Best beer gardens in the Heart of England

Published May 25, 2012

Some of the best pub gardens in Rutland, Leicestershire, Northamptonshire, Nottinghamshire, Derbyshire. Lincolnshire and Warwickshire…

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The King’s Head, Wadenhoe, Northamptonshire

The panoramic garden behind the 400-year-old King‘s Head in the pretty village of Wadenhoe backs on to the River Nene and was recommended to Great Food by several people. Narrowboats slip past as you enjoy your pint of NVB from Nene Valley Brewery, brewed a few miles away in Oundle. To maximise the pub‘s setting, South African landlady Aletha has just opened a Riverside Bar, so you don’t even have to go inside for your next drink. The dining here also comes recommended, with Great Food reviewer Mark Hamilton enjoying “excellent food in unspoilt surroundings”. When the sun‘s shining through the willow trees, there are few better places to be.
CONTACT King’s Head, Church Street, Wadenhoe, Northamptonshire PE8 5ST, 01832 720024,
www.wadenhoekingshead.co.uk

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Anne of Cleves, Melton Mowbray, Leicestershire

Great Food Magazine’s local beer garden, and what a cracker it is! Beautifully tended and overlooked by stunning St Mary‘s Church, it‘s enclosed by an ancient wall and high hedge, so you really are in a world of your own. Old fruit trees and bright flowers add colour and atmosphere. The pub itself belongs to Leicestershire brewer Everards, and part of the building can be dated back to 1327. Legend has it that the property was gifted to Anne of Cleves by Henry VIII as part of their divorce settlement and, naturally, it is rumoured to be haunted.
CONTACT Anne of Cleves, 12 Burton St, Melton Mowbray, Leics LE13 1AE, 01664 481336, www.everards.co.uk

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The Fox & Hounds, Exton, Rutland

Dominating the village green like a handsome young vicar at a WI tea party, the grand frontage of the three-storey Fox & Hounds hides a gem of a garden to the rear. With wooden bench seats nestling among relatively wild foliage – the Fox & Hounds‘ garden couldn‘t be criticised for being overly manicured – it‘s the perfect place in which to watch the bees work while enjoying some rural peace and quiet. Traffic noise won‘t be a problem. The beer garden is looked down upon by an octagonal wooden beach-style bar that would be at home on the Isle of Capri. And if you‘re lucky enough to get southern Italian weather, then you might want to try some of landlord and head chef Valter Floris‘s food al fresco. In our experience, the cooking here is very good, with the menu offering a hybrid of English and Italian classics. Our tip for the garden would be the antipasto platter comprising salami, bresaola, speck ham, Asiago cheese, marinated vegetables and salad. All washed down with a dry Italian white, of course.
CONTACT Fox & Hounds, 19 The Green, Exton, Rutland, LE15 8AP, 01572 812403, www.foxandhoundsrutland.co.uk

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Ye Olde Baker’s Arms, Blaby, Leicestershire

The garden of the thatched Baker‘s Arms was recommended by Blaby-based Susan Rowley (@suzybreadcrumbs on Twitter). The pub dates back to 1485 and has a pretty, compact beer garden that fills up with drinkers on fine Friday afternoons and stays that way throughout the weekend if the weather holds. In summer, the flowerbeds burst into an explosion of fresh colours, in contrast to the ancient, murky and fascinating bakery that was recently discovered in the bowels of the pub and is believed to date back 800 years. Appropriately, The Baker‘s is now hosting bread making courses, run by Leicester‘s Rosie Clark from Virtuous Bread – email rosie@virtuousbread.com.
CONTACT The Baker’s Arms, The Green, Blaby, Leicestershire, 01162 787253, www.thebakersarms.com

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The Martin’s Arms, Colston Bassett, Nottinghamshire

A few yards down the road from Colston Bassett‘s famous Stilton dairy is the Martin‘s Arms – a classic country pub with a lovely garden that was recommended by both Andrew Dudley of Nottinghamshire and Shane Maxwell-Atkin from the Vale of Belvoir (@andyduds1975 and @gastrochap on Twitter respectively). The Martin’s Arms is surrounded by estate parkland and its landscaped beer garden, peppered with parasolled tables and topiary, is overlooked by the church spire. It could almost be the template on which the traditional rural English pub is based… there‘s even a croquet lawn. After drinking in the garden – in every sense – it‘ll be time for some food. The Martin‘s Arms is The Good Pub Guide‘s Dining Pub of the Year for Nottinghamshire, serving such al fresco delights as a crab cocktail with cucumber, avocado, dehydrated tomatoes and Marie Rose sauce.
CONTACT The Martin’s Arms, School Lane  Colston Bassett, Nottingham NG12 3FD, 01949 81361, www.themartinsarms.co.uk

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The Finch’s Arms, Hambleton, Rutland

