This was another excellent year with a wide range of social events and good support from our branch membership. My thanks to all who helped with the planning and organisation of events, and particularly Gill Keay who once again put a lot of work and effort into organising several beer tents and festivals. Thanks, too, to all who attended the social events and made it all worthwhile.
The social programme for the year started during a particularly cold and snowy January with a visit to the Ripple Steam Brewery at Sutton which is between Dover and Walmer. Because of the bad weather, the visit was in doubt right through the week. But the sun shone on the Saturday and the few who braved it were rewarded with memories of an excellent brewery tour, an informative talk by head brewer David, some really good beer and a barbecue on the patio outside the brewery where we were able to enjoy lovely views of the snow covered fields and the rural tranquility surrounding the brewery. Thanks to Rob Stephens for providing the transport for most of us, whilst Dave and Caroline braved the elements and used their bikes to get to the brewery.
In February, we repeated one of our once popular Triangle pub crawls utilising the frequent buses on the Stagecoach 4 and 6 bus routes and visiting pubs along the circular route. The pick of the pubs was The Butcher’s Arms in Herne Village, which as usual was packed to the rafters. It was the Saturday in the month when one of the locals provided a cold buffet with contributions going to the nearby Strode Park Foundation. We all made our contributions and cleared what was left of a wide range of scotch eggs and other tasty cold snacks as well as drinking some excellent beer..
In March, we made the journey over to Thanet to visit a wide range of the micro pubs now open for business. We had an excellent turnout and a most enjoyable day. We started at The Conqueror Alehouse, which was the first of the Thanet micro pubs and is well run by a CAMRA member, Colin, with some excellent well kept beers. Then on to the more quirky Chapel and The Thirty Nine Steps in Broadstairs, two larger establishments within 5 minutes walk of each other. We then bussed on to The Four Candles in nearby St. Peters, where the owner opened on a Saturday afternoon especially for us. A short hop then took us to another quirky pub, The Lifeboat Ale & Cider House in Margate. Those who had the stamina then ventured into Westgate-on-Sea to The Bake & Alehouse, with a few staggering on to The Why Not before going home.
In early April we had the first of our two mystery tours by luxury mini coach into the depths of the Kent countryside. This time, the pubs, route and timings were organised by Steve Lilley and Jo Dennis. A full coach load was treated to the delights of some excellent pubs in the Ashford and South East Kent area. The pick of the pubs was The Red Lion at Snargate on the edge of the Romney Marsh. Affectionately known as Doris’s, it is a gem of an unspoilt pub, which has been in the same family for 100 years. Also in April, we had an informal social at one of our new micro pub, The Tankerton Arms.
There were several events in May. Gill’s annual walk took a few intrepid walkers into Denge Wood where we were able to view and admire the wild orchids in their natural habitat. This was followed by a visit to the delightful Compasses Inn at Crundale where we took full advantage of the warm and sunny weather and sat in the pub garden. This was followed by another informal social/ pub crawl which visited the two new micro pubs in Herne Bay, The Firkin Frog and The Bouncing Barrel. This was followed up with a visit to The Prince of Wales to present a bronze award in the Branch Pub of the Year competition. Then at the end of the month, we had the first of two cricket beer tents organised by Gill Keay to raise money for worthwhile charities. The first formed part of the Tunbridge Wells cricket week in a delightful ground set on the outskirts of Tunbridge Wells. Despite some wet and grey weather, we had a very good turnout, excellent support from the local branch and a good selection of well kept beers selected by Gill and well looked after by Gerry and Shakey.
In June, a country walk and pub crawl from Bishopsbourne to Bridge on a Friday early summer evening was poorly attended but took advantage of the long summer night and gave us the opportunity to visit some good pubs and again to enjoy some goos summer weather.
In July and following another successful and well supported Kent Beer Festival at Merton Farm, our social took us to the Medway Towns on a very hot summer day for the Hopper Festival where we took advantage of a shuttle bus service to visit five pubs, each of which had a wide range of cask beers. The pick of the pubs was The King’s Arms at Upper Upnor which had a very good selection of real ales and foreign specialist bottled beers, some excellent and good value food and a lovely pub garden in which to enjoy the sunshine. And all the staff were dressed in sailor’s uniform. On the way back, we stopped at the excellent Elephant pub in Faversham.
