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David Hancock has been a pub and restaurant inspector for more than 25 years, writing for publishers including Egon Ronay’s guides, Which? and the AA, and serving as a judge on numerous panels. He edits the Alastair Sawday Pubs & Inns Guide, which has just celebrated its 10th edition. Here he picks five favourite pub gardens to enjoy in summer.
The Feathered Nest Country Inn, Nether Westcote, Chipping Norton, Oxfordshire. The village is tiny, the bar lively, the food a treat. This 300-year-old malthouse had a recent facelift and now shines. The view is the best in the Cotswolds, drawing you to the terrace where quilted fields run to a distant ridge. You get beds of lavender, swaths of lawn, and a vegetable garden that serves the kitchen. Bedrooms upstairs are gorgeous.
The Duke of Cumberland Arms. Henley, Haslemere, Sussex. The Duke’s cottage walls are engulfed by wisteria; beyond is a tiered garden, with babbling pools and huge Weald views. Two tiny bars creak with character. Choose a pint of Hip Hop or Goodwood Organic Blonde from the cask. The new dining room is a show-stopper;menus rely on fresh local produce, including Goodwood organic rib-eye steak and South Downs lamb.
Turtley Corn Mill, Avonwick, South Brent, Devon. The mill has six acres sloping down to a lake and space for a multitude of picnic tables: order your hampers in advance. There are ducks, too, and boules, croquet, Jenga and a vast chess set. The food is traditional and homemade, and there’s Princetown Jail Ale on tap and a raft of wines by the glass.
The Carpenters Arms, Felixkirk, Thirsk, Yorkshire. Peace has returned to sleepy Felixkirk following a dramatic transformation of the Carpenters Arms. It’s now a rather stylish country inn, set around a landscaped garden with views that stretch across the Vale of Mowbray to the Dales. There’s a decked terrace and eight swish garden suites, while inside, stone floors, wonky beams, scarlet walls and comfy old furniture provide an inviting backdrop for tasty food. Fabulous moorland walking awaits, too, so bring the boots.
The Hundred House Hotel, Norton, Shropshire. The Phillips family has been at the helm for 25 years and Henry is an innkeeper with humour. As for the inn, having begun its life in the 14th century, it rambles charmingly inside as well as out. Dried flowers hang from beams, herbs sit in vases, and blackboard menus trumpet delicious fare. You are surrounded by Sylvia Phillips’ wild and wonderful collage art. Wander out with a pint of Ironbridge Brewery and share a quiet moment with a few stone lions in the beautiful garden, a flight of fancy full of herbaceous plants and more than a hundred herbs.
‘Pubs & Inns of England & Wales’, 10th anniversary edition, edited by David Hancock, is published by Alastair Sawday Publishing at £15.99, www.sawdays.co.uk