Wednesday, February 22, 2017

My Favorite Country Walk to a Pub: The Bell Inn at Aldworth

One of my favorite country walks in England is a five mile loop around the Bell Inn at Aldworth. I know this part of Berkshire very well. My in-laws live in a neighboring village on the Oxfordshire side of the Thames. These rolling hills along the river are called the Goring Gap.

We usually park by a farm in Streatley and walk uphill to the Ridgeway. The Ridgeway is the oldest road in the UK, dating back to prehistoric times. Keep an eye out for horseback riders, tractors, and the occasional car. Our hardy son walked and ran 27 miles of the 87 mile Ridgeway the next day in the rain. The popular Ridgeway follows high ground to avoid the mud.

On any day of the year, England can easily be in the 50s and rainy. Luckily when our kids came to visit us for their February break, we had one dry day for our walk. Wellies (rubber boots) or hiking boots were still necessary for the footpaths on the way back to the carpark. A detailed Ordnance Survey map is a good idea too if you're walking a loop including footpaths.

Back home in New England, a blizzard was raging, but February is springtime in England. Instead of snow, there are blooming snowdrops.

About halfway through our walk, we stopped for lunch. The Bell Inn has been owned by the same family for 250 years and is located in the tiny village of Aldworth. The landlord is welcoming and has a good sense of humor. The Bell doesn't serve hot food beyond soup, but the Ploughman's Lunch (cheese, a warm bread roll, chutney, and salad) was delicious. Since it was midday, I had only a half pint of Arkells BBB.

Our teenage daughter was pleased to be legal in the UK but was too jet lagged for alcohol. Sixteen-year-olds can have beer, wine, or cider with a meal as long as they're accompanied by someone eighteen or older.

Although it was cozy inside by the fire, it can be crowded. We moved outside in the beer garden to enjoy the mild weather. Sunshine was good for the kids' jet lag too.

In the far corner of the beer garden is the secret exit to a footpath.

One of the best things about the UK is all the public footpaths crossing private lands and farms.

Since the footpath crosses through swards (Merriam Webster Dictionary retweeted this photo to illustrate the word of the day!) where livestock may be grazing, be sure to shut all gates.

The walk back to the carpark is a gentle path downhill, between the fields. After a reinvigorating week off, I'm happy to be back to work revising my young adult novel set in rural England.


thecuecard said...

Gorgeous photos Sarah! Can you really get away from the urban centers easily there? I'm all into the rural countryside! But I haven't traveled in the UK yet. I like the public footpaths you show -- how wonderful. Such a great break from the ugly-ness of all things Trump. Even in Canada we hear too much of it here. Enjoy your time in the UK.

Stacy said...

So lovely! It makes me want to live in the English countryside.

Amanda Summer said...

Brings back memories of my childhood spent in Surrey. How lovely to have all those walking paths to explore and then a delicious pub lunch to top it off along the way! Enjoy having your kiddos there with you ;))

A Cuban In London said...

Ah, country walks. One of the reasons why I feel more British per day. :-) This is the country that taught me really how to do country walks. And road-cycling, of course, as my latest post attests. On which...

I have actually thought of cycling the whole way from home to Cambridge and from home to Oxford. Honestly. I think that after I'm done with my marathon run in April, I will take to my two-wheeler full time at the weekend.

On another note, I am dreading my teen reaching sixteen next month because of alcohol. Yet, I believe she is quite responsible and mature for her age, so, hopefully she will be able to handle her drink.

Greetings from London.

troutbirder said...

Oh my you've photographed the England of my dreams. Yes, London and Paris chaperoning some of my high school seniors (classroom without walls)but your gorgeous pictures remind me of something special I missed...:)

cynthia newberry martin said...

Stunning photos, Sarah. The secret exit to the footpath is my favorite. And I adore the rhythm and beauty of this day. It makes me nostalgic for my time in England.

Sarah Laurence said...

All, sorry to be so tardy to reply to your comments!

Cue, the UK has strict green belt policies which promote development in town and protects the rural countryside. Despite the dense population, there are plenty of rural places to walk outside of the big cities. Given the political situation in the USA, I envy you for being Canadian and for having such a marvelous PM.

Stacy, it is lovely indeed.

Amanda, I'm happy to rekindle fond memories.

ACiL, if you bike/travel to Oxford before we leave in mid May, let me know. It is stressful being a parent of teen drinkers but at least yours won't be driving too. Good luck!

troutbirder, you owe yourself a return trip without any responsibilities.

Cynthia, thanks! It reminded me of The Secret Garden...the Secret Beer Garden.

Petra Pavlátková said...

Over 250 years in the same family, that's some tradition! :)
What a great country walk, I love how you documented it in your photos.