Published: 06:00, 23 April 2021
| Updated: 12:53, 27 April 2021
It’s not that I don’t see the reason for booking a spot in the pub at the moment, or don’t realise some folk are a little OCD and like to know what they’re doing.
But there’s something which intrinsically links the pub with popping out – whether it be to the local or further afield to a boozer hitherto unvisited.
I realise this more ad-hoc approach, particularly in the current climate, could end in disappointment, but for me the principle is important enough to justify the risk.
So it was I found myself calling unannounced at the Gardeners Arms in Higham to see if they had a table for two free?
Although it was busy and bustling, a friendly waitress made enquiries and said they could find a slot to fit us in.
We were directed to a table in the small, but beautifully formed, garden and our drinks order was taken – the usual, a pint of your best bitter and a large glass of Sav Blanc please.
Whilst waiting for my Master Brew I took stock of our surroundings and decided that although there’s undoubtedly been some extra tarting up of the outside area in readiness for lockdown ending, this garden has a well-established look to it and has been developed over a few years, rather than just a few weeks.
Both peckish by this time on a Saturday evening, when the drinks arrived I tentatively asked if, despite our impromptu visit, we might order some food. After another quick check and a warning it might take a few moments longer than usual we sat back to await meat feast and chicken tikka pizzas.
A large section of the garden is covered by a well-established structure, complete with heaters and a lighting system which wouldn’t look out of place at a village hall disco. To one side, a more temporary roof has been constructed from scaffolding poles and corrugated iron – not as sophisticated maybe, but still a decent shelter for those seated in this area.
All in all, it’s obvious plenty of thought has gone into the new arrangements and despite the fact it’s equally clear this is predominantly a pub for locals, outsiders are warmly welcomed and we shared several interesting conversations, mainly weather related, with regulars.
Most folk had learnt their lesson from a week of evening drinking in the garden and were unashamedly wearing hats, scarves, coats, gloves and even thick socks with boots – though there were two hardy (foolhardy) fellas showing off their legs in shorts.
Despite the warning, two freshly made and cooked pizzas were served on wooden boards within just 20 minutes or so of ordering and were so tasty all conversation stopped for some time.
The music being played was piped at a sensible level and I later discovered the tunes were being selected on the jukebox inside by the guy behind the bar.
I don’t know the relationship between the various staff but, whether they are related or not, they certainly manage to create a family feel to this pub and you can tell the locals appreciate it. For a pub to be accepted this well, particularly with so many near neighbours, I’m confident it must be run responsibly and care about its local community.
For me this is a great little, unassuming pub which is punching well above its weight, particularly at these challenging times, and deserves every success. Last, but by no means least, landlady Sarah, must have a special mention – professional, efficient and effective at all times, she still found plenty of time to chat to just about everyone.
I sincerely recommend you considering seeking out the Gardeners Arms and hope you have as enjoyable a visit as we did.
Gardeners Arms, Higham – 2 Forge Lane, Higham ME3 7AS
Decor: Whilst it might be described as bijou, the garden is carefully planned and has been well maintained. ****
Drink: The wine was an excellent drop and, although I’m not a massive fan of Master Brew, it was a good pint. ***
Price: A pint of bitter and a large Sauvignon Blanc for £10.90 – when I switched to Kronenbourg the price rose by a quid to £11.90. ***
Food: The menu is kept plain and straightforward with just pizzas and boards – the homemade pizzas, both hot and tasty, arrived promptly. ****
Staff: Right from the off they couldn’t have been more warm and welcoming, they were all kept busy and needed to be on their toes but definitely rose to the challenge. ****