I’ve blogged before about the fantastic landscape England has and I’ve got to praise The National Forest.
Ostensibly, this has taken large swathes of desolate wasteland from former mining towns in Leicestershire, Derbyshire and Staffordshire and reinvigorated them.
Areas such as Donsithorpe and Moira, for example, weren’t known for their natural beauty but in the intervening 20 years there have been at last eight million trees planted over a 200 square mile area.
In local authority mantra, you can discuss sustainability, partnerships, stakeholders, economic impact, green infrastructure, breeding birds and the socio-economic impact of the National Forest but one fact that is unequivocal; is that it has regenerated and created a fantastic landscape.
Yes, I know Yorkshire, Cumbria and Derbyshire has some unbelievable natural beauty but this place is continuing to mature and develop and is an undoubted success.
Take Hicks Lodge for example. Two of my three children have learned to cycle here and there are an abundance of cracking, albeit lacking hills (you can’t help geographic landscape), walks that are ideal for families.
With Mrs BB kindly volunteering to wrap Christmas presents, I decided upon a two-hour, five mile walk with the kids. My kids are relatively well-schooled in walking and, despite being under ten, they were happy to take in the burgeoning beauty.
We could have started at Moira or Donisthorpe but chose Willesley and all of these villages, towns, cities and counties blend into one, in a positive way.
So, after my two had walked and subsequently eaten at Hicks Lodge, we headed off to Donisthorpe, which is five minutes in the car and visited an absolute gem of a pub in Leicestershire.
118 – The Halfway House DE12 7PX is undoubtedly the doyen of village boozers.
Firstly, it has an enormous beer garden that not only sports a marquee and an impressive children’s play area, but also sports a samba football goal for those long holidays (a bit like this one) with the kids where you both need a bit of rest and recreation!
Secondly, it sells Bass! Say no more.
Thirdly, it is clearly in the modern age but this boozer still retains a piece of the past and is a pub that is fantastically well kept and clearly a part of the community. It has three rooms and is food based but at a decent price that reflects it local clientele.
Donisthorpe Colliery closed in 1991 and has since been developed into both a housing estate and The National Forest but the close knit community spirit that is prevalent in mining towns clearly survives and endures today.
I also love the fact it differentiates between its bar and lounge (you can eat in both) by beermats.
(picture of me about to flip beermats!)
Sharp’s in the bar and Fuller’s in the lounge (I’m not sure Fuller’s is any more upmarket) but this attention to detail shows that people care.
The restaurant section is packed whilst the rest of the boozer is busy and it would be safe to say the grey pound is spending its hard earned dough in the Halfway House after possibly spending an afternoon at the Donisthorpe Miners Welfare Bowling Club just down the road.
We arrived at about 1.30 on a Wednesday afternoon and it was healthily full with some proper bar characters of all ages whereas the Wednesday menu was clearly attracting the over 60s in the two other rooms.
This is a tremendous boozer in a village that is ever changing in amongst some burgeoning countryside. I love England’s green and pleasant land.