Posts Tagged ‘Alton’

Station Cafe

August 27, 2014

Station Cafe black shed

Station Cafe black shed

In the forecourt of Alton Station, a black shed with a couple of benches outside, never found open before.

As I had forty minutes to wait for a train, I decided to take a look inside.

I was pleasantly surprised, nothing what I would have expected from the outside.

At one end, bookshelves lined with books, very tastefully decorated. I expected a scruffy transport cafe.

I said, I had never seen it open before.

Bikers night, every Wednesday night in the summer, last Wednesday of the month in the winter.

I cannot have been in Alton on a Wednesday before.

Dysfunctional public transport

August 27, 2014
Alton Station bus stop

Alton Station bus stop

No 64 bus leaving Alton Station is timed to depart at exactly the same time as the London train arrives.

What brain dead imbecile designs a bus timetable that the bus departs as the connecting train arrives, that guarantees you miss the bus, leaving passengers half an hour to wait for the next bus?

Does Stagecoach hate bus passengers?

Ten minutes before the bus was due a 64 bus arrived.

I do not know why, but I asked was it the bus for Winchester?

No, replied the driver, this bus goes around the estates yours is the next bus.

How can you have two different routes, each with the same number?

I looked again at the timetable, no, no bus shown going around the estates, just a bus every half hour to Winchester, timed to depart that you miss it as your arrive by train.

I then noticed there was a second timetable, and yes, it too was No 64.

I then noticed the bus timetables were the new schedule, not valid until 31 August 2014.

The sign at the bus stop shows this to be a bus train interchange.

Stagecoach which owns the buses, also owns South West Trains.

Canon Andrew White at Alton Maltings

June 20, 2014
Andrew White Alton book signing

Andrew White Alton book signing

I never knew Alton had a Maltings. Signposting needed from the town centre.

An excellent job done on the interior of the building. Strangely, you enter at rafter level. A large meeting hall (ideal for concerts) and a cafe. I did not explore the lower levels, but was told contained meeting rooms.

Tea was served in paper cups. Not good for the environment. The coffee I was told was single sourced.

Following a blessing in Aramaic, Canon Andrew White started by giving the background of how he came to be in Iraq.

At age ten, he was asked by his teacher, what would he like to be.

An anaesthetist and a priest.

You cannot be both, and you are a Pentecostalist, and they do not have priests.

Andrew was an anaesthetist at St Thomas in London, where he headed the cardiac arrest unit, then gave it up to be a priest.

Christian theology he did not find very interesting,and changed to oriental studies, part of which included studying in Israel at an Ultra-Orthodox University.

He became a curate, then a priest, and was then sent to Coventry, to be part of the peace and reconciliation unit. It had until then focussed on Europe. With his background in the Middle East, it changed focus to Middle East.

He was sent to Iraq, to St George’s Church, an Anglican Church that was derelict.

At first he was not wanted, you are bombing us. No, it is not I who is bombing you.

He had a minder. One day, the minder told him he was invited to dinner. He was to be guest of the two sons of Saddam Hussein. He at first decided to decline the invitation, but his minder pleaded with him to say yes, else he and his family would be executed.

Originally, St George served the diplomats, the military, but when it proved too dangerous, the Iraqis.

First week one hundred, second week two hundred, third week, three hundred, fourth week four hundred. Not bad growth rate, one hundred a week. Eventually six and a half thousand.

More than just a church. A food distribution centre, a school, a clinic.

Several types of service: wacky for the children, Anglican for the Embassy, very formal Catholic for the Iraqis.

The service at St George’s is in Aramaic

Iraq had a very good education system, Iraqis were well educated. It has now collapsed, those with education and the means, have fled the country, leaving behind the poor and uneducated.

More than looking after the church, also involved in peace and reconciliation.

Prior to 2003, there was not a problem of sectarian violence. One was an Iraqi. Now one is a Sunni or a Shia. Under Saddam Hussein, Sunni minority ran the country, now it is a Shia majority.

ISIS aka ISIL is an insurgency and a terrorist organisation. It is well funded, paymasters are Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and Qatar.

The country has de-facto broken into three.

In the last year, over 1200 of the congregation of St George has been killed. In the last two weeks, 1000 have been killed.

People fled Baghdad as deemed not safe, back to their homeland, back to Mosul. Minerva is a Christian area. It is this area that has been overrun by ISIS.

Churches need to take much more account of what is happening in the Middle East.

Next week, Andrew returns to Iraq, to begin reconciliation talks with Sunni leaders.

