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Secret Drinker reviews The Bell pub at Brenzett, Ivychurch on Romney Marsh

As you walk up to the pub the church tower is so large and imposing it seems to rise up from the roof of The Bell in Ivychurch on Romney Marsh.

It is a free house which has largely avoided the modern nonsense (gastro, flashing lights, trendy paint jobs etc) sadly afflicting so many proper village boozers.

Walking up to The Bell, which sits right on the roadside in Ivychurch, you can’t help but notice the church tower sitting directly behind the pub

The locals were sat on their stools surrounding the bar but moved aside politely so I could view the pumps properly and be served.

Mrs SD took a seat at a suitably dark brown wooden table with plenty of beer mats and old fashioned cushions dotted about on the pew at one side.

I tasted Wantsum Brewery’s 5.9% Ravening Wolf, mainly because it was offered and I’d have felt rude to say no, but I had things to do later that day so opted instead for a pint of the 4.8% Courage Directors. ‘Er Indoors chose the usual large Sauvignon Blanc and we took a seat under the beams adorned with age-old, traditional decorations of horse brasses, old tankards, steins and jugs.

There are several log burners in situ, primed and ready for next winter’s weather with piles of logs dotted around the pub.

Doom Bar is the beer of choice at The Bell but I stepped back in time and selected a pint of 4.8% Courage Directors
Doom Bar is the beer of choice at The Bell but I stepped back in time and selected a pint of 4.8% Courage Directors
An example of a classic traditional bitter, I hadn't sampled a pint of Courage Directors for far too long.  Mrs SD stuck to her usual Sauvignon Blanc but she did not think the wine was anything to write home about.
An example of a classic traditional bitter, I hadn’t sampled a pint of Courage Directors for far too long. Mrs SD stuck to her usual Sauvignon Blanc but she did not think the wine was anything to write home about.

In darkness at the rear was a dining area, with more dark brown furniture, and pre-set tables should anyone ordering food want to sit inside. It is a little bit Acorn Antiques and more than a little bit like your nan’s front room, but fitted right in.

There was a dartboard near the door to the garden and several trophies in a dark brown cabinet suggesting the table in front is moved aside fairly regularly so games can be played. There is even a large TV screen, cunningly disguised behind a wooden protective cover, so I’m sure they also show the odd big game.

There is a sign which reads: “As much as Luna loves to say hi to you all please refrain from feeding her any tit bits so she doesn’t get poorly”, signed by all at The Bell, with a smiley face – I assume Luna is a pub dog.

It wasn't in use when we were in, as most folks ordering food were choosing to eat outside, but there is a reasonable sized dining area at the back of the pub
It wasn’t in use when we were in, as most folks ordering food were choosing to eat outside, but there is a reasonable sized dining area at the back of the pub
This wonderful old black and white photograph on the wall shows The Bell sitting right in front of the village church, exactly as it does today
This wonderful old black and white photograph on the wall shows The Bell sitting right in front of the village church, exactly as it does today

There certainly isn’t, and I seriously doubt ever will be, a jukebox here but music was being played at a sensitive level. However, Shine by Aswad, The Specials and Good Vibrations from the Beach Boys was too much of a reminder of our respective ages so we headed out into the sunny back garden.

The flowers are beautiful and there are even toms ripening out here, but the variety of outdoor knick-knacks is even more nan-like, though I did like the converted sawn-in-half boat at the far end.

You can tell Doom Bar is the big selling beer at the bar, its branding is plastered everywhere, including the half boat, cask stools and the umbrellas.

The outdoor covered smoking area is one of the most impressive I've seen – with Sharp's Doom Bar heavily promoted once again
The outdoor covered smoking area is one of the most impressive I’ve seen – with Sharp’s Doom Bar heavily promoted once again

Just over the back wall in the church graveyard I heard a very unusual bird call and was so intrigued I had to climb up and take a look. A little embarrassingly I now have to admit it was in fact an enthusiastic dog chasing a squeaky ball.