In August, Matt Pringle kindly took on responsibility for the second Kieron Drum Memorial Pub Crawl and again went for London, rivers and rugby. Richmond-on-Thames was the chosen location and plenty of excellent pubs in the area were visited. Kieron would have been proud of it. The second of Gill’s two cricket tents followed later in the month, this time as part of Canterbury Cricket week. Again, the weather was disappointing but a lot of people turned up and a lot of good beer was consumed. In total, the two tents raised £2,246, the money being shared between two very worthwhile charities, Kent Red Cross and Prostrate Cancer. The end of the month saw branch participation in the Faversham Hop Festival, with a small beer festival run jointly with Swale Branch. We also had an impromptu visit to Thanet where a very small group of us visited the micro pubs we had missed earlier in the year.
September saw further branch participation with CAMRA bars once again at The Eastbridge Hospital in Canterbury and a week later at Strodefest 2013 organised but the Strode Park Foundation on their site near Herne Village. Sadly the event was marred yet again by bad weather but there are memories of Shakey’s 1960’s style wig [photo above], lots of wasp swotting (they were only there for the beer) and an excellent BBQ laid on by Shaun and team from the Pig and Porter Brewery. The end of the month saw the opening of the Kent Green Hop Festival with a large number of local attendance at the Green Hop Beer Festival in Dane John Gardens, Canterbury. Although not officially a branch CAMRA event we also celebrated what has now become a bi-annual event, former branch activists Mike and Mary Galliers birthday pub crawl. Their 30 beers for 30 years all day pub crawl is now legendary and we visited 11 excellent hostelries in Whitstable, one of which, The Old Neptune, has a superb beach location. As usual, we also savoured the delights of a supper at V C Jones Fish & Chip shop.
In October, we participated in what is hoped will become an annual event, a “Tour de East Kent” breweries. The idea was conceived by Eddie Gadd and John from The Foundry Brew House and modeled on a Belgian concept. As part of the conclusion of the Green Hop Festival, our resident luxury mini coach driver, Steve, took a large group of us round the five participating breweries, namely Gadd’s Ramsgate Brewery, Canterbury Ales at Chartham, the Foundry Brew Pub in Canterbury, Goody Ales in Herne and Wantsum Brewery in Hersden. Each of them had an open days and there were lots of good memories with plenty of good beer, music, and some excellent food including superb Indian food at Gadds where we were entertained by Eddie’s skiffle band.
November saw the second of our mystery tours with Rory Kehoe taking us round what I think was the whole of North Kent. Nevertheless, we went in a diverse range of pubs all of which had their own character and charm and the pick (in my humble opinion) of which were The Nevill at Birling and The Bull at West Malling. There will be memories, fond or otherwise, of the gents toilet at The Rising Sun at Kemsing and the singing group at The Queen’s Arms at Cowden Pound. We also had an “alternative” pub crawl in the Canterbury City Centre in November. I don’t know if it was the weather, the closeness to Christmas or the choice of a Friday night, but it was not well attended. Those who didn’t turn up missed the chance to try some of our lesser visited pubs, all of which dispensed some excellent real ales. Notably, The Carpenter’s Arms, the Lady Luck and the Canterbury Tales.
In December, we celebrated the festive period with our popular branch annual Christmas dinner, this year at The Millers Arms in Canterbury. Some good food was washed down with a good range of Shepherd Neame and once again we were in full flow with our regular carol singing , one of the musical high spots in the City Christmas calendar! At the end of the month, we had our now annual Christmas pub crawl and social which took the opportunity of visiting existing and potential pubs for the next Good Beer Guide. This year we visited nine pubs in two groups in Canterbury. Well supported, this was again another most enjoyable day.
In total, some 23 social events, ranging from beer festivals to mystery tours and bus trips with lots of memories.
In 2014, we have more varied events planned including more mystery tours, beer festivals, a possible return trip to Bruges, the third Kieron Drum memorial pub crawl and hopefully another tour de Green Hop Kent. We have already enjoyed an excellent pub crawl in Herne Bay and Whitstable but more about that in the next social review!
For more information about our branch social activities, please look on our YAHOO site or contact me by email: John.Hedington@btinternet.com.
CAMRA Canterbury Herne Bay & Whitstable