Growing up, The Plough Inn at Ford used to be my local. I would walk in there as a teenager and the bar would be full of characters including "Bracer", "Dicky Sadler" and a load of other drinkers soaking up their stories as well as some Donnington Ales. It was also a popular spot for jockeys, people who thought they were jockeys, people who wanted to be jockeys and people who wanted to catch a glimpse of a jockey (and the Queen's Granddaughter). The pub had life. You would get "Ploughed in" - a term we'd use for being in there longer than you expected. Every night you were guaranteed a good crowd with Sunday nights being the most popular as there was no racing on a Monday. Some had their own drink - a "half 'n' half was half BB and half SBA (two ales) but the latter wasn't said as everyone knew what it was. Some would rely on "Cotswold Halves" - these people bought their first pint but would then drink 3 quarters of it and get it topped back up for the price of a half. They would also moan if it didn't reach the top. Some even had their own glass like a local farmer who would appear at midday and again at about 5pm everyday for his quota of cider. His wasn't actually a glass but more like a tankard that held more than a pint. He would drive his Landrover home every night at about 20mph and return the next day and the day after that. Even a drink driving ban couldn't stop his routine.
The pub dog didn't belong to the pub. It was a one-eyed Jack Russell that would sit at the bar with it's owner and everyone knew him like he was one of the crowd. It would get through about 2 litres of water with the amount of pork scratchings that were thrown in his direction. His owner would leave his car running in the car park all evening as it had a dodgy battery.
The landlord was a former duel cheese rolling champion who also walked across Australia for no apparent reason than to give himself a challenge. He also had a hair transplant which would become the talk of the pub and the wider community and locals would tell him to "keep his hair on" whenever he lost his temper.
Seasons would pass but nothing would change apart from a slight increase in the alcohol which would bring its inevitable moaning and groaning and threats of boycotts that were never carried out. The Cheltenham Festival would come and go with an invasion of Irish and other punters taking over the pub that never went down too well with the regulars. Summer would see the spacious garden full of families enjoying some food and drink watching their children having fun as well as the odd local football match that could have been brought to a halt after one regular broke his leg yet the others rolled him into the rose bed and carried on.
While all of this went on there were people who walked into the pub and turned left. These people had a completely different experience to those who went straight on or turned right. They would enjoy a delicious meal. The food has always been good and after visiting a couple of times recently for the first time in years, it still is. The menu hasn't changed too much in all of this time and neither have the prices. Most of the dishes are under £13 except steaks, duck and a couple of the specials. The portion sizes are ridiculously generous and all the award winning meat is locally sourced. The regular Friday Meat Raffle is just as popular as it once was with many eagerly awaiting every ticket drawn to try and win their Sunday lunch and get in their wife's good books. The chants of "MEAT, MEAT, MEAT" used to grace the arrival of the meat in a wooden wheelbarrow which parked next to the roaring fire. Winners would revel in their victory by smacking their prize in delight and carrying on the chant. This is the closest you will ever come to caveman in your life.
Some of these characters are either no longer around or no longer live locally but the pub still has lots of charm, a thriving restaurant and a new generation of jockeys, stable staff and groupies but those were golden days that can never, and will never ever be repeated.
Today is a good day for anyone living in Cheltenham. The Tavern in Royal Well is now live on Deliveroo. This means you can get all of their delicious burgers, wings, fries and shakes delivered to your door!
Click TAVERN ON DELIVEROO to see the full menu and please eat responsibly!
We have tipped one horse in each race over the four days of the Cheltenham Festival. We probably wouldn't recommend putting your life savings on these but what harm would a couple of pounds on each do?
