Wednesday, 4 December 2013

Chichester Walls Pub Crawl

December is a great time of year to organise a pub crawl.  Xmas pub crawls are a long tradition with me and I have always followed a few basic rules when it comes to deciding which pubs to go in.  

1.  A good pub crawl needs five or six pubs.  Four is probably enough for me nowadays but at least if you come up with six then you can decide to miss one or two if you can't keep up with the pace.

2.  You need to start and end at a convenient place for public transport links.  Driving on a pub crawl is a definite no-no.  Take a bus or a train and enjoy yourself.   

3.  A good variety of beers should be available.  I have done pub crawls in the past where every pub has been allied to the same brewery but that was when I was doing them as part of an ale trail.  Normally, you do not want a list of pubs where you will be drinking the same thing in each. 

4.  Having a theme can be a good idea.  In a city where you have a good choice of pubs to go in and you have to narrow it down to your six then choosing them to a theme works well.

The city of Chichester in West Sussex has plenty of historical interest.  Decent pubs are actually in short supply here but I think I have come up with a crawl that satisfies all four points above without the need to go into the worst Wetherspoons in the UK.

The theme for this pub crawl is the Chichester Walls Walk.  Chichester is of course a Roman town and the walls, which date from the third century AD, are quite well preserved.  The distance around the walls is about one and a half miles so with plenty of refreshment stops en route you won't find it too strenuous.  

The first pub is The Fountain.  This pub is a short walk north of both the bus station and the train station so is the ideal starting point as it is also aligned very closely to the walls walk.  This Hall & Woodhouse pub had four handpumps serving the usual Hall & Woodhouse beers.  When I last visited these were Badger First Gold, Tanglefoot and Sussex as well as the seasonal Hopeful Hop.  Tanglefoot would be my choice here but you may decide to start with a lower strength beer.             

Entering through the door at the front you come into a modern interior with a mix of high tables and benches alongside sofas and leather upholstered chairs.  It is a modern town centre pub that offers a good food menu with a dining room to the back.  The front bar has a nice spacious feel to it and offers a couple of real fires to warm you up.  

To the side of the pub there is a large outdoor drinking area which has patioi heaters enabling it to be used all-year round.  The entrance here takes you into a smaller bar area which has the dining area off to the left.  This central bar has an impressive bar billiards table which may delay your departure to the second pub if you decide to enjoy a game or two.     

When leaving the Fountain head out of the side door and turn immediately right which takes you into a small car park.  Head left and where there is a ramp that leads to a pedestrian footbridge you need to head right alongside a playing field and the River Lavant (a stream at best under normal conditions).  You are now on the Walls Walk and you will spot a noticeboard at the car park entrance giving information about it.  Following the edge of the playing field you will spot the walls to your right with the magnificent cathedral beyond.  When you come to the road after a few hundred yards head right to the roundabout.  Turning right at the roundabout you will immediately spot pub number two, the GBG 2014-listed Chichester Inn.  

The Chichester Inn has a large back bar with a stage area as it holds regular live music events.  The lounge is spacious and comfortable with a distinct smell of woodsmoke.  Sofas and low tables mix with traditional wooden tables and chapel chairs.  The beer selection is normally very good and when I last visited there were a couple of Dark Star beers available which I would highly recommend.  At weekends you may also find a guest beer or two from a local micro.        

Leaving the Chichester Inn, cross the road and the Walls Walk sign takes you behind some houses and from here you walk the North-West quadrant.  In this section you are walking on the walls which overlook a row of cottages to your left and County Hall is on your right.  This section brings you out into North Street and when you come to the road and look across to your right you will see pub number three, the George & Dragon.

The G&D is a superb town centre pub which also offers accommodation if you are wanting a place to stay.  The single L-shaped bar offers a relaxing and stylish environment in which to enjoy a pint.  It has an excellent beer selection so it won't be difficult to find a beer that you won't see in one of the other five pubs.  The regular beers are Sharps Doom Bar and Timothy Taylor Landlord so you may want to try one of the two regularly changing guest ales.  In the past I have enjoyed beers from Pin-Up, Triple fff and Adnams here and one of the guest ales is usually fairly local.            

To get to pub number four, The Park Tavern, you need to temporarily head away from the Walls Walk and turn left when leaving the G & D.  You then take the left turn when you reach the pedestrianised section and head towards Priory Park.  The Park Tavern is appropriately named as it sits on the corner overlooking the park.  This former Gales pub converted to Fullers when the Chiswick brewer closed down Gales and it has become a very tidy pub.  The door to your left takes you into a small bar area full of eclectic charm.  The door to your right takes you into the larger lounge and dining area which has a quite resplendent mirror.  I remember this pub back in the 1980s when it was a bit of a dive but now it is very popular with both drinkers and diners.  There are usually three or four Fullers beers available (including Gales HSB) along with a guest beer which was from Manchester brewer Holts when I last visited.              

The final two pubs are both listed in the latest Good Beer Guide.  Leaving The Park Tavern you can take the picturesque route and turn left to follow the walls around Priory Park or head right and take a short cut which joins the Walls Walk on the far side of the park.  Either way the Walls Walk will lead you into East Street which completes the full set having previously been in the imaginatively named South Street, West Street and North Street.  These roads head off in their relative directions from the old Market Cross in the centre of town.  At East Street turn left and after crossing the main road at a busy pedestrian crossing you will come into The Hornet where you will find The Eastgate on your right.     

The Eastgate is another former Gales pub now run by Fullers.  When I last visited there were two beers under the Fullers name and two under the Gales name in addition to a guest ale from Arkells.  The front room is fairly small but feels spacious with a large red-walled pillar separating the front with the back.  Tucked away in a corner there is a dartboard.  Beyond this wooden-floored bar is a carpeted lounge with woodburner and sofa making a relaxing centrepiece although there is no wall dividing the two areas.  It is a classic town centre pub and a perfect pub crawl stop.              

Leaving The Eastgate retrace your steps to the pedestrian crossing and turn left into Market Street.  On your right you will see The Bull Inn.  The Bull Inn is a superb free house that I have reviewed previously (click here).  You should find a selection of six beers mostly from local micros so choose something that you have not yet had to round off your evening.  If you have time and further capacity then enjoy another one too!!       

From the Bull Inn turn right and you will eventually come back to your start point with the city walls visible in patches on your right-hand side.  Where the road bears round to the left as part of a one-way section you need to head straight on through a narrow lane to get back to The Fountain.  Alternatively, following the one-way system to your left takes you back to the bus station and, a little further round, to the train station.

This brings your trail around the Chichester Walls to an end.  Six of the best pubs that Chichester has to offer conveniently located close to different sections of this interesting walk around this fine Roman city.  What's more, you don't even have to go within sight of the local Wetherspoons.  Enjoy!    

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