Friday, 21 January 2011

Minster Lovell, The Old Swan and Minster Lovell Hall

Minster Lovell, The Old Swan and Minster Lovell Hall
(Just a mile there and back)
There were patches of frost on the grass and a chill in the air, but the sun was out and the sky was blue, so Auntie Liz, Pythius and I set out for a Paws walk. This time we chose Minster Lovell, an idylic little village that stands on the edge of the Cotswolds, three miles west of Witney off the A44.

The Old Swan Minster Lovell
We began with lunch at The Old Swan, which I can honestly say was really impressive. We had chosen roast beef with traditional trimmings - and got just that and all  freshly cooked with crunchy roast potatoes, home made Yorkshire pudding individual dishes of cauliflower cheese, roast carrots and loads of green vegetables, including Brussels Sprouts.  The meat was served medium, with just enough pink to get the gastric juices going.  It was so good that after declaring our joy, Auntie Liz and I ate in silence, savouring every mouthful. Yes - it was one of the best meals I have had for some considerable time. As it was served with Brakespear beer it was doubly good.

Pythius was not ignored, we were informed that both gravy biscuits and water were available for visiting canines in the bar area set out beneath an attractive fresco of a happy dog. What a nice touch.
We were also impressed by the wood fire in this glorious 15th century inn, which not only added a fragrant aroma to the bar area where we ate, but added dancing colour too. 
Our walk was not long, but it was delightful as, on leaving the Old Swan (having been given permission to leave our car in their car park) we crossed the road and with our backs to the pub, walked left for just a few steps towards a gate that gave us access to the village cricket field and the River Windrush.
Crossing the cricket field, we led Pythius to the river, where he had a wonderful time splashing about, even though the water must have been very cold.
We then continued through the adjoining field, which was VERY, VERY muddy and on to the ruins of Minster Lovell Hall, one time home of Lord  Lovell who is thought to have died of starvation in an underground room, where he was hiding having been declared guilty of treason after the battle of Bosworth. Built in 1435
these ruins are like none other as you will realise if you visit. They are mysterious and beautiful in a strange haunting way that is only experienced when old Cotswold stone is allowed to decay in an unspoiled landscape without intervention.
The ruins of Minster Lovell Hall

So that's it today folks, I guess we didn't walk more than a mile, to the hall and back - though Pythius clocked up at least three miles and returned with more mud on him than I would have wished.  It was a great winter walk nevertheless.

Pythius has his say:

Doggie pit stop

Just look at this picture folks - have you ever seen anything like it?  A refreshment stop for dogs in The Old Swan, and in the bar area too. I couldn't believe it when I saw not just a big bowl of water but gravy bones too. As Helen knows they are my favourite snack (not that she lets me eat between meals very often), but when she does these are the ones I choose.
The walk was not long but I certainly enjoyed darting in and out of the river, though the ruins of the old hall frighten me somewhat as I can sense ghosts when I go there, and they are sometimes very scary!

Wednesday, 12 January 2011

The Mount Inn, Stanton

All the walks for our next book Paws Along the Way have been walked now, so Pythius and I are coping with the difficult bit, which is to check and double check that we have got them right and haven't missed anything important. This often means walking the walk again.
Our quest today was to check the parish church, The Church of St Michael and All Angels, at Stanton which dates back to the 12th century. It is here, at the north west end of the nave, several bench ends are deeply ringed by the dog chains of the sheepdogs, brought to the church by their masters. On my previous visit I forgot to take a photograph of these ends.  I rectified that today, though if I am really truthful, Pythius was not as enthusiastic about a photo shoot with him sitting by these benches as I was - as you can see from the  look on his face.

This story fascinated me, imagine being able to take your dog to a church service with you.  When speaking to the publican Karl Bason who runs the local pub The Mount Inn about our reason for visiting Stanton, he explained that they often brought their sheep in too  Imagine that!!
Apparently the rich folk congregated at one side of the church
and the shepherds and their flocks the other. Gosh it must have been both smelly and noisy.
Pythius' lead on the bench end

Pythius not very happy about the  photo shoot.

