Back in the 90’s when I lived in Scotland I used to go to the Cambridge Folk Festival every summer. A couple of times, along with my friend Al, we would go on a road trip round southern England the week before the festival.
How we planned the road trip was with a copy of the Campaign for Real Ale’s (CAMRA) Good Beer Guide. A little tent icon by the pub description meant there was camping within a half mile (805 metres), or in other words staggering distance of the pub.
Now the wee icons were not 100% accurate and it did mean some extra driving around to find a place for the night. We did however find some gems on our travels. In a period when some great old boozers, and indeed some real dives were being converted into Irish theme bars, the Good Beer Guide promoted (and still does) fantastic pubs with traditional brewed beers, some classic old school, some modern.
Two of our locations were repeated into the next years trip. One in Southwold on Suffolks North Sea coast, home of Adnams Brewery, a must on any beer lovers ‘to drink list’ and another in, or rather around Boughton Monchelsea in Kent. Home of the legendary, to us anyway, Red House.
So so many things about this pub made it a favourite with us. The Real Ale was amazing, the Real Cider sublime, proper cider, translucent, not crystal clear and filtered to death and with added CO2, and certainly not that Jillz pish Heineken try to pass of as cider. It was a friendly pub, and to cap it all off, you could pitch a tent in the adjacent garden and spend the night after a night on the ales and cider.
Trying to find the pub however was a challenge. It was down a country lane, in a spiders web of country lanes that seem to move around while you’re finding your way. After plenty of driving north, south, east and west, and quite possibly driving up and down the lane we wanted at least five times it would just suddenly appear. This carry on happened on both occasions and became part of the pub’s legendary status.
We had a theory about this, and decided it was a sort of English Brigadoon.
After the last person left the pub and it was locked up for the night it would disappear from sight, not if you were camping out in the garden, but invisible from the road. The Red House would be gone and out of sight, only to reappear whenever the last hangover of the night before finally lifted. Truly it was a magical place and provided us with some of the most amazing, and probably the best hangovers ever.
Now amazing, best and hangover are words you never really see together. More often or not it would be hangover, hell and never again. A Red House hangover was weird, it was a hangover you respected. The kind of hangover that had Al sitting under a stand pipe with a slow cool run of water over his head and I had a cooking pot filled with cool water on my head, slowly seeping out. Too bad Monty Python ended up in a bin in a Kent service station later that day.
Sadly The Red House is no more. A bar restraunt, or gastro pub or something, but the legend lives on.
I wonder what happened to Pod who lived in his caravan there.