Saturday, 3 October 2015

An Evening at the Old House

Old House Ightham Common
 It was a rare treat for me last night, when I spent an evening at the CAMRA National Inventory-listed Old House at Ightham Common. Because of the isolated situation of the Old House, the majority of my visits to this unspoilt gem have been in daylight hours; the normal means of getting there being by bus from Tonbridge, and then a short walk down the lanes.

On this occasion, a friend’s son kindly offered to drive his father, a couple of friends and me over to Ightham Common. The reason for our visit, apart from to spend some time in this excellent pub, was that a few members from South East London CAMRA had got in touch with our branch social secretary, to say they would be visiting the Old House, and wondered if some of us would like to join them.

We arrived shortly before 8.30pm, and found the pub busy, but not quite bursting at the seams. There were three people from South East London sitting by the window, so after ordering our drinks, we grabbed some chairs and sat down and joined them. Their means of getting to the pub had been train to Borough Green, followed by a taxi to the pub. They had booked a return rip and we had done the same. This proves, as if it were necessary, that where there’s a will there’s a way to get to these isolated pubs.

We were all glad we did; the South East London contingent for the cider, and the four of us from West Kent for the beer; Dark Star Hophead, served direct from the cask, kept in a temperature-controlled room out the back. Later, some of us switched either to St Austell Tribute or Stonehenge Great Bustard. I opted for the former, but I understand from my companions that the Stonehenge was also very good.

I have written before about the Old House, which is situated to the south of Ightham village in Redwell lane. It is an attractive, part 17th Century tile-hung building, but there are few clues externally that it is actually a pub! There is no pub sign and the signboard on the right gable has faded beyond recognition! Internally there are two bars, with the main one on the left, and a much smaller bar, which looks more like someone’s front room, on the right.

It is definitely a case of “duck or grouse” in the main bar, due to the low-beamed ceiling and this is where the regulars gather and the real banter takes place. There is a large brick inglenook fireplace at the far end, which houses a roaring log fire during the winter months. We all agreed that it would be very atmospheric to visit on a cold January night, and enjoy a few pints whilst toasting our toes in front of the fire.

The Old House has limited opening hours, because owner and licensee, Nick Boulter has a full time job in the city. This means opening has to be restricted to weekday evenings and weekends. Nick's brother Richard had run the pub for 20 years prior to Nick taking over and it was the uncertainty over the succession that had called the pub's future into doubt for a while. Fortunately, things turned out fine in the end, and following some much needed renovation work, back in 2011, the Old House is well and truly back open again for business. For more details click the following link to CAMRA's National Pub Inventory website, which contains a much more detailed description of the pub.

Our respective taxis arrived shortly after 10.30pm. There were still a few regulars left in the pub, but most of the earlier crowd has vanished. It had been a good couple of hours in this classic old rural pub, with good beer, good company and pleasant and uncluttered surroundings. As Arnie once said, “I’ll be back.”


Curmudgeon said...

Ah yes, a wonderful pub. I remember visiting in 2002 and going round Ightham Mote afterwards. Good to hear it's still going strong.

That's a classic example of the kind of pub that the Good Beer Guide might lead you to, but otherwise you would never have known existed.

Paul Bailey said...

There are people around here who are totally unaware of the pub’s existence. But then there are people who, if something isn’t shown on TV, are completely unaware of anything outside their own tiny bubble!

Ps. Glad you enjoyed your visit.