I HAD to go off-piste at the weekend.

As it was so hot I caught a bus up to the Downs and took a walk up to the Devil’s Dyke.

I’m ashamed to say that since starting my column in The Argus a few years ago I’d not made it up there. I was a bit scared after The Argus revealed it was a popular dogging site but I thought “what the hell let’s take a look”.

And WOW. What a view, stretching out for miles and miles in all directions. You can see planes taking off from Gatwick on a clear day, apparently. I couldn’t see that but I could see the beautiful countryside stretching out in front of me.

It was a roasting hot day when I was there and as I strolled around the top I stumbled across a National Trust van where a very welcoming and glamorous lady wanted to tell me all about it and what I’d find on the Easter walk, learning about the history of the area.

I almost went for it, but thought I’d better get down to business and have a beer in The Devil’s Dyke pub.

As I crossed the car park I could hear somebody who was leaving offering their space to an arriving family as well as their car park ticket for the day. Good work, the bank holiday spirit was alive and well.

Then as I headed up the steps I could hear the young gentleman behind me talking to his friends about how he had “drunk so much over the weekend that it was ridiculous”. Good job for him he bypassed the pub – looking like he was going to take in the air and get some exercise. Maybe I’d see him for a hair of the dog later.

It would not be at The Devil’s Dyke straight away though. As soon as I walked in the door I found myself at the back of a queue. I should have known better, I thought. This pub is part of the Vintage Inns chain, which includes the Cuckmere Inn. On days like these they are often heaving. I wondered whether it was the food queue and considered trying another barman but they all looked so busy.

Then I remembered that I had heard talk of a cosier country pub in one of the villages nearby. After a quick bit of mobile phone research with Mrs PubSpy we decided to head to Fulking, to the Shepherd and Dog. We had been inspired by the hot weather to take the job on and build up a thirst.

It’s a great walk on the way too, mostly downhill into Fulking, looking down at the expensive houses and taking in the view of the South Downs. One couple on the hillside weren’t taking in the view at all – but they were certainly having fun anyway, let’s leave it at that.

We passed some ramblers who were going uphill and looking challenged, but I tried to ignore the thought of our return trip later. It took about half an hour of a great walk to arrive at the pub, thankful that we had headed the right way. I was worried at one stage that we were heading the wrong way as another cute village came into view. That must have been Poynings.

The Shepherd and Dog is a lovely old country pub; low ceilings, cosy nooks and crannies and a pub garden. On top of that there is a stream where all the youngsters were playing, shoes and socks off, while their parents enjoyed the refreshments. Idyllic.

The only problem was that I found myself at the back of another 20 minute queue. With a crowd behind her the woman in front of me asked for the lime to be served separately to her soda so they could pour the right amount.

Really? With 20 thirsty pubgoers behind you it was the time to get all fussy about a lime and soda? She did quickly then say ‘oh don’t worry’ but still.

Once I got to the front the good spirited woman serving, who seemed like the landlady, took our order before continuing to faff about and speak to other people.

She then got somebody else to take over, prolonging my wait for a much-needed drink. It was worth the wait though. My pint of Three Point Five ale from the Sussex Franklins Brewing Company went straight down, fruity and wholesome. Proper country pub pint.

I don’t want to get all foodie on you but after that long walk we deserved the roast dinner. My perfectly pink beef was as tender as you like. Great Yorkshire puddings and the roast potatoes were spot on. The gravy tasted magical too.

So all in all despite the crowds and the queue we savoured the Shepherd and Dog so much the walk back up the hill was fun. By the time we got back up The Devil’s Dyke was quiet so we had a nice quick drink in there too. A great day out in the Sussex countryside.

The Shepherd & Dog

The Street


Decor: Four stars

Traditional country pub style

Drink: Four stars

Good selection of ales (and lager too)

Price: Three stars

Three Point Five was £4.90 - roast was £18

Atmosphere: Five stars

Lovely summer vibe

Staff: Four stars

Busy but all smiles behind the bar

You can find all my reviews on the Argus website: www.theargus.co.uk/leisure/pubspy/

Email me: pubspy@theargus.co.uk.

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