The Pear Tree, Hook Norton, July 2017

Where do you go when you’ve just been shopping at the Hook Norton brewery? To the 18th century pub just down the road. It’s not quite the brewery tap (there’s a bar inside the brewery shop which serves as that), but as it’s so close, it’s as good as one. Presumably named after the pear tree which grows up the front of it, this is a pub that we’ve been to before, for lunch and a walk a few years ago now.

It was nice to be back, and we had a leisurely chat over some hot drinks and beers, whilst waiting for Paul (and eager young pup Snitch) who we had last seen in the field just up the road from this very spot this time last year, whilst at the Hooky beer festival. We ordered some lunch too. This was accompanied by a pint of Hook Norton Katy Lou which was released as we were sitting here, a special for the beer festival.

I had a bacon and brie panino, which was very nice, with a decent bit of salad on the side. Everyone in our party had a lovely lunch.

A great little village pub, good food and drinks and a friendly atmosphere.

We close this review with something unusual.

A toilet.

A urinal to be precise. With something rather different about it. If you don’t visit many urinals, then rest assured that they don’t usually look like this.

It’s the first time I’ve ever seen anything like this. It’s obviously designed to help you focus your aim in the right place. Odd.

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Attenborough Nature Reserve cafe, Nottinghamshire, October 2016

A relaxed day today. After the shock of a week back at work, we had a quiet weekend at home. Yesterday we waved goodbye to our greenhouse, dismantling it and moving it on to a new forever home. Today we wanted a little stroll and a spot of bird nerding, as we’d enjoyed it a lot at Minsmere the previous week. Our local nerding spot is the Attenborough Nature Reserve, not too far over the border in Nottinghamshire. Several bird hides and lots of paths to stroll around. We’ve been here a few times for walks and bike rides.

We arrived at the cafe towards the end of lunch time, and soon found a table and then ordered at the counter. Simple things to choose from, sandwiches, soups, a stew, a choice of panini and some other bits and pieces.

A cheese and bacon panino for me, simple and tasty, and just the sort of thing you would expect from a nice little cafe like this. Token salad on the side, just enough to add some interest. I also had a packet of crisps, and they were “posh crisps” not just Golden Wonder cheese’n’onion.

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Suitably satisfied, we set off for a stroll in the afternoon sunshine and around a few of the hides to spot some birds. Some of our best spotting came from the hide just outside the cafe, where lots of juvenile lapwing were sunning themselves on the shores of one of the lakes.

A lovely little cafe and a lovely day out. Only £2 to park for the whole day too.

The Swan in the Rushes, Loughborough

The Swan has been a constant in my life for nearly 20 years. It was somewhere we never went as students as it wasn’t appealing to students back in the early 1990s. When you could get a pint for a pound in the student union, venturing to town for proper ale was not something on our radar.

That all changed when I started my second job, and met new work colleagues who had more than a passing interest in ale. It was they who introduced me to the delights of The Swan, and would regularly keep inviting me to sample their produce. We all fondly recall the heady days of sitting at the tables in the car park, eating nachos with whole roasted chillis. I’m drooling at the memory…

A lot has changed since then. The “beer patio” upstairs, on the side of the old function room, which is now “The Hop Loft”. The “dining room” was extended and changed a couple of times. And even the area behind the bar has changed a bit, with a more extensive fridge full of bottled ales.

Ah, the ale. This was the main reason we all came to The Swan for so many years. They have always had the best selection of ales in town. They were for so long an oasis in a desert of Carling and Fosters. The picture has improved vastly over the years, and there are now at least 4 other pubs where you can get a good few pints of ale, including one pub owned by a former Swan landlord.

The ale selection remains undiminished. As well as the regular selection of Castle Rock beers (they own the pub) there are always 5 or 6 guest ales, plus a new craft range and then loads of bottles to choose from. There are also several “proper” ciders and perries always on, and a great selection of very good single malts.

Today it was a pint of Silver Shadow from Ossett brewery. A lovely blonde ale, hoppy and bitter. Just what I’m looking for in a blonde ale.

So, to the food. This is where things have fluctuated so much over the years. A procession of cooks came and went at various times. Today, things have stabilised and settled down. They serve the full range of Pieminister pies, starting from £4.50, with various optional extras. You can also have “the mothership” which includes pie, mash, peas, gravy and crispy onions.

There are also cold cobs (rolls if you’re not from round these parts) with a selection of traditional fillings, such as ham, cheese, etc. And finally, to my choice, from the selection of panini. I went for chicken and pesto, and a bowl of chips. Always nice to have a toasty sandwich on a cold day, very tasty stuff.

The Swan is back to what it does best. Great ales and a simple selection of good pub grub. It also appears on the MOFAD map