Good Beer Guide

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The latest edition of CAMRA’s Good Beer Guide has just been released and there are plenty of reasons to raise a glass in Oxfordshire, Berkshire and Buckinghamshire.

The local brewing and pub scene is booming in the area and as well as the hundreds of pubs worth visiting, there are also plenty of breweries springing up.

New ones it notes can be found at:

Brewery58, Wallingford – started in summer 2017 with a home brew kit, now produces Wallingford Bridge IPA, 3.9% www.brewery58.com

Elements Brewing Co, Upton, Burford – selection of craft beers, tap room  offering food to enjoy the brews www.elementsbrewery.co.uk

Wantage Brewery – microbrewery started at outbuildings at The King’s Arms, Wantage in spring 2019 www.kingsarmswantage.co.uk

Saviour Brewery, Hampstead Marshall – brewery in grounds of The White Hart pub, only available on the premises with special brews to match the season including Boozer 3.5%, Gold 5% and Tipple 4.2% www.saviourwhitehart.co.uk

Old Windsor Brewery, Windsor – craft brewery specialising in creating small batches of quality, full flavoured, craft beers notably The Duke’s Hart which boasts a dark rich colour and smooth texture 4.8% www.owbrewery.com

Bad Joke Brew Co, Amersham –  began brewed in spring 2018, produces five beers

The Bell Inn in Aldworth, pictured, has been named one of the best pubs in the UK and is through to the next stage of the competition, hoping to be one of four finalists in the search for CAMRA’s best pub of the year, which was revealed in February.

A former Pub of the Year winner, it is the only pub with a heritage interior in Berkshire. The large open garden and excellent beer attract walker and drinkers from far and wide.

The Good Beer Guide reviews more than 4,500 pubs nationwide to find the best outlets in the country.

CAMRA’s chief executive Tom Stainer said: “The Good Beer Guide has always had an important role in acting as a barometer of the beer and pub industry. We believe information gleaned from the Guide is absolutely vital in the drive to save our pubs from closure and campaign for policies that better support pubs, local brewers and their customers.”

Across the Southern Central area, the guide includes 69 from Oxfordshire, 54 from Berkshire and 54 from Buckinghamshire in addition to 65 breweries across the area.

New additions to the Good Beer Guide in Surrey include:

The Anchor, High Street, Ripley GU23 6AE – a Grade II listed pub, parts of the building date back to the 1500s (be sure to duck in places), The contemporary meets the historic

The Bulls Head, The Street, West Clandon GU4 7ST – 16th century village inn near Clandon Park. Many original features, oak beams, low ceilings and cosy log fire

The Drummond, Woodbrige Road, Guildford GU1 4RF – large open-plan with eclectic range of furniture, modern art and several chandeliers. Classic pub food and modern dishes.

The Grantley Arms, The Street, Wonersh, GU5 0PE – half-timbered village pub dating from late 16th or early 17th century, cheerful interior

The Half Moon, High Street, Ripley GU23 6AN – 18th century building with the feel of a café-cum-pub, stripped wood floor and bare brick walls contrast well with painted ones

The Rodboro Buildings, Bridge Street, Guildford GU1 4RY – Wetherspoons pub spread over three levels in a Grade II listed former industrial building

The Running Stream, Weybourne Road, Farnham GU9 9HE – old-fashioned locals pub, horseshoe shaped room surrounds central bar

The Sandrock, Sandrock Hill Road, Wrecclesham GU10 4NS – reopened after almost a year, refurbished and relaunched as a traditional pub with contemporary feel late last year

Thirsty?

Read about more local breweries, producers, foodies and restaurateurs across our readership patch

Beeline to bliss

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Petersham Nurseries – Richmond’s visionary garden center and lifestyle mecca – is one of West London’s greatest treasures and creative success stories.

The family behind the business are celebrating their 15th birthday, looking back on their humble beginnings as a dilapidated local plant shop, and how much has changed. Now with a second branch in Covent Garden, the small empire includes a homeware shop, florist, café, two restaurants and a wine cellar, with visitors come from near and far to discover Richmond’s unique lifestyle destination.

For September, they’re celebrating their birthday by paying homage to the gardener’s best friend, the honeybee, with a one-off masterclass in all things bee-related. In keeping with Petersham’s ethos, this will include a tasting session with Bermondsey Street Bees’ honey sommelier, a gardening session in planting bee-friendly flowers, a delicious lunch, and a ‘preserving with honey’ cookery class with Rachel de Thample.

