As I catch the 18:22 Great Western train to Totnes for a boozy night out, I play a game of catch up, as I assume my friends have been in the pub for a while now. So I stride to the buffet carriage and order a pint of St Austell’s Tribute for a cool £3.40. I sip my refreshing beer from the plastic pint glass and gaze out of the window of the moving carriage and suddenly it dawns on me; this could be the best bar in the world.
Ok, there are a lot of bad points about this bar, such as the plastic glasses, the poor selection of low quality alcohol (although Tribute is great), there’s nowhere to sit down and the actual bar where I rest my pint is a pathetic Formica mantle. But on further investigation, this bar has a very unique quality and that being; it’s the only public bar in the country with a permanent alcohol license on a moving vehicle. This unique license gives the bar a certain vulnerability, and I’m sure it won’t be long before they call time on Great Western’s Express Café Bar and probably a ban on consuming alcohol on all public transport (Buses and the Tube already have the ban).
It’s simply the view from the window that makes this bar so special, not much else. On my particular journey, which happens to be one of the most beautiful sections of track in the country, I choose to peer through the window on the left hand side between Exeter and Newton Abbot. This small window is not much bigger than a TV screen, but manages to yield sights such as pervert Herrons wading in the Exe estuary looking for dinner or groups of Cockle pickers raking the sandy mud for the buried bivalve molluscs. The view on the right hand side gives you the chance to spot a sly Fox in a field on the hunt to destroy some poor farmer’s roosting hens and you’re guaranteed to see the Deer at Powderham Castle, which I’m now a little bored of to tell the truth, so I stick to the left side.
So as I clutch my flimsy plastic pint and compose myself as the train rocks from side to side I get a spectacular view of the vast ocean as we pass Dawlish Warren, on occasion you’ll get waves delivering their ocean spray against the train windows, but this evening I get the view of a calm, flat sea. My view is disturbed as we enter Brunel’s tunnels, carved through the red cliffs 170 years ago, my diminished pint and I make haste towards Teignmouth and my 34 minute journey has reached the halfway point. Time for another swift pint? I ask myself this question, but I already know the answer as I reach into my back pocket to dig out another £3.40.
As I fill my flimsy plastic vessel and clutch it’s waist, it bends like Isambard’s tracks and begins to overflow, so take a big slurp. At this point I choose to switch windows and gawk on the right hand side of the train and get a glimpse of Dartmoor, but Newton Abbot Race Course dominates the view. A brief stop at the town itself and then the final leg to Totnes. Because the views are a little less spectacular I entertain myself by sticking my head out of the window of the train door, dodging overgrown trees and plants I get a roller coaster of a ride, this stupidity is obviously caused by my traveling companion cheering me on. His head has disappeared, but intend to keep mine! So I quickly stop before decapitation occurs and before long the train pulls up to the platform in Totnes, my home town and gateway to the South Hams. And how better to arrive than on a moving pub with the magnificent views that Devon delivers so well. Perhaps not the best bar in the world, but certainly one not to take for granted, so grab that squeezy pint while you can.