Wednesday, 2 April 2014

A short day and a long lunch

Temptation calls!
Who could resist an invitation like this? Not us for sure. The King's Head at Wadenhoe is a well known boating waterhole on the Nene, offering decent moorings to visitors at the end of its large garden.
The village of Wadenhoe is worth a stop even without the pub – and for those who don't fancy a pub then there are very pleasant bosky moorings a few hundred yards upriver as well.
You arrive at Wadenhoe after a run through wide, flat countryside that is more lakes than land thanks to the many worked out gravel quarries that have now morphed into sailing centres and nature reserves. Then, as the river curves through two long sweeps of a giant 'S' Wadenhoe church appears in view in the distance, a mile or more away on top of a sudden steep hill that climbs away from the left hand bank.
It's a sturdy church with a chunky tower rather than the spires of the surrounding villages. Even under the grey sky of a 'high pollution warning' day, it's an impressively dominant sight.
High on the hill, Wadenhoe Church
The village lies at the base of the hill. It's more hamlet than village; just two or three narrow streets of warm stone cottages and, among them, some bigger houses and dutifully inconspicuous new builds. It's the sort of village Miss Marple could live in; where one expects the squire to arrive at the pub for lunch in his Lagonda.
If the place feels pickled in aspic, that's because it is. The Manor of Wadenhoe dates back virtually to William the Conqueror but having passed through various Earls, Dukes, Barons and mere commoners (albeit very wealthy ones) the last owners were childless so set up the Wadenhoe Trust with the aim of preserving the natural beauty of the village as part of the national heritage and – importantly – to try to ensure that the social character of the village as a live and continuing local community was preserved. In other words not just become a place for wealthy commuters and second homers.
The Trust owns 1000 acres of land and most of the village: in recent years it has converted old farm buildings to small business units, built social rented housing for local people and converted a barn into a tea rooms cum farm and gift shop.
It also owns the pub where we went for lunch. It's a big, stone and oak frame building, split into cosy areas. It looks and feels as though it hasn't changed in years. It certainly has, though. It's a bit of a gastro-pub with a sizeable menu of interesting dishes but a range of decent range of micro-brewery beers too. Mrs Harry had one of the interesting dishes – duck breast with various additions – but I'm afraid I opted for good old cod and chips. Then we topped off with sticky toffee puddings and spent the afternoon walking off our meals with some not-too-vigorous strolls around the church and village.

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