When we first moved to the west country when I was sixteen we lived on a new estate on Bleadon Hill – the actual village of Bleadon was on the other side of the hill, facing south. We moved here without knowing very much at all about the place, and in hindsight, maybe my parents would have chosen a home which was more accessible to Weston-super-Mare, the main town just a mile away.
Like many newly built estates (I hate the term new-build) there were no facilities. It was on a hill with an infrequent bus so you had to drive everywhere – drive to the shops, drive to the golf club, drive to other facilities, drive just about everywhere. Dad and I discovered that if we walked down a nearby lane called Totterdown Lane, we arrived at a newish pub on the Old Mixon estate, called The Walnut Tree. We didn’t go down every night, but we often walked down and tottered back (only because it was such a steep hill!) The landlord was a gentle giant of a man called George and we got to know many people who also went into what was then a very busy pub.
I moved away to go to college, and when I came home we still went to the Walnut Tree; George left to go to another pub, The Severn, and for various reasons Dad started to go down to the golf club more frequently, mainly because his friends went. This meant he had to drive, no more tottering, and he only occasionally dropped into the Walnut Tree. Other people began to drift away too, and eventually he stopped going.
Over the years since then, the fortunes of the Walnut Tree have declined… for no real reason, but maybe because it was the wrong shaped pub – the bars were too big, and also pubs in general have seen a decline, and several local factories closed meaning people didn’t have the same disposable income.
Landlords have come and gone, tried their best, introduced new ideas but sadly, very sadly, and typical of pubs today (not helped by taxes and breweries) the pub closed, re-opened, closed, re-opened…. The last place I worked was near The Walnut Tree and we occasionally popped in… as ever a friendly welcome, nice people, good beer…
It closed for a couple of years then a young enthusiastic woman with lots of new ideas took it over. There was a total refurb and stylish but nice colour scheme and pub sign… we hoped she would do well… but sadly it failed again. It’s a couple of miles from us, and of course we have the Dolphin so we hadn’t helped…
The other day we noticed the ‘to rent’ sign had gone and there seemed to be workmen there. The day after the other day we noticed lights were on, cars in the carpark, and maybe punters inside supping a couple or two! So tonight, we decided to go down and visit, see what the old place is like now – it’s no use us despairing of closing pubs if we don’t do anything to support them.
We parked up and went in through the main (possibly only) door and into a very pleasant light bar. Everything looked sparkly and clean, the chairs comfortable, the tables polished, a selection of old books on the window sills, and a beer called The Reverend James on the pump. A friendly lady came through to serve us, and we took our drinks to sit in some comfy chairs. There was only a couple of other ladies in this bar, but through in the sports bar we could hear a gang of people enjoying themselves round the billiards table.
We had a very pleasant evening,and although we did drop into the Dolph on the way home, we thought we would definitely visit again!
I confess my featured image isn’t my own, but iy is a walnut tree!