Seeking Japan's mountain spirits.
Tucked beneath the Thames Link Bridge in central London lies one of the most intriguing food markets around.
Words by Marina Malthouse
A recent trip to Greece provoked me to write this article. My particular experience of travel on this occasion was, on many levels, different from those that I’ve previously had, for I was there to volunteer at a refugee camp in northern Greece.
Having booked and signed up for this trip, and despite being assured of my decision, I found myself feeling somewhat apprehensive. But why, I wondered? I’m half Greek, know the country and culture well and have travelled there countless times - but this trip entailed something different. I was concerned about the space I would inhabit whilst on the refugee camp, a space amongst people displaced by war, who have run in order to survive and whose lives have been on hold for too long. And then, reading a description of the former military-turned-refugee camp as having a heavy military presence inflamed my imagination. But I reminded myself that I usually enjoy difference; it decentres me and challenges me, opening up new perspectives to difference and ways of being. From hereon, the concept of travel took on new meanings.
Departing from my hometown of Bath, I had at least secured some certainty. I'd signed up to volunteer with a charity called Bridge2. I would fly from Gatwick to Thessaloniki. I knew which buses I would need to catch. I had examined the map to locate the places I would be travelling to and the distances between them; noticing that this region of Greece is called Macedon and that its northern border is with Macedonia. I was thrilled that I would be in the region known to produce the best make of my favourite food, halva.
After twelve hours of travelling by car, plane, two buses and a miscalculated three-minute taxi ride, I arrived at the front door of my hotel it the town of Veria, where all Bridge2 volunteers stay. Apart from the shock of a harsh winter wind that hit me as I exited Thessaloniki airport, my journey had been smooth. By the next morning I got over my final hurdle, of successfully finding Sam of Bridge2. The job of travelling from A to B was done. I could now begin to relax. Sam is the son of Sarah Griffith, the founder of Bridge2. Sarah has mastered the art of disaster relief having dedicated herself to attend to those in need following tsunamis, earthquakes and now, the Syrian refugees in Greece. A mother and son team makes this a very personable charity; all communication is with them directly and they clearly value kindness, goodwill, tenacity and patience. They are extremely organised. And Sam is pretty handy with a drill.
Camp Veria lies a few kilometres outside the city of Veria just beyond a small village called Aghia Varvara. It’s a former military camp, which means there’s a guardhouse at the entrance and wire fencing demarcating the perimeter. The camp has many pine trees in the grounds, a dirt-ground football pitch and a neglected basketball court. Below, a blue-watered lake formed by a dam with the Aliakmonas river foregrounds several snow-capped mountains that tower in the distance. As I stand admiring this view, I see forty or so beehives nearby and hear the familiar sounds of my childhood summers in Greece, of goat bells, sheep bleating and cockerels crowing. I discover that these belong to a farmer whose small land-mass of milk and honey is paradoxically sandwiched between the edge of this military camp and the banks of the lake.
Despite having learnt that all of the refugees on the camp had risked their lives crossing over from Turkey and had since survived dehumanising conditions in previous camps (Idomeni, Polikastro and Oreokastro), as Sam walks me around, I have a sense of peace and settledness. Each time we encounter a refugee, we stop. I observe their huge smiles as they warm-heartedly greet Sam, and between the men, some form of physical contact occurs – a handshake, a friendly thump on the upper arm, or a hug. A mixture of Arabic and English are spoken and a conversation may ensue in English, or not. Communication, of course, is vital so those that do speak English are often used as interpreters to enable Sam to understand the regular bombardments of questions or requests for one thing or another. Life on the camp can become tedious for its residents. What seems like the tiniest of problems when life is good can magnify into something pressingly important when there is little else to do.
Our tour around the camp includes army and other NGO offices, four residential blocks for the refugees, each of which has been divided up into small, individual living units with shared bathroom facilities. Bridge2 supplies every family with an electric kettle and portable cooker and another refugee organisation provide beds and bedding. We pass a building that has been set up as a school where refugee children are taught by refugees who were formerly teachers back home in Syria or Iraq. Other buildings include storerooms, a space for men and women to hang out separately, and the ‘shops’ for food, clothing and shoes that are run by Bridge2. These are shops by name only as there is no requirement for money - it is Sarah’s method of distributing food, clothing and shoes. In time, I see the fine motive behind her careful planning where creating opportunities to ‘shop’ provides individual refugees with dignity and choice, offering them perhaps a reminder of better days. It’s a limited choice as it does depend on donations, or what Sarah has bought in from local providers by way of fresh fruit, eggs, vegetables and groceries. With my Western eye however, and with hours and hours of volunteer time dedicated to sorting through boxes of food, toiletries, toys, clothes and shoes, it was my impression that Sarah’s shops have a lot to offer. Her standards are high – when volunteers ask her advice on finding dirty, misshapen or shrunken goods, she’d say, “if you wouldn’t eat, wear or use it, bin it”.
By the end of my first day, Sam hands me a set of keys and assigns me the responsibility of running the supermarket for the month. Opening on Tuesdays and Thursdays for ‘sales’, the supermarket also requires restocking of shelves in-between times from the storeroom behind. Here, there are boxes and boxes of donated goods for volunteers to unpack and sort through, cooking oils to decant and spices, seeds, coffee, cocoa, lentils and chickpeas to be bagged into smaller-sized portions. Inevitably whilst the volunteers work together, life experiences are shared and friendships are forged.
