Pubs open beer gardens on April 12 – so work up a thirst first with these enchanting rambles

The Glorious Twelfth! That’s April 12, when pubs open their beer gardens – so work up a thirst with these enchanting rambles and then reward yourself with a proper pint

  • Head for The Woolpack in the Gloucestershire village of Slad after a loop of the ‘Laurie Lee Wildlife way’ 
  • Undertake a five-mile hike that begins and ends in Malham in the Yorkshire Dales and stop at The Lister Arms
  • Enjoy Britain’s finest ancient woodland in Burnham Beeches, then get a refreshment at The Blackwood Arms

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Restoration day — in England at least — of the ‘ancient, inalienable right of free-born people of the United Kingdom to go to the pub’ . Remember that Boris-ism?

From April 12 (a fortnight on Monday), English pubs and restaurants will be allowed to serve customers, in groups of up to six people, seated outdoors.

We will be able to order drinks served to our tables, with or without whatever food, snacks or nibbles are on offer. Last year’s scrambled ‘substantial meal’ rules, of Scotch egg notoriety, are in the bin.

English pubs and restaurants will be allowed to serve customers, in groups of up to six people, seated outdoors, from April 12

English pubs and restaurants will be allowed to serve customers, in groups of up to six people, seated outdoors, from April 12

Open-armed publicans will welcome us to their beer gardens and patios. In the absence of those, it will be OK to set up tables in car parks, or even on street pavements outside their doors. If the weather is not kind, they will be permitted to keep the rain — or even a fierce sun! — off our backs with open-sided covering such as marquees.

Propping up the bar remains off-limits, but many pubs are also doing takeaways. So even if you have not booked a table, other options will include ordering wrapped picnics with drinks in plastic cups.

The new pub rules are part of Step 2 on the Government’s roadmap out of lockdown in England. Getting together outdoors, in groups of up to six or of two households, will already have been allowed under Step 1 from this Monday.

We can finally arrange to meet friends for a ramble and a pint. So here are some top ideas for glorious country walks, ending at a classic English pub.

Wales has become the first UK nation to lift travel restrictions and allow self-catering accommodation to reopen from today, although pubs and restaurants remain closed, probably until April 12, and visitors from across the border are not yet allowed.

Scottish beer gardens could be open for up to four people from April 26, though this date is only ‘indicative’. But to keep thirsts and appetites whetted, we are including a couple of suggestions for both north and west of the border. We can’t wait. Nor, we suspect, can you.

LITERARY ROOTS

Slad Valley, Gloucestershire

A view of the honeyed-stone Gloucestershire village of Slad from Swift¿s Hill. The village is where author and poet Laurie Lee grew up

A view of the honeyed-stone Gloucestershire village of Slad from Swift’s Hill. The village is where author and poet Laurie Lee grew up

The ‘Laurie Lee Wildlife way’ starts in Slad, the honeyed-stone Cotswolds village near Stroud where the author and poet grew up, lived, died and is buried. It was from the family home, Rosebank Cottage, wedged into a luxuriant green glade where the trail begins, that he walked out one midsummer morning.

The dreamy loop weaves through five miles of bucolic pasture and woodland punctuated by badger sets and ‘poetry posts’ displaying some of Lee’s locally-inspired verse. Return to the village via Swift’s Hill, crossing the field where the youthful writer enjoyed his cidrous frolics under a hay wagon with Rosie Burdock.

Your Reward: The Woolpack, thewoolpackslad.com, 01452 813 429.

What to expect: Umbrella-sheltered and table-served seating for 36 on the top terrace and 30 more in the garden below. Gastro menu changing daily, with signature ‘mussels-in-cider’ a constant.

A CLASSIC TRAIL 

Grizedale Forest, Lake District

Shimmering lakes and the hunkering fell figure of The Old Man of Coniston, pictured, form the backdrop of a wondrous eight-mile wander through the Lake District's Grizedale Forest

Shimmering lakes and the hunkering fell figure of The Old Man of Coniston, pictured, form the backdrop of a wondrous eight-mile wander through the Lake District’s Grizedale Forest

WHAT’S ALLOWED 

The ‘Scotch egg rule’ will no longer apply; customers can order alcohol without food.

