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Fox Inn, Monkwood Green, Hallow, WORCESTER, WR2 6NX [Map]
Monkwood Green is a tiny hamlet surrounding a huge green on which graze a flock of Hebridean sheep who help to keep the grass down but never quite succeed! To the southwest are fine views of the Malvern Hills and to the north lies Monkwood, a wonderful nature reserve managed by the Worcestershire Wildlife Trust. The reserve is famous for its butterflies, woodland birdlife, fungi and while we were there most interest seemed to centre around a rather large hornets nest. Monkwood's clearly a place to escape to where the pace of life is far slower than the surrounding cities and towns.
The pub I can only describe as an exceptional example of what a rural inn should be. Unlike many rural hostelries the Fox has not (as yet) been gentrified and / or sterilised as so very many have elsewhere in the country. I apologise for squeezing in the words 'as yet' as I always fear for such pubs, but this pub is alive and well and thrives because it serves superb local ale and cider, fresh food and offers locals and visitors alike a very warm welcome. This really is a proper pub, something that the pub chains are perhaps a little envious of until their accountants shake them by the shoulders and remind them that their prime aim is to maximise profits by feeding people with portion-packed meals and top-brand drinks whilst always giving the illusion that the customer is always receiving 'good value for money' so that they return time and time again. Many people love them with their carefully selected piped music, cheap 'smart' fittings, annoying 'spray' table cleaners and poorly paid overworked staff but I guess they satisfy the needs of a sizeable proportion of the country.
Enough rambling, down to business. I'll travel a long way to drink Cannon Royall brews. Fortunately the brewery is only a few miles up the road so the beers don't have time to get travel sick before they reach the Fox. The pub offers 2 or 3 brews from the brewery. The Fruiterers Mild (abv 3.7%) satisfies me and it is quite a fruity one too whilst the Arrowhead (abv 3.9%) provides a bit of variety with a well developed hoppy nature and dry finish. The Fox is tied to the brewery. I always like pubs that serve decent cider too, and you should find local Barkers cider on sale which I'll try when we visit there to camp and catch one of their monthly informal folk sessions (last Friday of month).
The pub has a single bar though 2 drinking areas on either side of the front door. There's a lovely inglenook fireplace on one side and a beamed ceiling. At weekends the pub is popular with walkers and cyclists stopping for a breather along with locals who might bring their dogs along too and watch a bit of rugby on the TV. They do good homemade food though give them a call if you're planning to eat just to check. I half planned a trip there and the landlord said that if you give them a call a few days before they can prepare sandwiches for you whenever you want to come along. A nice little touch on one visit on a Saturday afternoon in February 2001, was the sight of pork pies stacked to the left of the bar which along with some English mustard 'went down a treat.'
If you like unpretentious rural inns that serve decent beer, go there, I'm sure that you won't be disappointed.