The Forgotten Corner of Cornwall Pub Tour

Friday 6 March 2020
Leap year Saturday the 29 February was the occasion of a grand pub tour in the Forgotten Corner of Cornwall for 33 CAMRA members. Most of us arrived at St Germans station, much to the surprise of the train manager who had never seen so many people get off at this quiet station in the winter.

Our coach took us the short hop to our first pub, the newly reopened Halfway House at Polbathic. We were welcomed by Lloyd the landlord, who had Bath Ales Prophecy, South Hams Eddystone and Dartmoor Dragon’s Breath on handpump plus a local cider on gravity. We indulged in a pleasant pint or two in this comfortable pub at the gateway to the peninsula.

Tearing ourselves away for our next pub, we headed east to Wilcove. The Wilcove Inn overlooks the Royal Naval Dockyard on the English side of the Tamar a mile and a half away across the Hamoaze reach of the River Tamar.

This pub is owned by the Antony Estate and was closed for six months in 2019, refurbished and re-opened in July with Gemma as licensee. The Wilcove also had Prophecy plus St Austell Tribute and Draught Bass on handpump. The Bass was a whoopsie but quickly replaced by Exeter Ferryman in excellent condition.

Again the timetable called, but we nearly didn’t make it beyond Wilcove as the coach couldn’t get up the hill! Lucky it was low tide so we could back up. On the third run up, we surmounted the hill and headed south west to the historic little port of St John.

The village is situated at the head of St John's Lake, a large inlet of the Hamoaze. It centres around the medieval church which can be traced back through 1490, 1150 to an original Norman church of 1080. The St John Inn is a lovely village pub run by Rob and Gill and carries the emblem of the Cross of St John, which refers to the Order of St John which is an Order of Chivalry of the Crown and first came into being around 1080 when a hospital was established in Jerusalem by Benedictine monks to provide care for pilgrims, hence the then Knights Hospitallers and, yes, right down to today’s St John Ambulance. The pub cares for pilgrims of a different sort, who usually arrive by coach or car! Libations on offer were Draught Bass, Cornish Crown Porter and Black Sheep Ram Tackle. We also enjoyed a good value lunch. The various rooms of this cosy stone pub are adorned with pewter plate, military artefacts, horse brasses and many pictures. I even spotted a Devil Among The Tailors. There was a request about giving a mention to someone keeping a list of the top 100 pubs serving Bass.

Devil among the tailors game

Eventually, we had to make a move westwards towards Crafthole. The coach managed the hill out this time! The Little Fox Hotel, Crafthole, is a charming 14th Century hotel, formerly the Liscawn Inn, which lies back from the road and is set in over 3 hectares of grounds with fine views of Dartmoor. Steve had handpumped Wadworth Dirty Rucker and Skinner’s Betty Stogs or was it Splendid Tackle for us, at only £2.50 per pint.

After a pleasant hour in the Aspects Bar, we left the residents to their peace and quiet, as we made our way to the last pub of the trip. We were faced by another hill to get out of the Little Fox so some of us bravely volunteered to walk up the driveway which allowed the coach to successfully reach the road and take us the half mile to the Finnygook Inn in the village centre of Crafthole.

Supping in the Finnygook

The large 15th Century Finnygook Inn gets its name from the ghost, or gook, of a famous local smuggler, Finney. Some stories claim that he wore a woman’s gook bonnet in public to hide his face. These days, he would be rather obvious as shown on the pub sign whatever he wore.

Slimmer of the year!

A few years ago, the Finnygook suffered a disastrous fire but has been luxuriously repaired in a modern style and is open as a restaurant, hotel and bar. Landlady Errica provided us with Bath Prophecy and Fuller’s London Pride to sup in comfort while watching the rain showers outside.

At the end of an enjoyable day we returned to the station for our trains home. Thanks to Cornwall Branch Public Transport Officer and Social Secretary (East), Roger Webster, for organising such a grand day out.

Steve Barber

And finally..........A selection of other pictures from the day