Of more importance though, my days in the supermarket enabled me to spend time with each of the refugees. In total, there were approximately 250 refugees, mostly families with young children, but also single young men and one single woman. They came to shop in turn, block-by-block, unit-by-unit. More often than not, it was the husbands who came alone leaving their wives to care for their babies and young children. When husbands were already in Germany, as was the case for three wives and their young children in Block D, they shopped together. I didn’t need to know Arabic to understand what they seemed to be saying to one another - their expressions and laughter told of women sharing lives whilst shopping together. Occasionally, teenage daughters or sons had been sent by their parents to shop, or young single men who shared a unit space might come alone, together, or with one of the women from a neighbouring family unit to theirs. A glance at Sam’s spreadsheet revealed that two of these young single men were only 17 years old. When I asked about their families, they told me their parents and siblings were either already in Germany or yet to leave Syria. Hearing and reading these dates of birth always made me swallow hard and grab the largest of fruits and vegetables for their food allocation.
By the end of four weeks helping out in the camp, I witnessed a touching humanity where an environment of mutual care and support seemed to prevail over personal and collective loss. I felt ashamed that I had allowed my consideration of the refugees to focus on them more as a collective, one that had risked blunting my compassion for their individual suffering. If it wasn’t women cooking for the single men, it was a friend who’d shop for fellow refugees if they’d been called for a re-location ‘interview’. Young always gave way to old and parents lovingly attended to their children.
Experiences on the camp overlapped with life away from the camp. At the end of each day’s work, Sarah or Sam would return the volunteers to Veria. Leaving the refugees in the evenings was always a stark reminder of the vulnerability of life, that any of us could have their misfortune, of just being in the wrong place at the wrong time. This particular experience of travel brought to mind the work of the late feminist geographer, Doreen Massey. In her book, For Space, she wrote that space is a product of interrelations, a possibility of multiplicity and plurality, is always under construction, a geographical imagination and a simultaneity of stories-so-far. The lives of the refugees I met have been traumatised, they are on hold, in limbo, and Massey’s notion of stories-so-far seems to exemplify their situation. To any of us volunteers, the effects of multiple losses as a consequence of war were brought sharply into focus. But none of us were in a position to find solutions to the plight of these refugees. Our role was to offer help in practical ways and, above all, to show our genuine empathy and compassion so that they do not feel forgotten during this difficult time in their lives. Sadly, the ending to this story seems a long way off; so much more work needs to be done, and so much more of the story-is-yet-to-be-told.
Words by Elli Hollington Beyond the basics of sustenance and gluttony, food is emotional – closely linked to memory, imagination, and travel. Supper clubs have cosily diversified the capital’s dining-out options, in which strangers come together along big wooden tables to break bread and share conversation. It is the experience of the intimate dinner party, expanded out, and unlike a restaurant, you know you’re never going to have that evening, those people, this menu in combination again.
Out of London’s growing vogue for supper clubs come two in particular that understand this irresistible lure of food and culture. The Literary Hour, which originated out of a group of friends' Haringey kitchen, lays on suppers inspired by classic writers and books. Kino Vino, a cinema supper club, puts on stylish evenings of feasting from the national cuisine of the particular film screened at the beginning of the night. This is cooking which inspires nostalgia, whilst also sparking visions of unfamiliar places and flavours.
The Literary Hour has been going strong for nearly two years now. Head chef Jude Skipwith started exploring culinary possibilities with her housemates in the summer of 2015. Thumbing through childhood copies of Roald Dahl stories, they dreamed of snozzcumbers, edible wallpaper, and luscious giant peaches. They put together their first menu, and ‘Charlie and the Chocolate Factory’ golden ticket chocolate bars were sent out to their guests in the post as invitations. Since then, they’ve done ‘Silence of the Lambs’ for Halloween (duck hearts, lamb shanks, and blood-like gazpacho), and then moved on to the stories of the Brothers Grimm, using pumpkins leftover from Cinderella’s carriage, and peas that rolled out from under the Princess’s mattress, presumably. Beatrix Potter inspired last year’s spring supper club, with their dining table laid with an edible vegetable patch of seeds and olive tapenade ‘soil’, and tiny blue felt Peter Rabbit jackets as table settings.
Over Christmas they made the decision to upscale, moving their pots, pans, knives and pile of battered paperbacks to Styx. The multi-purpose arts venue in Tottenham gave them the space for their most inventive and ambitious supper club to date. Diners found themselves in an everlasting Narnian winter, complete with an indoor forest of fir trees with sprayed-on 'snow' and frequent belchings of dry ice. Warming up with steaming cocktails and hot water bottles, we sat down to feast under the most beautiful canopy of branches and fairy lights. I found myself taken back to childhood evenings reading ‘The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe’ as the courses began to roll out. To start: a deliciously smooth celeriac velouté in a teacup, served with a black pepper scone and horseradish butter to warm our bellies. As we listened to the words of the Pevensies fleeing the wrath of the White Witch (readings between courses continue to be The Literary Hour’s signature touch), we tucked into an adorable 'ham on the run' picnic spread of the sort the beavers might have packed for them, although perhaps their version wouldn't have had the beaver salami we sampled. Of course, there was handmade Turkish Delight. After some boozy hot chocolate and pudding with marmalade vodka, we were ready for home.
