“The Hughey’s return,” said the friendly barman across the wooden bar at the Crown and Trumpet, Broadway, in the heart of the Cotswolds as we strode through the doorway into the welcoming pub.
After an absence of the better part of a year, my wife and I returned to this quintessential traditional 17th Century British pub. We’ve been coming to this wonderful pub since 1980 when we were then staying on the High Street at my wife’s grandmother’s home, a 15th century cottage, Milestone Cottage, a rare single family dwelling set apart from mostly cheek by jowl shops and cottages at the upper end of the High Street where the road curves gently as it climbs steadily. Resplendent in locally quarried, honey coloured Cotswold limestone, these are some of the most frequently photographed cottages in England. Originally known as ‘flea bank’, the cottages were gentrified sometime between the wars and became collectively known as The Shakespeare cottages. We had come on our delayed honeymoon. We were married in October and came to England the following spring to celebrate our nuptials and quickly fell in love with Broadway and the Crown and Trumpet, just beyond the village greensward on the road to Snowshill.
The rich honey coloured Cotswold stone front that is adorned with golden lettering of the namesake ‘Crown and Trumpet’ embraces with an inviting warmth, draws both the dedicated pub goer and the casual visitor alike, pulls them in as surely as a piece of rich dark chocolate excites the senses. What awaits is what excites. Superb cask ales and fine, locally sourced food served up in a friendly and amiable pub environment, which has an air of congenial informality and presence backed by the permanence of survival through time. This is what a really good pub should be–all things to all people. Whether one wants a pint of real ale and a packet of crisps at the bar or a full, three-course, sit-down meal for family and friends, it’s all available. And if one wants a quiet read of a current novel in a corner, or a full-blown conversation about most anything at the bar, that too is on offer.
To the left as you enter the pub is a cozy room with the short corner bar, which bears the signature handpumps of such fine cask ales as Stanway Bitter from the local Stanway Brewery in nearby Stanway, with a few tables and chairs on either side of the fireplace. To the right is a larger room with high back settles and more wooden tables and chairs and bay window seating. The toilets are out back but the courtyard access area is covered, so no worries there.
“The usual, sir?” says the barman, who is actually one of the chefs doing double duty.
“Indeed. Two pints of Stanney, please”, I reply as if I’d only been away for a day.
We settle in with our pints at a table with a view of the open front door and the picnic tables beyond.
The landlord, the one with his name over the door, Andrew, or Andy as he is known, is a bit of wag, humourist, punster. And as I have been told by a publican in Toronto, I am not without a sense of humour too. But Andy is not the only character in these parts, and they all add to the fabric of the place.
You could set your watch by the daily arrival of one regular right at opening time. Clank goes the front door latch at precisely 11 a.m. as Basil rolls in for a pint and a natter. Retired for years, he orders a bottle of a high gravity brew, which he mixes with a lesser beer to form something I would never drink, so right away you know he’s highly entertaining.
“I don’t see much of Malcom these days. (Pauses). He’s down at the cemetery,” Harry says with a glint in his eye. As the laughter, or was that chortling, rolled forth, he bemusedly damped down the tobacco in his pipe before heading outside for a smoke.
Upstairs, the rooms are as unique as they are snug, and yes, the floors may slope a bit here and there, but that, after all, is what one should come to an old pub for, authenticity, heritage and history. That, and good cask ale, the traditional beverage of choice in England, beer that is unfiltered and served directly from the cask on a bed of yeast and without the intervention of extraneous CO2, beer with a great breadth of flavours, beer as it was meant to be served.
The Crown and Trumpet is friendly to trekkers and locals alike, and having en-suite rooms at the pub makes it a perfect place from which to begin day outings along The Cotswold Way, a 100 mile marked pathway stretching from Chipping Campden, Gloucestershire, to Bath in Somerset. Ordinance survey maps, Tourist Map 8 covers a good portion of The Cotswold Way and the area around Broadway, are readily available at book shops. Maps are essential to keep from straying from the marked pathways and thus having an enjoyable hiking experience and not be looking down the barrel of a gun of a disgruntled sheep farmer.
For lunch, I have a sharp English cheddar ploughmans and a crisp green salad, and of course a pint of cask ale, another Stanney Bitter, a hop bitter beer with high drinkability that is very moreish in nature. In fact, I soon have another pint as easily as not.
In the evening, I recall a pair of retired gentlemen who met at the bar for a pint, a natter and then spent time doing a shared crossword, though sadly they have passed on. Following my evening walk and a medium rare steak dinner, a recording jazz duo plays as hot and rhythmically as the stoves in the kitchen. And I order my last pint of cask ale for the evening.