I do enjoy a good walk but getting my daughter similarly enthused isn’t always straightforward. Traditional walks for us grown ups often revolve around a stop at a recommended hostelry. Giving a child-friendly twist to the format, I decided to see if I could entice Tilly on a walk with a family friendly pub as the goal.
A walk in the woods
We’re fortunate in our corner of the home counties to have some truly fabulous woodland to enjoy. It’s not always so accessible for children but the Woodland Trust managed Penn Wood is a really fine example of nature that can be enjoyed by all with accessible paths.
My plan was to sell Tilly the idea of taking her bike into the woods and end up at the pub with a play garden a few minutes walk away (always several times longer when you have a small person along).
It started well but we hit rocky ground – literally – as the car park was a little stony and the path, despite being very smooth by the standards of woodland ways, was deemed too bumpy by Tilly to continue on the bike. The bike’s stabilisers were at fault as they magnify even the slightest bump. Fortunately we hadn’t ventured too far from the car park, so I dragged the bike back to the car and we set off again on foot.
This time things went more smoothly, aside from a little anxiety at the gloominess that comes with woodland in full leaf. Tilly loved running along the path and looking out for wildlife. After a decent walk we emerged into the sunlight on the cricket pitch and headed over to the Squirrel pub.
The child friendly pub
If you were to devise the ideal family pub it would surely feature a great play garden for the kids, local ale for the dads and hearty food for everyone else. Our destination for the afternoon, the Squirrel pub in Penn Street, does pretty well by this measure. I thought the two climbing houses in the garden and mini assault course would do the trick to entertain Tilly but the pub owners have surpassed themselves by adding a bouncy castle for the whole of the summer holidays. This represents something of a revelation as Tilly loves bouncy castles and having somewhere to visit for free* (*purchase required) bouncing will be a huge draw for us over the coming weeks.
Did I mention the ale? There’s a craft beer bar festooned with local tipples. I was driving so I stuck to the caffeine but if I get ShireMum to drive next time I’ll try the selection, much of it from breweries in Herts, Bucks and Berks.
For children there’s Fruit Shoots and juices. Food wasn’t being served at the time but would make for a perfect trip out.
Alas not many pubs are as child friendly as the Squirrel but I’m going to be on the look out for more and some good walks to go with them.