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The Cross Guns, Avoncliff

 

Sitting beside the picturesque River Avon close to the historic Kennet and Avon aqueduct, enjoying an excellent pint of cask ale and watching the swans paddle by, is a perfect way to spend some quality time. The location is the recently refurbished Cross Guns at Avoncliff, where a sensitive upgrading of the pub and terraced garden has resulted in a major enhancement of the drinking and dining experience in beautiful surroundings.

The Tudor core of the pub dates from 1496 and the inn opened for business in the early 1600s as the Carpenter’s Arms. With the coming of the Kennet and Avon canal the premises were expanded and following the formation of the 9th (Bradford on Avon) Battalion of the Wiltshire Rifle Volunteers, a rifle range was established alongside the canal and the pub was renamed the Cross Guns.

 

I received a warm welcome from Jack Werner and his general manager Ian Liddle, both ardent supporters of CAMRA. Jack has owned the Cross Guns, on a 25-year lease, since December 2016, and also has the nearby Inn at Freshford and the Old Crown Inn at Kelston.

The Cross Guns sources cask ale Cross Guns Under new ownership from many breweries, with some supply agreements in place, and I drank a very acceptable glass of Dark Star Hophead (3.8%). Box Steam’s Soul Train (4.7%), Vectis Venom from the Island brewery on the Isle of Wight (4.8%), and Barabiku golden ale were also available on draught.

Bottled ales from Electric Bear and other breweries may be found in the chiller cabinet and there is also a huge range of spirits displayed to good effect on the back wall of the bar. Honey’s Midford Cider and two other rotating ciders are also on sale.

The terraced garden has been completely renovated with three new levels and there are tables on the lawn by the river. Seating capacity is approximately 250 in the garden and 60 in the pub. Long-term customers will appreciate the improvements to the previously rather primitive toilets located outside the pub!

The outdoor deli is located on the top terrace and serves sandwiches, pasties, cakes, hot drinks and soft beverages to feed the passing clientele of walkers and cyclists. The pub opens from 11.00 to 23.00 every day with food served from 12.00 to 21.00 and 12.00 to 19.00 on Sundays. The menu includes light bites, baguettes, sausage and mash variants, awesome burgers, pies and freshly prepared mains.

The interior of the pub retains all of its historic structure but the woodwork and décor is much lighter, creating a comfortable and relaxing atmosphere with no distracting television screens.

On the social side the pub aims to attract a traditional clientele and there are regular weekly events including singing at the bar on Tuesdays and Morris Men musicians playing on Wednesdays. Typical one-off events this year are a charity vintage motorbike rally (27th May, as Pints West is at the printers) and a BBQ Week from 29th May to 4th June. Look out for the three pubs beer festival from 15th to 17th June.

Jack Werner and his team of 20 staff at the Cross Guns have plenty more in store for 2017 and a visit to Avoncliff, served by footpath, road and rail, will prove to be a recreational and relaxing experience.

Martin Ansell