Use them – or lose them
The winter has been a long grind – people are yearning for spring. After rain and floods came New Year snow chaos followed by grim, grey chill and the recent icy blast.
A sunny, albeit shivery, day had me trekking along the canal from Monkton Combe to the George Inn at Bathampton, which I've enjoyed visiting over five decades.
We're lucky to have so many lovely country inns within reach of Bath. Memories linger of outings with friends to the Hop Pole at Limpley Stoke, the Wheelwrights Arms at Monkton Combe, the Old Crown at Kelston, the George at Norton St Philip and Tucker's Grave at Faulkland.
Although it's sad that the Packhorse at Southstoke has closed and some other inns have become no-go areas after being gastropubbed, many landmark rural hostelries remain. What would we do without them?
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In the Bathampton pub, it was good to see value afternoon meals and early evening menus. With people short of money, special offers are welcome.
As I waited for my food, it also hit home what a struggle many rural businesses around Bath must have faced in the past year.
They have suffered the same economic pressures as city businesses, such as rising costs, declining trade and consumers shopping around, but with the added problem of the terrible weather.
Who wants to walk or cycle through a monsoon or sit in a freezing garden? Pub and café owners must pray for sunny weekends.
An early Easter and springtime bank holidays spaced a month apart should help; likewise the April 6 opening of the exciting Two Tunnels cycleway from Bear Flat to Midford.
Tea shops, craft outlets, garden centres, village stores and country inns need us.
The "use them or lose them" adage has extra importance because villages without inns and shops lose their beating heart.