Speaking to The Literary Hour’s founder Jude, it is evident that she is utterly obsessed with food, a highly talented amateur chef learning new techniques as she goes. She remembers in particular the challenge of making gorgeously fresh duck egg ravioli, ensuring the pasta was cooked whilst the egg yolk inside remained runny. Upcoming menus are often researched at the bottom of her garden with a picnic basket of cold prosecco and crisp salad, and she has been to every corner of London in her quest for the best ingredients. While her cooking remains essentially local and European, she’s a dedicated foodie traveller, and starts reminiscing about dishes of currywurst in Berlin and chicken heart kebabs in Thailand during our conversation. In her opinion, “Food is such a fantastic way to begin understanding a different country and their different culture. When language might be a barrier, it is the easiest - and most delicious - way to connect to people.”
This is a sentiment shared by Alissa Timoshkina, and put into mouthwatering practice with her supper club Kino Vino. She brings her genius curation skills to pair chefs with a particular film of her choice. Travelling thematically from nation to nation with each individual supper club, last month was all about India. Handed glasses of prosecco at the door, we started with a screening of 'The Lunchbox', the charming Indian film in which a pair of strangers fall in love over a misdelivered packed lunch. India, perhaps more than any other country, really comes to life on the screen: the streets of Mumbai rammed with dabbawalas on their bicycles, office workers inhaling spices from the lifted lid of a tiffin tin as ceiling fans whirl overhead, smoking on one's balcony at sunset. And the food: rich pulpy aubergines in baingan bharta, perfectly simple dal, and stuffed bitter gourd, with fresh chapatis to mop everything up. The heroine of ‘The Lunchbox’ licks her fingers at her stove, and the unlikely hero’s days are transformed as he falls in love with firstly her cooking, and then her (despite some outrageously ungrateful complaints about one lunch being too salty).
While we were watching, we snacked on our first course from Bengal-born guest chef Romy Gill - deep-fried potato balls with flavours of ginger, chilli and mint zinging alive in our mouths. Then, dinner, on the scrubbed wooden tables next door, surrounded by palms, candles and flower garlands. It was the kind of fresh, inspired Indian menu which is a world away from the average British high street curry house - stand-out dishes were the deliciously tangy octopus tentacles with a cool apple, fennel and dill salad, and the hugely comforting goat curry that followed. There were also plates of pork and cabbage momos to be rolled luxuriantly around in a soy and spring onion dipping sauce and stuffed, whole, into our mouths. As the guests opposite me told tales of trips to India, we finished up with perfectly creamy shrikhand flavoured delicately with saffron and cardamom, as live sitar played in the background. Oh, and there were mouthfuls of ruby jewelled pomegranate seeds - on everything!
As Alissa prepares for her next dinner, a Polish feast from chef Zuza Zak, I ask about her particular connection with food, film and travel. “It is the concept of a journey - sensual, emotional, intellectual - that has always attracted me to viewing a film,” she told me. “You start with a blank screen and by the end of the film, your life is no longer the same. This is not too dissimilar to a journey one takes during a good meal – an empty plate is your passport to a unique world of flavours that lifts you out of your seat. The idea of people gathering around a beautifully set table, and embarking on a journey through a film-inspired meal was the foundation for my supper club.”
The Literary Hour: www.theliteraryhour.com
Kino Vino: www.kinovino.org
Here at Lodestars Anthology we love a beautiful travel journal as much as the next person (a lot more so, probably). So imagine how happy we were when we chanced across Cornwall by Weekend Journals, a definitive guide to exploring the fairest English county which features unique and special venues, from verdant gardens to visionary galleries, independent shops and exceptional restaurants. The book is written by Milly Kenny-Ryder and produced by Simon Lovell, who both have strong links to Cornwall, and have been visiting with their families since they were young. Using these connections they have gone off the beaten track to discover the venues that the locals love, while also showcasing some of Cornwall's most iconic sites and stories. For a hint of what this edition of The Weekend is all about, read on, and be inspired by all that Cornwall has to offer (or click here to order a copy).
St. Tudy Inn
Emily Scott is an ambitious and optimistic chef who took over the St. Tudy Inn, determined to offer locals and visitors great food in a delightful setting. This charming Cornish pub is situated in St. Tudy, a quaint village in North Cornwall. After extensive redecoration the pub feels cosy and welcoming, with Nicole Heidaripour prints on the walls and vintage furniture.
All Emily’s cheffing experience has been put to good use in the kitchen, where seasonality and local produce reign. The menu is full of comforting classics with a twist, such as the fish and chips, upgraded to the irresistibly tasty Monkfish tails in rosemary focaccia crumb with fries and citrus mayo. The St. Tudy Inn also runs regular events, including Pig and Cider nights with a hog roast and regional ales, so there's many an enticing reason to visit.
