SomersetLive Article 31st January 2023
A ‘cheery local’ Somerset village pub that is a ‘beer-lover’s dream’
When it comes to pubs, making sure what you are getting from them is good is an important part of the experience.
However, the other side to that is finding a pub that ticks the right boxes in its setting – being cosy, warm and comfortable is an archetype of the traditional British inn, and one that marks out a proper local pub more than any other.
One of Somerset’s finest pubs pulls off the rare feat of managing to be both popular with passing trade but also a proper local to its neighbours.
The Halfway House in Pitney, near Langport, is an inn nestled in the heart of the Somerset Levels that gives you everything you could want from a classic local pub.
From a roaring fire greeting you when you walk in to the stone flooring and wooden furnishings, everything about the pub just says that this is somewhere people want to be.
Proudly marketing itself as a real ale pub and taking that moniker seriously, the Halfway House is keen to celebrate and continue all that makes the great British pub tradition what it is – and it has been recognised for it.
The pub is a regular feature in the Good Pub Guide up to its most recent publication in 2021, and was listed among the very finest in Somerset in that edition with a full entry dedicated to singing its praises.
The experts from the Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA), which produces the guide, were similar won over by the rustic charms of the pub, while also marking it out with two special awards.
The Good Beer Award, given as expected to pubs “where the quality of the beer is quite exceptional or that keep a particularly interesting range of beers in good condition” was given to the pub, as was the Value Award indicating “really good value food”.
The headline of the Halfway House’s entry in the guide describes it as a “bustling, friendly local with a fine choice of real ales, local ciders and friendly food”.
The more detailed entry says of the Halfway House: “With up to 11 ales on offer at any time, this popular, easy-going pub is a beer-lover’s dream.
“It’s an unpretentious village local with a cheery mix of customers in three old-fashioned rooms; there are communal tables, roaring log fires and a homely feel underlined by a profusion of books, maps and newspapers.”
The listing also states that it offers “simple, fair-priced food”.
This traditional Somerset pub has been mentioned in the The Times’ list of best countryside pubs and it promises real ale, local cider and homemade honest pub food.
Its commitment to real ale has not gone unnoticed by more recent expert opinions either, with a spin-off guide produced by CAMRA, The Good Beer Guide 2022, also listing the Halfway House as one of the finest beer pubs in Somerset.
Everything you could wish to see or hear about the Halfway House screams loudly that it is a pub committed to being a traditional inn and catering as much to its travelling guests as to its nearby ones.
So if you find yourself traversing the Levels and of a mind to find somewhere warm and friendly to refresh yourself, look no further than this inn – as a halfway house is meant to be, a perfect place for you to ready yourself for your onward journey.
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Somerset “local” recognised for 30 years of fantastic beer
The Halfway House in Somerset will receive a special award from the Campaign for Real Ale’s Somerset Branch to recognise the fantastic achievement of being listed in the highly acclaimed Good Beer Guide – aka the ‘the beer drinker’s bible’ – for 30 consecutive years.
With its slate floor worn down by generations of drinkers, authentic rustic bar and cosy rooms, with the scent of wood burning fires and delicious freshly home-cooked food, the Halfway House at Pitney is considered a proper “local” by all those who visit this classic Somerset pub.
Its ambience and atmosphere, combined with above all else, its dedication to serving quality conditioned real ale, has led this local to secure a listing in the coveted Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA) Good Beer Guide now for three decades.
The Halfway House – named because it is located midway between Langport and Somerton on the B3513 – will be formally recognised for serving fantastic beer by CAMRA in a special event next month. The award will be presented by Phil Emond of CAMRA’s Somerset Branch on Saturday 28 January 2023 at 13.00 hours.
Owners Lucie and Mark David said: “We’re delighted to be awarded this incredible 30-year award by CAMRA and thank all the real ale enthusiasts who have nominated us year after year. We’re so proud of our pub and its heritage, and really thanks are due to the previous custodians who have maintained such high standards, ensuring that this ‘local legend’ retains its widespread appeal as a proper old-fashioned pub serving excellent locally brewed beer, cider and perry.”
Notes to Editor:
Dating back 150 years when it was originally a cider house, the Halfway House has only belonged to three families in the last 30 years. Formerly an uninspiring traditional roadside inn, the Halfway House was purchased by real ale enthusiast Julian Litchfield in 1992. Ripping up the threadbare carpets and tired decorations, Julian and his family created a minimalistic chic and down-to-earth ‘local’ pub – with flagstone floors, whitewashed walls, large sociable wooden tables and pews, a few comfy sofas and above all, a welcoming atmosphere for everyone from muddy-footed farmers, to young mothers with their children, smart-suited businessmen, walkers and their dogs, cyclists, holiday makers and passers-by.
With its focus firmly on a serving a wide choice of locally brewed ales, ciders and perry, with simple but delicious home-cooked food, the pub eschews any forms of alternative entertainment –no TV, music, electronics, or games rooms. The welcoming atmosphere is created through the happy hum of conversation, with a choice of books, traditional board games, cards and pub quizzes for entertainment should conversation ever run dry.
Lucie and Mark David, with their daughter Jess and son George, have recently bought the pub but the family association with it goes back much longer. “The Halfway has pretty much been a part of my whole life,” says Lucie, whose parents were local farmers who used to take the family there in her youth. The couple were the pub’s managers for the last two years – successfully running it all through lockdown – and Lucie has also been the chef at the pub for 15 years. When it became available to buy in Summer 2022, the family jumped at the chance of owning and living at the pub.
The family are determined to maintain the home-run, freehouse popularity of the pub. Mark says, “This pub is part of our lives – my in-laws Hughie and Greta drank here, my wife has worked here for over 10 years, and our youngsters grew up helping out in the kitchen and then, when old enough, serving behind the bar. It’s now a family-run affair, and one we’re really proud to be part of.”
Whilst maintaining the pub’s much-loved traditionalism, the family have made some subtle developments inside and out. Lucie has increased the choice and size of portions of the food, with newly-popular Sunday lunches followed by roast potatoes and lumps of cheese put out on the bar when the kitchen closes. There’s also now a Hut, providing overnight accommodation for up to two people, and an outside heated marquee for events.
“The marquee was put up during Covid, and proved really popular, so we’ve kept it, and it now means we can host larger events outside throughout the year, such as wedding parties, anniversaries and even wakes,” says Lucie. “But above all, we’re maintaining the family-run, welcoming and friendly atmosphere of a proper local – the qualities that have been with us for the last 30 years, and hopefully stay with us for the next 30!”
The CAMRA Good Beer Guide is now in its 50th year of publication. The Halfway House won the title of National CAMRA Pub of the Year in 1996.
A Direct Bus Service 54 stops outside the Halfway House between Taunton & Somerton, with connections in Somerton from Glastonbury and Yeovil.
More info and high-res images available from Becky Sumpster, Design Somerset 07813 042823, email [email protected]
19 December 2022