Saturday, 15 February 2014

Henley on Thames, Oxfordshire.

I don't like to talk about it, but in April last year I had to have emergency surgery to remove a severely infected and inflamed appendix. It was during my three week convalescence that I conceived this blog. In my head, I was slightly more strict with the 'branches' part. This wouldn't have been a problem 60 years ago, but is actually quite limiting these days. Anyway, knowing Henley on Thames was at the end of a fairly local branch, this seemed like a natural place to start. So nearly a year later myself, Andy and the infamous BGC changed at Twyford and wound our way to an already wet Henley on Thames.

There's not a great deal of Henley on Thames station. Why should there be? It's the terminus of a single track branchline. Despite this, it's a busy little station if not the most architecturally pleasing, rather smacking of late 80s/early 90s NSE design. 

The 4.5 mile 'Regatta line' runs between Twyford and Henley on Thames, stopping at Wargrave and Shiplake on the way. Services are run by First Great Western using 165 and 166 units. I'm led to believe during the regatta specials have been known to traverse the branch.

There's little in the way of infrastructure to interest the hardcore railway geek like me. This view looking back up the branch shows a solitary signal, glowing red through the January gloom. Colour light signalling might seem a bit unnecessary on a single track branch, but I imagine this is to allow for a bit of flexibility during busier times (ie the Regatta week).

Time for a pint.

On a green opposite the station entrance is this nice plant arrangement celebrating the opening of the branch in 1856. I imagine it represents some manner of broad gauge locomotive.

Being quite a touristy place, a lot of the pubs in Henley on Thames are run in an appropriate way. Expect meal deals and national beer brands as the norm. Not necessarily a bad thing, just not what we're here for
However, you can still find a 'proper' pub, and the Bird in Hand on Greys Road is just that. 

Tucked away in a more residential area of the town, the Bird in Hand caters more for the local drinker, though food is available in the week. 

Beers from Oxfordshire were available in the form of Loddon Hoppit, Brakspear Bitter and Hook. Norton Hooky Mild. Always nice to see a mild on. Pints of the Loddon and Hook Norton were duly ordered and found to be in fine order. 

On the wall was this rather nice collection of steam engine cigarette cards. Now we're talking, smashing.

As well as a friendly landlady, the Bird in Hand boasts a friendly pub dog. BGC begged me to take this picture.

In town, and at the opposite end of the pub spectrum can be found the relatively new Henley Brewhouse. Built in a converted police station, this pub was recommended by an actual brewer, so we expected much.

Upon entering, we weren't disappointed. Interestingly, the two guest beers were from Berkshire, West Berkshire Brewery and Windsor and Eton. More interesting than that were the three on offer from the Henley Brewing Company, brewed in the pub. See, 'Henley Brewhouse' wasn't just a clever marketing trick!
Between us we managed a combination of all the Henley Brewhouse beers, as well as the Windsor and Eton Conquerer, an excellent 5% black IPA. There wasn't a duff one among them, Old Bill's being a particular favourite of mine. As much as we all love Good Old Boy from West Berkshire Brewery, we've had it a few times so stuck to the new stuff.

On the bar is a handy clipboard detailing the various house beers, as well as guests that are on offer. There's a good selection of bottled beers in the fridges too.

Behind the glass at the back of the pub can be found the Henley Brewing Company's brewing equipment. 

To my mind though, the real star of the Henley Brewhouse was the black pudding scotch egg. A scotch egg the size of a tennis ball for £3.50 is pretty good value if you ask me and I'm pretty sure Andy agreed.

Two very different, but equally brilliant pubs in Henley on Thames. Both are worth a look if you're in the town, as well as a host of other pubs doing good quality beer.

There's also one of these to find!


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