St. Tudy Inn, St. Tudy, Bodmin, Cornwall, PL30 3NN
01208 850 656
Surfside is an exciting venture from London-based mixologist Tristan Stephenson, author of The Curious Bartender and part of the drinks company Fluid Movement who founded Purl and The Whistling Shop bars in London. Surfside has become a local hit, serving fresh food and cocktails at the water’s edge in Polzeath. Located on a corner of the beach, the restaurant is only accessible via the sand which adds to the experience.
Although the venue appears casual from the exterior, inside the offerings are for serious foodies with surf and turf platters and inventive cocktails. Thanks to the isolated location Surfside feels intimate and exclusive, with panoramic sea views adding something special to the meal.
Surfside Restaurant, On the Beach, Polzeath, Cornwall, PL27 6TB
01208 862 931
Trevibban Mill & Appleton's at the Vineyard
Situated on the slopes of the Issey brook near Padstow, Trevibban Mill is one of the newer Cornish wineries but is already producing award-winning wines. Liz and Engin began planting in 2008 with an ambition to produce top quality Cornish wines and ciders. Native sheep graze on the land and their wool is for sale in the vineyard shop. Tours and tastings can be arranged to sample a range of the different wine and cider varieties.
Also on site is Appleton’s at the Vineyard, where ex-Fifteen head chef Andy Appleton is managing the kitchen, feeding hungry visitors with fine Italian dishes showcasing the local produce. Choose from a beautiful piece of sustainable fish, or a bowl of comforting pasta. The dishes provide the ideal accompaniment to a glass of Trevibban Mill wine.
Trevibban Mill & Appleton's at the Vineyard, Dark Lane, near Padstow, PL27 7SE
01841 541 413
Hidden Kitchen is a supper club and culinary concierge serving unique food to its St Ives clientele. Located on the corner of St. Andrews Street, in the centre of the historic town, it is easy to miss this understated dining room. Chef James Watson and his wife Georgina worked together in the catering business before opening their first venue. The intimate dining experience in the boutique restaurant makes it feel like a dinner party at a friend’s house.
James regularly plays host to visiting chefs who provide diners with constantly changing, exciting international cuisines. Guest chefs have included Gordon Ramsay student Lee Skeet and Japanese cook Naoko Kashiwagi. After the meal leave a message to show your appreciation on the blackboard tables.
Hidden Kitchen, The Masonic Lodge, St. Andrews Street, St Ives, TR26 1AH
07792 639 755
There are more and more promising independent coffee shops in Cornwall; Espressini on Killigrew Street in Falmouth is one of the best. This characterful venue serves a bespoke blend of beans sourced and roasted by Yallah Coffee, selected specially for them from growers around the world. Inside, the café is cosy and familiar with mismatched antique furniture, and the chatter accompanied by a thoughtful playlist. The coffee is bold in flavour and served to your preference. Brunch is particularly popular with a menu of tempting and indulgent dishes displaying a wide range of influences from world cuisines.
Nearby, on Falmouth harbour, is Dulce, the smaller sibling of Espressini which, as well as offering freshly brewed coffee, sells equipment to help you make the perfect cup at home.
39 Killigrew St, Falmouth, TR11 3PW
Photographs by Tom Bunning In winter our thoughts turn to candlelit rooms and warming fires. But Tom Bunning's photography reminds us that the cold comes in many guises and draws our gaze to Icelandic landscapes - the waterfalls, the birds wheeling under eggshell blue skies and the endless snowbound vistas. Be warned though, if you venture out into the cold, you may not come back again...
This week the Canada issue of Lodestars Anthology - officially released in the UK on October 18 - will be avalible through our online store. So we thought we'd celebrate by sharing some of the wild and wonderful images and illustrations that fill the pages of issue 6. Thank you as always to our truly spectacular contributors - the world is indeed filled with some rather talented beings. You can order the magazine here.
About the magazine: Canada is a land where lakes glow, mountains soar and island life prevails. Wild, rugged and unfazed by time, luxury resides in unexpected corners, cities delight and outdoor adventure beckons, for nature is indeed all around. You yearn to explore, to get lost, to reconnect with a pristine beauty so hard to encounter in the modern world. The seasons astound - from frozen winters to summer’s never-setting sun - while waterfalls carve canyons, rivers become frozen highways and people smile, aware of their heritage and all that this land has gifted them. You’ll find snow and maple syrup, art and architecture and a landscape both inspiring and eternal. Greetings from the Great White North.
Some featured destinations:
Clayoquot Wilderness Resort Fogo Island Inn Vancouver Toronto Montreal The flavours of Canada Cosman & Webb maple syrup Left Field Brewery Canoe North Adventures The Yukon in winter Northwest Territories Nova Scotia Halifax Lobster Boil Ontario wines The Canadian Rockies Prince Edward Island Calgary The Canadian
With our England magazine now sold out we thought it was only right to share one of its stories - a celebration of the country's best pubs. To avoid missing any other back issues, pay a visit to our store by clicking here.
Words by Tom Goble & Illustrations by Emily Fernando
With their ghostly inhabitants, unexpected pasts, famous patrons and general eccentricity, English pubs are decidedly brilliant.
The English pub is a marvellous thing, in fact I’m writing this introduction from one (The White Hart in Sevenoaks since you ask). Come rain, shine or old-fashioned drizzle, a good English pub will restore you. It’ll warm your cockles, quench your thirst and satisfy your need for quirkiness.
