Monday, 19 November 2012

Farewell Pythius-Peacocke


Border Collie 
12 ½ years old.
Co-author of Paws Under the Table, Paws for History, Paws Along the Way and Paws for the Cotswolds which is due to be published November 19th.
Fully paid up member of CAMRA
Member of the Guild of Beer Writers

Sadly, just days before his next book came out my beloved Border collie Pythius-Peacocke exchanged the views of the Cotswolds that he loved so much for the fields laid out before him in Doggie Heaven.

He will be forever remembered, not just as a faithful companion, but for his many enthusiasms and his ability to bring great joy to all he met.

I doubt there are many dogs who explored more of the Oxfordshire countryside and the Cotswolds than he did and I doubt that I will ever love another creature as much as I loved him.

Farewell Dear Pythius - Farewell

Who is Pythius-Peacocke?

Pythius-Peacocke (Border collie) is now eleven years old.  There are times when he feels older, because living with his mistress Helen Peacocke is not always easy, however, it’s great fun.

Several times a week they share a Paws Walk, so called because Helen writes the walks up for the Paws series of books she has been working on since retiring as a feature writer for The Oxford Times three years ago.

Paws Under the Table, Paws for History and Paws Along the Way, have already been published by Wychwood Press (£9.99) and are proving very popular with dogs and their owners who walk  (or would like to walk) through Oxfordshire countryside and the Cotswolds, calling for a pub meal, a dog biscuit, and a pint along the way.

At the moment Helen is working on Paws for the Cotswolds. This book is almost finished and will be delivered to the publisher Jon Carpenter of Wychwood Press sometime this week.  Helen hopes it will come out late Spring.

Unfortunately there are times when Helen gets it wrong and it is those moments Pythius would like to share with you. He will, however, share some of the positive moments too, if only because Helen goes to such pains to get a walk right that he feels she deserves some praise when everything falls into place.

Thursday, 25 October 2012

Brill - The Pointer pub & four mile walk

Brill - The Pointer Pub & four mile walk on a foggy day

I know one should expect it to be foggy on in October, but the fog was so thick when we visited Brill this week that my beloved Border collie kept vanishing in the mists, I have no photographs of him on this visit. That doesn't matter, I sensed he was not far behind or in front of us.  He is the sort of dog that often goes off for a moment to investigate a smell or check something out, but he is never far away.  In all the 12 years that we have shared walks together, I have never lost him.
We were visiting Brill to check out The Pointer a newly revamped pub in the center of this charming little red-brick village  which thanks to the vision of David Howden and farmer/butcher Jon Wilkins it now comes complete with its own butcher's shop.
The butchers shop is only open during the afternoon three days a week at the moment, but once David and Jon have settled in, opening hours will be extended and the butchers will even sell freshly baked bread that comes from the pub's kitchen.
Our meal was scrumptious, nicely cooked and beautifully presented.
As  I am now working on a book about fish and chips - I ordered fish and chips and was not disappointed, whilst Uncle John went for the hotpot option that featured on the menu as a Senior Special at just £5, which was jolly good value. Judging by  amount of senior citizens enjoying lunch while we were there, he was not the only one who thought this.
As The Pointer is a free house, the beers can be selected from anywhere, so most were local, with their very own Pointer Pint created for the pub by the XT brewing company down the road, near Thame.  This proved a perfect ale for lunch. The grains and yeast to brew this tipple are given to David and Jon who feed them to the Longhorn cattle that they rear on the farm.
Apparently the Longhorn will be ready for Christmas, both to buy in the butcher's shop and  the festive menu that their chefs have created. Longhorn is a particularly tasty and succulent beef - the perfect roast for Christmas.

The walk begins at the 17th century windmill which stands close to Brill's other pub The Pheasant. Delightful views over Otmore make this hilly spot well worth a visit (when it is not foggy of course). The beginning of the walk is quite difficult however as the terrain is particularly rough, such that it would be easy to trip if you weren't looking where you were going. The circular walk took us towards the village of Oakley and Little London Farm. It took us one hour 45 minutes as we had to watch our step and the fog made this difficult. Also the presence of moist cow pats suggested that there were cattle present which we couldn't see.
The notable landmark on this walk is a very ordinary looking modern farmhouse, which replaces the original house built there, that  had been purchased by the Great Train Robbers in 1963, to provide them somewhere to hide and a garden in which they could bury some of the banknotes if needs be. Leatherslade Farm was their hideout for a couple of days, then they cleaned it from top to bottom to remove any fingerprints before leaving. Unfortunately for them they failed to wipe the tomato sauce bottle that was marked with Ronald Biggs prints.
Passing the farmhouse certainly added that extra something to our walk.
We enjoyed our visit to Brill so much, it's our attention to call in before Christmas to try some of the beef  and more of The Pointer beer.