Running the church, its various programmes, reconciliation, all costs money. It is only made possible by the generosity of people in the UK. If every church, held but one collection for the work that is being done, it would make a huge difference.

Sales of books went very well.

The meeting had been publicised in other churches. Farnham Parish Church had a poster in the porch. More though needs to be done communicating with the wider community. The press invited.

The dire situation in Iraq will only improve if the government changes, and is inclusive of all Iraqis, including the Christians, who are the minority of the minority.

The talk was filmed, and it is hoped once edited, to have uploaded to the net possibly as early as Sunday. It will be added here once available.

Andrew White is author of several books, including Vicar of Baghdad and Faith under Fire.

Andrew White is recipient of the Wilberforce Award.

Lunch at Italian coffee shop Bottega dei Sapori

June 20, 2014
steps leading into back garden

steps leading into back garden

tree with spreading branches providing much needed shade

tree with spreading branches providing much needed shade

white trailing rose running along the wall

white trailing rose running along the wall

afternoon tea

afternoon tea

Bottega dei Sapori is a lovely Italian coffee shop at the top end of Alton. Next door used to be the bank belonging to the brother of Jane Austen.

As it was a hot day, I sat outside in their lovely little walled garden, under the shade of a huge spreading tree. The table I sat at, I looked around, and a lovely white trailing rose was running along the wall.

Delicious lentil and vegetable soup, with which I assume was their own bread, or maybe sourced from a local baker. A winter soup, not a summer soup. Summer soup, pea and mint or watercress.

Tortellini stuffed with I think it said aubergine though it looked and tasted like pumpkin. Not what I had before, which possibly was mushroom.

Followed by a flapjack and a pot of tea.

Bottega dei Sapori source wherever they can locally. And most what they serve, they make themselves.

Integral to the coffee shop, is a little shop, with bread and many other products, including very delightful tea cups and pots.

The coffee is singled sourced. No freddo cappuccino.

The tea, teapigs. Not quality tea, nor is it the little indie company they pretend to be. It is Tetley’s tea.

Afternoon and evening in Alton

June 20, 2014
guerilla gardening at Alton Station

guerilla gardening at Alton Station

At Alton Station, wonderful example of guerilla gardening.

The Barley Mow boarded-up. From previous visits I got the impression it was a popular albeit rough pub. It is being demolished for housing. Why it closed I do not know. Probably one of the many killed every week by greedy pubcos. [see Death of the English Pub]

Walking in to the town centre from the station, there used to be on the left hand side, a lovely little wholefood shop. The couple who ran it, wanted to ether sell the business, or extend the lease for a couple of years whilst they found a buyer. The greedy landlord wanted a ten year lease or nothing. As a result, an excellent local businesses was forced to close. The shop sat empty for around a year. I think it then became a furniture shop. It did not last long. The shop again sat empty. It is now a barber shop.

I had thought, maybe later, eating in O’Connor’s Secret Garden, but found they were closed for a week.

Late lunch in the little Italian coffee shop. As it was a lovely day, I was able to sit in their garden out the back, under the shade of a huge spreading tree. I looked around, as saw a lovely white trailing rose running behind me.

Now everywhere closed.

On my last visit to Alton, I was shocked at the collapse of the town centre, many closed shops. It appears to have bounced back.

A walk through the water meadows and back into the town. A couple of years ago, the River Wey had dried up. Today, it was flowing very fast, never seen it flowing fast before.

The water meadows are the source of the River Wey. It flows through Godalming, Farnham, Guildford, then on to The Thames.

Then find Alton Malting, where Canon Andrew White was giving a talk. A pity no signs from the town centre. I set off, where I had been told to find it. I almost gave up, thinking I had been directed to the chemical factory that masquerades as a brewery. Luckily I was on the right track.

A community centre and church. You walk around the building and enter at roof level. Wonderful inside, a large hall, a little cafe, what downstairs, I did not look.

Walking back through Alton at night, around ten o’clock not very pleasant. A lot of rough drunks on the street. I noticed the big bar in the centre of the town had closed.

It had been a hot day. Walking back through the town centre to Alton Station, very warm.

Lunch and afternoon coffee in Italian coffee shop

September 7, 2013
Bottega dei Sapori Italian coffee shop

Bottega dei Sapori Italian coffee shop

mushroom tortellini

mushroom tortellini

cappuccino and flapjack

cappuccino and flapjack

Bottega dei Sapori is a lovely little Italian coffee shop cum deli in Alton.

