Fancy a country walk?
I've got just the ticket - a country ranble with fruit picking, the perfect inn, gooey cakes and glass of wine.
I’m ashamed to say that despite living a few miles from this pretty village, I have never been on a walk here until last week. I’ve been rather taken with the story behind The Royal Oak – a pub saved from the jaws of developers by stoic villagers who’ve joined together to refurbish this country pub pretty much with their own fair hands – a labour of love to say the least.
The thought of a country walk followed by a cheeky glass of wine was quite tempting so I dumped the kids (just couldn’t bear the thought of all that whinging) and dragged my faithful muddy companion (aka my mother) and the dog and headed off to ramble.
Hail Weston is a small village located just off the A1 a mile or so from St Neots with a pretty church, dating back to the 13th century located in the centre of the High Street. There are numerous cycle tracks from Grafham and also from St Neots so The Royal Oak is an ideal pint stop for those on a Tour de Cambridgeshire – there are bike racks in the garden if that’s your mode of transport. The pub makes life easy as they have three circular walks to choose from on their website so print them out and off you trot.
We were torn between a quick two-mile stroll and a more stretching five and a half mile romp but both kick off at The Royal Oak so you can keep your options open. We parked the car on the high street by the church and headed off in a west direction following Ford End past Brook End Farm.
1. You’ll come across a public footpath on your left, which runs alongside the River Kym. At this point we realised we’d opt for the shorter walk as the hedgerows were dripping with blackberries (aren’t they a tad early?). Poop bags were commandeered and we spent a good half an hour or so filling them with gorgeously ripe berries.
2. At the end of the path turn right and cross the river and continue along the path that leads through the fields. A word of warning, I’m sure this could get muddy in winter months but nothing that wellies couldn’t cope with. At the end of the path turn right to follow the hedgerow along the top of the field. The branches here are laden not only with more blackberries but also with sloes (get the gin out) but they are whey to early to0 pick yet.
3. At this point you’ll need to make your mind up as to whether you’re going to go large or not. If the call of chocolate cake is on your mind then option 1 will take you on the shorter walk.
4. Head straight on at the intersections of paths and at the farm gate turn right to follow the road (Ford End). This is a quiet road but you will need to be aware of some traffic and maybe some cyclists so the muddy dog was on the lead. At the ford cross over the footbridge and continue along the road which will bring you back into the village. Turn right into the High Street and you’ll find the pub along on your right.
5. At the gap in the hedge where the paths intersect take a sharp left and follow the track along the edge of Little Paxton Wood. Continue towards Midloe Grange and at the copse turn right to trace the edge of the wooded area.
6. At Midloe Grange turn right on the small road that heads towards Southoe. This is also a cycle track so just be careful of bikes flying past.
7. Continue along this road and at the intersection turn right into Rectory Lane, and follow the road into the village, you’ll pass Southoe playing fields on your right.
8. At the High Street turn right, past the church and at the end of the High Street you’ll pick up a public footpath on your right. Follow this path across the fields.
9. At the end of the field cross the wooden footbridge and turn right onto the farm track. When you reach the National Cycle Network sign turn left and follow until you reach Ford End.
10. Continue along Ford End, over the ford, and back into the village. Turn right on to the High Street and back to The Royal Oak on your right.
So what do you get for all your hard work? The pub is a community pub and works hard to be a central meeting place in the village. The interior has a vintage vibe, with a definite nod to upcycling all brought together in a stylish way. The pub is broken up into various different rooms: the snug, the back room and the conservatory.
The Shop at Forty has kitted out The Snug and everything in the room is for sale. They pub have recently extended the kitchen, so that it can cope with larger numbers, and they’ve just announced that they’ve a new chef arriving so it’s worth keeping an eye on the menu as I’m sure there’ll be exciting things happening.
For the moment at lunchtime you can expect light bites, salads and sandwiches but at this time of day we decided a cup of tea and a slice of cake were the order of the day. The pub acts as a coffee shop as well as a drinking hole and serves freshly baked gluten free cakes and great coffee and tea. If you’re in a rush they have all the gear for you to take these away with you.
There’s a small garden at the back and the pub is dog friendly, they have a water bowl out back for a thirsty pooch and check this out – dog beer (er yes, you heard me right) so the hound will go home piddled even if you don’t! Don’t worry – it’s non-alcoholic – and made with beef or chicken and malt barley extracts, mineral oils, vitamin B and other canine goodies.
Well if the dog’s doing it then I’m joining in too.
If you’ve managed to haul the kids with you then there’s a sand pit in the garden to keep them entertained.
If you’re got ankle biters with you who’ve not had their sugar rush there’s a fab park in the village with swings, wooden climbing frame, football pitch, zip wire and a mini bmx bike track that the mini-mudders love. So you can return home with a drunk dog, knackered kids and you’re fed too!
The Royal Oak, 79 High Street, Hail Weston, Cambridgeshire, PE19 5JW, facebook.com (open Wed – Sat 11am – 11pm and Sun 12.30pm – 10.30pm)