FOLLOWING a month of beat-downs, kinkiness, dodgy pints, and general hostility – and just a few gems in between -  PubSpy decided to retire to the countryside to lick his wounds.

It was a blessed relief to be at a pub where the regulars were not knocking ten bells out of each other, where I could sip a summery cider, and that pub was The Five Bells in Chelsfield.

From what I saw, there was little in the way of sex and drugs, though the pub’s busy entertainment schedule was rammed with rock and roll.

Among the traditional Irish folk, open mic nights and tribute bands is a weekly charity quiz, all of which point to The Five Bells being more of a social hub than a simple drinking hole.

The small bar area was abuzz with conversation when I popped in for an early evening drink.

My fellow drinkers appeared to me to be decent folk – a real mixture of men and women of a range of ages.

The music was turned down pleasingly low and crumpled under the hum of busy conversation.

To be honest, it should have been expected. The Five Bells was the Campaign for Real Ale’s South East London Pub of the Year in 2010 and a runner-up last year.

I’ll be honest, I wasn’t the world’s biggest fan of the layout. I can understand the desire to have a separate (and from what I understand, pretty successful) restaurant section but it makes the bar feel cramped. The insipid paint jobs weren’t really to my liking either.

It was nice that the two sections felt like they had a separate identity, I suppose.

The Five Bells, Church Road, Chelsfield

How it rated:

Atmosphere ***** (friendly folk)
Staff *** (did their jobs well)
Drink *** (a reasonable range but lacks excitement)
Price *** (Strongbow £3.80 a pint)
Decor *** (functional inside, pretty outside)