I was not sure if I would find them open, as they take a summer break in August, and last year, I found they were not open the first weekend in September. But luckily, yes, they were open.

I had mushroom tortellini. Excellent as always, but I found a little tough and chewy, not as delicate as it usually is. Maybe they make, and it goes tough during the day. That is how it is from a supermarket. The price has gone up, now over £8.

I popped out to the greengrocer, then back and had a cappuccino and a flapjack. I wish I had had a pot of tea. The tea though is Tea Pigs, not the quality tea they pretend it to be and is owned by Tata, a global corporation.

I let the staff know the ownership of Tea Pigs as they pride themselves on sourcing locally, or from Italy.

Note: Teapigs is not the small indie family business they con people into believing themselves to be. They are 100% owned by global corporation Tata (who also own Tetley).

The coffee is single sourced aribica from El Salvador.

Lovely tea cups and pots for sale, Italian food, olive oil, bread (though all gone), their own cakes, and Italian seeds.

To browse various cookbooks.

Next door, was once the bank owned by the brother of Jane Austen.

Coffee shop in Waitrose Alton

October 16, 2012


The only reason I was in Waitrose was dysfunctional public transport system and a 40 minute wait for the next train, having been on a bus from Winchester to Alton that is timed to arrive at the station as the train is due to leave.

The last time I was here the store had not long opened. The coffee shop looked far better than Costa and a very pleasant, cheerful and helpful girl behind the counter. This evening a woman who made it obvious she would rather be anywhere else other than where she was, in other words the service to be expected in Costa.

I ordered cappuccino and a carrot cake. A ten minute wait, though I was warned a couple of minutes wait as the machine had started a self-cleaning cycle. The machine I noticed was dirty from spilt coffee. I am used to machines being spotless.

The cappuccino was ok, far better than the awful coffee in Costa. The carrot cake was rubbish, a typical factory mass-produced cake. The coffee was fair trade.

O’Connor’s Secret Garden

September 8, 2012
O’Connor’s Secret Garden steak

O’Connor’s Secret Garden steak

There are two excellent places to eat in Alton, the little Italian coffee shop in the town and O’Connor’s Secret Garden.

Last I was in Alton, said hello to Peter O’Connor, but was tired and did not stay to eat.

Afterwards, I thought, it would have made sense to eat as I had not eaten all day.

Today, I had a what was little more than a mediocre prawn sandwich at the Italian coffee, followed by a not very good cake and a pot of tea. The chefs had gone home. I was disappointed as that was my reason for a visit to Alton.

I was sat in the garden where I met a group of people who had been to a wedding.

As they were leaving, I offered as I was walking through Alton, then through the water meadows, I would be quite happy to show them the water meadows.

We came back via St Lawrence church, then as we passed by O’Connor’s Secret Garden, me on the way to the station, they to their hotel, I suggested we popped in for a drink as I was thirsty and I thought they would like the place.

We went through and sat in the garden. I do not know who suggested it, maybe it was the smell of the food, but by mutual consent we agreed we were hungry and it would be a good idea to stay and eat.

Peter came out and said there would be a wait as we were not booked and he had a party of ten booked.

No problem, we were happy to wait, but would relocate inside as starting to get cold.

I ordered a beer and a rib-eye steak with all the trimmings. One had haddock. I cannot recall what everyone else had, except one dish was served on a long narrow plate, with steam rising, to represent the steam trains which run from Alton, which I thought was a neat touch. Everything was served with watercress.

Watercress is grown locally. The water meadows we had walked through earlier, the source of the River Wey, were originally watercress beds, now lying derelict.

My beer was excellent, as was my steak.

The beer from Triple fff Brewery, a small local brewery, had an interesting red colour and was excellent tasting. I think it was called Wallop Wood, but cannot be sure.

Note: The beer, if it was wallops Wood is from Bowman Ales not Triple fff Brewery.

The steak, medium rare, was one of the best I have had. The only time close was at Jamie’s Italian in Guildford. I would usually have with chips, but I let the girl serving decide and it came with colcannon potatoes (an Irish dish and a speciality of O’Connor’s Secret Garden). Plus half a tomato, mushrooms and watercress. The mushrooms were delicious, cooked to perfection.

The food freshly prepared from fresh ingredients, not white chiller van hotted up.

Everyone enjoyed their meal. Apart from one dissenting voice, a chef, who quibbled the way her fish was cooked. I did suggest she went and talk to Peter, as if something was wrong, he would wish to know, but she declined.

