Hike Norfolk – Dine with Des and the Blackhorse Beer Mile


Fearing nothing, I thought that it would be a marvellous idea to lead a group of Hike Norfolk members to London to take part in a ‘Dine with Des’ event which consisted of a walk hosted by the wonderful Des Garrahan and then several bars in the evening. There were 11 of us on the train and we managed to dodge rail delays, cancellations and strikes so what else could possibly go wrong? I was confident of the weather, despite the naysayers of the group.


We successfully obtained four table seats on the Greater Anglia Thunderbolt to London, so our expedition started positively with no-one missing the train either. It all made me really quite proud. Here are Bev and Steve excited about the day ahead.


Safely at London Liverpool Street, I used my Pret subscription to quickly get a delightful decaff coconut latte whilst waiting for everyone to return to the meeting point. Everyone was early other than Richard and Laurence who went on a large food shop and only just made it back in time. I didn’t say anything.


Still without any issue such as someone falling on the tracks or some other disaster, we waited for the Central Line train to Epping where our walking expedition was starting from.


I noted that some of the group had started eating their lunches, but I didn’t say anything or suggest that they were like a group of kids.


Here’s a plan for another day.


The group assembles at Epping station and we waited for Des, who swept in at 11:01, fortunately only one minute later than expected. It meant that our big trek into Walthamstow could begin, set at 11 miles although that situation was to change when I had one of my good ideas.


Our first stopping point so that Des could give us some history about Epping Forest and how it evolved. One new thing that I learned is that a forest might today mean a collection of trees, but in the medieval period it more referred to a Royal Forest which the King used for hunting. The forest was in danger of destruction in the Victorian period as developers kept pinching bits of it to build houses on, but fortunately an ecological movement formed to stop the trees being entirely swept away. Epping Forest is today managed by the City of London Corporation who appear to be looking after it well, although Des noted that they’re not that keen on putting up much signage around the area. He regretted saying that as every time anyone saw a sign they mentioned it quite loudly to Des.


Richard kept pestering Des to know when lunch was, so we found a suitable spot and I had my lunch which consisted of a Pret sandwich as I didn’t want to overdo it. There was a bit of excitement here when one of the London walkers, which I specify to show it wasn’t one of my lot, managed to get a bit lost. 45 minutes later the matter was resolved, although that gave us a timing issue that I think was in our favour in terms of the bars, but more on that later. There was another issue with regards to Steve, one which makes him a hero, but more also on that in a bit. I don’t want to put too much excitement into this post too early on.


Here’s Des posing by a tree. I should at this point mention the bravery of Bev who wasn’t going to take part in the walking element as she’s got a broken back or something, but she took part and complained only rarely. So very brave.


There was a tree that had fallen across one of the paths and Des made the immediate decision to move it. I moved a significant part of the foliage myself and then worried about getting a splinter, so I then just photographed the action.


I can’t quite recollect which part of the shrubbery I help moved, but I think it’s the little twig at the front of the photo.


No it isn’t.


Can you get much cooler than this? I mentioned earlier that Steve had been particularly brave during the lunchtime period. During the lunchtime missing person debacle, a girl came into view who was distressed and who had become separated from her family. She knew where she needed to go but wasn’t sure how to get there, with Steve working out that it was a 20 minute walk there and 20 minute walk back, meaning he’d be far behind our group. I put my live tracking on, Steve did the same, and then for the next part of the day he was playing catch-up with the rest of us. But look how suave he looks when he came back into sight. What a modern day hero.


Some ferocious bulls that we sneaked by. Richard identified them as cows but we all agreed they were dangerous bulls. Well, Laurence and I agreed that.


I didn’t feel the need to have an ice cream, but the rest of the group did. I think they were more exhausted than I was, since I forget what a natural athlete I am what with my squash, football and bar billiards action. Especially bar billiards.


I went to look at the lake whilst the others were binge eating their ice creams. I didn’t say anything. I did though announce my good plan, which was to shorten the walk, a plan I’m sure I’ve had before. We had bars to visit.


This is Queen Elizabeth’s Hunting Lodge, a sixteenth century building which was once used to watch all the animals that were about to be massacred by the Monarch. Next door is a mock Tudor building which is home to a Premier Inn, perhaps one of the most attractive one of their buildings in the chain.


It was then a quick walk to Chingford bus station where we boarded a bus towards the main focal point of the day, the Blackhorse Beer Mile. We had to switch to another bus en route, but we arrived before 17:00 and I was pleased with my excellent decision to peel off from the rest of the walk to ensure the Norfolk people got their complete experience of the bars. Unfortunately, Hackney Brewery was closed for a wedding, but everything else was in full flow and we started at Wild Card Brewery.


And then Beerblefish.


And Exale. That’s an insanely good Jazz Dragon from the brewery floating under the cloud, a double IPA with a beautiful tropical flavour and one of the best beers of the evening.


Pretty Decent Beer was a new venue to me and one of my favourites of the day, not least as they had a pizza food truck parked outside. The beer menu was extensive and the service was polite and helpful.


Food at last, the It’s Not Big Dough pizza offering.


The N’Duja sausage pizza, which was suitably delicious.


Yay! Be nice people 🙂


I had to toast my Morning Steve! beer in front of Steve, as I’m thoughtful like that.


I didn’t want to miss anyone else, so here’s the rest of the group being toasted with my decadent 5.5M2 raspberry sour. This venue was certainly surprising and delighting me.


Then off to Signature Brewing and I opted for the outside bar rather than waiting inside.


Toasting Richard and Laurence with my Summer in the City watermelon sour, another standout beer.


London beers are some of my favourites 🙂


I went up to the roof garden and my two loyal readers might want to see if they can pick out the by now heavily wrapped up Norfolk group. They don’t have my resilience to the cold.


The Studio Lager which I was gifted by someone who wasn’t entirely surprised and delighted by it, so it felt right to toast the group. Again. They were a very tolerant bunch to be fair.


Our final bar was Big Penny Social, which was one of the more popular venues with a chunk of the group.


Des had been unfortunate with his food options as pizza wasn’t available by the time he ordered at the previous two bars. A banana was found for him, but he decided to order a pizza at Big Penny Social. I have to say that I think he might the right decision.


A genuinely very lovely evening. I had been looking for someone to complete the Blackhorse Beer Mile with me so I was delighted with the job lot of people that I got. Not that I had better call Hike Norfolk a job lot….


I’m very good at delegation and I appointed Steve as the responsible adult to get us back to the railway station. I was unimpressed at the raucousness of the group who kept cheering when they saw themselves on the bus CCTV. I didn’t say anything, I just pretended that I wasn’t with them.


Time for a final Pret of the day.


Ready to board our train.


As she had been so delighted by the professionalism of the day, Bev gave me half her Love Bar. We all agreed I had been an excellent walk leader, or at least the one person I asked agreed with that.

The great news about all of this is that there’s another Dine with Des rolled out already given the excitement of this evening. Further details are at Expect a lot more London adventures as I’m on a roll and they’re one of my favourite things  🙂