I owe Much Wenlock an apology. On a couple of previous visits I hadn’t seen the attraction, but it impressed this week, and revealed a classic pub.
South Shropshire is one of my favourite parts of the UK, both the countryside of the Long Mynd and the unchanging towns of Bridgnorth, Clun and Ironbridge. Completing the Beer Guide entries has become more difficult with the frankly spiteful inclusion of a pub with evening-only opening (the Anchor Anchor), but I will get there soon.
I think the problem with Much Wenlock is there’s not much of it. It has a couple of picturesque streets, Priory ruins and a link to the modern Olympics, and it’s half the size of my own village. Also it’s not a place you pass through en route to anywhere else, and hasn’t any obvious must-see sights.
On a quiet weekday with a bit of sunshine it’s magical though. There’s a lot of black and white buildings, wattle and daub and wall paintings. This isn’t a unique feature, but the buildings aren’t all being used to sell tat or cream teas. It feels like a real village; more Whitchurch than Bishops Castle.
The George and Dragon is typical of this feel. It’s been in and out of the Guide over the years, which I can only think reflects the level of competition, particularly from a raft of new places in north Telford.
There’s a winning combination of bench seating, distinct cosy areas for drinking and easting, and historic features throughout. Food is simple and well priced.
A good mix of custom includes old boys and family groups, but it’s not being used for coffee stops or lazy lunches. That might be because a fair number of large Cotswold-style coaching inns fulfil that purpose. The Talbot appeared to be the only other authentic pub.
From an interesting beer range the Hobsons is the obvious choice. It’s OK rather than brilliant (NBSS 3), but the hum of conversation (largely about the loss of smokers from the pub) is worth the price of admission.
Mind you, there’s at least half a dozen pubs of this standard and character down the road in Bridgnorth, one of the most underrated pub towns in England.