Sunday, 15 April 2012

Ancient Oak Merry Trees Lane, Preston

‘No it’ll be one of those soulless new pubs, unremarkable on the outside and dripping with generic laminate fittings inside. A flat pack pub - not for me’. 
This was the well rounded, considered and thoroughly balanced view I had formed of the Ancient Oak, after driving past it along Tom Benson Way every day to work. 
‘I’ve seen such a place before, they won’t catch me out’, I would ramble out loud to myself as I rolled by every day.
But with the sun battling to give us a smile one afternoon, I spontaneously decided to give it a try.
I was pleased there were plenty of benches outside, including some sheltered by trellising, closest to the pub. 
Inside, it is a pretty vast place, which seemed to be split between a dining area and the main bar where people could also order food. 
There was one real ale available (Speckled Hen) when I went in, which I took and scurried back out to a bench, to try to make the most of the fading sun. 
Eventually the weather gave up on its spring bloom and I retreated back into the pub to find a seat. 
The decoration was similar to how I imagined but it looked and felt clean, tidy and well ordered. 
By the time I had settled down and worked my way through my beer, I had been joined with a steady stream of people, who were stopping in for a quick drink and a chat on their way home. 
As these locals took their seats, greeting one another warmly, I began to see the place in another light.
This pub I am told, is the only shop of any kind on the enormous, sprawling housing estate that is Cottam. 
Residents have to get in their car if they want a paper or a pint of milk but at least they have somewhere they can go for a bit of company, to release the stresses of the day or have a cheap meal. 
Just imagine if they had built yet more blocks of flats there instead of a pub; people who live just a few yards apart could go weeks of months without ever crossing paths.
If I had to choose one amenity to be built on an estate where everyone is pocketed away in houses and flats, it would be a place where everyone can be sure to find a friendly face.
‘Flat pack pub you proclaimed’, said Miss Chardonnay Sidekick after I got home.
‘Well I quite like flat packs now’, I replied.
‘Lovely, I just bought a wardrobe for my flat today, I’ll be back in an hour’.

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