It has a main bar area with bench seating facing the bar, a snug to the rear on the right, then a long area to the left with more bench seating along the left-hand side, leading to a conservatory eating area with separate tables, and then some trestle tables out at the back next to the car park. The entire pub is packed with railway memorabilia.
The beer range on my most recent visit was Holden’s Bitter, Golden Glow and Special, Batham’s Bitter, and a trio of guest beers including the superb Thornbridge Jaipur IPA. All the beers I tried were in excellent form, the pick of the bunch being the Batham’s. Even though this was considerably more expensive than the Holden’s, it seemed to be the fastest-shifting beer. Holden’s Bitter was £2.25 a pint, Special £2.60, Batham’s £2.80 and Jaipur £3.20. Maybe surprisingly, in what is still regarded as a stronghold of mild drinking, there was no Holden’s Mild on sale.
There was a good mix of customers throughout the day, and it noticeably livened up approaching 8.00 pm when I left to get my train home. There were old boys reading the paper on the long bench to the left, and groups of young people clustering around the bar. It has a superb, buzzing, lively atmosphere.
Hidden away behind the station in an area with no nearby housing, by any rational calculation this pub should be long dead. But, here it is, thriving, and with customers beating a path to its door. It serves good beer and offers good crack. It’s a true classic and, although I only visit it once a year, one of my very favourite pubs. But I do like Batham’s Bitter...
I also called in the nearby Wetherspoon’s, the Moon Under Water. My pint was fine, but the police were going in as I arrived (at around 12.45 pm), and there was a slightly edgy atmosphere, with kids who were obviously not dining running around and causing mayhem. Another customer got up and moved elsewhere because of the kids – “I'm not f***king putting up with this!” he said. Plus it took me well over five minutes to be served.