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Inn with Freddie

The Barley Mow Long Lane Colehill Wimborne BH21 7AH 01202 882140

The countryside north of Wimborne is not as spectacular as some of the hillier parts of Dorset, but it is something of an undiscovered gem, with lush fields and little lanes which make this excellent walking country. Set in the middle of it, a couple of miles out of Wimborne, is the Barley Mow.

The building was originally a drover’s cottage with a school next door. The oldest part dates from the 16th century but the building has been extended in stages, which makes for interesting shapes and corners inside. The most recent extensions have been done sensitively with judicious but not excessive use of beams and flagstones, so everything fits together and it is difficult to tell what is new and what isn’t.

Hall & Woodhouse, the owners of the Barley Mow, have a good record of such extensions. Their tenants here are Andy and Sam Freemantle, who took over almost a year ago and have already succeeded in building up the pub’s popularity. Sam has worked in catering before – she was in charge of staffing for a company which catered for venues like Twickenham, Goodwood, St Andrews and Hampton Court – but Andy was running an engineering company until they decided to take the plunge. ‘He’s taken to it like a duck to water,’ says Sam proudly.

As you would expect, the full range of Hall & Woodhouse beers is kept. The food is in the capable hands of David, the head chef, who welcomed the arrival of the Freemantles with their strong insistence on fresh food. It has transformed the menu, as has the policy of buying most of the vegetables from France.

The basic menu is mostly pub favourites, but there are some pleasant surprises like a brie and broccoli pithiver – that’s cooked en croûte. There is a more ambitious specials board, from which we both chose. Mrs Freddie had a vegetable and mushroom risotto, which she said was ‘very flavourful’. So were my strips of rump steak, marinated in herbs and garlic and served on a mushroom and tomato tagliatelli. All the flavours mentioned were clearly identifiable and I appreciated the generous chunks of mushroom in particular.

I was rather intrigued by the name. it was a common pub name in the Chilterns, where I grew up, but I think this may be the only ‘Barley Mow’ in Dorset. It turns out that it means ‘a heap of barley’ from an Icelandic word meaning ‘heap'; it has nothing to do with ‘mow’ in the sense of ‘cut’, which comes originally from Latin.

It was a warm day when we visited and we were tempted by the terrace and large garden but in the end decided to eat inside, surrounded by an interesting variety of pictures and prints. They are just one of the factors that go to build up such a pleasant atmosphere. That and the good food make the Barley Mow, a classic ‘destination pub’, a most worthwhile destination for which to aim.

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