Friday, 9 December 2011

Filkins - Five Alls Pub

A short one mile amble from Five Alls Pub, Filkins to the Cotswold Weaver's Heritage Centre and back, via surrounding meadows.

HAD it not been pouring with rain driven across the landscape by gusty blasts of wind travelling at more than 40 miles an hour, we may have walked further, but it was not the weather for walking. Even dog seemed rather uncomfortable about the way the rain was beating down on his coat. (You will notice I have taken no photos of the countryside this time as I feared the rain would damage the camera)

We were visiting Filkins, a beautiful little Cotswold village that lies just three quarters of a mile off the A361 between Burford and Lechlade and about 20 miles from Oxford. Its an 18th century pub The Five Alls, which was once a coaching inn, and stands in the middle of the village. As it has recently undergone a face lift, everything gleams, inviting visitors to walk in over the flagstone floors, warm themselves on the open fire and admire the wooden ceiling in the bar area. A spacious and well designed restaurant area is also available, but obviously dogs are not allowed there, they are restricted to the bar area, but that is fine, its as stylish as the restaurant.

The name - The Five Alls - is confusing, did the original sign writer mean to write Five Ales, but placed an extra L where the E should have gone?

No look at the picture and you will notice that a picture of the devil's head is in the middle. he is surrounded by a lawyer who pleads for all, a parson who prays for all, a soldier who fights for all and a farmer who pays for all - the devil it seems governs all.

As it is a Breakspear pub, fine ale such as Oxford Gold and Breakspear Best Bitter are available at all times. These are brewed nearby at the market town of Witney and taste fantastic. Oxford Gold being the perfect lunch drink.

The food served here is really delicious, with very reasonably set menus served during lunch time. As the chips are cooked in goose fat, it goes without saying that they are both tasty and crunchy and are so beautifully served it was easy to imagine we were eating in a Five Star hotel.

Pythius was served lunch too, a small dish of shaped doggie biscuits which I allowed him to eat as it was such a cold day and he would need all the energy he could get when we struggled against the wind and rain after lunch.

The staff by the way are both professional and very friendly, nothing was too much trouble, their service made us all feel very spoiled.

The walk is easy, just a matter of turning left as you leave the pub, walking through the main street past magnificent yew hedging, St Peter's Church and then the War Memorial and Rouses Road marked by a red letter box. Turn down this road, past the village shop with its blue plaque dedicated to Sir Stafford Cripps, statesman and benefactor to the village. You will eventually come to a stile on the right hand side which leads to a muddy little lane, and then a large meadow, which had it not been raining we would have circumnavigated to give Pythius an extra run. Instead we walked to the far end of the field where we were about to spot the Cotswold Woollen Weavers Heritage Centre. Dogs are not normally allowed inside the centre, but the staff felt so sorry for us, we were all ushered inside. By this time we looked like drowned rats! Pythius was certainly soaking wet, while he sat waiting, water dribbled off his coat, such that it looked as if he was sitting in a small pond.

Weavers are still working at the centre, weaving some magnificent cloth from wool shawn from Cotswold sheep, known for its natural lustre. Ready made garments, hats and soft furnishings are also on sale. It is a fascinating place and well worth a visit.

Pythius says: I think that Auntie Liz and Helen act like bears with little brains at times. Who but them would venture forth when the rain is coming down in torrents and the wind is so strong it is almost blowing them over? Thank goodness that the lovely woman who served our lunch provided me with a little bowl of dog biscuits to keep me going. They were tasty and helped keep out the cold.

Wednesday, 7 December 2011

The Cotswolds -Friendship Trail

Cotswolds Friendship Trail & Old Spot Inn Dersley - Three and a half mile walk

The weather forecast was grim, but we piled on extra layers of thermal clothing and headed for Dursley, Gloucestershire anyway. Nothing was going to stop us walking the newly established Korea friendship Trail that circumnavigates the summit of Stinchcombe Hill.

The Trail, which follows a Cotswold Way three mile circular walk is one of the world's first such trails - and what a first!

This glorious trail, with views to die for, is possibly the most satisfying walk we have ever taken.

The twinning with a Cotswold walk with a similar walk on Jeju Island, off the southwest coast of Korea is a new initiative that came about as a result of the World Trail's conference on Jeju Island, attended by representatives of the Cotswold Way.

Essentially the idea is similar to the twin town's concept which enables people from two similar places, but in different parts of the world, to team up with each other. It is hoped that this idea will soon spread all over the globe.

The Trail is marked as both the Cotswold Way and with signs of the Jeju Ollie, which is known as the "Ganse" and shaped like a Jeju pony which appears on the Korean Trail on the Jeju Island too.

The word Ganse translates to "lazy bones" and for good reason as both trails wind their way through beautiful countryside which should be absorbed at a pace slow enough to embrace all before you and allow you time to fully appreciate the landscape that spreads out into the far distance.

Because there are no stiles to clamber over, and the terrain, whilst undulating, makes for easy walking you will find it compels you to slow down and absorb each breathtaking scene as it presents itself.

Stinchcombe Hill is part of the Cotswold Edge, set on the southern edge of the Escarpment above the Severn valley. It offers magnificant views of the Forest of Dean, the Black Mountains, the Malvern hills, the Bristol Channel and North Devon and acts as a magnificent backdrop for the Gloucestershire market town of Dursley where this lovely walk begins.

A free public car park opposite the award winning Old Spot Inn, Dursley is but a minute's walk from the corner of May Lane and Hill Road. A Cotswold marker post and signs for the Jeju Ollie point you towards a trek up May Lane, and eventually a golf clubhouse. This part of the walk is arduous so if you prefer to start at the top of the hill (as we did) just drive on to the top and use the public car park there.

The rest is so easy very few instructions are needed, as by following the Way signs in a clockwork direction you will be able to follow the Trail easily. Benches are provided along the trail to enable walkers to sit and soak up the views as they present themselves and a stone cabin has been erected at the half way point to provide shelter if the weather turns around.

My beloved Border Collie loved this walk, as there were no livestock to worry about and there were no signs asking us to keep the dog on a lead. There was a moment when a golf ball flew over our heads at a tremendous rate, that frightened him and us, but otherwise this walk is doggie heaven.

On returning to Dursley we all tipped into the Old Spot Inn for a hot beef sandwich and half a pint of real ale. This is one of those traditional boozers which really knows what hospitality is all about. Pythius was made as welcome as we were, the food was great and beer local. Had it not been getting late and dusk was threatening to settle, I am sure we would have settled in for the afternoon and gone on enjoying the intimate atmosphere of this fantastic little pub.