WONDERS OF WANTAGE

 

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Wantage is an ideal overnight stop for exploring South Oxon, with a couple of great pubs, decent Chinese takeaway and, vitally, a Waitrose.  Hotel prices might be described as “ambitious” though; you’re best off camping on this nice bit of greenery;

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The town itself is neat but functional, pubs apart.  Perhaps it lacks the architectural appeal of similarly sized Wiltshire towns to the west, but there’s always King Alfred.

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By Sunday the town was a bit empty, just like the frontage of the otherwise incomparable Wantage Novel Library, the most interesting thing in town. I’m not sure that it’s ever open, though.

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The award-winning Royal Oak has equally odd hours; 12-2 on Sunday, so a return visit to that classic will have to wait.  Worth visiting just to stare at the GBG stickers.  They had a cheese party on my last visit, just after it was a CAMRA Pub of the Year Finalist. I’m not saying there’s any connection between the two.

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One new entry in the Guide, and the Swan is the proper “young people’s pub” described in WhatPub, judging by the clutch of youths playing pool and searching for obscure Hawkwind tracks on the jukebox.

The Facebook page has comments from Casper, Florian and “Ian”, attesting to this being “the best place in Wantage to get smashed“, though probably not on Brakspear Oxford Gold.  The lovingly homemade advert for Craft promised Shipyard, 13 Guns, and a lager from Wychwood.  And why not.

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My sort of pub, and the friendliest barman of the month.  As with Cambridge’s Portland Arms, a venue best enjoyed on music nights.

There can’t be many pubs left in Wantage that haven’t made the GBG now, but of course the most impressive looking of them all suffers from the apparently debilitating condition of being an Arkell’s house (don’t blame me, I like Arkell’s).  Sorry Bear Hotel.

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Two miles out of town, you’re back in gastro-land.  The Boar’s Head in Ardington is the uniform pub in a uniform village on the Lockinge estate.

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The contrast between the Swan and the Boar is exemplified by the music; “Dig, Lazarus, Dig !!!” by Nick Cave  in Wantage, a piano recital of “My Favourite Things” here.  Yes, the first Sunday lunch pianist since the Cottonwood in Bournemouth, which is a good comparator.

Lots of families in their Sunday dress, so no photos, except this classic;

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Yes, they have a stand for that all-important spare pair of glasses.  Another first.

No seats for drinkers at the bar, and £2 for a tired house beer, probably from Loose Cannon.

The highlight was the drama unfolding as the tediously slow clientele, with nothing to do in the afternoon except watch “Escape to the Country”, argued about the splitting of the bill.  Schnell !! Schnell !!

Tremendous fun, another GBG winner.

 

 

10 thoughts on “WONDERS OF WANTAGE

  1. The library looks interesting; a bic non-porous pen must be a wonderous item with no method of getting ink in/out. Or would that utilise an interesting variety of invisible ink?

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  2. Did you happen to pass the Bear Hotel in Wantage ? It is situated in the Market Place and mentioned in “Jude the Obscure” and is now an Arkell`s pub, (the novel was published in 1895, so it could have been Arkell`s then ?!). Nice full-length brass of Ivo FitzWarin (d.1414) in nearby St Peter and St Paul parish church as well….
    Much better pastime than hunting down Micropubs ! 😉

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      1. Why, thank you. I like Arkell`s, though I`ve only had the Wiltshire Gold. If a brewery is still turning stuff out after 170-odd years then it deserves to get my custom every time I see it……

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      2. I am a massive Arkells fan,
        I have been down to Swindon four times to get their pubs done,walked up the Stratton St Margeret to see the brewery,i have done most in the Swindon area and quite a few in villages and towns around it,i have done over three quarters of their tied estate,the 3B is a great drink.

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