It’s official: last month was the wettest January on record. There comes a time when you just have to accept that it may well rain forever. With that in mind, last weekend I made up my mind to pull on my wellies and leave the house. I couldn’t find a willing companion to head to the hills with me, but eventually managed to persuade my dad to drive us to Buckinghamshire for a pub lunch.
The Royal Standard of England, near Beaconsfield, claims to be the oldest freehouse in England and dates back over 900 years. As you’d expect from a pub of that age, it has a rich and varied history, including tales of ghosts and myths of monarchs. The menu, featuring the usual pub grub, alongside items like whitebait ‘fries with eyes’ and ‘Midsomer Murder Resurrection pie’, also includes a detailed history of the pub, so I won’t spoil it for you. The pub is quintessentially English, with roaring fires, enormous beams, and giant mugs brimming with golden beer. The building is divided into various sections, each one slightly different from the last. In our nook, we were crammed in with a family reunion and a couple on a date, at the bar stood a man trying desperately to stop his dog tripping people up, and a shooting party arrived in their tweeds just as we were leaving.
After tucking into steak sandwiches and a couple of mugs of ale, we left the warmth of the fire and headed out for a bracing walk in the woods. Of course, what with the freakish weather, we were absolutely roasting by the fire and my glowing pink cheeks were the result of the proximity to the fire, rather than a freezing winter walk.
You can take the pub walk, which starts in the adjoining car park, but as the clouds threatened once again, we instead walked on to Hogback Wood, just down the road from the pub. Nestled within a residential area, the wood is popular with dog walkers, and you never feel very far from civilisation, as a road runs next to the footpath in places, and houses can often be spotted between the trees. Despite this, it’s still a lovely place for a quick breath of fresh air and a splash in the puddles. Catkins hung from the trees and various dens – the sort that Just William and his friends would make – were scattered about the wood.
We left the wood as the dark clouds above started to groan and release droplets intermittently. We walked back along the road towards the pub, passing horses and houses, and I even spotted the first snow drops of the year. As we turned into the car park, the heavens opened and we made a mad dash to the car. The plan was to seek out a cosy café in Amersham for afternoon tea, but as the rain continued to hammer down on the roof of the car, we decided to head home instead.
So if the skies do continue to fall from now until kingdom come, you know where to head for the reckoning.