We sit there and stare at our phones in confusion. How did we miss it? How did we end up in the middle of a housing estate in Bewdley when we were supposed to be in the middle of a graveyard in Claines? After 30 minutes’ worth of driving, my friend and I pull over and start Googling where we had gone wrong. To our surprise, the destination we had in mind shared the same name as another establishment not far from it.
The Mug House Pub is our choice of destination for this month’s UK microadventure. I’d heard word of it through the Atlas Obscura website, and the concept of the place itself drew me in. The Mug House is a 700-year-old pub that sits next door to Claines Church and its graveyard- another one of the many small, unique pubs scattered among England. It sounded like a scene from a horror movie, and with Halloween quickly approaching, it seemed like a great area to scout out for some early spooks. However, our original destination was hidden in Claines, and we ended up near Bewdley, an extra half hour away from our small, hidden pub.
I love exploring small, hidden places that the tourist eye usually looks over. You can get lost and disappear into a world you have never visited before; dive into each unique aesthetic and only come back up gasping for air when its time to go back home. It’s like playing a video game or reading a book: once you start, its hard to snap back to everyday life. After a long summer of working, Worcester and the Mug House are the chance I was looking for to enter another world long enough to break the routine I’ve settled into. Luckily, my friend Kieran feels the same. Unfortunately, we don’t live as close to each other as we’d like. I had to take a train from Birmingham New Street for an hour while he drove up from Hereford to meet me in the centre of Worcester. After sitting in coffee shops and wandering down alley streets for the majority of the day, we decided it was time to make our way to the Mug House Pub.
As we drive from dual carriageways to country lanes, we start to notice that the expected 10-minute drive from Worcester is taking longer than expected. We’d put the address into the Satnav about 20 minutes earlier, and no signs indicated that we were anywhere near. Turns out, Kieran had put in the wrong postcode: we were en route to The Mug House and Angry Chef, an inn offering bed and breakfast services, restaurant and accommodation. Although it sounded like another adventure in itself, we turned around back the way we came, tracing the lines of the map with a steady finger. Around 20 minutes later, we find it.
From afar, we spot the church first: a stone building with small wooden doors for an entrance and a castle-like tower to its right; a golden mechanical clock hanging underneath it and a flagpole poking out from the top. In the late summer weather, it looked nowhere near as terrifying as my imagined horror movie set. With the sun shining down its heavenly light, we lock the car and walk around the building into the graveyard. The graves are scattered, stone headers eroded and growing moss over time. Trees grew by some, twisting bark and leaves into a protective layer. A breeze blows while we walk through, a gentle stroke from underground ghosts- a welcoming gesture rather than a warning.
The graveyard isn’t as big as most sites seemed to describe, but this isn’t at all surprising with how small Claines looks on a map. In one corner of the graveyard, you’re able to see the entrance to the Mug House, a small cottage blooming with flowers. A beer garden sits closest to the graveyard, wooden benches laid out neatly, with a wooden stand to the right, another bench and wooden seats hidden underneath it. Looking straight at it, you’d never guess that a church and graveyard sat next-door. Originally, the alehouse was owned by the small church, who used the pub to fund church repairs and the provision of service books. Over the years, the venue was used to attract the local villagers to both the church services and the pub beverages- and it’s easy to see why.
There’s a couple of old men sitting on a bench who greet us kindly as we walk up the house. They have a pint of beer sitting in front of them and laugh softly at an inside joke. We walk down a step into the pub and are quickly met by the bartender, a small smile on her lips.
“I’m sorry, we’re only serving drinks,” she says, wiping down a pint stain on the bar, “We close at three and open again at five if you’d like to come back then.”
Kieran looks at his watch and raises his eyebrows- it’s a strange time to close, but we don’t question it.
“That’s fine, can we just have two cokes please?”
As she pours us our drinks, I have a quick look around. One room includes a stooped ceiling, decorated with several different types of mugs hooked from their handles on each wooden beam. More wooden furniture sits inside (some of it even hand carved), accompanied by a stone fireplace, and an amalgamation of plates and photo frames hanging from the walls. Another room seems to have a restaurant like set-up, with a retro feel to it: a flowery carpet covers the wooden floor and an antique painting takes up the majority of the far wall, the paint a dusty coral colour. Through windows tainted with time, a view of farmers’ fields makes you feel like you’re suddenly transported into the heart of Devon.
The clunk of glasses on wood breaks my reverie, and we’re ushered back outside, where the bartender promptly locks the door and walks back the way we came. We end up sitting on the wooden stand, admiring the pub as we sip at our drinks. Although we wanted to say until it re-opened, we had a long drive home ahead of us.
“If I’d checked the postcode and didn’t get us lost, we would have been able to sit inside for longer and spend more time here…” Kieran mutters, frowning.
“If I was doing directions then I wouldn’t have gotten us lost,” I grin, elbowing him in the side playfully,
“Hey, no need to be so smug!”
Disclaimer: I’m not the best photographer (yet!), but I’m hoping that with the following Tea-Stained Photo Journals (TSPJ) I can practice my skills in both photography and editing so that I can eventually look back on such blog posts to see my improvements over time. For now, I hope you enjoy spontaneous pictures!
(All pictures are taken with Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge, and edited with the free version of Adobe Photoshop Express.)
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