The Cross, BRETFORTON, Evesham, WR11 7JE
For more than 500 years this old inn remained in the same family, all descendants of an early 15th-century farmer called Byrd, who built himself this former longhouse. His last direct descendant was the Fleece's long-serving landlady, Lola Taplin, who on her death in 1977 bequeathed it to the National Trust, making it the first pub among a fair few it now owns or lets. Not licensed until 1848, this beautiful timbered building remains largely unchanged, thanks in particular to skilful restoration following a devastating fire in 2004. Two special things to look out for are a Jacobean pewter dinner service, reputedly Oliver Cromwell's, and big chalk-drawn 'witch circles' on the floor in front of each hearth, supposedly to prevent witches entering through the chimneys, a practice that Lola insisted should continue after her death. Ales change frequently to include, perhaps, Wood's Shropshire Lass, Pope's Hop Market or Cannon Royal's Fruiterer's Mild, while cider drinkers have a choice of home-brewed Ark or Thatchers Heritage. Food favourites, such as sausage, mash and sweet and sour onions; pork faggots and mustard mash; and pan-seared lamb's liver with onion tarte Tatin, may appear alongside beetroot ravioli with sage and orange butter sauce; pan-fried sea bass with crab and rosemary gnocchi; and oven-roasted chicken supreme with lemon and thyme pudding. Families will enjoy sunshine in the apple orchard, while children let off steam in the play area. Folk music, Morris dancing, an annual asparagus festival and a beer and cider festival in the second half of October are events to catch.