Petersham's 15th Birthday

To sign up for this, on Thursday, 26th September

Vino veritas

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Jessica Elphinstone learns a thing or two about wine at Vagabond,  Fulham’s most underrated date spot

If you detest wine snobbery, and the whole glass-swirling, Merlot-gargling pomp of it all, then I’m totally with you. I spent my entire three years of university drinking £4.99 Gallo rosé, and that sweet, sickly nectar has a special place in my heart. But the wonderful thing about Vagabond is that, despite being a bouji wine bar and boasting over a hundred carefully selected bottles from indie vineyards across the globe, it is somehow also unpretentious.

First of all, the way you order the booze appeals to my inner vending-machine-loving child: Pre-load money onto a credit card, swipe into the recently revamped wine fridges, before clicking on the bottle you’d like and watching with glee as your chosen amount of wine comes pouring out. Taster sizes of 25ml are mostly around a couple of pounds, allowing people to sample a whole range of different wines you wouldn’t normally risk getting a glass of. We taste a tangy Spanish Albarino, a buttery, Meursault-style Reserva Branco from a sustainable smallholding in Alentejano (yes – I stole that from the tasting notes), and a questionable Italian Pecorino from Abruzzo.

Each wine comes with an information slip, onto which you can jot notes like ‘beeswax and tangerine’ or ‘pomegranate and watermelon’ if you so wish. My friend Chloe is a picky soul, and finds GM Henry’s pick, a Condrieu from the Northern Rhône which is one of the most expensive wines, not to her taste. We play games, bringing each other wines with tasting notes of honey, straw and water chestnuts, and try unsuccessfully to guess them. Around us, we see couples (a lot of first dates, apparently) doing the same, laughing and chatting as they pair their Tempranillo with delicious cured meats, artisan cheeses and charred Padron peppers.

Finally, we strike gold, and both fall in love with an Australian Zibibbo from winemaker Brash Higgins. “English Pears and Freesia” writes Chloe dramatically, now slightly less than sober. I imagine that this balance of light-heartedness, mixed with some actual exploration into new realms of wine, is exactly what Vagabond’s founder Stephen Finch imagined when he opened to doors to his first Fulham wine shop in 2010.

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Vagabond

Visit Vagabond Fulham, 18-22 Vanston Place, SW6 1AX
Contact on 0207 381 1717 or visit

Raising spirits!

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Fancy a drink? And a sing-along? Join Putney’s Pub Choir, brainchild of local pianist, vocalist and music tutor Carl Speck

A trip to your local pub, a glass of your favourite tipple and a chance to sing your heart out… what could be better? The Pub Choir is a great way to socialise with friends, enjoy a drink and learn to sing new and familiar songs in the friendly and relaxed atmosphere of a pub.

“The Pub Choir is all about having fun,” Carl tells us. “Anyone can come along, from the most experienced singers to those who usually only sing their hearts out in the shower! We always work on songs that everybody knows – that way, the choir is easily split into two and we enjoy learning some simple harmonies for extra effect.

“This is a great way for new singers to have a go at singing in a choir. There is no commitment to come every week which is a real draw for many people. The added bonus is a glass of wine or a pint of beer (or two!) throughout the evening.”

The choir gather at The Duke’s Head in Lower Richmond Road, SW15 1JN, on alternate Tuesdays of every month, 8 -9.30pm, as well as other pubs. All you have to do is turn up, buy a drink and then sing. Each session costs £5. Lyric sheets are provided and Carl will teach three or four songs throughout the evening. With his expert direction, you will also learn the basics of good singing technique, as well as have the chance to sing in two or three-part harmony.

Carl adds: “Towards the end of the evening, a live recording is taken to share with your friends, family and the rest of the world! There is absolutely no need to have any previous singing experience or know how to read music. If you have some musical ability, you can view music for each session on the member’s page a few days before each session – your musical skills will be most welcome to support the rest of the group.

Contact Carl to access the Members’ Page and, if possible, let Carl know you are going in advance, just because this will help him with organising music for everyone. Upcoming datesfor planned gatherings are 15th and 29th October, 12th and 26th November and 10th December.

Find out more

Fox & Pheasant review

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I’m a country bumpkin at heart, and when I moved to Fulham nearly three years ago all my edgy East London pals rolled their eyes and said it was highly predictable, the obvious choice for a Gloucestershire gal like me.

