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.