Maybe it’s because I’m an Englishman, maybe it’s because I like a drink, maybe it’s because I speak the unquestionable truth, but to me it seems the English do pubs like no other nation. Very few countries have drinking establishments so tied in with their national identity; meaning any number of fascinating pubs could have found their way into this article. On that note, apologies if your particular favourite has been omitted. I’ve attempted to offer a snapshot of the great and the good of English drinking dens. For every interesting story I describe, there are thousands of others from pubs and inns up and down the length and breadth of the country that I might have chosen. The Philharmonic in Liverpool that inspired a young John Lennon, The Eagle and Child in Oxford that counted J. R. R. Tolkien and C. S. Lewis among its clientele and The Haunch of Venison in Salisbury, which was used by Churchill and Eisenhower during the D-Day landings, are just some of the many I could have picked.
So if you take anything from these ramblings, I’d like it not to be that these are England’s best eight pubs, but rather that England is blessed with some magnificent places to have a drink; and so I’d encourage you to get out and explore them all (sensible drinking is advised, but by no means compulsory).
Fitzpatrick’s Temperance Bar & Emporium
I’ll tell you the problem with pubs – they’re not a lot of good if you don’t like drinking. Sure they’ll serve you an orange juice and packet of crisps, but any publican worth his salt (and vinegar) will be thinking “Uh-oh! We’ve got another weirdo teetotaller Mildred (his frumpy fictional wife)”. But wait, there is a solution.
Mr. Fitzpatrick’s Bar is the UK’s last and only remaining original temperance bar. Serving a heady selection of herbal drinks, cordials and mocktails to the alcohol-intolerant inhabitants of Rawtenstall in Lancashire, Mr. Fitzpatrick’s has proved quite a draw, with visitors coming from across the globe to sample this quaint snapshot of Victorian Britain.
The temperance movement (one foot in front of the other please sir) began in 1835 in Preston amid concerns about the Industrial Revolution’s equally industrial levels of alcoholism. And although prohibition was never formalised in the UK in the same way it was by our supposedly sober cousins in 1920’s America, a wave of non-alcoholic bars began popping up in most towns to guard against the dangers of heavy drinking.
Although their reach was nationwide, temperance bars found their strongest foothold in the Northern industrial towns, some of the most famous of which carried the Fitzpatrick family name. Originally a family of herbalist Dubliners, the Fitzpatricks established themselves as one of England’s foremost purveyors of Dandelion and Burdock, Blood Tonic and Cream Soda and their empire grew to include more than 40 bars.
The final remaining bar retains many of its original fixtures and fittings, including the ceramic tap barrels and shelves lined with jars of medicinal herbs, and might well be credited with a bit of a revival in ‘dry’ drinking venues. Alcohol-free bars have been turning up with increasing popularly, particularly in London with Redemption and Sobar serving only soft drinks and proving very popular with the after-work set and health- conscious alike.
So popular has the dry drinking culture become in the UK that the proprietors of the Rawtenstall temperance bar have opened a new sister establishment in nearby Chorley, Lancashire. The simply named Temperance Bar serves many of the same cordials and mocktails and its owners hope that temperance bars might once again be a regular feature on most English high streets. Mr. Fitzpatrick would be proud.
Fitzpatrick’s Temperance Bar Bank St, Rawtenstall, Rossendale, BB4 6QS
“I took the missus to the Inn” ‘Jamaica?’ “No, she went of her own accord!”
Theoldonesarethebest,aren’tthey? And the Jamaica Inn, sitting between Launceston and Bodmin in Cornwall, is pretty old indeed. It’s also got a fair bit of history attached to it.
Built in the mid 18th Century, Jamaica Inn was originally a coaching inn, the equivalent of Little Chef/ Premier Inn combo on the side of a motorway today. Very much like our motorway services,theJamaicaInn, in bygone days, occasionally played host to some less than desirable clientele, and the inn was often used by smugglers to hide the contraband they’d brought ashore - at this time, half of the brandy and a quarter of the tea arriving into the UK was being smuggled in through the Devon and Cornwall coastline. In fact, it is thought that the inn got its name due to the amount of smuggled rum that passed through it.
The smuggling heritage and history of Jamaica Inn can be relived in the attached Museum of Smuggling, which is open daily and costs around £4 for adults. It is found in what was originally The Stable Bar, a space that (along with The Smuggler’s Bar and an upstairs bedroom) has been of particular interest to curious (or should that be foolhardy) ghost hunters.
It was this atmosphere, thick with history and dubious intrigue, that must have so struck Daphne Du Maurier when she stayed at the inn on a “cold and eerie” night in 1930. Du Maurier’s fictionalised version of Jamaica Inn remains one of her best-selling and most-loved novels and was made into a film by Alfred Hitchcock on the eve of the Second World War. The novel Jamaica Inn continues to inspire and the recently broadcast BBC retelling of the tale ought to keep the bar of Jamaica Inn busy with Du Maurier enthusiasts and introduce Cornwall’s murky past to new generations of little smugglers.
