Tag Archives: Beds

Night out at the Bald Buzzard

Barely does a week go by when I don’t hear of a new micropub opening somewhere or other around the country.  I’ve managed to incorporate a few of these into my route, but in most cases I have had to resign myself to perhaps visiting them when my quest is over.  But last week a new micropub opened in Leighton Buzzard which, being about 25 miles from my workplace in Stevenage, I figured was just about reachable by bike after work one evening.  Of course, getting home would be a different matter.   So, the second part of my plan would be to try out my recently acquired bivi bag (a late birthday present to myself, because none of my family had taken my present suggestion seriously and actually bought me one).  To anybody that doesn’t know, a bivi bag is a waterproof cover for your sleeping bag  – it lets you sleep outdoors without the need to carry a tent.

So, after work on Tuesday night, I set off from Stevenage, with my sights set on the recently opened Bald Buzzard.   My workmates Stuart and Sam, and Sam’s brother Joe, would meet me down there.
And that’s more or less how it happened.

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Drat, I forgot to ask the owners, Alison & Phil, whether Marianne from The Paper Mill had visited them yet!

After a convivial evening in the Buzzard, we went our separate ways and, somewhere around halfway back towards Stevenage I sought out a convenient spot to bed down for the night, just as a fine drizzle had started to fall.

At 5am I awoke and quickly packed up, for fear of being “discovered” by dog-walkers, and got back on the road.  The night’s drizzle had not seeped through my bivi bag so I could now believe its claims to be waterproof.

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There is a certain satisfaction to be had from arriving at your office desk in the morning, having spent the night under the stars, and with nobody else being any the wiser.  Alas, I have yet to experience that feeling:  thanks to Facebook and Stuart and Sam, it seemed that everybody knew where I had spent the night.

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The Cuckoo, Toddington, Beds.

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If you found yourself driving through the village of Toddington you could be forgiven for thinking that the Cuckoo had always been a pub. It’s hard to believe that this micropub opened a mere 3 months ago in October 2014 – before that it was an abandoned Town Hall.    Ben, the landlord, has fitted out the interior like a cosy country pub.   For a micropub, some might say it is not very “micro”; for a start it has 2 rooms, but only one of them with a bar. And what a bar!   A classic pub-style work of art (built by Ben’s late father-in-law) and adorned with no fewer than 8 handpumps! Even a couple of craft keg beers and a l*ger (the mere mention of which in some micropubs, so I’ve heard, might require a contribution to the “swear box”). I opted for a pint of Shefford Best Bitter, a refreshing local session beer!    The handpumps are numbered and the available beers listed on a blackboard so, if you wish, you can order your beer by number instead of by name – it felt a bit like ordering a Chinese takeaway, but with the names of some beers these days it could make things easier when you’ve had a few! Ben has also sourced a selection of pork pies, scotch eggs and pickled eggs!

I visited the Cuckoo with a friend who used to live in Toddington until quite recently. He explained to me that Ben’s father had been the landlord of another pub in the village, the Sow & Pigs, until his death a few years ago. After he died, the Sow & Pigs had closed and has since been converted into housing, and the village has lost several of it other pubs too.  It seems the micropub revolution has given an opportunity for Ben to follow in the family tradition and for the village to gain a new watering hole. The Cuckoo is certainly popular, and I wish Ben every success.

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The Old Transporter Alehouse, Henlow, Beds.

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Husband and wife team Jay and Steve have done an excellent job of converting the former Blockbuster video shop in Henlow into their very own micropub, which they opened in October 2014.   Walk in through the door (I find it helps!) and you’ll find a spacious interior furnished with mixture of cafe style tables and comfy sofas.  Ale is served directly from firkins with cooling jackets in a rack that stands right behind a small bar counter. Four different beers were on offer when we visited, plus a selection of ciders in polypins on the counter.   The Transporter also serves soft drinks, teas, coffees and sandwiches.   I enjoyed a pint of Smokin’ Angel porter (4.5%) from the Leighton Buzzard Brewing Co! I’d just cycled 10 miles on a cold January evening so it really hit the spot. My pal Stuart opted for the Highwayman (3.6%) by Buntingford Brewery, a refreshing session beer and a bargain at only £2.50 a pint!  I liked the atmosphere of the Old Transporter – down to earth and nothing fancy.   There’s a transport theme to the pub which I get the feeling will evolve with time – right now it’s a bit sparse, but Steve told me that some of the transport memorabilia on show in the pub had been brought in by regulars. I like the thought of these contributions gradually making the pub what it is, it feels more genuine and less contrived.   I wish we could have stayed a little longer but we had another micropub to visit that evening.

At 10 miles from my office, the Old Transporter is my nearest micropub, and I can see groups of us coming back for many return visits. But before that, there is the small matter of visiting the other 99 micropubs!

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