Friday : Barking, the Bermondsey Beer Mile and Half Price at Three Hills Outpost

The River Roding at Barking, sparkling in the morning light and the rubbish floating about is hardly visible. The Roding rises somewhere near Stansted Airport before meandering through Essex and into London, when it eventually reaches the River Thames. That’s another river that I must walk at some point….

The bulging of the wall at Barking Abbey. It’s visible from the repaired brickwork that the tree has won an earlier battle here, and I suspect it’ll win another in the future.

This is what remains of Barking Abbey, a once hugely important nunnery that was one of the most influential in the country, although it lost a lot of its wealth in the late fourteenth century when great chunks of its lands flooded. It has had some important abbesses over the centuries, including Mary Becket (sister of Thomas), Matilda of Scotland (wife of King Henry I) and Matilda of England (daughter of King Henry II). Much of the stonework here is actually recent, just showing the footprint of where the abbey once stood.

The churchyard of St. Margaret’s Church in Barking, which was once part of the abbey and acted effectively as the parish church for the locals, a role it kept after the Dissolution of the Monasteries when the abbey buildings were flogged off. The Curfew Tower is in the background, which is the only other surviving part of the abbey complex and is one of the three gateways which once allowed entrance to the nunnery.

There the odd gravestone turned into paving, but fortunately, very few.

Some information about the history of the site, with efforts to remove graffiti unfortunately being only partially successful. This stone is located inside the Curfew Tower and it marks the geographical separation between the abbey area and the current town centre, but it also divides a quiet area from a rather more hectic one.

The market in Barking was getting underway and I’m always slightly surprised just how many people come to browse the selection at the stalls.

Once again at Barking railway station, first opened in 1854 as part of the London, Tilbury and Southend Railway.

I’m not sure the stag group who had dumped their bags on these two seats noticed that there were other customers nearby standing.

Into Fenchurch Street, one of the prettier railway stations in London, which was nearly added to the underground network in the 1970s as part of the planned Jubilee Line, although a different route was later followed.

The Monument to the Great Fire of London, a 62 metre column which once blamed the Catholics for the fire which destroyed most of the country’s capital. Wiser heads prevailed in the nineteenth century and the untruths about the origins of the fire were chiselled off the stone.

For a Friday morning in February, this weather was very decent.

Tower Bridge and this entire area was very busy, the tourists are pouring back in to this part of London at least.

And then the weekend changed course somewhat, with the arrival of the first two members of our group, Bev and Steve. Bev was more excitable than usual as she’s been something of a hermit for two years, but she was armed with her state of the art mobile phone which we were to hear so much about.

First stop was the Craft Beer Co at St. Mary Axe, with the usual friendly service and decent keg options, but they once again hadn’t updated their daily beer list. I don’t know why they don’t just go on Untappd and stop this faffing about. Anyway, I digress, it was a pleasant pub visit and Bev liked the toilet chain or something like that, whereas Steve and I had noticed that the toilets were very damp.

The start of the pub and walking weekend was upon us, look at the excited faces.

Steve had suggested walking the Bermondsey Beer Mile, which I thought was a marvellous idea, so we headed off by the Tower of London and its moat full of holes ready for planting wildflowers. I also popped into Pret, which was a common theme during the weekend, to get the best value from my subscription.

The first venue was Cloudwater which I’ve visited before, but remains one of my favourite venues on the Beer Mile and it’s also open for some of the longest hours. The PARTY! TIPA 7th Birthday beer was outstanding, a triple IPA which was a gloriously juicy beer.

And then, on my third attempt of trying, I was able to get to the Outpost from Three Hills Brewing. I was already excited to try two of their stouts, but then the friendly barman mentioned it was happy hour and everything was half price. I queried this at least three times, but was delighted to discover that the claims were genuinely true, so I got to try the stouts that were Almond Pain Au Chocolat, the Vanilla Custard Tart and the Raspberry Chocolate Cake (as well as pinching some of Bev’s Hazelnut Cappuccino). Simply delightful, the whole lot, this is very much my type of beer. Bev and Steve commented less excitedly about my sump oil, but this was beautifully decadent beer.

This is possibly the quirkiest way of serving pints that I’ve seen before, and actually very trusting as this dispense is upstairs and out of their immediate view. Bev questioned why I had selected the table when we could have had the sofas, whilst Steve suggested that the furnishings looked like they were from a junk shop. I was too focused on my delightful sump oil to pay much attention to them though.

I didn’t really want to leave….. This was an outstanding venue, it was worth the wait to get to visit it. They could make this perfect by having pizzas available, but there is very limited amounts of seating available to be fair. The Bermondsey Beer Mile didn’t really feel that busy, it seems that Saturday nights are much busier than Friday nights, so for anyone wanting a little more space to sit, come on a Friday evening. Most of the venues are closed during the week, so it’s difficult to time it right to be able to get to the best bars whilst also having space to enjoy them.

Then we had kebabgate…. I had already eaten, but Bev and Steve wanted some quality food and so I asked the doorman at Brew By Numbers what options there were. He gave clear directions to a nearby kebab shop and said that they could eat the food inside the bar. Off they went and I messaged Steve and Bev that they might as well get me chips whilst they were there, but neither bothered to read that message, and then they got themselves lost. After they had navigated their way back, without any food at all, the doorman realised that I was the sensible one of the outfit (I had remained inside with beer) and just walked them to the kebab shop. They came back and I stole lots of Steve’s chips, which is why this shot is slightly blurry, that’s chip grease on the lens…. Bev moaned that the kebab was quite salty, but I was pleased with Steve’s chips and that’s the main thing.

However, I was a little disappointed that the choice was slightly lacking, I’d had the beers they had available before and I was hoping for something a little more decadent or exciting.

Then it was off to Moor Brewery where Bev and Steve spent some time guessing the music from an era before I was born, although I did recognise the Bangles and Manic Monday. Bev pretended to be impressed at that, but she was at this point deciding that she was cold and she didn’t think drinking more would warm her up. We had a little gossip (for 84 minutes) about Gordon at this point, who was thinking about coming on this little weekend away, but he had other things on his mind. I’m not one for gossiping on a public blog about my thoughts on what he was doing, but happy to do it if anyone e-mails me. It’s that sort of commitment to privacy that ensures I am told all of the most important gossip by people. Bev had another little moan about the seating along the Bermondsey Beer Mile, but I don’t think that she realises that on-trend isn’t meant to be comfortable.

After several hours of drinking, we called it a night and I walked off to London Bridge railway station to get to my youth hostel on Oxford Street, whilst Steve and Bev walked back to their luxury Travelodge. It would have been easier for me to book the same hotel, but I was busy saving money, although causing myself extra travel hassle.

YHA were charging just over £20 per night for private rooms, and although they aren’t always the quietest or most luxurious of places, that’s a very good rate for a private room in London on a Friday night. I can’t say that I was surprised and delighted by the room, but I rarely am at YHA venues, but it was clean and functional.

And with that, the first day of our drinking and walking weekend had come to an end. The excitement would only though increase with the arrival of Susanna on the Saturday morning and I was pre-excited about the Goose Island visit in the evening.