“There are so many other pubs in the area,” her email read. “We live locally and have the option of going to any of these establishments.”
It was a threat, obviously, of a loss of custom, but that’s not what this post is about. This post is about the fact that I wanted to reply to her email with “YASSSSS QUEEN! How lucky are we that whichever direction you go in, you’re going to trip over a great pub?!” And then maybe insert a string of hallelujah emojis just to really emphasise my joy in this fact.
I’ve always believed in community over competition and ever since we took over the Fleur, we’ve seen that it is of greater benefit to us for all the pubs in our area to be doing well because it lifts the collective. It brings people to the area. It makes people spoilt for choice rather than desperate for an alternative. But also, people are always surprised to find that we (Emma and Nick) enjoy spending our time in other people’s pubs. There’s a reason we do what we do and that, shockingly enough, is because we really like great country pubs.
As such, and with Xena the Pub Dog as our guide, we’ve created our own little pub crawl list of places we like to frequent when given the opportunity for a day off. You, of course, may have your own thoughts on each of these establishments, but we like ‘em!
One UK study, carried out by King’s College London and published in January 2018, found that exposure to trees, the sky and birdsong improved mental wellbeing. The benefits were still evident several hours after the exposure.
Now that the height of summer is over, the canal is a little quieter and that means you can get in some really great walks in almost total solitude. The ground underfoot may be a little muddier than it has been for the past few months, but what you get in return for dirty walking boots is a total refresher for your mental health. At this time of the year, the countryside is at its most beautifully tragic as the seasons undergo a golden change. Sunset walks are my personal favourite, with the colours dancing off the water and the imagination super-charged by the beauty of the surrounding nature.
So, let’s start with a nice linear route, at the top near the Kingswood Junction arm that bisects the Grand Union and the Stratford-Upon-Avon canal. Along this route, our top 5 faves include:
- The Boot at Lapworth
- The Tom O’the Wood at Rowington
- Fleur De Lys (obviously)
- The Crabmill at Preston Bagot
- The Bulls Head at Wootton Wawen
Of course, if you’re really hardcore like Nick and Xena and can manage to walk both long distances and imbibe a fair amount then the cyclical route you might prefer to take is:
- Start at the Fleur
- Head north to Kingswood Junction
- Swap on to the Grand Union canal
- Pitstop at the Navigation at Lapworth
- Head south to the Tom O’the Wood
- Carry on to the Durham Ox at Shrewley
- Abandon the towpath and head back to Lowsonford via High Cross, if you’ve had enough.
- OR carry on east to Hatton where you can take your pick from The Hatton Arms, Hatton Country World or Hatton Locks Café (you might need to sit outside at these places if you’ve got pooches with you).
- From there you can head cross-country to Cleaverdon, maybe even with a quick stop at The Crown.
- Next it’s a walk down to Preston Bagot, a swift one at The Crabmill, and then back on to the Stratford Canal.
- Head north along the canal past Yarningale Common and in no time at all, you’ll find yourself back at the Fleur.
Those are just some of our suggestions, but we’re sure that those of you who have been around a lot longer than us have got your own favourite routes. We’d love to hear about them and have the chance to explore even more of our countryside and waterways, especially as we know how lucky we are to sit right in the middle of it all. Thank goodness we have so many options on our doorstep!
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Slowly but surely you helped to breathe life back into the place. You filled it up with love and laughter. You have dragged it back from obscurity to place it back into the heart of the community.
Like so many others, we got into this trade because we love sharing these little boltholes with others and watching you enjoy them and make memories to cherish between these walls. We do it because we like a bit of banter whilst pouring a beer. We’ve always believed in doing the best we can with the circumstances we’ve got.
Time to whip up a quick homemade soup with whatever veggies you’ve got in your fridge.