It’s a quiet midweek afternoon, we pass by the River Ver, over a footbridge, and head to one of the oldest pubs in England. Outside, old wooden church pews furnish the front garden and beer kegs are piled high. A steel cockerel towers above the sign “Ye Olde Fighting Cocks”, with two hanging baskets filled with pansies on either side of it welcoming us in.

As I step through the miniature doorway, darkness prevails and it feels quite labyrinthine given its unique octagonal structure; it’s a challenge to find my bearings, even before I’ve had any ale! I look up, bowed Tudor beams are running across the low crooked ceiling and it feels as if the short wooden posts are the only things holding this place up.

We approach the curved bar with its old world charm that feels so much cosier than the contemporary clean lines of modern pubs. The friendly barman can see that I know very little about ale and shows me two separate rows of ale pumps labelled with curious names like: Heavenly blonde, Dark Star and Chief Jester. He offers me a taste of a few, and much to his delight, I go for the Dark Star, a velvety ale which, he reveals, is their very own and locally brewed.

We find a table and I sip my ale (… mmm it’s perfectly smooth) and take in the country pub atmosphere. Coach lamps hang at either side of the ample fireplace and I can imagine how cosy it must feel in the winter. A stand up piano sits beneath a small window and traditional Axminster carpets cover the creaking floorboards. Framed sketches of literary characters like Don Quixote and Job Trotter from The Pickwick Papers, along with illustrations from pheasants to Shire horses hang on the deep red walls; I sit there pondering how deeply steeped in history (and revelry) this pub is.

This site dates back to the 8th century and the building was erected in the 11th century; it was moved to its present site after the dissolution of the Abbey in 1539. Apparently there are tunnels stretching from the beer cellar to the Abbey once frequented by the monks. By the 17th Century, it had become a local centre for cock fighting, a popular pastime, later banned in 1849.

We walk home through the park, relieved to get some daylight, and to come to our senses. My husband decides that it would be fun to cross the running stream via the stepping stones, assuming that half a pint is not enough to make me lose my balance. How wrong he is!