After having just returned from a trip to Wiltshire and Somerset where we visited lots of great pubs I thought I’d write about one of them – the Barge Inn in Honeystreet.
This pub, located in the magical landscape of the Vale of Pewsey in Wiltshire, is a pub like no other. If you approach from the north you drive through a prehistoric landscape of burial mounds and ancient settlements. You then reach the cusp of a hill and start descending; you might be lucky enough to spot a crop circle or two as this area seems to attract them – maybe something to do with being halfway between Stonehenge and Avebury Stone Circle. Just outside the village of Alton Barnes you’ll spot a sign for the Barge Inn. Once you take the turn you’ll feel you have taken the wrong road as you drive hesitantly through a sawmill and are surrounded by planks of wood – how can there be a pub round here? But then as you are just about to turn back, you come across it – the Barge Inn, a 200-year old inn located right next to the Kennet and Avon Canal, overlooking the White Horse of Alton Barnes carved into the hillside.
The newly refurbished pub, CAMRA local ‘Pub of the Year’ 2012, is now run by the Barge Inn Community Group after being revamped with a Big Lottery Fund Grant and featured on BBC Village SOS. But this is a pub with a difference. It’s known as Crop Circle Central, or Croppie HQ. Everything looks perfectly normal from the outside – nice grassy canal-side beer garden with a great view of the white horse, large camping area out the back, big barn being built on the side to house a new arts space – but once you step inside and walk around the bar you will spot the crop circle room. This room’s walls are covered with photos of crop circles discovered in the surrounding area –and there are a lot of them. The crop circle images vary from simple plain circles to intricate geometric patterns that would challenge even the most experienced mathematician – every shape and size of circle is displayed in this room, with dates when the photos were taken. I actually remember one crop circle appearing in a field next to the campsite years ago, and everyone flocking over to see it to take photos.
The ceiling in this room features a beautiful mural of the surrounding mystical landscape painted by artist Vince Palmer, showing Silbury Hill, Avebury, Stonehenge, Barbury Castle, the elements of Earth, Air, Fire and Water – and of course, crop circles. The mural was painted in 1997, but was updated when the renovation work took place and one of the walls was taken out (the back bar used to be a separate room, but is now more open plan). The ceiling looks as great as it ever did, with new little touches added, such as a constellation above Silbury Hill and the odd UFO.
The pub as a whole looks a lot smarter since the renovation and is still very welcoming. This is the place to come if you are a crop circle aficionado, whether you just see the circles as great works of art, or consider them to be coded messages from other worlds. Whatever you believe, you’re sure to experience the special energy that hangs around this place.
The beer on tap is brewed by Honeystreet Ales. Beers available were Croppie, 1810 (the year when the first pint was served) and Roswell. They’ve also brewed a green beer called Alien Abduction, but that was a limited edition beer so it wasn’t available.
I chose a Croppie, ordered some chunky chips, and sat out in the garden, staring across at the white horse on the facing hill and watched a canal boat mooring. The Croppie was really tasty, quite a malty drink with some hop and sweet caramel flavours. @pintsandpubs ordered a Roswell. And upon one sip of his Roswell I went straight in and ordered myself one. What a beer. It tasted magical – that was the word I kept repeating, sheer magic in a glass. Sherbet, grass, lemon, honey, herbs, and resins – it conjured up everything magical about the mystical landscape, crop circles, UFOs, the white horse… I could’ve drunk it all day. Seriously.
I went in to investigate and to ask whether they bottled Roswell or Croppie. Alas, no. But I did discover after some digging that Honeystreet Ales are actually brewed by the Danish Stonehenge Ales brewer and MD, Stig Anker Andresen, and after having tried more Stonehenge ales in Marlborough that evening (Danish Dynamite) I discovered that they are one of my new favourite breweries. Now I just need to track down some of their bottles. Should’ve done that when I was in Wiltshire really, would’ve made things much easier.
For a pub with a difference then track down the Barge Inn if you are in Wiltshire, and enjoy a pint of Roswell for me whilst admiring the white horse from a canal-side table in the beer garden. Oh, and watch out for those little green men…