Even if it’s something of a cliche about rural Britain that the pub is always at the centre of village life there cannot be many truer examples than in Three Oaks.
In fact the pub in question is even called Three Oaks Pub, as if it were the representative and embodiment of the place.
But before we venture inside that extraordinary establishment it’s certainly worth taking in the small settlement that surrounds it.
This is an immaculately maintained village that seems so cloistered it is difficult to believe you are less than two miles from the suburbs of Hastings. At the epicentre there are good examples of Victorian farmworker’s cottages with more modern, and very well kept, bungalows and post-war housing towards the edge.
The Parish notice board is busily updated, with emphasis on the village hall which in Spring 2022 had reportedly just undergone maintenance but plans, so the notice said, for an entirely new building were soon to be announced. Clearly Three Oaks, despite a population of only around five hundred, is a place keen on excelling itself.
A good detective still might miss it, but there’s also a railway station and it’s one so unusual that you might consider going a few meters out of your way to investigate. With a single platform only long enough to accommodate one carriage (look for signs reminding the guard not, under any circumstances, to open all the train’s doors!,) it none the less contains a small, cared-for waiting shelter – and you might be waiting some time – as well as modern ticket machine and help point.
Services are either hourly or every two hours depending on the time of day and day of the week, both towards either Hastings (only 10 minutes) or Ashford (half an hour). This irregularity means that if you want to join the short list of visitors who have travelled from this peculiar little halt then make sure you’re wise to the times in advance.
But if you’ve just missed your train home then it’s only a short walk back to the nucleus of the village and it’s wonderfully eccentric pub.
Walking into the Three Oaks you are immediately struck but what appears to be an explosion of bric-a-brac but on closer inspection turns out to be a collection of collections that have all got wonderfully out of control.
Old cash registers decorate the fire side, Mexican sombreros compete for space at the bar with plastic sunglasses, chamber pots fill an entire wall, gnomes in various states of undress guard the door. It’s a brilliant assault and takes a moment to comprehend.
“Was there one thing in particular that started all this off,” we ask the landlady.
“Yes,” she nods. “The Landlord.”
A separate games room, containing a pool table, is decorated with motorcycle helmets and bike parts.
It’s very much like accidentally intruding on one very happy person’s bizarre hobby and it’s difficult to think of a better accolade for a pub than than.
The one thing we couldn’t spot were any model trains, but then you could argue that Three Oaks has that covered in real life down at the tiny station.
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