobbler, Northampton (2522 / 4680)

My most obscure Northampton tick of the lot in that, whenever I mentioned it to other Northants pubbers, they just pull a funny face and say 'never 'eard of it mate'. This was classic Northants flat roofer estater, in the vein of Kettering's Piper and Barton Seagrave's Stirrup Cup, with a liberal sprinkling of Road to Morocco. Barmaid fabulously chirpy, glad to see the acidic rain hasn't melted me. Just as well, the locals are a mixed ball bag of scroatal beer hounds. SISL (Stoney Island Shearer Lover) seems a top guy, but the less said about KG (Kopperberg Grump) and NOG (Naughty Old Gazza) the better. My Elgood's GSB is a pint to admire, but better to drink. The woodburner far exceeds today's more tepid efforts. Good stuff here.

The aim now was getting to the other end of Northampton for tick five. I think the aim was to pick up a bus (not literally, my back was struggling after the Abthorpe walk) but in the end I just walked it from memory.

I'd passed this pub earlier on the bus, and it looks so unassuming i.e. plain, you'd really have to be a local in the know, or some kinda weirdo pub ticker, to consider stepping foot inside! At least the lamps were on now, giving it a more welcoming outlook than 10am .....

Pomfret Arms, Northampton (2523 / 4681)

It takes a boozy intoxicating turn once indoors, with low lighting, low level twinkling music and customers with smily squishy faces made of play doh. Always a dangerous combo for any given BRAPA fifth pub of the day. Then a voice calls 'Si!' and I think its that evil pink elephant back to haunt me, I peer nervously towards the far corner and to my relief it is local legend and CAMRA supremo Tom Stainer, with Alice who has her wine in an icy bucket. Lovely chat, stand out for me is their love of NW / W Wales. One area of the GBG which up to this point terrifies me, now I'm absolutely champing at the bit for a cheeky Barmouth Aberystwyth week away. We say farewell, I've lingered far too long so finish my excellent Great Oakley which has been following me around today like that pink elephant, then remember I still have another tick to do!

Colin making sure it is done correctly

A few yards down the road, we come to today's final pub and only open in the week from 6pm Wed-Fri, and with 'Brewery Bar' embedded in the name, you can see why I was expecting a bright flimsy micro .....

Albion Brewery Bar, Northampton (2524 / 4682)

But I was wrong, and so are you I'm delighted to report. The traditional inn sign, bearing that very Northants 'Phipps NBC' (which almost probably stands for 'Not Bad Cask') offered hope, and once inside, well what a scintillating interior - etched windows, stained glass, deep wood panelling, brewerianarama, it didn't feel unlike Rushden's Historical Transport Thingy which I'd visit the following day. Some amazing food smells too. If you are going to do a pub sans carpet and woodburner, this is how you achieve greatness. My Black Star IBA (India Black Ale) slipped down a treat, and it was soon back to my digs for some beans on toast before bed. My Northants holiday really peaked here on day three.

I'll be back Sunday night, for part 4. I wanna crack on with these blogs whilst I can before Christmas period starts getting busier, hoping to then be fully up to date first half of January.

Thanks for reading, Si

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