It seemed like a good idea at the time.

“Let’s meet up next week and walk up Melbury Hill to the beacon – the views are superb.”

Well, yes, I am sure the views are superb, but as we arrive, the fog has enveloped the fields and the eerie cloaked hush would not be out of place for a setting of The Hound of the Baskervilles. Luckily, we had a friendly dog with us.

The walk was enjoyable, if challenging near the top of the hill, and I am still assured – well worth it on a clear day for the views. How to recover? Pub lunch obviously.

I had noticed the Rising Sun at Donhead St Mary was under new ownership and, being dog-friendly, it seemed the ideal place. Visibility was better too.

We could see the car park was big enough not to be blocked in and the pub garden looked tidy and well maintained – ideal for summer. But little was going to stop me getting by the fire and requesting a pint. New owners Andy Ferry and Niky Daley took over the pub last summer, and after an extensive refurbishment, opened in November.

As many villages are losing their pubs the new owners are wisely gauging the feedback from locals and visitors to make sure they offer what is required rather than saying: ‘This is what you get’.
On our lunchtime visit, they were offering, among other things, Toasted Sandwiches, Jacket Potatoes and Paninis, and a good selection of homemade cakes plus superb coffee. The aim is to widen the menu as summer approaches.

I cannot fault the presentation and cost of my Panini and salad. It was tasty and a good size. My daughter was very happy with her gingerbread man, or should it be person? She also received jelly tots and icing to dress the biscuit before – er – um, well, devouring him.

The bar is stocked with a good range of spirits, wines and lagers, plus cask ale: and the comfy leather chair next to the fire could easily be my perch for several hours during the winter evenings.

This is a new venture for the owners, and being their first pub, it is sensible to adopt a slower pace than usual and take on board what customers really want. Recently they provided a special Mother’s Day Tea and are now visited by the Shaftesbury-based Truckle Truck, selling local cheeses from a retro Citroen Van. They deserve to do well.


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