Trio of pubs at heart of the village

The Queen's Head in Sandridge.

The Queen's Head in Sandridge. - Credit: Roger Protz

It’s one of the wonders of the pub world that the village of Sandridge has three thriving hostelries at a time when so many have closed their doors for good.

The three – the Green Man, the Rose & Crown and the Queens Head – have had a tough time, even before Covid and lockdowns.

The Rose & Crown was shut for a time in 2020 when the landlord handed back the keys to the owner as he couldn’t make a living from the business.

The Rose & Crown in Sandridge.

The Rose & Crown in Sandridge. - Credit: Roger Protz

But now it’s open again and all three pubs are thriving thanks to the loyalty of their regulars and new trade from visitors to Heartwood Forest.

The Rose & Crown, now run by Jamie West who also manages the Hare & Hounds in St Albans, is a 400 year-old former coaching inn. It oozes history with a vast inglenook in the spacious front bar, low beamed ceilings, flagstone floors and big wooden settles.

There are two further indoor rooms with a large beer garden at the back, which has a marquee area for cold or rainy days.

The pub is a hive of industry, staging regular live music events, quizzes and weddings.

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I was pleased to see a local beer on the bar, Tring Ridgeway. It’s joined by Young’s Special, a once-famous London brew but now made in Bedford. The guest beer was Skinner’s Betty Stogs that had made the long trip from Truro in Cornwall.

Across the road, the Green Man is a pub of a different vintage. It started life as a private house, probably in the Victorian period. It was owned by Benskins, a brewer in Watford, but for the past 34 years has been owned by the large pub company Punch Taverns.

Managers Martin and Jo Crumpton took over following a major refurbishment by Punch in 2019. The pub was closed for 19 days with a whirlwind of activity and as many as 27 vans and lorries enabling painting, decorating and rebuilding to take place.

The Green Man in Sandridge.

The Green Man in Sandridge. - Credit: Roger Protz

The end result is a cheery and welcoming front bar painted in pastel shades of grey and blue, with comfortable sofas, the walls decorated with photos of old Sandridge and the pub. There’s a second spacious room at the back with a large beer garden beyond.

While there are handpumps on the bar, the draught ales are poured straight from casks in a cool room to the right of the bar.

Before the refurb, the room had wooden doors but Punch has changed that to glass windows as the company thought – correctly – that seeing the beers dispensed in this fashion would be a strong selling point.

The real ales on offer are another beer from Tring Brewery, Side Pocket for a Toad, with Sharp’s Atlantic Pale Ale, another visitor from Cornwall, and Greene King Abbot.

Martin and Jo say Side Pocket is their best seller but there’s a loyal following for Abbot and, right on cue, a couple came in and ordered pints of the potent Suffolk brew.

The first two pubs in the village are easy to find but the hidden gem in the village is the Queens Head, just yards from the medieval St Leonard’s Church. The church is one of the oldest in the country and the pub keeps it company.

It has a weather board exterior with dormer windows and hanging baskets that take you into a breathtaking interior of beams, standing timbers and an arched roof over the main bar.

The pub -- Grade II-listed by National Heritage -- is owned by the Stonegate pub company and managed by Ross MacInnes, who also runs the Green Dragon in London Colney. Ross says he’s not certain of the precise age of the pub but points to a framed insurance policy on one wall
that’s dated 1764 – but he thinks it could be even older.

In more recent times, the Queens Head – with Queen Anne gracing the pub sign -- was owned by the St Albans brewery Adey & White that was taken over and closed by JW Green of Luton. The cask beers on offer today are Greene King IPA and Abbot and yet another ale from Cornwall, St Austell Proper Job.

All three pubs have imaginative food menus and are child and dog friendly. Heartwood Forest is giving them a much needed boost and a lifeline for the future.