Welcome to our first “explore” post! Each month, Myself and Archie (my little buddle of joy) will be covering and sharing different areas and places of interest surrounding the Free Spirit Pubs and what you can get up to. This month we will be exploring the wonderful village of Hook Norton perfectly positioned on the edge of the Cotswolds AONB.

As an outsider to the area (Leicestershire Gal) I needed to enlist the knowledge and expertise of a local and who better to ask than Sean Callery. This ex-teacher and Cotswold Resident of over 30 years loves learning and sharing the history of the area so much that he became a qualified Blue Badge guide! He has a page www.offbeatcotswolds.com with all his amazing and informative tours that you can book onto at a very affordable price! I would just like to point out before we continue this post that the tour provided by Sean was actually participated in ‘pre-lockdown’ and Sean is now following government guidelines and is currently in Lockdown like
the rest of us!

Here are my Top Five things to do if your visiting or staying with us here in Hook Norton!

1: Hook Norton Brewery

Hook Norton Brewery own many public houses; one of which is our very own Sun Inn and has been producing Ales for over 120 years now. Like many breweries it started life small scale when John Harris in 1849 moved to the village, purchasing a farm with malt house attached. He officially started brewing in 1956 when he purchased a shop on Down End where you can still see the original building today.

After continued success he purchased his first pub “The Pear Tree” and later built in 1872 the three-storey land mark you see today.
It is well worth booking a tour of the Brewery and finding out lots more about this historic site that is still producing and selling Hooky Ales today. Unfortunately, due to the nature of the building they are unable to accommodate people with mobility problems or walking sticks. With a baby in tow I was able to pack him into a papoose; but be warned there are a lot of steps so make sure you are comfortable. If you don’t fancy a tour then still go and take in the building from the outside and then pop into their wonderful café “The Malthouse Kitchen”. Sometimes you are also able
to visit the famous shire horses in the on-site stables, brilliant if you have kids.

Book your tour www.hooky.co.uk

2: The Pyramids of Oxfordshire

Without Sean, I would have had no idea that this was here, so thank you! These amazing mammoth constructions on the outskirts of the village once supported a viaduct. This 19th century engineering feat was essential to transport the valuable local ore Ironstone to the faraway steel works where the ore could be melted to make steel. The boom of the industrial age would have made Hook Norton’s surrounding land unrecognisable with the
landscape marred with grey quarries, huge kilns and the steam and stinking gas of the smelting.

This is now thankfully green, beautiful and full of local wildlife and you can walk along the dismantled railway. There are a few extensions and off shoots that you can explore, if you visit the local historic society webpage, it has put together a booklet of walks to explore for varying abilities.

3: St Peters Church

St Peters church is well worth a stop if its open or perhaps organise with the warden to take a look inside. From the outside, you can clearly see where the church was once a much smaller Norman place of worship when Saxon nobleman ran the village before 15th century extension and build of the tower.

The church is full of beautiful architectural details, quirky gargoyles, stone corbels, Norman fonts and fantastic wall paintings. There is even an original 1800s Fire Cart on display in the church from the days when the village was predominantly thatched and it was imperative that firefighting equipment was central and to hand.

4: D’arcy Dalton Way

The D’arcy Dalton Way takes in a meandering route, first crossing ironstone hills to Epwell and Hook Norton and off into the limestone hills of the Cotswolds. The route was created to mark the Oxford Field paths Society Diamond Jubilee and named after D’arcy Dalton who worked for half a century to preserve the rights of way in Oxfordshire.

This is a big tick on the list for avid walkers, whilst you may not be signed up for walking the full 66 miles the snippet that runs through Hook Norton is a wonderful retreat. You can head across Oxfordshire countryside to the neighbouring village of Great Rollright; find out more details LDWA website

5: Hook Norton Guided Tour

I have to finish with a high recommendation of signing up to one of Sean Callery’s tours. From Saxon origins to Henry VII royal hunting visits; a melting pot of religious groups to a Madhouse asylum; unique architectural details to the industrial age marking its landscape. Hooky is a wealth of history and interesting facts and this is well recommended. If quiet contemplation is more your thing then enjoy meandering through is winding streets and take in the atmosphere and friendliness of this
beautiful village.

Finish the day

I couldn’t leave you all without shouting about The Sun Inn located in the heart of this historic town and a springboard for exploring the Cotswolds. Recently winning the Trip Advisors “Travellers choice 2020” award they are the perfect place to rest your head after a long day exploring.

The pub atmosphere is warm and friendly with comfy chairs for you to curl up in front of the open fire. You are served tasty locally sourced dishes from their Country Kitchen and a wide selection of drinks including the Local Hooky Ales. If you would like more information or to book a stay then please click here and head to the website for more details.

Thanks for reading! Keep following us on Social Media for all the latest news and offers and I will see you next week with a whole shiny new blog post!