Friday, 26 November 2010

Thame The James Fig Pub The Pheonix Trail

Thame – The James Figg pub – The Phoenix Trail
(This walk can take you 7 miles in both directions should you wish)
I guess I had better admit right from the start that The Phoenix Trail will not be included in my top ten walks. It follows the route of a disused railway line, that once connected Oxford to the market town of Thame and Princes Risborough. You reach it by travelling from Nelson Street, Thame, which leads to Windmill Road and the trail, or going to Thame Park Road, Thame.
The railway line through Thame remained open until 1991, and then was converted into a cycle and pedestrian route which means that it is straight – straight – straight, with only a few gentle curves, and you have to return the way you came.
 To be really honest it is not the most scenic route either, as the first half a mile from Thame passes factories and industrial estates, but once the countryside emerges from behind the hedgerow things improve slightly.

One of the many seats along the way


The one fascinating thing about this seven mile route is the collection of 30 sculptures built by furniture students from Thame’s Rycotewood College, that are placed along the way – many of which are weird and wacky seats, designed to reflect the trail’s railway heritage and provide walkers with a place to rest.

We met a cat along the way

We walked just 2 ½ half miles along the path and then returned the way we had come. It was a chilly day, yet we encountered more people and cyclists on this route than any other we have ever walked. We even discovered a tabby cat sitting on the route, just by the footpath leading to Kingsey on the left hand side, watching those who walked past. This cat puzzled Pythius somewhat, particularly when it hissed as we passed. The cats he lives with never hiss.

Pythius inspects the sculpture

The pub we chose was the James Figg, which stands in the centre of Thame, opposite the Market Square, which must rate as one of the most dog-friendly pubs in the country. Pythius was asked if he would like a bowl of water (which was delivered immediately) and was even offered a dried pig’s ear to keep him munching while Uncle John and I ordered our lunch.

The James Figg is a proper pub, which is why I like it so much and as it’s a free house there’s always a great assortment of local real ales, and a warm welcome to all that enter. Uncle john and I chose Purity Brewery's Mad Goose, a bright coppery brew that comes with a lingering dry finish. A perfect lunchtime drink actually.
The food is great too, because although the menu is basic, each dish is cooked to order and garnished with care. I have eaten there often and never been disappointed.  
Uncle John & Pythius at the pub

Pythius has his say

The James Figg
Helen is right, this was not a walk that will be remembered with joy. To be honest it was dull, dull, dull, mainly because as we entered the Trail, Helen noticed there was a sign requesting that dogs should be kept on their leads! So – I had to do five miles on the lead! Not good. The cat did amuse me somewhat - how strange to see a moggy just sitting there on the side of the trail. and how strange that he should hiss at me as I rather like cats. It  obviously didn't know that.
The pub with its warm log fire and free pig's ears for visiting dogs was great.. I was treated like a real customer and there was loads of room for  me to place my paws under the table. But the walk? No not the best. I just hate being on a lead all the time as Helen knows only too well.

Sunday, 7 November 2010

Old Sodbury circular walk - The Dog Inn - Distance 2 1/2 miles along the Cotswold Way

Pythius waiting to leave the car

Old Sodbury circular walk – The Dog Inn – Cotswold Way
Two and a half miles

Our drive to Old Sodbury, where we began our two and a half circular walk to Little Sodbury and back  along the Cotswold Way, was far longer than usual. This caused Pythius to become slightly agitated by the time we stopped the car. A half an hour's drive to our destination suits him well – any more than that causes him to fret. When we did let him out of the car however, having crossed the road opposite The Dog Inn, towards a farm yard that leads to the Cotswold Way, he soon cheered up. He could smell the countryside and sense the wonders of beautiful scenery that surrounded him.

Old Sodbury is situated in South Gloucestershire, 13 miles from Tetbury on the A432.
This circular walk is easy, for although the actual walk winds through woods, an orchard, meadows and fields, it is so well signed posted, that it is impossible to get lost. You will find waysigns  pointing out the Cotswold  Way posted at every twist and turn along the way.