Friday, 31 August 2012

Pythius visits Southrop

We have visited the Swan, frequently, it's a glorious 17th century inn that stands  in the centre the lovely little Cotswold village of Southrop, which you will find when travelling the A361 that runs from Lechlade to Burford.

Our As it changed hands recently we decided to check it out and make sure that Pythius was still welcome to put his paws under the table as he had previously done. The team running the pub is now headed by Rob  Broadbent who is general manage who comes from Sydney and David  Burke who is head chef. David has a brown Labrador  who is now settling down happily in his new country home.
Obviously  with David being a dog-lover needn't have worried about Pythius being allowed in, he was made very welcome..  Water was offered immediately - all in all he felt very welcome. So did we.
Deciding what to eat was difficult, as we were tempted to try the Old Spot Hash with a Southrop Fried Egg, but in the end we went for the Deep fried Haddock and chips.  It proved as tasty as any fish and chips we have enjoyed  recently.

And the beer? Oh yes, that was fine, how could anyone go wrong with  a glass of beer brewed at Hook Norton.  A half a pint of Old Hooky is the perfect accompaniment when eating well cooked fish and chips

A walk in Southrop is easy, the best one beginning at a little green path  on the left hand side of the road behind the pub,  By walking across the first field you you reach the river, which at this time of the year is crisp and cold.
Pythius loved it, and spent some considerable time wading about among the rushes and splashing about - something he is able to do freely at this time of the year as there are no nesting birds.
Must admit the ground was rather soggy, but this is not unique to Southrop, most walks we take these days call for Wellington boots because the rains have fallen so aggressively.
Pythius doesn't mind it being wet of course, he is a Border collie and built to make the most of everything that the countryside offers him.  A happy dog indeed.

Thursday, 5 July 2012

The ancient fort at Uley

Three mile walk round Uley Bury and a visit to the Old Crown Inn.

Our walk captured on our new magic machine that tracks our path
We were looking for a challenge and decided on Uley Bury, an Iron Age fort which stand on a spur of the Cotswolds escarpment. With an ascent of 345ft, which for us was challenge enough as poor Pythius is now suffering slightly from arthritis in his rear legs, it proved the perfect challenge.

Uley is a charming little Cotswold village in Gloucester shire, which can be viewed from the top of the hill fort as a cluster of little houses and a church that nestle comfortably on the flat earth below. It's all very picturesque.

We began our walk by taking the lane besides the village Post Office which doubles as the village store. On turning right after about 100 yards into yet another lane, we reached the stone walls surrounding the church yard and turned sharp left to a grassed field.  This is where our climb began We were heading for the woods that fringe the edge of this ancient fort. As you can see from the picture above we missed our mark slightly and had to backtrack to the gate that opens out to the wood and the main path up the hill.
Walking through the wood was delightful, if somewhat arduous.

View from the top
 Having reached the top, the rest of the walk was easy, just a matter of following the footpath signs that lead the walker gently round the plateau.  We did keep a watchful eye on Pythius at this point as red signs constantly reminded us that livestock were in the area.  That said, we saw nothing, not even a lone Cotswold sheep munching on the grass.

The Brewery

After our decent back into the village, we passed the famed Uley Brewery that supplies real ale to many pubs in the area. Built in 1833 on the edge of the village, it stands close to a spring that flows on to the Seven estuary. This is the fresh spring water that is used to create their brews which include: include Laurie Lee's bitter, Pigs Ear and Old Spot

Next came the pub,The Old Crown Inn, that stands in the middle of the village and has its own car park. This attractive white washed building is a 17th century coaching inn that is open all day, though no food is served in the afternoon.

Obviously Uley beers were on tap, so while sitting in the small walled garden at the rear we drank Pigs Ear which is a quite delightful amber coloured ale. Pythius was limited as usual to a bowl of cold water which he was in need of actually as there was no water en route and was getting thirsty.

Pythius says:
Must admit that this walk would have been even better if there had been a small stream or river, I certainly needed that water by the time we had reached the pub.  I did laugh when Helen and Uncle John kept stopping as they were climbing the hill.  They pretended they were admiring the view (one of their favourite tricks) but actually they were taking a rest!  Gosh they are wimps at times.

Am getting excited about our next book which will be Paws for the Cotswolds.  It is not quite finished yet, but has got to the stage where the publisher, (Jon carpenter Wychwood Press) is reading through the final proofs. Gosh what fun I will have when it comes out.

