This topic has nothing to do with the current weather conditions but relates to a long distance pub crawl I undertook on the Saturday after New Year. London Midland trains were offering a Great Escape deal where you could travel anywhere on their network for 10, the weather looked OK so I got myself a ticket. The initial plan was to head for Bletchley and pick up the Marston Vale line to Bedford and spend the day working my way back stopping off at a few stations for a pint or two. However research showed that none of the stations had pubs remotely close to them, and Bletchley was pretty uninspiring, so I looked further along the mainline. Here's how the day finally panned out.

After a bacon sandwich and a mug of tea I caught the 8:01 from Watford Junction to Northampton and changed for a Birmingham train arriving shortly after 10:00, just in time for first orders at the Wellington. It had been a couple of years since my last visit but nothing much had changed, all bar two of the pumps were on and those were soon being pulled through. Not sure if it's a regular offer but the Black Country beers were only 1.70 a pint before 1pm. Usual clientele, I reckon this pub must serve more halves than pints. As I was thirsty after two hours on the train I managed 3 and a half pints in about an hour. Wye Valley HPA, Black Country Pig on the Wall Mild, Slaters Top Totty and York Three Kings (a little like their excellent Centurions Ghost).

No time to hang around though, back to New Street for the 11:33 train, arriving at Northampton at 12:35. I'd lined up the Malt Shovel here, about the only decent pub I could find during my research. To save time, and as I wasn't sure where it was I grabbed a cab from the station. On telling the cabbie what I was up to he told me Northampton was a shite town. "For real ale pubs?" I enquired, "well the whole place really, I'm from Manchester" he said. He did recommend a pub called the Romany but it was too far away to do both. On arriving at the Malt Shovel I realised my usual thorough research had let me down, I usually check for football fixtures but had forgotten Northampton was a big rugby town and the pub was packed with supporters on their way to the game with London Irish. The bar was woefully understaffed but at least they knew it and were remarkably efficient under the circumstances, none of your JDW trainees here. Excellent ale pub and I had an RCH Pitchfork, a Newby Wyke White Squall and the local Frog Island Natterjack.

A fifteen minute walk back to the station and time to grab a sandwich before getting the 14:25 train. Switched trains at Bletchley and took the 45 minute trip on the Marston Vale line to Bedford. Time against me again so I got a cab to the second Wellington of the day. I'd been to this Banks & Taylor pub once before and always intended to go back. An excellent ale house that thanks to the low ceiling and brewery ephemera takes on an almost grotto like feel in the evening. Had a pint of Black Dragon Mild, a Nethergate Old Growler and half of something I can't remember. Was getting towards full time in the FA Cup games now so headed off to the Pilgrims Progess (JDW) to check the scores and have a pint of Ringwood Fortyniner.

At this point my carefully planned timetable went astray as I lost my way on the way to the station. Stopped for a pint of Eagle IPA in a pub called the Ship and picked up a bag of chips (this NY diet is going well) for the walk to the station and the 18:25 train. Bletchley is a godforsaken concrete jungle a bit like Milton Keynes so I just switched to the mainline and headed towards home. Stopped off at Berkhamsted where I had a 30 minute window to find the Rising Sun, a pub that I'd been to twice before - and it was closed both times. This time thankfully it was open and I sunk a pint of the Riser (?) house beer before rushing back to the station.

Arrived back at Watford at 20:15, more or less 12 hours after I left. I reckon I spent as much time on trains as I did in pubs (thank heavens for on-board toilets) but it was a good day and achieved the objective of 'A Pair of Wellingtons and a Shovel'.

Any more long distance train crawlers out there?