Like many good stories, this one begins in the pub.

It ends there too, but it's the bit in between that has brought me to the Perch & Pike in the village of South Stoke in Oxfordshire.

The pub is one of 19 that features in parent company Brakspear's Pub Trails — a series of circular walks across Oxfordshire and Berkshire that take you back to the pub you started at.

You can pick up maps and details of the walks in the pubs, or you can download the walking information on the company's new Pub Trails app.

Over a coffee, Perch & Pike tenant Simon Duffy explains that walkers have become an important group for the business.



"We are lucky that we are located on the Ridgeway Trail," he says. "We looked at where the pub was and the profile and then developed our offering around what we already had here.

"We can get anything from a couple to 20 walkers a day, so it makes a difference to our midweek lunch trade. We see a lot of familiar faces, so it is good for repeat trade too."

The app has also done its bit to attract the walkers, Simon explains: "They got it absolutely right because they have personalised it to the pub. They also have three different walks on there, so it appeals to people with different capabilities."

Coffee necked, it's time to embark on a journey. There are three choices of trails: an easy three-miler along the Thames, the medium 6.25 miles across the Ridgeway, or a four-hour hike over 10 miles, involving two uphill stretches.

As delightful as that last one sounds, time and the light are against me, so option one it is.

The 16 instructions provided by Pub Trails are so precise I never veer from the track. It also points out useful landmarks, such as the 13th century St Andrew's Church, a Second World War pill box in a private back garden, and a railway bridge built by Brunel in 1839.



I walk past a fisherman setting up by the river, two Labradors splashing in the water and watch as a heron glides by, skimming just above the surface of a meadow.

Mainly though, I just enjoy the peace and quiet and subtle changes in the scenery.

About two miles in, I realise I'm developing a thirst. "Should have brought some water," I think to myself, before this thought is immediately knocked to one side with another: ""

I pick up the pace for the last leg; over a stile and across some fields, through a tunnel under a railway line, down a gravel track and past cottages I can only fantasise about affording, until I reach the pub.

The walk has worked its magic... or maybe it's the pub. Because after that hour or so of exploration, the beer and food by the fire tastes even better than it normally would.




How to attract walkers

Walkers may be frequent visitors who don't want a big meal every time. Simon says: "We brought in a lighter lunchtime menu which has attracted walkers. They don't want to spend £16 on a main meal. They prefer a pint and a sandwich around the £10 mark."


Be prepared for big groups, all turning up at once, hungry and thirsty. We let them use the car park, come in to pre-order and then come back after their walk. It's brilliant because we know exactly what we are up against," adds Simon.


Walking may look like an escape from screens and tech but they go hand-in-hand. "One of the first things walkers do when they get in is check on their phones how far they have walked," says Simon. He also monitors social media posts walkers tag the pub in, so he can push out on The Perch & Pike's own social channels.


The likelihood is your walkers will be from the older generation, so you may want to tailor your offer to suit. Many will be retired and connected to other groups, which gives you the chance to expand your network