The King’s Head Hotel, Thirlmere, January 2018

It’s the first day of #tryanuary. So a trip to the pub is certainly in order. As ever, we do it the hard way, by sticking a hill somewhere along the route and getting up and down it before lunch. Today, that was Great How. Puzzlingly, it’s not a Wainwright, so our total for 2018 is zero for now. We got to the top and enjoyed lovely sunshine and great views. As soon as we were back at the bottom, the skies decided that it was time to open, and we walked the rest of the way to the pub in the rain. A classic Lakes walk.

We came to this pub almost exactly a year ago (on the day that started our hatred of the stupidly over-priced 555 bus). So we knew that they serve food all day, perfect when you’re out walking and you’re not exactly sure when you will arrive at the pub for lunch.

A similar sandwich to last year, but they got my order right today and delivered the requested ham and cheese instead of bacon and brie (technically ham and cheese).

The salad has shrunk a bit, but the pickle/chutney now comes in a little dish. Warm and tasty and just the thing to help dry out on a soggy day.

You’ll note the lack of beer, despite being the first day of #tryanuary. When all they’ve got is some Jennings beers which haven’t been locally owned since 2005, then I’ll save myself for some independent local beers later on. Tryanuary is about supporting local pubs and independent breweries, so whilst I’m happy that we supported a local pub, I don’t want any beer money going back to Wolverhampton. This rejection of anything owned by the Marston’s empire may seem a bit snobbish, but I just prefer to support smaller local breweries rather than the enormous beer conglomerate.

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Lake District Wildlife Park cafe, Bassenthwaite, Cumbria, December 2017

Keep it simple and you won’t go far wrong. A reasonable mantra for life and certainly for a business. After our aborted visit to the Wheatsheaf Inn, we came back this way, having driven past on our way to the “no food today” pub.

The Lake District Wildlife Park has been around for a while, but we’ve never been, as we are usually out in the hills with the actual local wildlife rather than the imported mandrils and red pandas in cages.

The most handy feature is that they have a cafe that serves food all day, and you can visit the cafe without paying to get in to the park itself, which is nice. Both Mrs MOFAD and I had a ham and cheese panino which comes with chilli tortilla chips and a nice coleslaw (not onion heavy).

Exactly what we wanted for today, well priced, tasty and quick. A friendly little cafe which is handily placed if you find yourself at the top end of Bassenthwaite Lake (the only lake in the Lake District).

We didn’t linger as there was one more Wainwright to ascend for 2017, and we had to get up and down before it got too dark…

Ellis’ Tea Room, Rothley Station (Great Central Railway), November 2017

The Great Central Railway is the UK’s only double track, main line heritage railway. It’s the only place in the world where full size steam engines can be seen passing each other – just as it was when steam ruled the rails. And it’s just down the road from us, which is rather handy. We’ve been to various bits of it over the years, been to the beer festival (every September), been on the dining experience trip (many years ago), and Mrs MOFAD had her 40th birthday party in one of the carriages as we steamed to Leicester and back. It was a great night.

Trains run every weekend of the year, bank holidays and selected weekdays throughout the summer.  The railway has won a number of awards including “independent railway of the year”, a gold award for the East Midlands’ best visitor experience and is a quality assured visitor attraction as designated by Enjoy England.

The latest project is to reconnect the northern part of the line which ran towards Nottingham (the clock tower outside the Victoria Centre is all that remains of Nottingham Victoria station). You can see more about the project here:-

Each station along the line (Loughborough, Quorn and Woodhouse, Rothley and Leicester North) has its own food and drink offerings. Loughborough has a buffet cafe and a shop on the main platform. Quorn and Woodhouse has the Butler Henderson cafe and the NAAFI tearoom. Leicester North as the Station tearoom (tea, coffee, snacks, cakes).

Our destination was Rothely station, and Ellis’ Tea Room. There’s also the Station tearoom on the platform, but Ellis’ Tea Room is separate to that. The building which houses it was built in 1899 when the Great Central Railway was opened. Local firm Joseph Ellis and Sons Ltd used it to store corn and coal, ready to be collected by wagons and sent around the country by train. The building fell out of use well before the GCR was preserved but has now been fully restored and carefully converted to a tea room. It serves hot and cold drinks, homemade cakes, sandwiches, light lunches and ice creams.

Today we both had panini, ham and cheese for me, tuna melt for Mrs MOFAD. The cafe was very busy and our lunch took a while to arrive but it was very tasty when it did. They do prioritise lunches for those people who have a train to catch, which makes sense.

A simple lunch today, just what was required on a crisp autumn day. And no visit to a steam railway is complete without taking a photo or two of a train. Obvs.

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.

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