As my double century of Midlands’ pubs approaches then it is clearly time to up the ante and move in more rarefied circles.
A village that has had Pride and Prejudice filmed in its national Trust treasure – Sudbury Hall – is always likely to be a class act and this olde worlde hamlet on the Derbyshire/Staffordshire border is a delight.
Whilst Sudbury Hall is a well-known location I reckon its claim to fame with the BBC agreeing to use its staircase in Pride and Prejudice has ensured 199- The Vernon Arms DE6 5HS has attracted a lot more punters than the 1,010 inhabitants (2011 census) of Sudbury.
This eye-catching boozer was built in 1671 with George Vernon building the nearby Hall, hence the name, and their crest is above the pub.
Anyway, enough of the history lesson, it was, at 12.45 on a Thursday afternoon, absolutely thriving. It is a real higgledy-piggledy kind of place inside and not your archetypal looking pub but it just smells of history and stories.
The barmaid said I could sit anywhere I liked and whilst the place was set up for food there were as many people drinking and no one was moving them on to clear tables for diners.
There were two ales on, one from Tring Brewery (which is rare in the Midlands) but I opted for Pedigree (Marston’s) for £3.30.
This is oft maligned but they keep it just right and there were plenty of other people apart from me drinking it so it clearly sells well.
I ended up parking myself next to two old boys and one wife! According to the old guy I was sitting next to, there used to be four of them who would visit on a weekly basis, but there were only two of them left and only his pal, Ralph, lived in the village.
It was great to hear some anecdotes about the ups and downs of this boozer but he reckons it is on a big upward curve and people travel for food, whilst Sudbury Hall means they get a large influx of visitors to keep this place alive.
But, it should be noted, the pub’s noticeboard was advertising the fact Sudbury FC needed some new blood in the team for their Uttoxeter Sunday League fixtures…(maybe a comeback in the offing?)
Going off at a tangent he also spoke about how he used to be a quantity surveyor and would often get the train from Coventry into Birmingham, have a liquid lunch of around four pints, secure contracts and business over the bar, and then carry on with his afternoon work.
Could you imagine that now!!! The lunchtime pint has become so frowned upon at work it is almost worse than smoking in some industries.
(you can smoke here though)
However, it was great to hear a bit of history about the pub and village and talk to some of the old boys as this looked like a place with a grey (in hair colour, not spirit) population.
(A proper beer garden)
This was confirmed as I left to walk towards my car as the bowls club directly opposite the pub was attracting a swarm of septuagenarians descending on the club en masse with their bowls bags and serious faces preparing for some high quality sport.
No shortage of players here as the Sudbury FC old boys moved onto the next available option once your powers start to wane.
(surface like a bowling green…)
A picturesque little village with a quirky boozer selling good (and it really was good) beer – what’s not to like?