Wednesday morning saw what was likely to be the last Barford hurrah of the faithful Timms-wagon before it was decommissioned and sent to the Valhalla of the 4×4. We nearly didn’t get out of Warwickshire as some shady looking character at a filling station offered Tony cash on the spot for his beloved chariot, but we did eventually find ourselves in rural Gloucestershire on the way to Kingswood, our Saturday hosts.
The Kingswood ground is a municipal pitch which had been hijacked by football (it is December I guess) but it is a nice setting and is right opposite the Dinneywicks pub, where the team are based. Unfortunately, despite being 1.00pm, all lights were off and the door was bolted- ‘You’ll have to go to Wotton’ grunted a passerby who obviously thought I was a skinhead casing the joint.
Disappointed not to have achieved our first aim of the recce we advanced to Slimbridge and found their ground tucked away behind the British Legion Club. After prodding some turf the bitter wind and the lack of ale and food led us to The Tudor Arms, next to the Gloucester-Sharpness canal. This pub is definitely food-orientated but it’s a free house and they had five trad ales on offer. The landlord turns out for the eleven who we are due to play on the Friday night, so this could be a good place for post-match solids (listen to the non-driver!).
Stratford Kings, like ourselves, have lost their home ground and have had to relocate to Kings Stanley. The ground resembles a village green, which was being used as a shortcut by school kids, surrounded by hilly countryside and next to the large King’s Head pub. After walking into a tea room we eventually found the entrance to the pub. Utilitarian would be the best way to the describe The King’s Head, but the landlord was very friendly and served a good pint of Young’s.
Having achieved our goal of seeing all three grounds in daylight we headed to Stroud to check out The Imperial Hotel. The reception and bar area were extremely clean and well decorated, as were the rooms. For the price we’re paying this is exceptional value, which I know will come back and haunt me in July!
After a quick pint of well kept local brew we headed out to see what Stroud had to offer. Our first port of call was a Weatherspoons house called The Lord John. Despite my hatred of these McPubs they had a good range of beers and it was passable. Next on the tour was a unique place called The Ale House, a massive building with a strong smell of emulsion, having only been open for a week. They keep an incredible ten ales which obviously gets the vote from my side but the trendy decor and central location suggest it may also interest Mr Drage and his happy band of sniffers. I must also mention Finn, the gargantuan Irish Wolfhound who you could strap a saddle on and ride to the next town’s nightclub to save on taxis.
After a quick pint in Retreat, a wine bar decorated in knocking-shop red, hunger led us back to the hotel, which is also a Thai restaurant. Despite screwing up the order we had an excellent meal in very pleasant surroundings before turning in for the night.
Despite being right opposite Stroud station the rooms seem to avoid any noise from the outside world although there was the odd reoccurrence of Hurricane Sandy. Tony is convinced that his room had a poltergeist after finding his bed at right angles from its original position the following morning (I believe paranormal guru Yvette Fielding refers to this as the thirdbottleofmerlot effect).
Sandy and I enjoyed a very good cooked breakfast (no processed ham in sight) and went for a morning stroll around the town. There is a cafe next to the hotel if anybody wishes to compare and contrast breakfast menus. We also managed to encounter the village idiot who was stood outside Gregg’s shouting obscenities at his dog, in between spitting out bits of half chewed steak bake.
We returned to The Imperial to find that the retired gentlefolk of our party had missed breakfast by not waking up until after 9.00am, so they had to settle for a coffee in between listening to tall tales from a character claiming to be a premier league football agent.
The Imperial is comparative luxury for a Barford tour (and doesn’t get slated inTripAdvisor like some previous hotels – ed!), to the point that Mike Suffield may struggle to find faults with it (but let’s not get too carried away) and the three fixture secretaries Pat, Valerie and Jamie, have all been so helpful that I’m quietly confident about the 2013 tour.
Only the weather can spoil things and that would never happen would it?