Saturday, July 30, 2011

Cross-country pub crawling

Burto and I went to look at a truck one afternoon during the week a few hours north of the Griffith’s place here in Dorset. On the way home we decided that it would be sensible to stop for dinner at one of the charming English pubs that seem to be everywhere in this part of the world. Initially this seemed like an easy task and it wasn’t long before we came across this place, which from the outside looked quaint and full of character.

When we got inside we realised that it wasn’t so much full of character as full of characters. We’d noticed the bus as we parked the car and sure enough, the place was chock full of old people. Plenty of stares as we walked in, no doubt because we were the only one’s there sporting an original set of teeth. It felt a little too much like a scene in a zombie horror film so we were in through the back door, out through the front and back in the car within seconds.

After a short drive we found our second option.

Another likely candidate, it caught our attention by offering a daily special of two curries for ten pounds on a sign in the car park. In through the back door again and swiftly out through the front, this was a charmless haunt for a smattering of funny sounding locals. When we thought about it, two curries for ten pounds sounded like a gamble rather than a good deal, and with a fair distance still to cover before we got to the safety of home this was a risk neither of us were willing to take.

With three strikes looming we were staring down the barrel of Little Chef. Thankfully, across the road from the curry pub this establishment had flourished as people not taken by the package deal were drawn in by a desire to eat safely.

Normal crowd, good food, what was starting to feel like a teetotaler pub crawl finally met its match. Clearly not all charming looking English pubs are made equal and while I generally subscribe to the notion that you can judge a book by its cover, it may not be the case in this regard. If you’re not starving or an alcoholic it pays to comparison shop before you settle on a pub in the English countryside.

Eventing in England is as much an industry as a sport. It’s a huge market, and because of this businesses have flourished around eventing that would be impossible elsewhere in the world. The place where we went cross-country schooling the other day is a great example.

This was the most amazing facility I’ve ever seen. Built only for training, the three paddocks were filled with more cross-country fences than you could imagine. Beautifully built and maintained, every type of fence, line and option you could possibly encounter at any course in the world was in these paddocks. With prepared all weather ground in front of every fence it was eventing heaven and one of the most exciting things I’ve seen since I’ve been in the UK. This, I told myself, is why most of the world’s top eventers are based in England.

It was a shame I only had one horse to ride. Despite the best efforts of Tiger and I, we had probably only been able to jump 20 per cent of the fences. As we drove out the gate I looked longingly at the remainder, promising that I would come back to jump them as soon as I could.

Tiger and Newsprint - two old Australian Thoroughbreds ready to take on England

Eventing tomorrow in the Open Intermediate at Wilton. It’s been a great preparation so far, Tiger is going great, and so long as I can find someone to plait him I can’t wait to get there.

1 comment:

  1. You guys should get yourself to the Ship at West Stour - if you take the Cucklington road near Sam & Lucy's then it's only about 15mins from you. Amazing food, and also usefully it is walking distance from the Dorset Showground if you happen to fancy a spot of SJ on grass over the summer...