Groups of up to six people from two different households can meet outside.

Propping up the bar will still be off-limits — table service only.

Face masks must be worn when not seated.

Staying at a hotel or B&B overnight will be allowed from May 17. 

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A wondrous eight-mile wander through classic Lakeland scenery, dancing with daffodils at this time of year. The waymarked route is strewn with outdoor sculptures inspired by local artists ‘in response to the landscape’.

The paths plunge, climb and weave through dark forests, and along the bank of a rattling beck. Shimmering lakes and the hunkering fell figure of The Old Man of Coniston, form the backdrop.

Your Reward: The Eagles Head, Satterthwaite, eagleshead.co.uk, 01229 860 237.

What to expect: Seven beer-garden tables of six, plus a couple more places under a gazebo. Others can drink and snack on takeaways.

SHAKESPEAREAN INSPIRATION

Burnham Beeches, Buckinghamshire

Here, in some of Britain’s finest ancient woodland, Felix Mendelssohn found inspiration for his soul-stirring overture to A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Oaks and birches as well as beeches make up mysterious tracts with unexpected names such as Hardicanute’s Moat and Egypt Woods, the latter cut through by a brook called The Nile. All of this just 25 miles west of central London.

From mid-April to late May dazzling expanses of bluebells carpet the forest floor. Dream time indeed.

Your Reward: The Blackwood Arms, theblackwoodarms.co.uk, 01753 645 672.

What to expect: A large marquee with 60 places will be set up. There are more fair-weather tables in the garden and outside facing the common. Gourmet nibbles and pub classics.

CHALK THIS ONE UP

Vale of Pewsey, Wiltshire

The Barge Inn in Honeystreet, Wiltshire. It is near an exquisite stretch of canal towpath patrolled by flotillas of mallards and moorhens

The Barge Inn in Honeystreet, Wiltshire. It is near an exquisite stretch of canal towpath patrolled by flotillas of mallards and moorhens

From the Vale of Pewsey, the Marlborough Downs appear as a long, steep bank of smooth green. On a circular half-day hike from quiet Honeystreet, climb up Milk Hill, passing the Alton Barnes white horse carved into the hillside. Above, a track follows the prehistoric Wansdyke with some of the best views in Wiltshire, before dropping down to Allington.

The return to Honeystreet is an exquisite stretch of canal towpath patrolled by flotillas of mallards and moorhens.

Your Reward: The Barge Inn at Honeystreet, 01672 851 222, thebargeinnhoneystreet.uk.

What to expect: Canal-side tables will be sheltered by marquees when rain is expected. Or buy a takeaway and sit dangling your feet in the water. New vegan options added to traditional pub fare.

THEATRE OF DREAMS 

Gordale Scar, Yorkshire Dales

The astonishing Malham Cove, one of the sights on a five-mile hike from and back to enchanting Malham in the Yorkshire Dales

The astonishing Malham Cove, one of the sights on a five-mile hike from and back to enchanting Malham in the Yorkshire Dales

Deep in the Dales, this five-mile hike, from and back to enchanting Malham, packs a triple punch of geological marvels. The ‘scar’ itself is a sheer-sided ravine carved by glacial meltwater. A natural amphitheatre forms the astonishing Malham Cove while Janet’s Foss is an entrancing and sublimely set waterfall.

Your Reward: The Lister Arms, Malham, listerarms.co.uk, 01729 830 444.

What to expect: A terrace has room for 80, mostly at tables with umbrellas. More benches on the village green for takeaways and drinks, served through a hatch.

