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Pub Visit - England

Bournemouth (Southbourne), Dorset:
Wight Bear Ale House

Friday 9th October 2015

Bob Thompson

Wight Bear 1At a first look, the name of this pub seems a bit odd. Almost as if there is a spelling mistake contained within its name. Not however if you a resident of Bournemouth, as the Wight Bear itself can be seen from anywhere along the sea shore. It is an illusion that is created when the afternoon or evening sun shines on the chalk cliffs above the Needles lighthouse on the Isle of Wight. It illuminates what looks like a giant Polar Bear.

This is the second micropub established in Bournemouth and it opened its door to the drinking public on Monday 15th June 2015, so I was visiting less than four months after that momentous day.

Wight Bear 2The inspiration behind it comes from David and Nicola Holland who got the idea after visiting a number of similar micropubs along the south coast and Kent. They are assisted by their sister- and brother-in-laws Bev and Nick.

Southbourne Grove is about a half mile inland and is the retail centre of this part of Bournemouth. There are lots of small independent shops and restaurants. It is the ideal place to open a micropub and it has excellent public transport links, please see below. When I visited I stepped off the M2 bus and within four paces I was through the door!

Once inside I noticed it was a light and colourful pub with custom-made fitted wooden benches around the walls with similar wooden tall tables in front of them. Despite the furniture being all wood, sensitive bums will not be inconvenienced as there are dozens of cushions that provide a lot of the colour. There are candles in bottles on the tables. Garlands of hops and strings of pennants hang from the ceiling.

Wight Bear 3The beer is presented to the drinker by a server, in this case a lady. The beer comes from a cool room which can glimpsed through a glass window. At the side of this is a serving area with fridges and storage for glasses etc.

When I entered there were two men chatting and each had a dog. One was a medium sized terrier, maybe Bull Terrier and the other had what looked like a curly-haired Spaniel. Then another man entered with what appeared to be a little white poodle.

Wight Bear 4This dog was incredibly exited and wanted to make friends with the other two, especially the Spaniel type. Well, the inevitable occurred and the Spaniel got fed up with the small dog leaping all over it and a fight developed with teeth bared. Immediately the other dog joined in and we had a full three-way dog-fight. It was calmed down quite quickly but who says that there is no live entertainment in micropubs!

The beers and ciders are displayed on a large blackboard. After travelling from Kent that day I was greeted by four of the five being from my local breweries. I’m sure they were appreciated in Bournemouth.

I had a choice of: Goacher’s (Maidstone) Fine Light Ale (3.7%); Ramsgate Brewery (Ramsgate) Gadd’s No 5 (4.4%); Wantsum (Hersden, Kent) Ravening Wolf (5.9%) and Black Prince (3.9%). The non-Kentish offering was Titanic (Burslem, Staffordshire) Engine Room (4.6%).

Wight Bear 5This is certainly a good pub for cider and perry. The selection was: Oliver’s (Ocle Pychard, Herefordshire) Perry (5.5%), also Thistly Cross (West Benton, East Lothian, Scotland) Whisky Cask Cider (6.9%).

Then there were three from Dorset Nectar (Waytown, near Bridport, Dorset). These were Elderflower Cider (3.8%), Top o’ the Hill Cider (5.5%) and Wildcat Cider (5.5%).

We visited this farm the following day and were very impressed by their mature organic orchards and the grazing sheep.

They also offer wines from the Furleigh Estate in Dorset. Two very unusual spirits were also available: Conker Dorset Dry Gin and Black Cow Pure Milk Vodka. As its names suggests this is distilled from milk. Apparently the only one of its kind in the world.

Food is confined to Pork Pies from a butcher in Ringwood, Scotch Eggs and Vegetarian Scotch Eggs, both from local Southbourne makers. Of course there are the usual pork scratchings, crisps and nuts. I also noticed pickled eggs and onions.

This pub well worth a visit if you are around Bournemouth.

Important Information:

White Bear Ale House, 65 Southbourne Grove, Southbourne, Bournemouth BH6 3QU. Tel: 01202 433733

Hours: Monday Closed; Tuesday-Saturday 12.00-23.00; Sunday 12.00-22.30

The pub is served by three bus routes: the 1C, M2 and 33. Whilst all of these come from central Bournemouth none pass Bournemouth railway station. However all three call at Pokesdown station. The M2 is the best as it actually terminates and starts from the stop outside the pub, you don’t even have to cross the road!

By changing at Pokesdown station you can use the No 2 bus to get to and from Bournemouth station. This bus stops at Springbourne Library which is right by the Firkin Shed, the town’s other micropub. The 1C and the M2 run every 10 minutes, the 2 every 10-20 minutes and the 33 every hour. All are less frequent in the evenings and Sundays.