Friday 5 April 2013

Kick off those muddy boots

One of the enduring themes of this blog has been how many rural and village pubs have in effect transformed themselves into restaurants and turned their back on the casual drinker. This is something that has been echoed by Kate Ashbrook of the Open Spaces Society, who complains that too many pubs no longer welcome walkers, horse-riders and cyclists. “You want them to have a nice stone floor and informality, a place where a bit of mud won’t matter because they will sweep it up later,” she says. To that you could add bikers, rural workers and indeed anyone who just wants to have a quiet pint and read the paper.

Clearly in today’s marketplace, serving food, and good food at that, is essential to the viability of most pubs outside urban centres, although the surviving classic wet-only rural pubs such as the Traveller’s Rest and the Red Lion remain some of the most quintessential elements of our pub culture. But it isn’t that difficult to be a food-led pub and still set aside an area near the bar with a few benches for customers who just want to come in and have a social drink. It’s equally easy to have a menu that offers light meals and sandwiches alongside expensive gastro creations, something that, to their credit, the Brunning & Price chain do seven days a week. Indeed, while their pubs are unashamedly upmarket in ambiance, I doubt whether any of them would turn away groups of walkers or cyclists.

It’s also the case that many dining customers will still value going in to somewhere that still feels like a pub and has a group of regulars nattering by the bar.

On the other hand, I had to laugh at this comment on the original article:

Ramblers in my area of the Chilterns turn up to our wonderful local pub en masse i.e. between 10-15 people at lunchtime therefore taking up all the room downstairs, buy a soft drink/tea or coffee, order a sandwich, sit down, pay their bill individually (and to the penny) then leave. They spend very little and are the first to complain about anything and everything - they would be far better off in a tea shop or cafe along the canal. Leave the pubs to the locals and those that want to be there!


  1. The Strickland Arms in Sizergh, Cumbria is very much a "dining" pub but it still welcomes walkers, dogs etc, has a stone floor and locals at the bar who will tell you about the various local beers on offer. They've got the balance about right.

  2. The people described at the end of the article, don't sound like the sort of ramblers I associate with!

  3. Me neither. After a long walk in the hills I could generally murder a pint, along with the lads I tend to walk with. it's the best bit! One half way around always goes down well an all. Proximity to a pub that doesn't make walkers feel like grubby pariahs is definitely a plus when planning a hike with friends. Publicans take note.

  4. I've stopped going in my boozer because of the stink of food and 'strangers' not happy with sitting in the eating area, wanting to dine in the bar with the locals. They want it all ways...well, now they've got it, I'm outta there.
    I would sup say 6 or 8 pints at £2.60/70 a pint - and there's four or more of us - Whereas strangers will spend a fiver on grub, half a pint of coke, hog the table for an hour and a half then clear off.
    I'm outta there.

  5. While not for a minute saying it's typical, or representative of the whole, there is a certain type of rambler who would sit in a pub's beer garden, start eating their packed lunch, and be aggrieved when asked to either buy a drink or leave.

  6. In my small rural local, we have the annoyance of walkers taking up room that locals would fit six into, used by two, who put their coats on the other chairs.

    Their graves are in a nearby field.


  7. I guess I'm lucky to live on the edge of the Peak District where there are many fine pubs which cope perfectly well with walkers and diners. The Leather's Smithy is a case in point. We ended up there yesterday after a 9 mile walk around Macclesfield Forest in glorious sunshine. We drank the beer, ate the food and were made to feel most welcome even though we all paid individually.

    But then again, I doubt this really has much of a local crowd as there aren't many locals around. We also sat outside with our muddy boots ;-)

  8. And I agree - eating your own food isn't on and not even buying a drink is just plain rude.


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