The Finch‘s Arms‘ rear terrace was tipped by Megan Horner from Oakham (@Mercury_Megan on Twitter) and arguably has the best view of any beer garden in the entire Midlands. Located on the Hambleton Peninsula and overlooking the north arm of Rutland Water, when the sun shines here and you peer out beyond red hot pokers to the water and lush greenery in the distance, you really are in beer garden heaven. In terms of al fresco dining, you won‘t be disappointed, and the Sharing Menu has dishes made for that sublime view, including roasted tiger prawns with sweet chilli creme fraiche and fresh water crayfish risotto.
CONTACT Finch‘s Arms, Oakham Road, Hambleton, Rutland LE15 8TH, 01572 756575, www.finchsarms.co.uk

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The Garden House Hotel, Stamford, Lincolnshire

This hidden gem is tucked away behind one of the historic market town’s lesser-known hotels, but it really is worth seeking out as it‘s the perfect place for an evening drink while the sun goes down. The doors of the hotel’s conservatory bar open out onto almost one acre of perfectly kept – and utterly surprising – walled garden, which is divided into three parts by two ornate archways. It feels like you’ve discovered a secret place, with the walls insulating you from traffic, hustle and bustle. This is a beautiful spot and could be further enhanced if the hotel bar offered a range of local beers.
CONTACT Garden House Hotel, High Street St. Martins, Stamford, Lincs PE9 2LP, 01780 763359, www.gardenhousehotel.com

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The Exeter Arms, Barrowden, Rutland

Every village pub should brew its own beer and overlook the duckpond, and happily The Exeter Arms does both. One of Great Food contributor Matt Gregory‘s favourites, you can sit at the front, looking out to the green, or at the rear, near the enormous willow tree. Either location is a fine place in which to enjoy award-winning ales brewed in landlord Martin Allsopp‘s glorified shed, also known as Barrowden Brewing Company. Pub dog Pilot has also been known to provide entertainment.
CONTACT Exeter Arms, 28 Main St, Barrowden, Rutland LE15 8EQ, 01572 747247, www.exeterarmsrutland.co.uk

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The Greyhound, Derby

This is the only city centre pub to be found in the main section of this feature. It was recommended by Derby Brewing Company on Twitter (@DerbyBrewingCo), which is not surprising because it’s their pub! However, until recently The Greyhound was boarded up, so we think the brewery deserves credit for breathing new life into the building. One of its best features is the new walled patio – home to a roof terrace and al fresco BBQ kitchen. The Greyhound’s back room has large bi-folding doors that open up completely, giving the impression that the beer garden is almost part of the pub’s interior.“Previously the outside space had not been used and the rear of the pub was dark and dingy,” says Paul Harris of Derby Brewing Co. “We incorporated jungle-style planting to try to create a ‘hidden gem’ that you would not expect to find in a city centre. We also added the BBQ kitchen and converted a disused flat roof into a roof terrace, making use of every part of the building. The whole terrace is warmed by electric heaters to make the most of the space throughout the year.”
CONTACT The Greyhound, 75-76 Friar Gate, Derby, DE1 1FN, 01332 344155, www.greyhound-dbc.co.uk

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More to check out…

The George Hotel of Stamford, Lincs
Ancient hotel with fabulous cobbled courtyard – tipped by Jeremy Ball from Stamford (@jlballinteriors).

The Black Eagle, Hockley, West Mids
Real ale pub with delightful garden, recommended by West Midlands-based beer blogger Tania Nexust (@tania_nexust).

Fellows, Morton & Clayton, Nottingham
Expect joyous flowers in the garden of this city pub – a tip by Caroline Elmhirst from Nottingham in Bloom.

Red Lion, Litton, Derbyshire
Characterful old pub whose beer garden is also the village green – tipped by Taste Tideswell (@tastetideswell).

The Bell, Harborne
Quirky hostelry set in the grounds of a church and with a bowling green in the garden area – another tip from @Tania_Nexust.

Quorndon Fox, Quorn, Leics
Pub with large, pretty beer garden – recommended by Loughborough‘s Hayden Beresford (@hpjberesford).

The Gladstone, Nottingham
City pub renowned for amazing floral displays – recommended by Midlands-based ‘Publican Sam’ (@howtorunapub).

Cloud Bar, Lincoln
Located in Lincoln’s Bailgate, with great views of the cathedral and castle – tipped by Michael Brown from Northumberland (@CannyBevvyEd)

The Cuttle, Long Itchington, Warwicks
Freehouse with large beer garden that overlooks the Grand Union Canal – recommended by Nuneaton CAMRA (@nuneatonCAMRA).
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Matt Wright
The author:

Matt lives in Leicestershire with his wife, two kids and dog. He is passionate about British pubs, slow food and home brewing. He founded Great Food Club (originally as Great Food Magazine) in 2010 after being inspired by local producers near his home town of Melton Mowbray - Britain's 'Rural Capital of Food'.