CoffeeBeer >> Pint Pleasures >> Previous Beer Columns >> 3 Pubs Near Hythe

Previous Pint Pleasures - March 12, 2001

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The County Members, Aldington Road, Lympne, Kent

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The Britannia Inn, Horn Street, Seabrook, Kent

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The Fountain, 171 Seabrook Road, Seabrook, Kent

Whenever I've mentioned Lympne -- pronounced LIMM -- to anyone who doesn't live in East Kent, usually I get corrected, as in "You mean Lyminge" or "It's pronounced LYME". But no, I mean Lympne. How the village of Lympne got such an unusually-spelled name with such a simple pronunciation -- as opposed to LIMP-KNEE or something inexplicably Welshlike such as YAMPHDLEMIGRAKH -- is a bit of a mystery. Way back in the days when the Romney Marsh was under the sea, the River Limen flowed down from the hills creating a natural harbour used by the Romans. Later they built an eight-acre fortress on the hillside called Portus Lemanis; this became the Port of Lympne.

Although there is still a Port Lympne Wild Animal Park, where 500 rare animals can be seen in a natural setting, Lympne is no longer a port. This becomes apparent when you take a ride across the Marsh on the Romney Hythe & Dymchurch Light Railway. To one side of the tracks is the coastal road with the English Channel just beyond, and to the other side the green fields sweeping gracefully up the grassy hillside to Port Lympne and Lympne Castle. I think even modern ships would have a rough time manoeuvring Port Lympne today.

Lympne itself is a very tiny place. Fortunately it still has one pub, the County Members; so if you're putting off a visit to Port Lympne, Lympne Castle, or the lovely little graveyard for fear of sudden lunchtime dehydration, rest assured there's a hostelry within walking distance. When I first visited this pub over two years ago it seemed like a reasonable place for a Sunday evening session, especially since I was staying with friends in Lympne. Our pints of Gales HSB (4.8% ABV, George Gales & Co, Horndean, Hampshire) were satisfactory and the service was friendly. A year later the County Members had transmogrified into yet another food pub, emphasizing its restaurant area which in the light of the setting sun was almost inviting. On this later visit, as we sat in one of the two bars, we sipped a fair pint of Brakspear's Bitter (4.3% ABV, W.H. Brakspear & Sons, Hemley-on-Thames, Oxfordshire). That's about all I can say about the real ale; it's fair to satisfactory. And I've never tried the food, although the menu looks interesting. Still it's good to know -- in case you ever find yourself in Lympne -- that there's a pub with real ale.

There is one other interesting fact about Lympne. According to UFO Magazine there were reports in both the Folkestone Herald and Adscene in March 1997 of UFO sightings in the Donkey Street area of Burmarsh, very close to Lympne Castle. Apparently the UFO Monitors East Kent (UFOMEK) were concerned about the danger of these triangular-shaped spaceships and their occupants. I personally doubt the extraterrestrial visitors intended to lunch on rare animals or destroy ancient castles. I suspect they were simply lost and probably quite thirsty...

Leaving Lympne and going east you'll come to West Hythe, and to the east of West Hythe is -- no, not East Hythe, but simply Hythe. And if you keep going east you'll end up in Seabrook, technically a part of Hythe. If you go north on Horn Street a ways you'll end up in Horn Street, also technically a part of Hythe or a part of Seabrook, depending on how you look at it. At this point you'll undoubtedly be completely lost and desperately in need of a pint. This is where The Britannia Inn comes in handy. Located just north of Valestone Close, this is a Shepherd Neame pub in a pleasant slightly woody setting. In the summertime the beer garden out front is an inviting place to sip a relaxed pint. The interior of the pub is small but cosy with the brick bar livened up by the landlady's collection of witches from around the world. This motley coven watches over the consumption of copious pints of Master Brew (3.7% ABV, Shepherd Neame, Faversham, Kent) We've had good pints and bad pints here, which is often the case with pernickety beers like Master Brew which require exacting attention.

Down the road back in Seabrook -- or is it Hythe? -- the Fountain is hard to miss. Located smack in the center of things, the large pub features an ample car park and a roomy back garden. There's no evidence of a fountain anywhere, though. Considering we visited the pub on a frosty pool-match night it would have been frozen or turned off anyway. The pub itself is pleasant enough with a large restaurant side -- and their pool table featured some of the shiniest balls I've ever seen. If this sort of thing excites you, perhaps you should stop by for a peek on Monday pool nights...

Although I wholly expected the Fountain to have no real ale, I was relieved to discover they do have Flowers Original (4.4%, Boddingtons, Manchester). My pint was served chilled through a cask breather, but at least I didn't have to resort to Stella or Boddingtons.

If you drive to the Fountain from the Sandgate end you'll notice a familiar-looking roadside cafe with the rotund midget cook. But wait -- the neon sign says LITTLE CHE! My mistake --must be a new Cuban restaurant. I'll have to try it sometime...