Cross Keys at risk

A planning application to partly demolish and convert The Cross Keys on Ock Street into housing has been submitted. You can see the details on the Vale of White Horse District Council Web Site, Reference: P14/V1476/FUL

New pub company Hawthorn Leisure, purchased the pub from Greene King in May, as part of a deal involving 275 Greene King Pubs, also including the Saxton Arms in Abingdon.

At the time of the acquisition, Gerry Carroll, Chief Executive of Hawthorn Leisure, commented:

“There is a fantastic opportunity to work hand in hand with tenants, who we see as our genuine partners, backing them with management support, advice and investment. With strong financial backing, an efficient business model and a high calibre team dedicated to helping our partners to maximise the success of their pubs, Hawthorn Leisure is in a unique position to support and invest in these pubs and to help them fulfill their potential.“

Greene King had previously submitted a similar planning application before the sale to Hawthorn Leisure, which was withdrawn, and it was hoped that the positive comments from Hawthorn Leisure and freedom from the Greene King tie had saved the Cross Keys from closure at least for a few more years.

Abingdon has already lost too many pubs in recent years, including the Harp/Plough on Stert Street which has been closed since the start of this year. The Ox on Oxford Road and Fitzharris Arms off Wootton Road became Tesco Express stores a couple of years ago. There is some concern that the same fate may now be in store for the Saxton Arms.

If this planning application is approved, Ock Street which once had dozens of pubs will only have two… The Brewery Tap and White Horse. Other pubs that were on Ock Street not so long ago were… The Air Balloon, Happy Dick, Crown, Warwick Arms, Ock Street Horns.

Plum Pudding Milton Village Beer Festival

Plum Pudding Village Pub, Milton
Thanks to David for letting me know there is a beer festival at the Plum Pudding (formerly the Admiral Benbow) in Milton village this coming Saturday and Sunday (4th/5th April).

http://theplumpuddingmilton.co.uk/

This is a pub I have heard good things about recently. It used to be a Greene King pub, but has more recently become a freehouse and community village pub serving at least 4 real ales. See the Campaign For Real Ale (CAMRA) WhatPub website for more info

It is an fairly easy cycle ride from Abingdon, and a beer festival sounds like an ideal excuse to visit.

Old Anchor has reopened

The Anchor on the Wharf in Abingdon, reopened this evening. It had been closed for just over a month since 10th March when the previous tenants overstretched themselves trying to run the Broad Face at the same time.

The pub is very similar to how it was before it closed, with 5 real ales (Morland Original, Old Speckled Hen, London Glory, Timothy Taylors, Al Fresco). The ones I tried (Timmy Taylors and Al Fresco) were in good condition. The Moose’s head over the bar has gone.

The blackboards are advertising Tapas food, which I hope to try out next week.

This pub is a great asset to Abingdon with its picture postcard view over the Thames and location in the historic part of Abingdon near St. Helens Church. I hope that the new tenants can build on the good work done in recent years at the Anchor, that local Abingdonians will be supportive and proud of the great pubs we now have in Abingdon.

Abingdon is becoming a top place in the county for good pubs: We saw the Nags Head on the Bridge reopen last autumn with an amazing selection of eight well kept ales, good food, wine and a program of live music. The Broad Face reopened with a top Swiss chef. The Brewery Tap was awarded town & country pub of the year by the Oxford branch of the Campaign for Real Ale and always has good ales, good food, quarterly beer festivals and live music events. The Cross Keys recently had a beer festival with an excellent range of beers and ciders, and has a regular program of live music. The Kings Head & Bell has 4 real ales that change every few days, hosts a monday night music session and many events in the King Charles’s function room. Other pubs worth visiting include the Punch Bowl, Spread Eagle, Stocks Bar (at the Crown & Thistle), the Harp on Stert Street (which often has Loose Cannon beers), the White Horse, Wagon & Horses and Railway Inn near Culham and the Prince of Wales in Shippon which has a large selection of real ales, ciders and events.

On a negative side, Greene King have rcently been applying for planning permission to change many of the distinctive Abingdon pub signs into more corporate Greene King branded signs, with some pubs already having their signs changed. The most alarming ones are The White Horse on Ock Street and the Broad Face. Both of these pubs are very visible high profile pubs in Abingdon with historic significance and it would be a shame for them to lose their individual pub signs. Please check out the district council planning permission web site and leave a comment there with your opinions.

White Horse planning applications: P12/V2476/A and P12/V2477/LB
Broad Face applications: P13/V0429/LB and P13/V0428/A

Diary of Live Music in Abingdon

There are a lot of live music events in Abingdon, many of them in pubs, but also others at places such as the Guildhall, Unicorn Theatre and the Amey Theatre at Abingdon School.

Many of these events are only advertised within the pub itself on noticeboards or blackboards, or by following every pub on facebook or twitter. Most people in Abingdon don’t visit pubs regularly or follow every pub on social media so have no idea that most of these events are happening. To help with this, I have created a shared Google calendar to show these events. You can access it by clicking Live Music Diary at the top of this page. I have only just started adding events, so not all events are listed yet.

I will endeavour to visit pubs, look at web sites, facebook and twitter and try to find out what is going on to keep it up to date, but it will be easier if the pubs, bands or organisers can email details to me at info@abingdonbeer.co.uk.

Abingdon is full of talented musicians including world renowned jazz Saxophonist George Haslam who leads the Abingdon Swingtime Band (who can be seen at the Brewery Tap‘s beer festival on 24th March); homegrown talent Adam Matthews singer/songwriter/guitarist and member of Abingdon band Full Circle (will be performing covers and some of his own material at the Nags Head on 12th April). Other local bands include The Happy Men, and Nameless. Jon Spiers from Spiers & Boden and BBC2 folk award winning band Bellowhead who’s last album was number 1 in the UK independent charts and number 16 in the overall UK charts, was brought up in Abingdon and went to school at John Masons (you just missed Bellowhead performing in Oxford a few weeks ago). Folk at the Unicorn brings in some of the UK’s top folk performers to Abingdon. If you want to take part in the music, there are open mic sessions at several pubs including an acoustic session at the Kings Head & Bell every monday evening, and the Abingdon Traditional Morris Dancers and friends often have sessions in local pubs where they welcome other musicians to join in. The Skittle Alley has evenings of local bands and is so named because it started out using the Skittle Alley at the back of the Horse & Jockey pub in Bath Street, but kept its name after the pub closed in 2002, their next event is at the Royal British Legion Club in Spring Road on 16th March.

Pubs that have regular live music events include:

Apologies if I have missed anyone out.

Also check out ‘The Local’ on Abingdon’s own internet radio station Abingdon Xtra, which showcases local unsigned Oxfordshire bands.

Planning Application for Post Office to become Wetherspoons

JD Wetherspoons have put in a Planning Application at 25 High Street (the old post office which closed when the post office service was moved to the Co-op) for “Change of use from post office to public house, with external alterations and associated works.”

See the post at Abingdon Blog for photos and more information.

Public consultation ends on 1st June and you can add a comment to the planning application.

JD Wetherspoons is a British company founded by Tim Martin and floated on the London Stock Market (Symbol JDW). They are very pro-British and critical of government taxation on the pub and beer industries. They support the idea of a pub as a controlled environment to drink responsibility instead of cheap supermarket alcohol which encourages binge drinking.

In their last financial report, they said that “the disparity between supermarket and pub prices has a knock-on effect for other businesses in small towns and secondary shopping centres, contributing to closed shops and reduced economic activity” and that pubs “generally try to create a supervised and civilised environment for drinking, usually preferable to streets, parks, parties and homes.”