Turning your back on the Sea, the final leg of our journey takes us west toward the Devonian boarder. The pretty little coastal town of Bridport has a few interesting places worth diverting for, The Tiger, George Hotel and Oddfellow Arms being particularly pleasant, while not far away the fine Shave Cross Inn sits in stately isolation under its impressive thatch. The last pub on this whistle-stop tour though is one which while not being historically remarkable, perhaps encapsulates the essence of what I have been banging on about.
– The Fox
Court Hill, Corscombe, DT2 0NS
This second Fox is fine example of how to blend together the art of keeping a sound traditional pub, embellishing it with a first rate food operation which doesn’t step on the drinkers toes. A pleasant little public bar on the left of the main door is usually filled with Barbours and their Labradors – the ale flows, the fire crackles and the world goes gently on. The right hand bar is more food orientated but those simply interested in a pint won’t feel out of their depth, while an impressive rear conservatory has recently been restored and brought into formal dining use. The food is excellent, locally sourced and seasonal – the Sunday Roast being of particular quality. Accompanying drink is all well kept and drawn from various large regional brewers, the occasional local micro thrown in for good measure. If you imbibe too deeply, there are some B& B rooms for rent as well.
However, I include the Fox in this despatch mainly for the memory of its former life. Back in the mists of the late 1990s, the previous Landlord had run the pub in a very similar fashion to the one you see today. As the years wore on though, he became increasingly jaded by the whole business of dealing with Joe public – gradually, the accolades departed the place, so did his staff, then the chef and finally his wife. By the time I made my first visit, he had reduced the operation to something resembling a personal drinking club where opening hours were at his behest and the Smoking Ban a discretionary byelaw. Later that year, the Editor and I made a pilgrimage out to see the old place of an evening. The door was open at 8pm, but the Landlord was still eating supper in the rear of the bar – ‘Nobody usually comes in until 9’. After reluctantly pouring us two of his delicious Sharp’s straight from the barrel, there followed a brief period where we each sized up our respective drinking credentials. An hour later we were matching him and his devout local following pint for pint, talking animatedly about Rugby, old pubs and the folly of the modern world through a thick haze of Cafe Crème. A more eccentric, utterly original and life affirming pub experience is very hard to come by, and the events of that evening with remain with me, in faded sepia tones, for a very long time.
A few months afterward, I heard the sad but unsurprising news he had finally thrown in the towel and put the somewhat dilapidated pub up for sale. I am well aware that to most of you, these recollections will be of very little interest – mad old pub declines into ruin and eventually closes – but I still feel it ought to be documented somewhere, even if for the benefit of posterity alone. One more piece of unconventional and unaffected Dorset quietly slides into history, to be replaced by a perfectly adequate but considerably less bonkers affair. Sadly, at the time few even noticed the change.
So there we are, and without wishing to end on a slightly sombre note, those are your best bets. All you need do is dig out your thornproof, polish your country brogues and get out there to have a look for yourself.
Next time, more of London or something.