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Traditional English Coaching Inn – The Halfway Bridge Lodsworth
I traveled among unknown men,
In lands beyond the sea:
Nor England! Did I know till then
What love I bore to thee.
Visiting places like Halfway Bridge in Lodsworth in Spring remind me just how beautiful the English countryside is. Those visitors to the UK who stick to London and don’t manage to travel to the surrounding counties miss a verdant landscape scattered with villages where time seems to stand still. And to those who, like me, live in London please remember that there is life outside the M25.
For this visit I was invited to make use of a ZipCar again to escape the Old Smoke and get some fresh air. If you haven’t already heard about ZipCar and you are based in London it’s really worth checking out how it works. I don’t keep a car in London so until I discovered ZipCar I was at the mercy of Public Transport unless I could beg a lift from a friend. Now, I’ve paid for an annual subscription and I can book a car any time I like online – for just an hour or two or for an overnight stay. My nearest VW Golf is less than 300ft from my home and costs £7 an hour. That includes petrol (up to 60 miles) and the congestion charge. Having already signed up with ZipCar I was delighted to be offered a complimentary car for ‘special trips’ like this one, so that I can write about the service as part of my review. And, I’ve negotiated a special deal for London-Unattached readers too. If you sign up to ZipCar here you’ll find you get £20 of free driving as part of your membership!
Of course the countryside has evolved – in West Sussex some of the traditional livestock pastures have been turned into vineyards and the region is home to a wealth of wineries, breweries and even the odd distillery. Halfway Bridge, though, has been an Inn since the 17th Century. Now there is an excellent restaurant and a suite of deluxe rooms housed in restored barns a stone’s throw from the main building. My overnight stay on the way to visit Petworth House (about three miles down the road) gave me a chance not just to relax in the very comfortable suite but to enjoy dinner and a cooked breakfast. The suite at Halfway Bridge is quite large enough to accommodate a small family – there’s a bed-settee in the lounge area in addition to the king-size double.
It’s charmingly decorated so that everything feels cosy and comfortable and everything is impeccably clean. If you want to visit en-famille, there are interconnecting doubles (with twin bed or double bed options available). The wi-fi works well, there’s a tray with fresh coffee, milk and tea, a good quality flat screen tv and lovely toiletries in the bathroom from a local artisan producer. The rooms look out over a private lawn area with benches to sit out in the summer – a great place to sit and relax after a day hiking across the South Downs or wine tasting at one of the local wineries.
In the main house, the pub is set up with a bar and dining area. Endearingly, they offer a takeaway service too. Think cosy log fires and stone floors. This place still feels like a real pub, despite a menu that verges on fine dining. And, they serve local fizz, beer and gin.
Despite occasionally appearing to the contrary, I do try to drink moderately so trying all three of the local tipples wasn’t going to work for me. A glass of Upperton sparkling wine though was an excellent way to start the evening. Home marinated olives arrived together with a generous basket of bread. So far so good.
I picked the ‘special’ for my starter of smoked mackerel and beetroot salad. It’s a lovely, simple dish that depends on having the kind of good quality smoked fish that was served here to complement the earthy beet.
Although it was quite a clear night I really wanted comfort food for my main course and pan seared calves liver with creamed potatoes fitted the brief perfectly. If I have any issue with the menu it is that with a choice of 8 dishes, travelling to Morocco for tagine and to Thailand for curry meant there was no option of an English chicken or lamb dish. That seemed a shame to me in a location with such a quintessentially British flavour. My liver was fabulous though caramelised on the outside and with a nice pink middle.
Dessert, more comfort food, was a pretty pan of apple and blackberry crumble with home made custard. No problems here at all and I managed to eat a portion that would happily have served two.
Back to my room for the night, I slept very well and woke to brilliant sunshine. Breakfast had to be a full English of course. Everything fine, although I was suprised to find hash browns on the plate. Excellent bacon and a nicely seasoned sausage, all very well cooked, so no complaints.
Without doubt I’d come back. This place works on all sorts of levels and for all sorts of people. The pub is charming and friendly, the tables have board games for an evening in and the food ranges from fish and chips to dishes approaching a fine dining option. It’s a perfect location for a short break – close enough to Chichester, a few minutes from Petworth House and right in the middle of some of the most beautiful walks in England. It’s also around 60 miles from London, just over an hour in a car. Accommodation is flexible – you can treat yourself to the luxury of a suite or bring the family and book a pair of connecting rooms.
I’ve got more to tell about this particular trip, but for more information:
The Halfway Bridge
Disclaimer: I was provided with free use of a car for this trip by ZipCar and complimentary accommodation and meals at the Halfway Bridge.