    Our visit to the Mount Inn was all I expected it to be.  This is a Donnington's pub, which is why you will spot the little beer barrel on the waysign leading through the church yard,  as this delightful Cotswold  brewery has a  62 mile way named after it which links its pubs in a circular walks. This means you can walk from one Donnington pub to another, stopping to enjoy a pint of their BB along the way.
The Mount Inn, is one such pub. 
If you are lucky enough to arrive at The Mount Inn when the church clock chimes noon on a winter's day, as we did, you get to sit by its roaring log fire, or choose a seat by the far window, which overlooks the village of Stanton and surrounding district.
But people don't just flock to this  remarkable pub for the fire and the view, they visit because the moment you walk through the door you feel at home and welcome. Pythius was made particularly welcome. Indeed he was even offered the chance to sit in the resident dog's basket by the fire, having refreshed himself with the water bowl for dogs by the main door. He declined actually, preferring to place his paws under our table because he knows a chap should never soil another chap's bed.
Karl and Pip Baston - The Mount Inn
  As you can see from the photo of the lovely couple that run this inn, Karl is the chef and Pip runs front of the house. Together, with their staff, they generate a happy, relaxed atmosphere which makes visitors feel at home even if they arrive (as we did) with muddy boots, which we decided to remove at the door before going inside.  The food is great, offering visitors a chance to enjoy a drink and lunch for about £10, which Karl believes is fair price, offering guests a well cooked meal at a reasonable price - and yes - the food  really delicious. As Karl sources all his food locally, it is doubly good.
The Mount Inn stands alongside The Cotswold Way, and is the perfect place to start or end a walk. The view from the pub is breathtaking and the walks as long or as short as you want them to be.  Only one snag for dog walkers - horses.  As we passed through the village we met up with more than half a dozen horse riders and on the walk along the Cotswold Way, even more.  But providing you keep your dog firmly on the lead when you hear the sound of horses hooves, all will be well.   

Pythius has his say:
I have to admit I am not always happy about Helen's photo shoot ideas - tying me to a church bench  was not one of her best ideas and I let her know that.  However all was forgiven when we entered the Mount Inn.  What a pub this is - gosh how welcome I was made. And to be offered the resident dog's bed by the fire, now that  really was something to shout about.  But how could I possibly use another fellow's bed. That wouldn't be right, besides I rather like placing my paws under the table.

Saturday, 8 January 2011

The Lamb & Flag, Hailey

A short winter walk through Community Wood
The Lamb & Flag, Hailey, Oxfordshire
We walked about a mile

Now the white stuff has vanished we are able to visit some of our favourite pubs. This week we chose The Lamb and Flag, Hailey, a glorious little country pub situated in the middle of a very attractive little village about two miles north of Witney.

There were three pubs in Hailey once, now only the Lamb and Flag remains.
The worn flagstones in the main bar bear witness to the countless feet that have walked into this homely little 17th century pub over the years. The many photographs of village football and cricket teams that have used this pub – some dating back to 1929 – suggest it has served the community for some considerable time.
It was good to see that Tom the barman was on duty when we called this week, he is one of those lovely people who remembers the names of his customers and even what they would like to drink. He loves dogs too, which always pleases Pythius. Dogs do like to be recognised and admired by kindly people like Tom, who offer him a bowl of water, and even put extra logs onto the fire to ensure he is warm enough.

The lane to the woods.

The Lamb and Flag

The food is all home cooked and tasty, I enjoyed a pork chop and Auntie Liz tucked into a steaming hot bowl of lamb stew flavoured with Rosemary – these meals were reasonably priced and tasted delicious. Nothing fancy of course, because it is not that kind of pub – everything is basic and of high quality - so what more could we ask for. The other customers eating lunch appeared to be enjoying their meals too.

On leaving the pub we turned left and followed the main road through the village until we arrived at a sign pointing left for the Community Wood. This lovely little wood, which can be found just a short way down a green lane flanked on both sides by hedgerow and trees, was created in 2003 by volunteers of the Wychwood Project. It is as one of Oxfordshire’s Golden Jubilee Wildlife Spaces, and has been planted with a glorious mix of trees and shrubs native to the area, that were once found in the ancient Wychwood Forrest. 

Mud &  leaves  in the lane


We ambled round and through tree lined paths that weave their way through the woods, and Pythius leapt and danced around this glorious space. Yes, it was slightly muddy, but everywhere is at this time of the year – but that’s my only negative comment.. Everything else was perfect.

Pythius is having a bit of a rest.


Pythius says:
How good it was to get out and about again - it seems months since I have run free, followed the scent of Mr Badger, and rolled in  oodles of mud.