- The Hunters Lodge
Old Bristol Road, Priddy, Wells, BA5 3AR.
Many people forget that the Mendip Hills march belligerently across the northern end of Somerset and their relative height, rising from the marshy Levels, leads to a stark contrasts in the aspect of the land and the ferocity of the weather. Just below the huge communications mast above Wells, sits a lonely chunk of moorland, some despondent looking sheep, a cross-roads and an old pub.
Here is another fine example of what is missing from so many pubs up and down the land, and which almost by default crafts an exceptional hostelry; continuation of ownership. This pub has been in the watchful hands of Dors family for three generations, and the fourth is currently in training. Originally a farm which had a licensed room to supplement its sheep business, the pub slowly became the mainstay of the operation (although current governor Roger still has a few acres under pasture). Nothing much changed in this utilitarian agricultural pub, until the early 1960s when Roger inherited and ‘did the old place up’. The result is an eclectic, delightful and surprisingly mellow mixture of flagstone, authentic brass and inglenook with curved deco woodwork, Formica and tat.
Three bars, set around a single servery, each have their own distinct feeling. The public bar is as it should be: Spartan and child free, with not a scrap of shag-pile or upholstery to be seen. Here the local farming community and other hill-folk mix in good, and occasionally raucous, humour with the new money finding its way slowly up the Mendip escarpment. Good, micro-brew ale is racked behind the bar and dispensed into proper handled and dimpled glasses, unless otherwise requested, at a price which can keep even the hard-up drinking most of the night. The little Snug to the right of the entrance usually hosts a few Mendip geriatrics, supping at the same schooner of sherry they ordered some days ago, but who will generally involve you in their conversations of declining moral standards and the dark agenda of the EU. Finally there is the Family Room at the back, reached by a separate entrance from the street frontage. Barbour clad parents often walk here to park their broods in the ample garden adjacent, while they heal their fraying nerves with buckets of Wilkins' Farmhouse Cider by the fire.
Mobile phones are strictly prohibited throughout, as is moving the furniture or rushing the landlord. Exceptional value, simple but pleasing food also features during trading hours, and there is also a large function room and skittle ally if you have need of them. Go especially when the weather is at its bleakest, when this portion of Mendip becomes a little piece of wind-blasted Hebridean heath, and sit inside this warm bastion of civility as the tempest batters impotently at the door.