There are many fine pubs in Shakespeare’s England but The Fleece Inn at Bretforton has got to be one of the very best.
This quintessential picture postcard of a pub is the embodiment of a traditional English hostelry, with a claim to fame as being the first in the UK to be owned by the National Trust.
From the moment you step over the threshold you feel that you have stepped back in time. Irregular stone flooring, low wooden ceiling beams, roaring log fires and a friendly welcome – this is the olde English Inn of your imagination!
Situated in the fertile Vale of Evesham, it has a strong association with asparagus, and holds an annual auction of the best spears of this locally-grown crop which has attracted nationwide attention.
Over recent years, The Fleece has built a fine reputation for live music, song and dance, playing host to a weekly folk night. It also holds a number of other events during the year including regular Morris dancing sessions, family-friendly fun days and an annual Wassail to venerate the apple trees that grow in the orchard.
The pub specialises in homemade pub food created from locally-sourced produce and takes pride in providing a wide range of cask ales and traditional ciders. Traditional cider-lovers watch out for a powerful brew called The Ark (6.0% abv) created by the landlord.
On a recent visit for an evening meal, I eagerly tucked into pan-fried Cornish mackerel with celeriac remoulade, whilst my companion enjoyed the chicken liver parfait.
For mains we opted for tasty Old English pork sausages with mustard mash and red wine gravy, and a delicious fish pie consisting of salmon, cod and spinach in a creamy white wine sauce topped with fluffy mash and parmesan cheese.
To finish, a dessert of sticky toffee pudding, salt caramel and locally-made vanilla ice cream vied for scrumptiousness with carrot cake and a divine ginger ice cream. These were savoured along with an intoxicating sweet cherry fruit wine.
Originally built in the fifteenth century as a farmhouse, this half-timbered building remained in the same family for over six hundred years. It was upon the death in 1977 of the last landlady, Lola Taplin – a direct descendant of the original farmer – that it was bequeathed to the National Trust. According to locals, she returns in the shape of an owl to keep an eye on the place from the roof of the thatched barn across the courtyard.
Its location makes it an ideal base to explore Warwickshire and the Cotswolds, and to make it simpler, The Fleece offers B&B accommodation in the Master’s Bedroom or charming bow top caravan ‘Moongazer’ situated out in the orchard.
The Fleece Inn is the 2016 Country Pub of the Year as awarded by The Good Pub Guide and recently received the accolade of becoming one of the five pubs nationally to be awarded a new accreditation plaque from VisitEngland – the national tourist board – for its welcome, service, food and cleanliness.
The Fleece is open seven days a week 10am-11pm and serves food every day. For more information check out www.thefleeceinn.co.uk