The 11th century church

The Cotswold Way

Our first stop was the  13th century medieval church, St John the Baptist, which sits on the top of a hill, and when viewed from the foot of the  hill looks as if it is growing out of the very earth surrounding it. A seat strategically placed beside the church wall provides walkers with a chance to stop and relax for a moment as they absorb the view over the village and to the hills beyond.
After walking through the churchyard and crossing the road that leads to the village school and a short enclosed path you reach a grassy area, then an uphill woodland path which eventually leads to the double ramparts of a fascinating bronze age to Iron Age hill fort.

Pythius explores the Hill Fort

Signs all the way

Pass through the fort, enjoying the sensation of walking over a historical spot and you will encounter more woodland and eventually an orchard, that leads to a minor road. The waysigns will direct you to the right and after about 300 yards, point you to the left and a series of fields all linked by metal kissing gates that twist back to the hill on which the church stands. There were signs throughout the walk requesting walkers to keep their dogs on a lead. We obeyed (mostly) but admit that when we found ourselves in a field free of livestock, we let the little fellow run free.

The Dog Inn

The 16th century Dog Inn lived up to its name, for not only is it dog-friendly, but a real ale named Dog Best was available too.

Even the beer is named after the dog!

This pub looks quite austere when viewed from the road, but once you enter the main bar, with its beams trimmed with hops and illuminated with sparkling lights, you know you are in for a treat.
The food is amazing, and far cheaper than we expected. Indeed at the time of writing, Uncle John and I both enjoyed a delicious main course that cost just £4.99 each.
It’s a family owned pub, which may account for the friendly service and the buzzy atmosphere. Certainly an establishment we will visit again whenever we are in the area.

Thursday, 4 November 2010

Asthall - The Maytime Inn - The River Windrush

Asthall – The Maytime Inn– Windrush River Walk
(7 miles if you walk the whole way to Minster Lovell and back)

There was a real chill in the wind today, dark clouds warned us that rain was in the air and a very dangerous stile caused us to change direction – but otherwise it was a great day.
We began our walk from Asthall, (one mile east of Burford) which dates back to Roman days, stopping for lunch in the Maytime Inn that stands in the centre of this attractive little Cotswold hamlet.

The Maytime Inn

I like the fact that this delightful pub is named after May and Tim who bought the building in 1975 and restored it whilst retaining as many of its original features as possible. They have run it as a successful and popular pub ever since. It has the ambiance of a chic restaurant and the appearance of a country cottage.
We  love it because dogs are welcome here and can even sit in the dinning area. We also love it because the home-cooked food is so good, and surprisingly well priced – a two course lunch at the moment costing just £10.99 - which given the excellent standard of cooking is amazing. I would recommend this dog-friendly pub to anyone seeking refreshments whilst exploring this delightful little hamlet with their canine.

Delicious Mushroom omelette as main course

Prawn starter

We had intended to walk towards nearby Swinbrook along a Roman Way Perhaps we would have done so had we not faced a veryt stile which was not dog friendly. We encountered it  the other side of the old bridge that spans the River Windrush to the left of the pub.

The muddy steps the other side

 The metal bar  fixed above this stone stile suggested real danger if Pythius didn’t raise his legs high enough when jumping over, so we climbed down steps that led us to the footpath to the right and took us along the River Windrush. This well walked footpath would have taken us to Minster Lovell had we been prepared to walk 3 ½ miles there and back.
The River Windrush
We weren’t – it was far too cold. So we just ambled along this glorious little river that meanders through the countryside for about a mile or so, returning to Asthal feeling exhilarated and refreshed. This is kingfisher country, wild geese use this river too.

Pythius has his say:

The dangerous stile

What a pub! Gosh what a welcome I was given and what a lovely warm carpet I was allowed to curl up on while the girls enjoyed their luxury lunch.
May and Tim the proprietors are great people and really do know how to make a fellow feel comfortable.
As to the walk – well I agree with the girls – that first stile was dangerous. Actually the entrance to the river path the other side was not much better,as there are steep steps that just had to be navigated if I was to get a river walk.  Because it was a wet day, they were both muddy and slippery. But I managed of course, I always do because I am a Border collie.