Jamaica Inn Bolventor, Launceston, Cornwall PL15 7TS
The Spaniards Inn
This is not a trendy gastro-tapas- drinking den, as the name might suggest, but rather one of London’s most historic literary pubs. Found on the edge of Hampstead, North London, The Spaniards Inn was originally built as a tollgate inn on the Finchley boundary marking the entrance to the Bishop of London’s estate (the 1755 boundary stone is still in the front garden).
Legend insists that infamous highwayman Dick Turpin was once a regular, and that his father was once landlord, and although neither of these facts can be substantiated, it was known that highwaymen used the inn to watch for approaching traffic.
But highwaymen were not the only inventive professionals drawn to The Spaniards Inn; many of our great literary figures made it their watering hole too. The inn is mentioned by Dickens in The Pickwick Papers and by Bram Stoker in Dracula, and Romantic poets John Keats and Lord Byron were also said to be regulars.
The inn retains much of its historic décor and is often said to have one of the most impressive beer gardens in London – it has been landscaped so that from one artificial mound there is a view of Windsor Castle. It is reported that Keats wrote his Ode to a Nightingale from this sunny hideaway.
So if you too are longing “for a draught of vintage” in a pub garden, then you may like to pop down to The Spaniards Inn. But make sure you bring your notebook, you might be struck by inspiration.
The Spaniards Inn Spaniards Rd, Hampstead, London , NW3 7JJ
Tan Hill Inn
What’s that?! Is it a bird? Is it a plane? No it’s the Tan Hill Inn, the highest pub in the UK. At a whopping 1732 feet above sea level it’s a good 500 feet taller than the Empire State Building and North Yorkshire Dales enthusiasts would insist it has a better view too.
The current inn dates from the 17th Century and for much of its life was a valued part of the area’s coal mining community, serving the inhabitants of the many nearby mining cottages who in turn served the Tan Hill mines.
With the world still reeling from the Wall Street Crash, it was dealt another blow in 1929 when the last of the Tan Hill mines closed its doors (do mines have doors?) for good, leading to a period of belt tightening for the Tan Hill Inn. The fact that it survived the loss of its sooty patrons at all was in part thanks to local farmers who continued to tread their muddy boot prints into the shag, and also the development of the motorcar.
1951 was a big year for the UK. The Archers was first broadcast, Dennis the Menace appeared in The Beano for the first time, Zebra Crossings were introduced to UK roads, and to top it all the first ever Tan Hill Sheep Show was held. The Sheep Show, now a regular feature on the Tan Hill social events calendar, has been held almost every year since its inception.
Due to the somewhat isolated hilltop setting, Tan Hill Inn might also hold the joint honour of being the most inaccessible pub during winter – one particularly snow-enforced lock-in lasted four days with 60 punters. And in another of the peculiar quirks that makes Britain’s pubs the world’s best, after a mobile phone advert was filmed in the pub, it was forced to invoke a strict no-phone policy. A jar stands behind the bar, full of Nokia 3310s (et al.) as the price of failing to pay the 50p just-turn-the-damn-thing-off fine results in the loss of your phone. Now that’s the sort of rule I like!
If you prefer your inn with a double portion of quirkiness at altitude then do check out the Tan Hill Inn. It’s a warm and cosy free house with a good atmosphere and a non-ringtone- interrupted ambience – and it’s bloody high up.
Tan Hill Inn Richmond, Swaledale, North Yorkshire DL11 6ED
The Bat & Ball
Erroneously known as ‘the cradle of English cricket’, The Bat & Ball in the sleepy Hampshire village of Hambledon certainly has a place within the history books of the most quintessentially English of sports.
Due to its close association with the Hambledon Cricket Club, many have assumed (incorrectly) that infant cricket let go of his mother’s apron strings and took his first steps on Broadhalfpenny Down (opposite The Bat & Ball). In truth however, the evocative thwack of leather on willow had been heard across the South Downs for hundreds of years previous. Nevertheless, The Bat & Ball and the Hambledon Cricket Club (who used The Bat & Ball as clubhouse and changing room) continue to remain inextricably linked with cricketing folklore; the modern rules of the game were drawn up from the Hambledon Club’s original.
The Bat & Ball itself, as you might expect, is a bit of a Mecca for cricketing enthusiasts, and its walls are bedecked (as all good cricketing Meccas are) with bats and balls and other cricketing flotsam and jetsam. The bar has a white line painted through the middle of it, which apocryphally is said to mark the position of the original Hambledon Club boundary rope.
Cricket is still played opposite The Bat & Ball and I might be so bold as to venture that there’s no finer way to spend a sunny afternoon than sipping cider and watching an innings or two. One cautionary word of warning however, the car park of The Bat & Ball is certainly in range of any decent batsman and a dented roof or smashed windscreen is only a hefty slog away.
Here’s another titbit for you, Britain’s third favourite ale HSB was originally made just down the road - the ‘H’ standing for nearby hamlet Horndean. So if you like to know the provenance of your pint at The Bat & Ball you’re only a cricket ball throw from the origin of what locals would call a pretty ‘Special Bitter’ indeed.
Go on then, press a crease into your trousers, pop on your whites and get down to Hambledon on a sunny afternoon. I promise it’ll be exquisitely lazy, and you’ll love every minute. Howzat!
The Bat & Ball Hyden Farm Lane, Waterlooville, Hampshire, PO8 0UB
How many people can you fit in England’s smallest pub? Answer: 102 and a dog!
