ALE Spring 2004 No. 313 : Next section

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Unique pubs of East Anglia

Number 1: The George and Dragon, Foulness, Essex

In itself, the George and Dragon isn't that unusual a pub. It's a typical weatherboarded Essex country pub, occupying an old (17th century) building, but much altered inside. There's a very pleasant main bar with open fire, wainscotting and a counter with some nice inlay running the whole width. The rooms to either side are comfortable but pretty anonymous.

What makes this pub so special is its location. Foulness Island is Ministry of Defence property and you can only visit by prior arrangement. This isn't difficult: you phone the pub (01702 219460) to let them know when you'll be coming. The licensee will then 'sponsor' your visit and let the personnel who guard the entrance to the island know you're coming. When you arrive at the checkpoint you sign in and are given the necessary pass; it's then a four-mile drive past mysterious military establishments to the tiny village of Churchend, where the pub snuggles next to the only property on the island not owned by the MoD, St Mary the Virgin church.

When we visited recently on a Saturday lunchtime, only two other customers materialised. The friendly landlord, who has been there since 1981, admitted that it was tough making a living on an island with only 200 inhabitants and (understandably) few visitors from elsewhere. However, he and his wife (who runs the next-door post office/village store) seem determined to continue, though you have to worry about what will happen when the eventually go.

Next to the pub is a 'Conservation Room', where the landlord has built up an interesting exhibition about the island from Roman times through to its more recent takeover by the military. Before 1920 there wasn't even a bridge so the island was even more isolated.

The George and Dragon serves just the one real ale, Greene King IPA (in good form on our visit). Food is served lunchtimes Wednesday to Sunday and evenings Friday and Saturday. Our home-made steak and kidney pie was very good. Opening times are 11-2.30, 6-11 Wed-Sat, 12-10.30 Sunday.

Foulness is a few miles east of Southend. Head for Great Wakering, then follow New Road to the checkpoint.

The pub has it own web site:

ALE Spring 2004 No. 313 : Next section
Cambridge & District CAMRA