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Mud n pub!

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My weekly pub walks and lunches are falling into a lovely routine and more often than not my companion is my mum (I know, ahhhhhh!). I’m so busy generally in the week that I really look forward to a blast of fresh air and hike around with her before sitting down for a chat.

Last week we went to Beckley, a small village equidistant between Wheatley and Islip, and about 15 minutes to the East of Oxford. Beckley has a footnote in literary history as the home of Lewis Carroll and a regular visiting place of Richard Doddridge Blackmore, author of Lorna Doone. But I’d heard about Beckley’s pub The Abingdon Arms from a couple of friends who’d described it as a ‘proper pub’. Having seen a two mile circular walk around the pub that took in Otmoore Nature Reserve, I decided to try it out.

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But first, the walk!

We started at Beckley church and very quickly found ourselves in mud. Lots of mud.

Beckley church. Another beautifully composed Muddy shot with phone line!

The Norman loveliness of Beckley church. Another beautifully composed Muddy shot with phone line…

 

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My mum, just before she got stuck in the mud.

My mum, just before she got stuck in the mud. Yes, seriously.

My mum was wearing walking shoes instead of my sturdy trampers and at certain points on this walk I really thought she was going to slide downhill. Instead, she managed to get the mud – literally – and it took every fibre of daughterly love for me not to follow my blogging impulse, which was take a photo of her in situ. Instead, I went and rescued her, literally lifting her heels out of the gloop. Lovely!

Obviously it’s incredibly wet underfoot at the mo, I wouldn’t recommend doing this walk to anyone other than intrepid squelchers for the next two months. However, half way around it all became much more manageable, at the point where we reached the Otmoor Nature reserve. You can actually drive to the reserve, so it’s a good option with kids, or if you want to get a blast of countryside before lunch.

Please note that dogs are welcome on the public footpaths and bridleways on Otmoor but not on the permissive footpaths of the reserve.

The countryside around here is just gorgeous, typical wetland scenery.

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The nature reserve hut

The Wetlands Watch hut

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Bizarrely, on the day we walked here, we didn’t see any of the promised wigeons, teals, shovelers, pintails or starlings  – they’ve gone to the Caribbean to escape the weather  – but it was a lovely peaceful place. The whole walk with the odd detour here and there took us about 1 hr 15 mins, and brought us back to The Abingdon Arms for lunch.

I’d been discussing pubs with my friend Charlotte a few weeks ago, and she’d complained  that sometimes she doesn’t want to be offered a flippin’ crab cake or seared scallop after a bracing walk, she wants proper pub grub. The Abingdon Arms has it in spades. It’s a community pub in the best sense of the word – popular with residents, frequented by societies, putting on well-attended quiz and party nights and also supporting the community – the local art group currently exhibit and sell their work in the dining room. And if you’ve been for a walk to the nature reserve, 5% of your bill gets donated to RSPB Otmoor.

The decor is rustic, well appointed but lived in and entirely unpretentious.

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The back dining room

The back dining room

The menu was very ‘pubby’ – pies, fish and chips, etc – though the specials menu board offered more foodie options had we been so inclined.
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Our food was spot on – my ham, turkey and mushroom pie was delicious though it was so generous I couldn’t finish it all. My mum loved her fish and chips too.

My ham, turkey and mushroom pie

My ham, turkey and mushroom pie

Fish n chips

Fish n chips for mum

With the school run approaching, we only had time for a quick coffee – check out the froth on this baby!-

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… followed by a peer at the lovely tiered garden that looks out over Otmoor (currently closed to the public but will no doubt open at the first hint of spring sunshine).

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Then out into the sunshine, and back home to clean our boots.

 

Muddy boots

The Muddy Verdict:

Good for: families, dog lovers, muddy-booters, informal lunchers, anyone looking for a rural stop off on the Oxfordshire Way.

Not for: fine diners. The food is great, but the setting is resolutely pubby.

£££: Very reasonable. Starters £5-6, mains £11-13.

The Abingdon Arms, High Street, Beckley, Oxfordshire, OX3 9UU | 01865 351 311. www.abingdonarms.co.uk

 

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