The pride and PR opportunities that accompany being England’s oldest/ biggest/tallest/dustiest/coldest pub are significant, and the crown belonging to England’s smallest pub is a very keenly contested one. Many have thrown their teeny hat into the tiny ring, but only one has emerged victorious. The compact but perfectly formed Nutshell in Bury St Edmunds is generally acknowledged (certainly by The Guinness Book of Records) as the smallest, seemingly by virtue of the fact that it has no outside drinking space/beer garden, unlike many of its puny rivals.
Measuring only 15ft by 7ft the record of 102 people and a dog seems a little far-fetched, but for a local radio feature in 1984 The Nutshell achieved just that. Pretty impressive for pub with just about enough room for 10 patrons ordinarily. In fact, The Nutshell is so small, that it hit the headlines in 2013 for banning one of its taller (he was 6’7 if you were wondering) patrons during peak times as there simply wasn’t room to accommodate him.
Assuming you’re small enough to be allowed inside, aside from getting up close and personal with the locals, you’ll be able to come face to face (literally) with The Nutshell’s famously interesting décor. Having started life as a museum of art and curiosities in the late 19th Century, the current ownership have kept up the tradition and the walls and ceiling display a range of particularly weird and wonderful objets d’art. In keeping with the diminutive theme, The Nutshell boasts the smallest copy of The Times and the smallest dartboard. And when a desiccated cat was found by builders behind the brickwork of the fireplace it was decided it was exactly what the pub needed and they stuck it on the wall.
Whether you simply like invading the space of boozy men, or just fancy a little (normal sized) drink in a tiny (tiny) pub then check out The Nutshell in Bury St Edmunds. If you can find it.
The Nutshell, The Traverse, Town Centre, Bury St Edmunds IP33 1BJ
Warren House Inn
So you’ve been on a brisk winter’s walk across the wilds of Dartmoor. The biting Devonshire wind has chilled you to the core and, fearing hypothermia, you’re on the verge of calling Mountain (Moor) Rescue when you spot a white dot of hope on the horizon; an inn, with its plume of smoke billowing from a chimney hinting at the cosiness within.
With its address of No. 1, Middle of Nowhere, Warren House Inn has offered respite to weary travellers since the mid 19th Century. Like the Tan Hill Inn, this particular establishment originally served the thriving but now non-existent tin mining industry. It’s also quite isolated come winter. During heavy snows in 1963 Warren House was cut off for 12 weeks, meaning provisions had to be brought in by helicopter.
Now over the years many of England’s great pubs have had equally illustrious landlords (Sir Ian Mckellen - Magneto to his friends - co-owns The Grapes in Limehouse, Guy Ritchie owns the Punch Bowl in Mayfair, and chat-show host extraordinaire Michael Parkinson owns The Royal Oak in Maidenhead) and Warren House Inn is no exception, sitting slap-bang in the middle of the estate of the Duchy of Cornwall. By rights it’s Prince Charles’s name above the door.
It says something about a pub when the fact that the landlord is heir to the throne is not the most interesting thing about it, and so I’ll bring you back to the plume of smoke mentioned at the top. The fire that burns in the hearth of Warren House Inn has been doing so continuously since 1845. It’s outlived Dartmoor’s tin industry, survived countless freezing winters and warmed the cockles of who knows how many wide-eyed travellers. Warren House Inn really does keep the home fires burning.
Warren House Inn Postbridge, Yelverton, Devon, PL20 6TA
Ye Olde Trip to Jerusalem
One of the many pretenders to the wrinkled crown of Britain’s oldest pub is Ye Olde Trip to Jerusalem, which purports (according to the pub sign at least) to date from 1189 AD.
Though the current building is only about three hundred years old, The Trip, as it is known to the Nottinghamites, is built on a series of man-made caves, which date to about the same time as the Norman conquest and link up to the castle on the hill above.
The pub supposedly takes its name from the fact that crusade-bound knights used the watering hole as a stop-off point on their way to Israel (the modern equivalent would be needing a wee before you reach the end of the road). Indeed Richard I himself apparently slept at the inn on one of his very infrequent visits to England, though this obviously can’t be verified as he didn’t post a review on TripAdvisor. What is beyond doubt however is that over the years some pretty strange and eerie things have occurred at Ye Olde Trip to Jerusalem.
In The Rock Lounge (one of The Trip’s three bars) a model galleon hangs from the ceiling gathering dust as the last three people to have cleaned it are said to have died under mysterious circumstances within 12 months of doing so. The galleon is now encased in glass, as the centuries of dust covering it occasionally became dislodged and would fall into an unsuspecting drinker’s pint. Other peculiar highlights include an antique chair in the corner of the bar, which is said to improve the fertility and chances of conception of any woman who sits in it. The chair has even been used by local politicians to stress the importance of contraception to bemused teenage residents.
If you like your pubs ancient, and with a healthy serving of haunted spookiness on the side, then stop in to Ye Olde Trip to Jerusalem. Perhaps on your way to the Holy Land? Or at least somewhere else suitably sunny.
