Where you going, Clover?
When horse-mad Clover Stroud was just 16, her mother suffered a deadly riding accident, an event that detonated family life as Clover knew it. The Times and Telegraph journalist recounts her extraordinary story in The Wild Other, the most moving memoir you’ll read this year. (Warning: do not read it in public while wearing non-waterproof mascara – it’s a proper weepie). She’s lived all over the world, but is now firmly rooted back in her home county of Oxfordshire, in the tiny village of Baulking, near Uffington, so we’ve tapped her up for her excellent local recommendations. Clover is still crazy for horses, as well as her five – yes, FIVE children – aged between 16 and 6 months. We’re not quite sure how she ever makes it out the house with that many little ‘uns under her feet, but here are her favourite spots….
Norah’s Antiques, Turl Street, Oxford
My husband Pete buys me jewellery from here and – luckily for me – he always gets it right. I’m wearing seven rings today and four of them are from Norah’s, including my wedding and engagement rings, one that marks our first Christmas together and one to celebrate our children being born. I love how my fingers tell the story of my life. The shop is crammed with beautiful sparkly diamonds, rubies, topaz and gold, and the helpful owner Norah has a great eye.
Faringdon Coffee House, Faringdon
If my husband Pete and I ever manage to sneak off on a Friday night we’ll go to this local café for a bite to eat and to share a bottle of wine. It’s an unassuming little place next to the brilliant butcher’s in Faringdon that rather randomly does really good Lebanese food alongside the usual coffee and cakes. Their sharing plates with chicken wings, vine leaves and grilled aubergine are fantastic.
Milton Manor House, Milton, nr Abingdon
I stumbled across this amazing 18th century private home about 10 years ago, while I was driving around trying to find something to do with my older kids. The historian Lucy Worsley worked here after graduating and cites it as her inspiration. It’s rambling, eccentric and very English. There’s no gift shop, it hasn’t been done up and it’s only open for 30 days per year so check before you visit. The snowdrops are gorgeous at this time of year. It’s very magical, like something out of a fairy tale.
Moshi, Little Clarendon Street, Oxford
This is a very relaxed Japanese café in the middle of Oxford where we sometimes have a family lunch on a Sunday. It’s very spacious so we can fit everyone in and the buggy. We live in the middle of nowhere and it can be a bit bleak in the middle of winter – I like to head here for a bit of urban time and to escape from the mud. The sashimi is good, as are the wonton soups, and my children love the quirky Japanese fizzy pomegranate drinks.
White Horse Hill, Uffington
The 3,000 year old chalk horse carved into the side of White Horse Hill is beautiful, extraordinary and actually quite weird. It’s very special to me – I’ve been going there since I was a child and it’s the inspiration for my book. I drive a horse and cart and I’ll sometimes head up there for a reflective moment and to take in the stunning views across Oxfordshire. It’s a wonderful spot if you need some headspace, although can get busy on the weekends. I tend to go on weekdays and sometimes I’ll take my youngest children and a picnic.
Worton Organic Garden, nr Cassington
This lovely garden, farm shop and café is in an unlikely spot, close to the A40. It brims with locally grown fruit and veg, eggs, bread and gorgeous bunches of flowers – I love the fragrant sweet peas. It’s very small and has a passionate local following so it can be hard to get a table. It’s somewhere I occasionally have a stolen morning catching up with a female friend.
Pickled Walnut, Cowley Road, Oxford
We discovered this beautiful, colourful Syrian restaurant about a month ago and I’ve been a couple of times since – it’s my new favourite for a family meal. The food involves unusual flavours – for example, they use dates for flavour meat, there’s lots of walnuts as you’d expect from the name, and the baklava is made with the most amazing honey I’ve ever tasted.
The view from the John Radcliffe Spires maternity unit
All five of my children were born at the John Radcliffe and every one was a cosmic, wonderful experience. I was born there too, and found the fact that my late mother was here years before very comforting – it made me feel very connected to her, even though she couldn’t be there with me when I gave birth. Two of mine were born really early in the morning and I have memories of holding my newborn babies, taking in the view of the spires, with sunlight flooding across the city. It’s a beautiful place to have a baby.
The Fox & Hounds, Uffington
This is our local – it’s a fantastic, traditional, proper, unpretentious pub. It’s the kind of place that has the racing on the TV. I like popping in on a Friday night for a drink, or to grab delicious fsh and chips. The Sunday roast is good too. If it’s warm enough to sit in the garden, you get a wonderful view across the fields and up the White Horse.
‘The Wild Other’ (Hodder & Stoughton, £20) by Clover Stroud is published 9 Feb