Sunday, 3 June 2012

Jubilee celebrations with our Aussie friends

Jubilee celebrations with our Aussie friends Graham and Roe from Melbourne
Pythius says:

Our lovely friends who have come to stay this weekend.
 "Gosh what an exciting weekend I am having. Helen's special friends Graham and Ro from Melbourne are stopping for the weekend before they go on to Scotland. They even asked me to choose a local pub where we could enjoy a plate of English fish and chips. I chose The Hand and Shears, Church Handborough, which is featured in my first Paws book - Paws Under the Table.
They toasted the Queen with Jubilee beer and I raised my water bowl to celebrate the occasion.  What fun we had.

Pythius sitting by the fire at the Hand and Shears.
 We are now off to enjoy the village lunch street party in Eynsham Square - will tell you all about it when I get back."

The Street Party
"Oh dear - the weather got in the way!
It proved so wet, cold and windy that that organisers decided to  hold it in the church, instead of the village  square. Because of these changes I was left at home to look after the cottage while Helen, Graham and Ro made their way to the party armed with beer, bottles of wine, cucumber sandwiches, spam sandwiches and lots of little cakes. Helen explained that it was very, very crowded and such a lovely atmosphere as everyone was there. The Eynsham Morris team danced outside when it stopped raining.
Most people dressed for the occasion, sporting wearing union flag hats. Helen didn't have a hat, but she wore her union flag apron and was smiling a lot when she got home, so were her lovely friends who let me share their room when they went to bed later that night.
Some the Eynsham Morris toasting the Queen

Our vicar Morey Adams

I am enclosing a picture that Helen took of the vicar while they were there. As you can see from the people in the background it seemed as if the whole village had  joined in the fun and toasted the health of her majesty.

Our friends have gone now. As I write they are making their way to Scotland where they aim to meet up with their son Adam and have a lovely time sight seeing, before going back to London and then Ireland. I shall miss them! They were very kind to me, particularly when I chose to sleep in their room instead of with Helen."

Pythius-Peacocke, Border collie.

Monday, 7 May 2012

Cothill and the Merry Miller pub

A Walk Through a Bluebell Wood at Cothill

Despite the rain and a very chilly wind, we decided it was time to walk through a bluebell wood and chose the Cothill area, close to Wooton and Dry Sandford, Oxfordshire.
Bluebell Wood Cothill
This was a walk that called for heavy boots or Wellingtons as the winding pathway running through the wood was so muddy we found ourselves slipping and sliding all over the place. Pythius didn't seem to mind, but he has four legs to balance him as he darted from tree to tree.
The path we took stands opposite the Merry Miller public house next go a spacious car park. It passes the entrance to the Parsonage Moor Nature Reserve which has been a designated Site of Special Scientific Interest since 1950 and is now managed by BBOWT. Because of the importance of this spring-fed wetland area, dogs are not permitted, so we just looked at the area and walked on through the bluebell wood.
We walked for about two miles, following footpaths at whim, finally turning back towards the main road and the Merry Miller as black rainclouds began to appear overhead.
What a glorious walk this proved. There is something remarkably peaceful about a bluebell wood, when the flowers are in full bloom, as they were when we walked. Everyone should amble through such a wood at least once during the spring, often stopping to stare and listen to the silence, only broken by intermittent bird song. Who cares about muddy boots? We certainly didn't. It proved a simply glorious walk.
The Merry Miller public house
Yes, we did call into the Merry Miller  after the walk, removing our muddy boots before entering, as dogs are welcome here. Gosh what a lovely pub - flagstones, beamed ceiling and rustic scrubbed tables - friendly professional staff too. The menu is superb, loads of choice, including pastas, risottos and loads of delicious fish dishes.  We chose whitebait and ordered a dish of the pubs special home fried chips to go with it. Pythius just had a bowl of cold water - but that was fine - he never eats at lunch time.

Our delicious lunch - whitebait
Pythius Says: "What a wonderful walk, yes, I did get covered with mud, but Helen dried me off with an old towel before we entered the pub. I was given a bowl of cold water, but didn't really need it as I had drunk my fill from all those muddy puddles along the way."

Wednesday, 11 April 2012


What a fascinating little Cotswold market town Northeach is. Its close proximity to the A40 makes it particularly accessible. Unfortunately many 'would be' visitors drive on towards Cheltenham without taking the slip road which would lead them to this delightful medieval town.