Ye Olde Trip to Jerusalem Brewhouse Yard, Castle Rd, Nottingham, NG1 6AD
Words by Sarah Kelleher, Photographs by Liz Schaffer. Armed with a list of recommendations as long as my arm and travel companions who were already familiar with New York, I stepped off the plane at JFK. My first glimpse of the city was suitably fitting – late at night, through the window of a yellow taxi cab I could see the outline of towering buildings and neon lights. Exhausted by the flight, I had just enough energy to register the glorious eccentricity of the lobby at The Jane Hotel, originally built as a hotel on the banks of the Hudson River for sailors on shore-leave, complete with bellhops in maroon outfits with brass buttons, dark wood panelling and a pair of antlers.
Rising much refreshed from my bunk the next day (the rooms at The Jane were built to resemble cabins on a ship) I breakfasted in Café Gitane, next to the hotel’s lobby. The décor is French, as the name would suggest, and the European/ North African/ Middle Eastern cuisine is delicious, perfect fuel for urban adventurers. I was surprised by the continental flavour of the café, but came to realise that this is very typical of New York, a city that simultaneously wears its immigrant heart on its sleeve whilst remaining distinctly American.
After that first meal my feet hardly touched the ground. I was lucky enough to be in New York in the spring when the city is at its most romantic, the square lines of tenement builds softened by the pink and white blossom hanging from the roadside trees. A lifelong bookworm and confirmed geek, I couldn’t pass up on the chance to visit some of the city’s bookshops and took in the Strand, an enormous family-run independent bookstore, and Forbidden Planet, a famous comic book emporium. Having satisfied one appetite I turned to another, and had lunch at Veselka, a Ukrainian restaurant and New York institution that serves tasty pierogi and sweet raspberry pancakes.
A visit to Central Park was in order, so I found my way to this oasis in Manhattan. Central Park is just extraordinary – a long rectangle of green space carved out of New York’s urban jungle. You can see the city’s skyscrapers closing in from almost all points in the park, but they seem curiously far away when you’re surrounded by so much nature. A quiet wander up and down the paths, past New York joggers and tiny dog-walking Manhattanites, followed by a trip to Café Lalo of You’ve Got Mail fame blew away the last cobwebs of jet lag.
My first taste of the city was short-lived, as I had another plane to catch to New Mexico and a road-trip to complete. Late at night, tucked up in my cabin bed at The Jane, I consoled myself with the thought that I’d be returning to New York in a matter of weeks on my way home. When I closed my eyes, all I could see were skyscraper lights.
Two weeks later, and New York had progressed from the chill and damp of early spring to the first hints of summer. Returning to The Jane felt like a homecoming of sorts, and I wasted no time in ensconcing myself back in Café Gitane for a coffee and plotting session. My first stop was to meet up with a friend who was serendipitously in New York at the same time as me; she suggested the High Line.
The High Line is a remarkable piece of New York history – a living monument to the city’s transport past. Originally a railroad running on an elevated track through the Chelsea district on Manhattan’s West Side, it closed in 1980, only to re-open in 2009 as a public landscape. Carefully planted with perennials, grasses, shrubs and trees, the planting design is based on the wildlife that sprang up after the tracks fell into disuse. After ambling through Chelsea Market we ascended to the High Line; on a sunny spring Saturday locals and tourists were out in force, wandering through the trees and tracks and enjoying the views over the city.
If attractions such as the High Line and Top of the Rock demonstrate anything, it’s that you can always find a fresh vantage point to enjoy New York from. There are so many ways to see this city, whether you’re at the pinnacle of the Rockefeller Centre, matching up the buildings with your map, or down on the streets, wending your way through beeping yellow taxi cabs. In the evenings, though, I was after a different kind of spectacle.
At the top of my list for New York was written ‘must see the New York City Ballet’. This world-famous, and world-class ballet company was founded by George Balanchine and Lincoln Kirstein in 1948 and resides at the Lincoln Centre. Balanchine, who served as Ballet Master of the company until his death in 1983, choreographed numerous ballets in which he pioneered a new, athletic style, such as Jewels, the one I’d chosen to watch.
I’d picked Jewels for a number of reasons: partly because it was typically Balanchine, energetic and thematic instead of having a traditional plot with a happy or tragic ending, and partly because I was drawn to the story behind the ballet. Enamoured with the jewellery on display at New York stores like Harry Winston, Balanchine envisioned a ballet where the acts were named after jewels: emerald, ruby and diamond. Each act embodied different types of music and ballet: the Emerald act was set to Fauré and was choreographed in the French manner, the Ruby act featured Stravinsky and a spiky modern American technique and the Diamond act was danced to Tchaikovsky in the Russian style. Of all the sights I saw in New York, this was one of the most spectacular – the dancers leaped higher than I thought possible, and danced in formations that did indeed look like glittering ropes of jewels strung together.
I could continue to wax lyrical about everything I saw in New York – tea at the Plaza (decadent, luxurious), a trip to the Tenement Museum to learn about New York’s immigrant history and lunch at Tableau One followed by a visit to the Museum of Modern Art, where I stood, transfixed, in front of Picasso’s ‘Starry Night’ for a good twenty minutes. At some point though, I had to accept that I wasn’t going to be able to see everything the city had to offer, that I had simply run out of time. In the end it didn’t matter too much – after all, it wasn’t a case of if I’d return to New York, but when.