A very charming, and stunningly attractive, girl with lovely personalty served us. An asset to O’Connor’s Secret Garden and complimented the food. She was also knowledgeable about the food.

O’Connor’s Secret Garden is the oldest residential building in Alton.

On entering O’Connor’s Secret Garden you pass through a passageway. Either side little parlours which can be used for private dining or overflow. The passageway enters the main restaurant. Through the restaurant into a lovely little garden out the back. The garden used to have tomatoes, runner beans and herbs growing, but I saw none on this visit.

We sat in the garden for a little while, then came inside as it was turning cool.

The garden is No Smoking. Too many pubs are ruined, you think sit outside in the fresh air, only to have smoke being blown in your face.

My only gripe was the music. Not the music per se, but it would have been far better no music, especially out in the garden. Late afternoon, in the little Italian coffee shop, there was no music, and that was far better.

Two very nasty reviews on TripAdvisor and one not very pleasant, either trolls or rivals dishing, that bear no resemblance to O’Connor’s Secret Garden. TripAdvisor is rapidly losing all credibility when it fails to deal with fake reviews. It also becomes a laughing stock when Alton Kebab shop (empty when we left O’Connor’s Secret Garden) is ranked No 1 on TripAdvisor. The glowing reviews for the Alton Kebab shop all saying the same thing, all singing from the same song sheet.

TripAdvisor claim to have algorithms that detect fake reviews. Must be their idea of a joke. They fail to even root out fake reviews when drawn to their attention.

Steam rally on the Watercress Line

September 8, 2012
Alton Station Watercress Line

Alton Station Watercress Line

Alton Station Watercress Line

Alton Station Watercress Line

Sometimes on arrival in Alton, if I am lucky I see a steam train.

Today was one of those days, a steam train. Before it pulled out, I noticed down the line something waiting to come in. I waited to see what it was. A freight train, pulled by two steam locomotives. They shunted the freight wagons up and down, I was not sure what was going on. Then in came another train, then another.

Two and a half hours, maybe nearly three hours later, I left the station. ….

To be cont ….

Afternoon in Alton

September 8, 2012
River Wey water meadows

River Wey water meadows

Sometimes a day out is not quite what we had planned.

Last week, I went to Alton looking forward to lunch at the little Italian restaurant, only to find it was closed.

This week, thought I, get to Alton early afternoon, lunch at the Italian coffee shop, then afternoon tea in the Allan Gallery, but it was not to be.

The day started off coolish mid-morning, but rapidly warmed up, by midday hot, and getting hotter during the afternoon.

Sometimes on arrival in Alton, if I am lucky I see a steam train.

Today was one of those days, a steam train. Before it pulled out, I noticed down the line something waiting to come in. I waited to see what it was. A freight train, pulled by two steam locomotives. They shunted the freight wagons up and down, I was not sure what was going on. Then in came another train, then another. What I had chanced upon was a steam rally on the Watercress Line, hence the large number of steam locomotives.

Two and a half hours, maybe nearly three hours later, I left the station.

No time to look in the bookshop, I headed straight on down to the little Italian coffee shop.

I was very disappointed to find nothing to eat as the chefs had gone home early. By now I was starving. I settled for prawns in a roll (all they had left), followed by a pot of tea and a cake. Not much left by the way of cakes.

I sat in the garden out the back and got chatting to a group of people who were down from London for a wedding. As they were leaving, I said I was happy to show them Alton and the water meadows as that was where I was heading.

By now, everything was closed.

Down the side of Costa Coffee, a narrow alley runs alongside the River Wey. The alley almost completely obstructed by tables and chairs from Costa. This is the norm for Costa. As is opening without planning consents. Baffled why anyone would wish to frequent Costa when Alton has a lovely little Italian coffee shop.

We popped into the local Methodist Church which was open. We were invited to join them for prayer, which we declined.

We then walked through the water meadows alongside the River Wey, and came back to the main road via St Lawrence Church.

As we were passing O’Connor’s Secret Garden, I suggested they may wish to take a look as I was dying of thirst and fancied a drink. We sat for a little while in the lovely garden out the back, then relocated inside as it was becoming cooler and we had decided to stay and eat. The meal was excellent.

For me, a long journey home, finally getting home very, very tired, not long before midnight. For my friends I guess much later as they had to travel back to London.

It had been my intention to travel down to Brighton the next day, but somehow I did no think that was going to happen. I was far too tired.


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