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8 Cosy Pubs with Snowdrop Walks

If you feel like a bracing winter walk on one of those crisp February days when the sun’s out, the sky is blue and the first snowdrops are out, Warwickshire is a country jam-packed with nature reserves, wildlife hotspots, ancient bluebell woods, canals and heritage sites. And there’s usually a cosy village pub nearby for a warming Sunday lunch, a hot toddy (and more importantly a loo!).

The Kitchen at Farnborough, near Gaydon

After stomping through the beautiful rolling Warwickshire countryside around Farnborough Hall how about heading back to The Kitchen for some rustic British cooking where wet dogs and muddy wellies are always welcome?  It’s a Grade II listed independent gastropub with a bright red log burner, an excellent, inventive menu and a fine selection of gins. Dogs even get a water bowl and woofy treats. (But don’t go on a Tue or Wed as it’s closed).

Very kindly they’ve posted some of the best walks. The closest is two minutes from the pub car park around Farnborough lake and woods. Nearby is the honey-coloured National Trust home, Farnborough Hall.  It’s closed until April but you can still follow a 5.5m circular walking trail with views over the Grade I listed parkland.

Draycote Water Reservoir and The Dun Cow, Dunchurch, near Rugby

Draycote Water,Photo: Jamie Gray

Once a week in term-time my friends and I drop the kids off at school and meet for a 5-mile circular trek *gossip* around the reservoir. You can park at Draycote Water car park (all-day for £2.50), but we tend to set off down the public footpath in the quaint elevated village of Thurlaston, where you get amazing views. Along the way, you pass Toft Farm, which has a herd of more than 200 alpacas, the sailing club, stunning countryside views and the Waterside Restaurant. It’s a birdwatching hotspot. Fantastic for cycling, sailing, windsurfing and family picnics too.

The Dun Cow is 1 mile away, so in theory you could park there and walk that extra mile, but it’s on my drive home – that’s my excuse anyway. It’s a very popular village local with rustic charm and warm log fires in the winter. It’s especially good for light bites, a quick whisky and ginger ale at lunch, or a cheese board & wine. (Not when you’re doing the school run…obviously!)

Bear Inn, Berkswell, near Coventry

A 16th Century Grade II listed timber pub with a colourful past, at the heart of  a peaceful rural West Midlands village, just outside Coventry.

Cromwell’s troops reportedly stayed at  The Bear Inn during the English Civil War, and in the Second World War Coventry residents took refuge from the Blitz and slept on the bar floor.  I stumbled across it years ago on a random road-trip.

Head out on a 4.5m circular walk from the pub via field paths, parkland and Sixteen-acre wood then warm up before a roaring fire with a Sunday lunch or one of their Taste of Winter specials – a Mushroom & Chestnut Cobbler perhaps, with good old Spotty Dick or Salted Caramel Apple Crumble?

Alternatively why not begin with a quick drink at The Bear and go on a 7.5m circular trek to the lovely Ye Olde Saracens Head, Balsall Common (below), then back again…

Ye Olde Saracens Head, Balsall Common

Ye Olde Saracens Head  is another cosy 16th century village pub, close to The Bear specialising in charcoal oven steaks, wood fired pizzas and local ales. It was recommended to me, not only by a very good friend who lives in the village but friends who live in surrounding villages. It’s very popular!

There’s an easy stress-busting Saracen’s Head Figure-of-Eight walk from the pub car park across Balsall Common to Grange Farm, towards Barston the River Blythe and back past Wootton Grange livery and stables.

The Howard Arms, Ilmington, near Shipston-on-Stour

 You’ll be fighting to get into those comfy leather armchairs after hoofing it around the tranquil village of Ilmington, eight miles south of Stratford-upon-Avon. The Howard Arms is in an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty with beautiful walks.

The owners have conveniently put together their four favourite circular walking routes that start and end at the charming 400-year-old Cotswold stone pub. They range from 2.5m to 6m, and include a Walk on Wheels, that’s both wheelchair and buggy friendly – how cool is that? Check out a lovely guide book, 20 Walks in Shipston County, produced by local charity Shipston Home Nursing (£6).

For sustenance, there’s a £9.50 Weekday Walkers’ Special, (Mon – Fri), which includes homemade soup of the day, sandwich and shortbread. They’ll send you off with water bottles refilled, flasks recharged and a handful of dog biscuits for hungry hounds. This characterful country inn has beautiful bay windows, polished flagstones, wooden beams and one of the best open fireplace I’ve come across.

The Stag At Offchurch, near Leamington Spa

For the superkeen there’s the 6.5mile Offchurch Circular starting at The Stag at Offchurch, a fab gastropub with a relaxed atmosphere, an amazing drinks list and warm log fires, in the delightful village of Offchurch. You’ll take in part of the Millennium Way, a beautiful 100m walk across three counties, the parish church of St Gregory, kissing gates, a high bridge over a disused railway at Hunningham Hill and the River Leam. The pub is very child-friendly and well-behaved dogs are allowed in the bar area. It’s an easy drive from Leamington. Read my review here,

White Hart Inn, Ufton, near Leamington Spa

The White Hart Inn is a village pub with a lovely atmosphere, friendly staff, panoramic views and several decent walks. There are two Blue Lias circular rambles, both 5.5miles long taking in beautiful scenery including Ufton, Long Itchington Woods and ancient bluebell woodland dating back to 1001. For anyone feeling not so energetic or in the company of small children, Ufton Fields Nature Reserve – a 100-acre site managed in partnership with Warwickshire Wildlife Trust – is a less strenuous half mile away. It’s home to 15 different types of dragonfly and 28 species of butterflies.

View from the White Hart

The Bell Inn, Ladbroke, near Southam

The Bell Inn offers walkers a very warm welcome. Leave your car in the car park, pre-order your lunch and head off. Here you can leave your muddy boots in the porch and warm up by the open log fire in winter.

This cosy Warwickshire country pub in an attractive village two miles from Southam, is opposite a picturesque Tudor thatch. Inside there’s exposed beams, tweed clad furniture and a reasonably priced Prix Fixe Menu (2 courses for £14.95).  At lunch-time there’s also freshly baked baguettes, burgers and a great choice of seasonal mains. Several walks start at The Bell through the village across farmland, bridleways and woodlands, including  two Blue Lias Rings circular routes, one just over 5miles and the other 8 miles.

 

I’m always looking out for good walks and excellent pubs within staggering distance, so let me know your favourites.

 

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The Urban Guide to the Countryside - Warwickshire