With a break in the arctic weather I was able to get out and about and visit, as pre-warned in the last issue of the Peninsula Times, a selection of public houses across the area. These welcoming and resourceful people see an exciting challenge ahead and are ready to face it head-on.

My first port of call was The Evening Star in Cliffe, an attractive house with a large, well kept garden. During the summer the pub compete in the local Bat & Trap league on Wednesday evenings. There is a ladies darts match on Tuesdays and a very innovative lottery draw on Monday evenings. For the price of a drink you will be given a ticket to this cash draw that is picked at nine o’clock that evening. If your numbers match, the pot is yours. Currently the total stands at about £250, due to roll-overs. A bit like the National Lotto!

Steve, the landlord has had this boozer for 16 years, quite a feat nowadays. For the future Steve is hoping to have a darts team to compete in the Peninsula League on Monday evenings and would like to hear from any interested locals.

From here I carried on up the road to the nearby 6 Bells, a pretty place picturesquely positioned next to the church. Here the new licensees Tina and Les Edwards run this popular village pub. You will find live entertainment most Friday and Saturday evenings and the house band in action most Sundays. Also on Sundays you can enjoy a home cooked roast which, with a sweet, is reasonably priced at about £10. On offer is a range of fine real ales. The 6 Bells is also a venue for the Peninsula Darts league on Mondays and, in the summer months Bat & Trap is played on Wednesday evenings.

Taking the back roads out of Cliffe and into Cooling, pass the castle and you will come to the Horseshoe and Castle, a large, pleasant country house. Here the landlord Kevin has kept shop for 21 years. Kevin and his wife Sue run a busy pub offering accommodation of five rooms and a high class restaurant. As well as a full a la carte menu there is a curry special every Thursday night and steak and chips on Friday. Bat & Trap is also featured here on Wednesdays. Kevin is justly proud of fund raising events for the local Foot Steps charity which culminates in an annual cricket match in early August. This is a free hold establishment serving good real ales. Without a doubt a place worth visit. You can find full details on all Kevin and Sue have to offer on; http://www.horseshoeandcastle.co.uk.

My next stop was to be The Red Dog public house in High Halstow, but alas they are shut for a short (hopefully) period until new licensees are found. Interestingly, this pub is a free hold affair owned by a local trust. The building has all the hall-marks of a village boozer and did lovely, simple dishes; Let’s hope they are up and running soon. The darts team, not perturbed, carry on though, playing their ‘home’ games in the nearby Hoo Institute.

From here I joined the main Grain road and entered the Fenn Bell, a real no nonsense country pub. Good beer and a friendly atmosphere and soon to house new owners.

Further along this road we come across The White Horse in Upper Stoke. This old pub has been in the same family for 100 years. The present landlady, Elizabeth Mortley has overseen this venerable old place for 40 years! In terms of lineage we can crown her the queen of our peninsula! I think if we were able to go back through the years and visit the White Horse it probably would not have changed much. The usual Bat & Trap on summer evenings, a good Monday night dart team and that fine old Medway card game Euchre is played regularly on Fridays. Let’s hope the traditions of this pub continue long into the future.

The Nags Head in Lower Stoke, just down the road, was next on the list, another village pub with Monday night darts, a pool table and a folk ‘jam’ session on the last Sunday of the month, starting at 12 noon. There is entertainment and karaoke most weekends. I turned the car around and headed for Hoo. Of the two watering holes in town, I went firstly to the 5 Bells. This pub is managed by Graham who attempts to provide as much entertainment as possible. There is live music on both Fridays and Saturdays, and judging by the notices, some pretty accomplished musicians are visiting regularly. Also there is a lady’s darts night every Thursday accompanied by Poker, presumably for those poor ‘left-out’ husbands. This really is the archetypal community pub with a lunch and evening food selection.

Then down to the old town we find the Chequers. Bill and Annie run this brewery tied establishment and, after a sticky start are beginning to make headway, providing a real family feel with some excellent beers. Every Wednesday hosts a jam session, well run by Les, which is proving very popular. Thursdays is karaoke night 8-11pm and coming up on 17-18th April is ‘Spring Roll’, a unique music festival raising money for Demelza House, fun for a very good cause. Could it get any better? And in a pub that is unashamedly the fun place to be. Having only been here for two years, both Bill and Annie are determined to show us all how to go about things!

Next month I’ll go into Strood and have a look at the pub scene there. In the meantime if you have a public house in the area that I should know about, let us know here at the Peninsula Times. To everyone else, go and enjoy a drink at your local and show them how much we care about this wonderful English tradition.