It’s a dozen years since we last visited Exmoor, other than the odd trip to Minehead. Our son is staying with a mate in Bridgewater, so we’ve pitched up near Dulverton, to the north of the National Park. There’s a pub on our doorstep, but that’ll have to wait for the photos to upload. It’s a Greene King pub.
In 2004 I found Exmoor pleasant but lacking the beauty of the Quantocks, and with attractive but indifferent pubs. We’ve had different problems today.
The good bit first. It’s very quiet in the height of summer, so you get scenery like this to yourself.
And about a gazillion pheasants*. And the odd snake.
We had grand plans to walk between a number of pubs from a Winsford base using local buses and our feet. Two problems emerged. There are no buses, and pubs here have opening hours aimed at inflicting maximum misery on visitors.
Typical opening hours, on a Summer Bank Holiday Saturday, are 12-2.30, 11.30-2, and 12-3. We went for the one the GBG confidently told us was open 11-11. No internet out here to check WhatPub by the way.
I won’t identify the pub. Let’s call it the “Regal Tree”, which doesn’t actually narrow it down round here.
No opening times on the door, but it was open at 11am, so we walked in to be met with enquiring looks. “Opening time is 12”, so we said we’d go off for a walk and come back later.
Our walk took us to the Royal Oak in Withypool, an attractive pub of the old school, where the Exmoor ales were much to Mrs RM’s taste, as was the Somerset brie ploughmans (albeit on a wooden board).
Good examples of taxidermy, sherry casks and a walk behind the bar to get to the loos.
Back at the Regal Tree at 2.55, I again caused consternation by walking to the bar of an open pub and asking for a half. Barmaid confers with manager. Manager tells me he can’t serve me unless I’m a resident, they closed half an hour again. I said OK and walked out in tears. I know that’s silly, but I get very emotional waiting for the new GBG to arrive at this time of year.
I’m very clear that pubs can open when they like, see this recent exchange on Tandleman’s blog. I should know by now not to trust the GBG of course. But when the pub doesn’t display opening times, or tell you in that earlier conversation at 11am it’ll be closing at 2.30, you wonder if Exmoor wants visitors.
I’d have been better off in Cheshire’s Winsford.
* Mrs RM confessed that as a child her mother told her she’d run over a peasant in Royal Tunbridge Wells. something that had stayed with her for decades before she realised her error. It may take me a similar time to recover from RegalTreeGate.