Wednesday, 2 February 2011

The Bear Inn, Wiveliscombe

It's another cold January Saturday. I'm totally fed up of being indoors and so we decide that a car ride is in order.  It's my turn to choose the destination.  I think about local places I've never been to. And settle on Wellington. It's not far and it might be interesting ...

It's not. It reminds me of my home town, charity shops, cafes, supermarkets and boarded up town centre shops - although they do still have a couple of gift shops which is more than we do!  There is a lovely looking fish and game shop, but I'm not allowed to buy the Arbroath smokies because I won't have time to eat them in the morning.

We walk around the town centre, admiring some of the buildings and reading the plaques adorned to some of them detailing the history of the property.  However, when we seem to have seen everything it's still a bit early for lunch. We head back to the car and decide to drive to Wiveliscombe.

A short time later we park the car and wander up the hill to what I assume must be the centre. There's a co-op, a library with empty book shelves, an antiques shop, a butchers, a gun shop and The Old Courthouse - a small three storey department store which looks both outside and inside like a mini version of Liberty.  It seems an odd combination of shops, but then this is Somerset and when I think about it all needs are covered!

Wiveliscombe is home to two breweries - Cotleigh and Exmoor and it was once able to boast that it had 28 pubs.  Some of the previous 28 sites form The Brewery Plaque Trail, and these premises are marked with ceramic and glass tiles to denote their previous existence as a pub - The Anchor is depicted by a fish, The Bristol by the SS Great Britain and so on. Spotting the plaques makes for a great game!  But the wind chill is getting up and it's time to decide which of the three pubs to visit.

The Old Court House has a cellar bar, The White Hart is big and ... white and The Bear Inn looks to have a higgledy-piggledy feel to it. The Bear it is then! Locals are sat playing crib, reading papers, chatting and availing themselves of the cheap-to-pensioners lunches. It's really busy in here and so nice to see people partaking of the old-fashioned form of entertainment. I try to remember how to play cribbage, I used to play with my Grandfather when I was younger, but the rules and aims of the game have sadly completely slipped from my memory.

As befits a freehouse set twixt two breweries they offer both Cotleigh and Exmoor Ales, but when it comes to cider it's Gold on offer.  Not to worry. One day I will find a pub with something different on sale.  The menu is proper pub food - ham, egg, and chips, steak and ale pie and proper steak and kidney pudding and the specials board includes pork and leek sausages with mash.  Amongst the jacket potatoes and sandwich filllings I spy tuna and mayonnaise and choose to have it in a granary baguette.

It arrives with a very small salad garnish and I commence cutting it into manageable pieces.  The bread is delicious, the filling less so - the tuna has not been drained fully and there's not enough mayo to disguise the brine.  I set to work with cucumber and salad cream to try to take away some of the salty taste. It works!  I save half for later and have a chat with the pensioners to my left about the fact that due to Somerset County Council's threat to close of the library (in common with several libaries in the county) the residents have checked all the books out, hence the empty shelves!

This is the sort of place that I'd like to return to on a warmer day, to spend longer strolling around the street admiring the buildings, if I run out of places to visit I'll be back.

Score:- Cider - 2   Baguette -  2 Atmosphere - 4

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