DAY 1 - TUESDAY 14TH MARCH
1.30 Supreme Novices' Hurdle BALLYANDY
2.10 Arkle ALTIOR
2.50 Ultima Handicap Chase HOLYWELL
3.30 Champion Hurdle BUVEUR DAIR
4.10 Mares' Hurdle APPLES JADE
4.50 Nation Hunt Chase CHAMPERS ON ICE
5.30 Novices' Handicap Chase BROTHER TEDD e/w
DAY 2 - WEDNESDAY 15TH MARCH
1.30 Neptune AUGUSTA KATE e/w
2.10 RSA Novices' Chase WHISPER
2.50 Coral Cup PERIGRINE RUN e/w
3.30 Queen Mother Champion Chase DOUVAN
4.10 Cross Country URGENT DE GREGAINE
4.50 Fred Winter DINO VELVET
5.30 Champion Bumper SOMEDAY
DAY 3 - THURSDAY 16TH MARCH
1.30 JLT Novices’ Chase YORKHILL
2.10 Pertemps Network Final TOBEFAIR
2.50 Ryanair Chase UXIZANDRE
3.30 Stayers Hurdle UKNOWWHATIMEANHARRY
4.10 Brown Advisory & Merriebelle Stable Plate ROAD TO RESPECT
4.50 Mares’ Novices’ Hurdle BARRA e/w
5.30 Kim Muir ANOTHER HERO e/w
DAY 4 - FRIDAY 17TH MARCH
1.30 Triumph Hurdle MASTER BLUEYES e/w
2.10 County Handicap Hurdle ARTIC FIRE e/w
2.50 Albert Bartlett WHOLESTONE
3.30 Gold Cup MORE OF THAT
4.10 Foxhunter Chase WONDERFUL CHARM
4.50 Conditional Jockeys’ Handicap Hurdle BRIO CONTI
5.30 Grand Annual EASTLAKE e/w
Are you coming to the Cheltenham Festival and struggling on what to wear? Whatever you do, leave your shiny suit in the wardrobe and let me help you..
There is NO dress-code at Cheltenham although smart is recommended and you won't get turned away if you do choose to rock up in jeans, trainers and a hoody.. You will however look a bit of a dick.
It is very rare that you see anyone dressed like this at Cheltenham, but what isn't rare, are the amount of shiny suits! Why would you wear one of these? Or own one for that matter? Are you going to work? Or perhaps even court? No. You are coming to the Cotswolds countryside to enjoy the Sport of Kings. Can you imagine royalty of past and present donning a shiny suit at Cheltenham? No, neither can I!
Now let's get something straight.. This isn't about snobbery, class, money or even fitting in. This is purely about style.
We are not saying that you shouldn't wear a suit. Look how dapper Eddie Redmayne looks when attending the Hennessy Gold Cup at Newbury in a grey tweed suit, navy coat and brown shoes. It ticks many boxes. Smart. Stylish. Country and simple.
Are you one of these people who are "frightened" of tweed? I know some of you who mock people who wear tweed. "You look like the Toad of Toad Hall".. Well it is much better than looking like you are just about to go up in from of a magistrate.
You don't have to go "full tweed". A nice jacket, shirt (and jumper depending on the elements), with some nice chinos and brown shoes is a great look and one that I will be wearing on one of the days.
Again, this isn't about money ad you can pick up a decent tweed jacket for around £60 if you shop around but why not treat yourself to one that you can wear for years to come?
Obviously the weather has a part to play in what you choose to wear although, with all the money spent at Cheltenham Rcecourse in the last 5 years, you have an abundance of places to shelter from the elements. If it does happen to rain, buy yourself a tweed coat or waxed jacket, a nice umbrella or perhaps even a trilby.. We would probably avoid wearing anything on the head unless it was a trilby or a nice tweed cap. The shopping is superb at The Festival and is well worth a visit.
I've scoured pinterest for some pointers.. Stick to greens, browns and blues. If you want to add some colour this should be with the jumper or perhaps some lighter colour trousers.
It was announced tonight that Andrew Kojima, the Masterchef finalist behind the eagerly anticipated new Japanese restaurant coming to Cheltenham next month, has reach his target to fund the new venture.
This is great news for Cheltenham to add to its growing portfolio of top eateries in the town!