One of the things we enjoyed most about living in the Seattle area was how easy it was to ‘walk & dine’. So naturally we eagerly awaited the warmer days and longer evenings of the English summer to explore walk & dine opportunities outside our new front door. Our first walk: we think it will be hard to beat…
Mr & Mrs Fueled by Beer and The Daughter are fortunate to live in Fords Farm, a neighborhood that was built with a network of footpaths leading to parkland that in turn connect to trails heading off into the rural wilds of West Berkshire.
A three mile walk from our house across fields and along the Kennet & Avon canal towpath brings us to the Fox & Hounds, a country pub south of the village of Theale. The Fox & Hounds is owned by Wadworth, a regional brewing company based in Devizes, Wiltshire.
At the time of the 1989 Beer Orders the Wadworth brewery was another well-established ‘regional’ whose tied pub estate was small enough to escape the massive divestiture forced upon Britain’s ‘Big Six’ brewing companies.
Since then Wadworth has been content, unlike Greene King, to remain a family-owned regional brewery and pub operator, focusing on producing some of the best cask ale in Britain and running some of southern England’s finest pubs.
Our walk & dine experience was everything we hoped for: an idyllic walk in gorgeous weather; a welcoming pub and outdoor beer garden; excellent cask ales, all Wadworth; and the highest quality pub food we have yet encountered. Overall our visit to the Fox & Hounds was Mr & Mrs Fueled by Beer and The Daughter’s best pub experience yet.
As our photos show, the cask ales covered the full taste spectrum from light summery golden ale to a rich dark stout. But we would be remiss if we didn’t mention some of the smaller details that make a difference.
For example: Henry’s IPA, as a cask ale, was excellent; however the pub went the extra mile by also offering Henry’s IPA as a nitro pour out of a keg – what they call ‘smooth’ over here. Offering the choice was a nice touch.
The only downside we encountered: the guest cask was Courage Director’s Bitter and it tasted off to us – without any quibble the barman replaced it with a fresh pint of 6X – which was superb.
Of course there are many pubs with excellent cask ale offerings – particularly the CAMRA LocAle accredited free houses – of which we’ve visited several. However, these generally do not offer food beyond simple bar snacks.
At the Fox & Hounds you have excellent well-kept Wadworth ales that have earned the pub Cask Marque accreditation. These are paired with the culinary creations of a truly talented chef and kitchen staff. In this regard we have not found its equal. The Black Boy at Shinfield comes closest we feel.
I referred earlier to the walk as “idyllic” – just look at the photo of Mr Fueled by Beer and The Daughter walking among a herd of cows – if we had staged the whole thing it wouldn’t have been any better.
Anyway, for those of you who can live without your cars, trucks and SUVs, and would like to follow in our footsteps, start the walk at the A4/Bath Road entrance to Fords Farm at Mill Lane. From there walk down Mill Lane, pass through the Calcot Mill property on the public footpath and into Linear Park.
Stay on the trail in the park and follow my map from there. The trail leads over the Holybrook on a wooden footbridge, across the railway, over the field to the canal, then along the towpath to Sheffield Lock (passing Garston Lock on the way). At Sheffield Lock leave the towpath at the swing-bridge and walk the half mile or so down to the pub.
Part two: Fox & Hounds: a Walk & Dine Repeated
The Fox & Hounds (Theale): Recommended 🙂