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A perfect day of beer, food and football





In his weekly Barman column, Geoff Hoyle enjoys a trip out...

Ah, the opening day of the football season. Cricket and baseball have helped to fill the summer void, but now the real thing begins. At least for some.

Before Lynn started their season, I scoured the fixtures of the minor leagues to find a game. Eventually, I settled on Norwich CBS v Stanway Pegasus. Norwich CBS started life as the company team for Norwich Union and like a lot of lower-level outfits they have changed over the years but despite purchasing a programme, I was unable to discover the meaning of CBS.

Barman went to see Norwich CBS
Barman went to see Norwich CBS

They have also led a nomadic existence, and currently play at the Football Development Centre just off Dereham Road in Norwich. No, I had not heard of it either, but there is a fine complex there with a decent clubhouse and bar serving a full-sized artificial turf pitch with a stand offering around 300 seats as well as half a dozen five-a-side pitches.

Rather surprisingly, the Bar Wife opted out of the game, preferring to spend her afternoon visiting the shops in Norwich, but she tore herself away to pick me up. “Where to?” she asked as we drew out of the FDC. I suggested the Bob Carter Centre in Drayton, a club listed in the Good Beer Guide which I had never visited.

A short while later we were welcomed by the sight of a row of handpumps and a pleasant barmaid waiting to serve us. I ordered a pint of Humpty Dumpty Swallowtail, but it was explained to me that I needed to be a member to purchase alcohol, something not made clear by the Guide. This was not a great impediment as membership was immediate and cost just a pound, and the beer was excellent.

An examination of the noticeboard showed that this was the Norwich CAMRA branch’s choice for their Club of the Year, and a fine choice it was. It does not quite have the character and views of our selection, Ferry Lane, but the beer and welcome were a match for anywhere.

As we settled down the barmaid came across with my newly created membership card and we had a chat. The similarity to Tracy at Ferry Lane was uncanny, both in looks and friendly manner. Perhaps every club needs a Tracy.

The top clubs in the area compete to be named the East Anglian Club of the Year, and surprisingly, neither of the Norfolk choices received the award. That accolade goes to the Caxton Club in Beccles, a venue that I have never visited, but with the presentation of the award coming up in a few weeks’ time, I think we may suggest calling on our friends in the town and drop in to see how it could possibly be any better than the Norfolk winners.

On the way back from the thrilling 8-2 win by Stanway Pegasus, we decided to search for some food. Our first two choices, the Railway and Kings Head at North Elmham, were fully booked, and we were almost resigned to the local takeaway when as a last throw of the dice we tried Litcham Bull.

It must be 40 years since I last called in, in the days when I played Massingham League Dominoes, and it was good to find the place still open. They were also very busy but squeezed us in and the Beeston Worth the Wait lived up to its name. A shout out too for the brilliant black pudding (the best outside Bury) and pigeon starter. Beer, food, and football. A perfect day.

bar.man@btinternet.com



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