Glug, glug, glug, glug, glug. Cripes, I don’t usually drink wine by the pint, contrary to what some people might think, but it sounds like I might be about to start! I’ve got my back to the bar because the decor in this pub is amazing and I’m staring around, wide-eyed, taking it all in. I hear the sound of our drinks being poured and my eyebrows start to furrow. I raise one, quizzically at Mr Broccoli who is staring, also wide-eyed, at the refreshments on the bar. I turn around and nearly crack up laughing; the glasses are massive! My chilled white wine is served in what looks, for all the world, like a goldfish bowl on a stick; husbands pint of bitter shandy is about three foot high! I daren’t look at how much Coke the younger Broccolis are about to consume….they’ll be bouncing off the walls!
And what is the reason for this afternoon quaffing? I hear you ask.
Every May we choose a gloriously warm day to go for a walk in the bluebell woods in Dutton, Cheshire. Ancient beech trees stand alongside majestic oaks and giant horse chestnuts. As the warm breeze passes through the leaves begin to stir and I can almost hear the trees whispering their secrets. When all their wisdom has been told these leaves will tumble to the ground and become the life source for the next generation. But for now the woodland oozes life, fecundity and vitality. The bluebells that flourish here carpet the ground and are interrupted only by the tinkling brook that runs through. It ripples and dances, like a silver ribbon, and we can’t help but follow as it entices us further into this enchanted wood. Magic hangs in the air as the fronds of filigree ferns reach out, slowly unfurling to touch the hazy sunlight.
As I stand, hushed and in awe of nature’s spectacular beauty, I realise that at this moment, there is nowhere else I would rather be.’
Every year I look forward to the arrival of the bluebells and, each year it takes my breath away. I feel alive. Wild garlic grows amongst the bluebells, revelling in the same damp habitat created by the ancient beech trees. White, drumstick flowers, similar to alliums, grow amongst strappy green leaves, easily identified by their pungent, garlicky smell. I always pick a handful, keen to capture the first harvest of the countryside, I take them home to make a kicking garlic paste. A celebration of spring leaves plucked from the garden or hedgerow.
This year we take a detour, a different route through the woods and it is cool, pleasant and lovely. I see the dog, the magical dog, that first lured me into the woods ambling up the lane and the kids whistle and call to him. I immediately admonish them.
“Hey, it’s not okay to lure someone else’s dog away!” They are lost in the glory of the moment and they mean no harm. I can’t help but smile at them and my joy bubbles up as I remind them that “It’s only five more sleeps until our own puppy arrives!”
Oh Lordy, the secrets out now and there was me planning on surprising you all with a blog post when he gets here. A gorgeously cute bundle of fur with big puppy dog eyes. Excited doesn’t even come close to how we are feeling!
On our way to the bluebells woods we stop off at the pet store to buy a collar and lead. It’s not an easy choice when there are five of you and each has an opinion. We decide we will each choose our own lead.
I love the individuality of my family. Even with the same DNA, the same parentage, the same upbringing, the little Broccolis are so very different and I wouldn’t have it any other way.
After a walk we like to sit and reflect on our day and country pubs are perfect for such reveries. We pulled in at the Chetwode Arms, Lower Whitley, what appeared to be a charming little watering hole in the heart of Cheshire.
Looks like an ordinary country pub right?
I mean we probably should have realised it was a little out of the ordinary when we rounded the corner and there was a huge teepee in the car park. It didn’t look too incongruous, in fact it looked very settled. Surrounded by an eclectic mix of rusted wood burners, carved African animals and wicker tables and chairs; it looks wonderfully inviting. Bleached, warm and homely I can just picture it in the evening lit up by candle light. I can imagine drifts of conversation lingering in the cool, night air, entwined with the smell of wood smoke under a canopy of stars.
Inside, the pub is extraordinary. It’s like stepping into Africa; skulls, skins and antlers hang on the walls along with African art. Giraffe scatter cushions and zebra print rugs give the place a cosy atmosphere gracefully lit with star-like trails of fairy lights.
Did I mention the menu? I had to look twice! This place serves all things bush; zebra meat, crocodile, water buffalo, wildebeest or even grasshoppers an meal worms. Meats are cooked on hot stones which I think my friend Si calls ‘dirty steaks’. Dirty or not I can’t wait to give this a try.
Now I know it’s not for everyone but I’m all about trying the new and always looking for adventure and this place seems to have all of this under one roof. Has anyone been here?