As cautionary tale dispenser Hilaire Belloc once said: “When you have lost your Inns, drown your empty selves. For you will have lost the last of England.” But should that unthinkable scenario pan out, give thanks and rejoice there is someone out there who has prepared for that eventuality.
I give you The Draught Horse. It’s a pub in a box. Well, a horse box to be exact. One the founder is ready to see become a philanthropic public service that tours the finally homogeneous UK when all the pubs are gone and the lights are out, dispensing invaluable solace to those in need.
This is a commendable attitude in these uncertain, straitened times. But while there are still thousands of fixed abode pubs still out there, this one does a great job of rocking up just about anywhere and creating the kind of atmosphere you’d expect.
Born in 2017, the Draught Horse is a converted Bedford TL 300 Turbo that features two access ramps, a bar, drinks rails, a vast awning that provides shelter from sun and rain and, crucially, some terrific beer. It can be found slaking the thirsts of those bored senseless by the cruddy choice at music festivals throughout the summer and is, I’m told, available for hire at a price.
Of course, it’s a gimmick. It’s a horse box really, not a pub. That said, I’ve never felt more like I’m in a pub while at a festival than when I’ve been drinking in the Draught Horse. It’s a bolt-hole. A refuge. A place to park your pint, gaze at the wallpaper and wish yourself away from the Somme-like surroundings. Or a sunshade for when you’ve yet again failed to remember the factor 50.
What really elevates it from mere gimmickry is the sense of wonder punters have etched across their faces when they see this place. To ascend the ramp is to step out of the madness and into a sanctuary of calm, relative order, wood panelling, beer mats, casks, bar towels and like-minded folk. In certain circumstances, it’s a life-saver.
I could bleat on about the sound system, the cocktail bar, the choice of DJs and the lighting that draws in so many moths to its enticing flame. They’re all terrific add-ons. But what keeps me coming back every time is the beer. Always well kept, a good choice of cask and keg and a beguiling mix of traditional and adventurous. Wherever the Draught Horse is, it provides a little corner of some forgotten field that is forever the boozer. And for that, I salute it.