I went up to the Eight Bells in Long Crendon today — the local Campaign for Real Ale’s pub of the year. (I wrote its entry for the forthcoming 2011 Good Beer Guide.)
It’s interior is very much like the sort of pub I imagine The Angel to be — all hundreds of years old chequered flagstones and so on (interestingly there’s another pub in Long Crendon actually called The Angel, which gave me the idea for the name, but it’s more of a restaurant). It’s such a beautiful, olde world country pub that Helen, the landlady, was telling me that, contrary to what I’d recently written, it’s been on Midsomer Murders at least three times — with a yet-to-be-broadcast episode filmed in the garden and in the street outside. Long Crendon and nearby Haddenham are used as locations for nearly every classic English countryside TV programme — Morse, Lewis, Rosemary and Thyme — the lot. Even if you’ve never been there you’re bound to recognise the places. Here’s a photo of my friend Andy stood outside a couple of autumns ago.
It was good research to see a bit of the every day routine. We had to wait around a while, talking to the barman about the World Cup, until she returned with a load of meat from the local butcher’s. Then a little later she and one of the locals had a table covered with loose change — bagging it all up — which had been raised for by a pub running team for breast cancer research. They’d done a half-marathon in Edinburgh at the weekend. All invaluable stuff.
The pub has a little alcove dedicated to the local morris-men and offers plenty of traditional real ales — the back of the bar was knocked through to provide a stillage. Helen also has a house beer brewed in her own name — quite wittily called ‘Hel’s Bells’ — see photos below.