Moments later Sky the Doberman and Orla, a Hungarian Vizsla (both pub dogs) joined us in the pub garden after the landlord brought them back. There was still no sign of the aforementioned Luna, but there’s no doubting this is a dog-loving house.

At this point I must give a special mention to the large, covered smoking area which has obviously received some TLC recently and looks really impressive.

A few of the umbrellas had taken a tumble and it was certainly warm in the garden but most folks were not put off and still chose to sit outside
A few of the umbrellas had taken a tumble and it was certainly warm in the garden but most folks were not put off and still chose to sit outside
Doom Bar is The Bell's biggest seller and you'll find the beer promoted just about everywhere, including this novel boat bench
Doom Bar is The Bell’s biggest seller and you’ll find the beer promoted just about everywhere, including this novel boat bench

Back indoors for a swift visit to the gents, I passed four guys who favor the bar to the right of the pub and one larger-than-life fella in multi-coloured floral shirt was busy putting the world, the bar staff, anyone who would listen and anyone who wouldn’t, to rights.

In the main bar two, far more relaxed, guys were enjoying a lunchtime pint and comparing their weekly expenditure. After several minutes of toing and froing they reached agreement that their other halves account for the vast majority of their respective spending.

The gents’ toilets, by the way, were as traditional as the rest of the pub and well maintained, clean and fresh, as were the ladies’ loos too.

The dartboard, on the far left-hand side of the pub, currently has furniture in front of it and a variety of items stacked up nearby but I'm sure they're quickly cleared away ready for a match
The dartboard, on the far left-hand side of the pub, currently has furniture in front of it and a variety of items stacked up nearby but I’m sure they’re quickly cleared away ready for a match

This is a pub which not only caters for, but also cares about, its regulars. The staff also go out of their way to be friendly and welcoming to visitors too.

Very much an old fashioned, old style type boozer where the landlord runs a tight ship and isn’t afraid to tell it as it is.

If this is the type of boozer you’re looking for you’ll love The Bell. If you’re after a more modern, slick bar, then do all of us who would choose to drink here a favor and give this one a wide berth. And finally, it will also help if you’re a fan of man’s best friend.

It's a traditional village pub with beams, old beer steins, dark brown furniture and a quarry-tiled floor
It’s a traditional village pub with beams, old beer steins, dark brown furniture and a quarry-tiled floor
We weren't eating on this occasion, but for anyone considering dining at The Bell here's a copy of the specials blackboard
We weren’t eating on this occasion, but for anyone considering dining at The Bell here’s a copy of the specials blackboard

The Bell, Ivychurch Road, Brenzett, Ivychurch, Romney Marsh TN29 0AL

decor: It is of its time and is charmingly cluttered with a selection of old world pub ornaments. Whilst it is as rough and ready as a village pub should be, it was clean and tidy throughout. ***

drinks: My first Directors for a long time, it’s a traditional bitter with a decent body and plenty of malty flavor – reasonably powerful at 4.8%, it is nonetheless highly sessionable. The wine, either the white or rose, did not rate as highly. As darker lagers go, Madrid is a very refreshing pint. ***

Price: The Directors was £3.80 and a pint of Madri lager 40p more at £4.20. The wine, both the rose and the white, was £4 a glass. ****

Staff: Welcoming, friendly and helpful, the barmaids were perfectly happy to chat and offer their thoughts on the various drinks available. ****

There are several log burners in the pub and sneaking a look inside I noticed this one is already set and ready to be lit
There are several log burners in the pub and sneaking a look inside I noticed this one is already set and ready to be lit
Traditionally decorated with black and white tiles, the gents were clean and fresh
Traditionally decorated with black and white tiles, the gents were clean and fresh
Not my best photograph, but the trophies in this dark brown wooden cabinet suggest the pub has its fair share of decent darts players
Not my best photograph, but the trophies in this dark brown wooden cabinet suggest the pub has its fair share of decent darts players

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