Saturday, 29 September 2012

Medbourne & Hallaton, Leicestershire

The villages of Hallaton and Medbourne in Leicestershire are perhaps best known for the annual Bottle Kicking tradition. The game has strong links with the three remaining village pubs, acting as unofficial headquarters to participants, and as the focus of fundraising activities for the event including the many charities it supports. The pubs are also good places to find images and artifacts from previous years of this important local custom. There are other games associated with these village pubs, including one perhaps not usually associated with the pleasures of drinking and pub-going

Flat Green and Crown Green Bowls have a long association with pubs. In addition to the many municipal and private members bowling greens, there would have been quite a few pubs with their own greens at one time. Indeed the number of pubs still bearing the Bowling Green moniker is a good indication of how many of these greens there would have been, though sadly few have survived the demands of more recent development. Some have survived as unusually flat beer gardens (a good example of this can be seen at the Station Hotel in Loughborough, Leicestershire), whilst others would have been sold off for development or tarmacked over to meet for increasing need for car parking space. So pubs which still have associated bowling greens in regular use are now rare indeed. The only one I've visited personally is the Newhampton Inn, a splendid Victorian boozer in suburban Wolverhampton.

The beautifully maintained Bowling Green shown here is located at the front of the former grade II listed Horse & Trumpet pub in the village of Medbourne. When trading as a pub, the Horse & Trumpet was regarded as an unspoilt gem, and listed on CAMRA's Inventory of Historic Pub Interiors. Sadly, since the death of the last licensee several years ago, the pub is now trading as an upmarket restaurant, though a 'vintage' Watneys Red Barrel sign hanging at the corner of the building gives a clue to its former existence. More happily, the bowling green's future has been secured for the future, and is now in the hands of the Parish Council for use by the Medbourne Bowls Club. The markers along the edge indicate the separate 'lanes' used in the 'flat' game.

The Bewicke Arms is an attractive and historic pub, located in an equally attractive village. In common with many village pubs, the Bewicke is largely given over to dining these days, but it's still very much a pub, and one where locals and visitors alike are welcome to simply drink and socialise.

The Bewicke is also a great place to examine images and relics of the local Bottle Kicking tradition, with numerous clippings and photographs decorating the walls from past events. Day-to-day gaming at the pub revolves around the Darts Board located in the smaller of the two bars. The pub team play in the local Welland Valley Darts League, which is a Winter league made up almost exclusively of rural village pubs. The nearby Harborough & District League accommodates the larger villages and town of the Market Harborough area.

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