Thursday, 5 September 2013

Coach & Horses, Harvington, Worcestershire

Pubs in the Evesham area have already featured on this blog, an area noted for that most traditional of pub and club games, Cribbage. The Coach & Horses at the nearby village of Harvington is no exception, and the contents of the trophy cabinet in the lounge attests to the pubs success in local Crib competition. It's somewhat rarer to find a fully functioning Skittle Alley in an Evesham pub now, which is not to say the game is no longer played at league level in the area, just that most of the remaining alleys are to be found in clubs not pubs.

This longstanding trend for converting pub skittle alleys into the more prosaic, and presumably profitable use of dining is widespread, though perhaps more so in attractive rural areas where the creation of additional dining space is often seen as the only way for a pub to survive. So the survival of a skittle alley at a pub like the Coach & Horses is to be celebrated, particularly as the pub itself is such a very good example of a true village local.

In fact the Coach & Horses is the kind of pub that most people would love to have as their local, and yet sadly so few these days are willing to show the kind of commitment necessary to support a community pub like this. You can't have a great, welcoming, well-run local pub like the Coach & Horses, but only visit once in a blue moon. Thankfully, the Coach & Horses appears to be well supported by its locals.

Like all the best village pubs, it's the smart, unfussy, and thoroughly traditional bar which is at the heart of the pubs success. The solid wooden furnishings include an attractive drilled-hole bentwood bench seat, once common in pubs like this, and similar to the ones Marston's Brewery ripped out of one of my own regular drinking pubs, the Plough Inn at Ratby in Leicestershire. Of course there's a Darts Board above the open fire, and when I stopped by for a pint, the excitement of Saturday afternoon Horse Racing on the telly, though nobody appeared to be winning much on that day!

The Evesham & District Skittles League has recently kicked-off for the 2013/14 season. There are currently four league divisions which along with the various cup competitions and finals make for a busy schedule Monday to Thursday. The Coach & Horses hosts the Hit & Miss, as well as a team from Harvington Cricket Club. Almost all of the alleys in the four leagues are located at clubs in the area, making this pub alley quite a rare survivor.

The chunky solid wood pins used in the Evesham & District League are generally known as Gloucester Pins. The painted lines on three of the pins are purely to help with a players aim. The balls appear to be Lignum Vitae, and the return chute features a couple of small batons to help slow these heavy balls as they reach the end.

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