CLAIM TO FAME 

St David’s Head, Wales

Cheers: The wild shore of St David¿s Head in Wales, which is studded with ancient wonders

Cheers: The wild shore of St David’s Head in Wales, which is studded with ancient wonders

The Farmer¿s Arms in St David's, pictured, has views of St Davids Cathedral from a sheltered, suntrap patio

The Farmer’s Arms in St David’s, pictured, has views of St Davids Cathedral from a sheltered, suntrap patio

The finest coastal scenery in Britain? Walk round the windblown, western extremity of South Wales, inhale the salty air and gaze over rocky cliffs, surging surf and gull-swooped Ramsey Island. There is history and mystery too; the route round the Pen Dal-aderyn peninsula, from St Davids, is studded with ancient wonders such as atmospheric St Non’s chapel and well.

Your Reward: The Farmer’s Arms, St Davids, farmersstdavids.co.uk, 01437 721 666.

What to expect: Views of St Davids cathedral from a sheltered, suntrap patio add to the ambience.

BEST OF ALL WORLDS 

Tarr Steps, Exmoor

The Tarr Steps is a stone clapper bridge that probably dates back to the 13th century. You can cross it on a trail that meanders along the banks of the Barle in Exmoor

The Tarr Steps is a stone clapper bridge that probably dates back to the 13th century. You can cross it on a trail that meanders along the banks of the Barle in Exmoor

From Withypool, a trail meanders along the banks of the Barle, through Knaplock Wood. Cross the river via ‘Tarr Steps’ itself: this beautifully-preserved, ancient — probably 13th century — stone clapper bridge is one of a kind. Return through open country and enjoy magical views of the valley and red deer-roamed moors beyond.

Your Reward: The Royal Oak, Withypool, 01643 831 506, royaloakwithypool.co.uk.

What to expect: Covered tables in several huts, sheds and gazebos, plus a beer garden with umbrellas. Also, an outdoor bar in trailer in the car park with a takeaway menu.

WILDLIFE APLENTY

Blakeney Freshes, Norfolk

A five-mile circular sweep, under widescreen skies, from the quayside at Blakeney village. Head out into reed beds and marches that encapsulates all that is special about the north Norfolk coast. The National Trust-managed Freshes teem with sea bird and waders: bittern, redshank and avocets in their myriads. Bring binoculars.

Your Reward: The White Horse, Blakeney, 01263 740 574, whitehorseblakeney.com.

What to expect: A high-end gastropub, big on locally-sourced fish. Just 30 covers under umbrellas. No takeaways.

THE REASON WYE

Offa’s Dyke, Herefordshire/Powys

A section of the history-brimming Offa¿s Dyke long-distance footpath that weaves between Wales and England

A section of the history-brimming Offa’s Dyke long-distance footpath that weaves between Wales and England 

A history-brimming stretch of the intriguing Offa’s Dyke long-distance footpath. Weave between Wales and England, starting from Gladestry on the Welsh side. In places, the route follows the mounds of the eighth-century Dyke as it crosses open moorland.

A long, lazy loop of the river Wye provides a dramatic change of scenery on the approach to Hay-on-Wye, on the Welsh side. Another option is to end at nearby Clifford, just inside England.

Your Reward: The Old Black Lion in Hay-on-Wye, 01497 820 841, oldblacklion.co.uk, or The Castlefields at Clifford 01497 831 554, thecastlefields.co.uk.

What to expect: The former has a famed menu and is poised as soon as Welsh rules allow. Both have open-fronted marquees.

INDEPENDENT IN SCOTLAND 

Speyside Way, Scottish Highlands

The Speyside Way, pictured, is a 65-mile long-distance footpath. The first six-mile section takes you through Aviemore and into the Cairngorms National Park

The Speyside Way, pictured, is a 65-mile long-distance footpath. The first six-mile section takes you through Aviemore and into the Cairngorms National Park 

The Speyside Way is a big, bold 65-mile-long distance footpath through the Highlands and the heart of single malt distilling country. This first, six-mile section is a ramble from Aviemore through the majesty of the Cairngorms National Park. The Way plunges into silvery birch forest and skirts shimmering lochs before dropping to the peaty Spey.

Your Reward: The Boat Inn, Boat of Garten, 01479 831 258, boathotel.co.uk.

What to expect: Wait for Nicola Sturgeon to give the green light. Then sit by the river, nibble local salmon and sip from a mesmerising selection of malt whiskies.

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