The river walk Pythius did not have this time
Uncle John and I had planned to take Pythius to Northleach on Bank Holiday Monday, and take him for a walk alongside the river Leach, but the weather got in the way. Rain and more rain and gale force winds had been predicted and that's exactly what we faced. A long walk therefore, was out of the question After a gallant attempt to face the elements we aborted our walk that would have circumnavigated the town and taken us alongside the River Leach .Instead we headed for the Sherborne Arms, a delightful dog-friendly pub in the middle of the market square. Here we warmed up and enjoyed a scrumptious lunch as we mingled with locals, tourists and fellow walkers.
Northleach's main street
A brisk walk to the top of town after lunch took us to the Old Prison which sits alongside the Fosse Way.

This unique 18th century building is a colourful piece of Cotswold History, where petty offenders (both men and women) were once locked up alongside hardened criminals. It has undergone several reincarnations since then.

The Old Prison was turned into a heritage centre in 1975, and still boasts a nationally significant collection of waggons, carts and farming equipment collected by the late Olive Lloyd-Baker, but sadly it is now awaiting a new owner and so stands half empty. The cafe is closed now and only one room devoted to the Cotswold Conservation Board remains open to the public. Friends of the Cotwolds are fighting to raise sufficient funds to buy this fascinating building. Even as I write they wait to hear if their bid has been successful.
Their intention is to turn it into a facility for both locals and visitors alike, which celebrates the very essence of the Cotswolds. They see it as a Cotswold treasure and do not want it to be converted into a hotel, block of flats or a supermarket. Nor do I.  It can offer so much more and act as a hub for training people in rural skills, encourage volunteer involvement in the countryside and spread understanding of the Cotswolds Area of Natural Beauty.
This is certainly a campaign worth supporting by us all.

Sunday, 4 March 2012

Roman villa North Leigh

Roman Villa North Leigh - 2 mile walk
The Swan Pub - Long Handborough

It was so misty when we set out for the Roman Villa at North Leigh (ten miles west of Oxford and two miles north of North Leigh, off the A4095), that I didn't bother to take my camera which means I lost the chance to take some enchanting shots of the sun suddenly piercing through the mist, filling the world with a golden glow. I offer this photo instead which was taken when Pythius and I walked this way last year.
First we visited the Swan Inn - Long Handborough which was renovated a couple of years ago by Steve Chick who managed to give it a new look, yet retain its rustic charm. During the renovations an old fireplace which had been hidden for more than a 100 years was uncovered, also a bricked up window.
The food is great, the menu offers a choice of several different steaks, home-made beef and beer pies, fish and chips and omelettes and sandwiches too at lunch time.
The Windrush Rambler's lunch which is a plate of home cooked ham, mature Cheddar cheese and crusty bread being the most popular choice for folk like us who aim to walk to the villa and then amble along the banks of the Windrush. Delicious beers from the nearby Hook Norton Brewery are always on tap.
The walk to the villa begins by taking a track opposite a lay by on the A4095.  After walking about 600 meters you will discover the villa laid out on the left hand side.  The villa it is known for its exquisite mosaic floor that is now covered with a roof to protect it from the elements.
Some of the mosaics are thought to have been created by Cirencester workers who have supplied mosaics to other villas in the Cotswolds, including Cedworth.
Entrance is free.
Having visited the villa, walk on down the track which opens out into a large meadow, then follow the bends of the river.  It ventually leads to a little bridge.  Cross this then turn left and you enter Stonesfield Common where dogs can run and run.

Pythius says;
I adore this walk during the winter when the meadows are devoid of livestock and I am allowed to run free, jump into the river and have the time of my life.  Not so sure I am into visiting villas, but I go along with that if it keeps Helen happy.

Friday, 13 January 2012

The Plough Inn, Finstock

The Plough Inn, High Street Finstock - one of the most dog friendly pubs in Oxfordshire.

This 18th century thatched pub is not just dog-friendly, it also serves the most scrumptious fish and chips I have ever eaten. I never bother to look at the menu when we call at the Plough Inn despite the delicous meals it lists - fish and chips are always the order of the day.
I will write more about this pub and the walk we enjoyed which circles the lovely Cotswold village of Finstock later. This post is just to let you all see one of Pythius's new friends and the notice that her owners Joe and Martin have hung in the bar to help her keep slim. It asks us not to feed the dog in a dozen different languages. Because customers have respected this request and have stopped passing her a chip every time she passes their table Bella has reduced her weight by more than 7 pounds.

This is Bella - the pub dog.  Isn't she beautiful.

Bella is so appealing customers began giving her treats from their plates - hence the notice! She is a slimline doggie now.