It’s true, there’s something about the leafy streets, parks and plentiful dog owners in SW6 that felt like home. But what I always missed was a cozy country pub, with roaring fires and stuffed foxes, the sort you’d turn up to in wellies after a long walk. That is until my little brother moved up to London a couple of months ago, and sniffed out the Fox and Pheasant. Hidden in a charming little mews called The Billings, a short walk from Fulham Broadway and Stamford Bridge, I’m embarrassed to say I’d walked past the faded Victorian exterior, with its green tiles and hanging baskets, a hundred times without a second glance.

This is probably exactly what James Blunt and wife Sofia Wellesley wanted, when they decided to buy their local boozer and save it from being turned into apartments back. It’s understated, and no expense has been spared in retaining the original charm of the 17th century pub. When I walked in, I was transported with a jolt to my favourite Cotswold pubs, and half expected to recognise the faces at the bar.

We plonk ourselves at the bar for a pint of the Fox and Fez, their house lager, and chat to charming manager Toby. The decor is so quintessentially British it feels a bit like a film set, with vintage wallpaper and original 1930’s oak panels and locals playing darts. The walled garden is divine, with ivy and jasmine and pot-plants galore, and a Wimbledon-style glass roof ready to pull over in case of rain. We sit here for supper, which blows us away with its quality and freshness and attention to detail. You can have your usual pub classics – scotch eggs; burger and chips; honey & mustard chipolatas; a killer roast with all the trimmings on Sundays.

Alternatively you can go off-piste and order soft shell crab tacos with sriracha mayo, or an Ottolenghi-esque roast cauliflower with rocket and dates, sprinkled with dukka grains and toasted almonds. For pudding, don’t miss the sticky toffee pudding soufflé, served with ice cream of the same flavour, which was mind-bogglingly delicious. The Fox and Pheasant is the perfect country escape, while barely having to leave SW6.

Find them

The Fox and Pheasant, 1 Billing Road, Chelsea, SW10 9UJ.

Call 0207 352 2943 or email

Cheese & Chilli Festival

Karen Neville

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If you want to spice up your Sunday then try out the hottest ticket in town – or in Guildford at least – and get along to the Cheese & Chilli Festival in Guildford.

This will be the festival’s fourth year with a whole host of activities for all ages including free cooking demos, a taste tent, beer festival, street theatre, live music, crazy golf, human-sized table football as well as lots of cheese and chilli.

Taking place in Shalford Park today (21st), you’ll be able to enjoy the man v food challenge and a Ready Steady Cook interactive cooking session as well as the chilli eating competition when things will really be hotting up!

And what could be better after you’ve eaten some good hot chillis than taking part in a game of human-sized table football – strap yourself in and attach yourself to a metal bar and swing.

If you prefer something more sedate there are a variety of stalls, a magic show, Punch & Judy show, balloon modelling and treasure hunts to entertain the kids.

As an extra special treat at the Guildford event, there’s the chance to be a VIP with two special price tickets (£50 and £100) offering you the chance to enjoy cocktails, beers, Mexican or Thai lunch, access to the hot tubs and a bottle of hot sauce and limited edition poster.

Get your tickets

For more information and to buy tickets which cost £8 adults, seniors £6 and under 16s free, visit the Cheese & Chilli Festival website below

Tickets can also be bought at the door or in advance at Guildford’s Tourist Information Centre.

Abingdon’s big party

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Hundreds will be looking forward to enjoying the popular Fun and Music in the Park on 1st June

Abingdon’s popular Fun and Music in the Park returns to the historic Abbey Gardens on Saturday, 1st June with a variety of entertainment for the whole family.

The grounds will be full with rides, stalls, face painting, street food, live music and dance, bouncy inflatables and loads more free activities to keep you enthralled all day.

Fun in the park is a free walk-in event from 10.30am to 3pm and open to all.

It’s also a great opportunity to find out about some of the wide range of local societies and community groups in and around Abingdon and they amazing work they do and how you can get involved.

From 5pm until 10pm, Music in the Park takes over with some fab local bands including Jake in the Duke Box, Nevada, Fallen Angels, The Voodoo Penguins and Hope and Glory, taking to the stage.

Take along a picnic and enjoy dancing on the grass before a proms style concert by Abingdon Town Band accompanied by fireworks to make the evening finish in a very special way.

Music in the Park is entry via wristband only with sales online and over the counter at Roysse Court from 1st May. On this day too, there will be an early morning celebration of May Day in the Abbey Grounds.

Abingdon Town Council, which organises the event is reminding revellers to take all litter home with them after the fun ends.

For more information contact the council on 01235 522642 or visit Abingdon.gov