Watlington: small but perfectly formed

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I haven’t had a Muddy day out in one town for a while – the last one was Chipping Norton last summer – but they’re good fun to do and always surprising too, because what you see from the car window on the main road never tells the story.

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That’s definitely the case for Watlington, the south of Oxford that’s I’ve always used as a ‘through road’ to Benson, Streatley and Goring, the tight road pushing drivers through the old market square, with little opportunity to pull off and park up.

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Watlington is actually an ancient (and tiny) town – the smallest town in the UK, fact fans – of which the beautiful 17th century brick Town Hall is proof. But actually, Watlington does have much more of a village feel, with a cute town-house library, narrow streets, and a gorgeous ‘Midsomer Murder’ Norman church (well worth a swing off the main thoroughfare.) It does feel quite ‘bricky’ – like Wallingford, there’s a predominance of brick buildings that naturally feels heavier than, say, a Cotswold stone, but it’s a handsome place, and worth a stop if you’re that way.

I struck it lucky with a park down the bottom of the high street, and slowly walked my way to the top of the street, via my favourite chocolate shop, Tutu Delicious. I’m not kidding, this shops is awesome.  The coffee and cardamon and the salted caramel choccies are unbelievably delicious, and I love the packaging too – reallly pretty for small gifts for parties etc.

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There was a very cool looking interior shop, HEH, that was closed but I’d like to go back for a proper snoop another time. I took this shot through the window, and have since heard that it’s turning into more of an interior design space, so I’ll look into that and get back to you.

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What else? Well, continuing on the same street there’s a cafe, The Granary at No 18, whose main calling card is its frankly stupendously well-equipped deli. They hold special events there – tasting evenings, pop up restaurant nights etc – and it’s no wonder really because this place is dinner-party heaven. The cheese counter is huge, and they sell over 100 UK and continental cheeses in the shop and online. As is the trend, they also keep it local where possible, with cakes  home-baked 3 miles away, bread flour from Wantage, cheese from Berkshire, Oxfordshire wines, etc.

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A little bit further up the road is K is for Kitchen which I wrote about a few months back as it’s a little piece of cooking and entertaining heaven – you can even buy a kitchen in there! They too have started running special events – Muddy Award winner Cici Coco Cookery School is holding a pasta-making workshop there on 11 Feb if you fancy learning how to make tagliatelle al cioccolato with a savoury sauce (or even learning what it means in English).

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So that was a pleasant meander for an hour or so. I’d heard from a friend that she’d had some amazing bottles of wine from Peter Osborne fine wines so I drove five minutes to Watcombe Manor Farm on the outskirts of the town. I’m becoming increasingly anti-supermarket with my wine buying (yes Waitrose, even you *s0b* ) because the more I meet local indie wine merchants the more I realise that they’re not just a more expensive version of a supermarket offering (my original misconception) but they are really, truly passionate and knowledgeable and fair about wine and offer versions of wines not available in the superstores as fairly priced as possible.

Peter’s been trading for decades, and was runner up in the IWSC Independent Retailer of the Year 2010 Award, so he knows what he’s doing, and has long-standing relationships with the best vineyards around the world. I have a dinner party coming up in the next month (when the fun ban has been lifted – oh god, it’s taking so LONG) and I’m definitely going to use him for the wine, so I’ll show you what he suggests nearer the time.

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I ran out of time (those pesky kids…) to see Jones & Jacob auctioneers  but I’m going back next week. I have a thing about auctions at the mo, it’s my new plan for picking up fantastic pieces at incredibly low prices, so we’ll see if that one is a fantasy or not!

Finally, if you make it to Watlington with kids, there’s a fantastic playground with adult exercise equipment (no excuses, start those pull ups lady), a skate park, zip wires and all that malarkey on the edge of the village heading towards Shirburn, and there are two pubs I haven’t tried yet but are apparently safe local options if you’re in need of nosh – The Chequers and The Fat Fox .

And finally finally, don’t forget that Watlington Hill and Christmas Common are knockout gorgeous for views, walking dogs, getting kids in the fresh air, disposing of elderly relatives (JOKE!) and eating. The Fox and Hounds pub has been recently refurbed. I’m yet to review but as soon as I make it you’ll be the first to know.

Know a great village or town you think I should review? Email [email protected]

 

9 comments on “Watlington: small but perfectly formed”

  • Fiona Beckley February 4, 2015

    Thank you for the fantastic review of our little town. There is ample parking behind the Co-Op – use the little side road next the to fish and chip shop (excellent Fish and Chips – especially during the filming of Fury – when lots of the extras came in!) The caterer for the film also bought his sausages from Calnans the (excellent) butcher and they are now his preferred supplier. Watling will be hosting it’s first market (from small beginnings) at the Town Hall on Friday, 6th February.

    Reply
  • Georgia Lacey February 4, 2015

    Three cheers for Watlington many happy childhood memories spent there!

    Reply
  • Gordon Britton February 6, 2015

    watlington is a fantastic place and you did a good review , but you missed out the carriers pub , which has good cheap food , the memorial club , which has , good ales , and also has bowls, tennis and the cheapest squash membership in oxfordshire .

    Reply
    • muddystiletto February 6, 2015

      Hi Gordon, thanks for pointing those out. Hard to get around everything sometimes, so I rely on your comments to flag up the bits I missed! Thanks, Hero x

      Reply
  • Joanna February 6, 2015

    Don’t forget The Cake Makers at the bottom of the High Street next time you visit! Celebration cakes and tea time treats.

    Reply
    • muddystiletto February 6, 2015

      Will do. Thanks for the tip! x

      Reply
  • Joy February 7, 2015

    Watlington is also a fabulous starting point for beautiful walks and cycle rides in the Chilterns. With the Ridgeway long distance path running 5 minutes walk from the high street, Watlington is perfect for outdoor activities. We even has some great B&B’s and pub accommodation at the Fat Fox for people not lucky enough to live in this wonderful town. A lot of us think we have found the perfect place to live and wouldn’t live anywhere else now!

    Reply
    • muddystiletto February 7, 2015

      Yes Joy, it does have a lovely vibe. You’re a lucky lady! x

      Reply
  • Debra Rhodes June 28, 2015

    Hi there
    I live in Watlington which you did a really interesting article about some time ago.
    You were interested in an Interior Design shop on the High St, called HEH and you took a photo of the closed shop. Well I just wanted to tell you that I will be working with Harriet Holgate, the owner, on Interior Design projects around Bucks, Oxon and in London. We are currently working on a lovely home in Turville giving it a Boho Eclectic theme with huge Pop Art pictures. Lots of Fun. I would love to tell you more if you are interested?! And perhaps give your readers a chance to see some photos of the amazing pictures by a young artist, Amber. They are full of energy and high gloss colour….. ready to make a “Pop” in any room!

    Reply

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