Tuesday, 26 February 2013
Queens Head, Newton, Cambridgeshire
Many people I'm sure have a vague notion of what constitutes their top ten Desert Island Pubs. It's a fanciful notion for sure, but still serves a useful purpose in that it helps set the standard by which all other pubs are judged. My own list would almost certainly include the Queens Head, one of those rare examples of a village pub where everything seems to be done extremely well.
The pub is another of those which are listed on CAMRA's database of Real Heritage Pubs, featuring as it does a largely unchanged interior, decorated with objects and images from the pubs colourful past, and equally vibrant present. A curved high-backed settle provides cosy seclusion in the tile floored public bar. Pale green hops decorate the servery, watched over by Belinda the pubs very own goose (now stuffed and mounted in a glass fronted case). Ales from Adnams are served direct from the barrel along with local cider from Crones, and simple but exceptionally good quality food consists of soup and sandwiches, including Ham carved from the bone or a scoop from a whole round of Stilton.
The Queens Head is no self-conscious 'heritage' pub though, this is a living, breathing local occupying a cherished place at the heart of its community. It's the kind of pub many people would want as their own local, a place for conversation, and of course traditional pub games play.
The games room was added as an extension to the bar in the 60's. The vintage array of pub games helps this later addition blend easily with the unfussy style of the bar itself. Pride of place goes to a play-worn Devil Amongst The Tailors table, an absolute beauty that provides clear evidence of just how durable this game can be in a pub setting. The pins are slightly chunkier than those used on more modern tables, and seem to be made of a lighter weight wood than usual, making for a 'softer', less noisy strike from the hardwood ball. Rubber mats have been added to the base of the table to help reduce the noise still further, and a pair of old Mahogany Cribbage Boards are provided for scoring the game. The result is a game which is a delight to play, yet unlikely to disturb other customers in the bar.
As well as the ubiquitous Darts Board, several more games feature at the Queens Head, including this damaged but perfectly playable Shove Ha'penny. It's a nicely polished chunk of Mahogany with brass lifters for settling disputes. A large wooden Nine Men's Morris (or Merrels) Board is also available, presented to the licensee in recognition of several years as licence holder for the local CAMRA beer festival.