LAST time my friend and volunteer Cotswold warden, Kate Farquhar-Thomson, and I went for one of our long walks, we battled with torrential rain.

This time, despite warnings that rain was imminent, we managed to walk some lovely footpaths in the Hook Norton area without a single raindrop spoiling the day.

As a warden, Kate spends a considerable amount of her free time familiarizing herself with footpaths in the area she's responsible for, reporting any stiles or gates that are in disrepair. I'm pleased to report all footpaths were in working order, though our way was barred at one point by a falling tree and there were times when Kate's expert map-reading skills saved us from getting lost, as there were very few way-signs marking the way.

We left our cars in the spacious car park behind The Gate Hangs High pub, which stands at the point where the Hook Norton to Sibford Road crosses the road to Whichford.

Naturally, we took our dogs with us on returning to the pub for lunch, having first checked this pub was dog-friendly. We were assured that providing we were prepared to eat in the bar, rather than the adjoining restaurant, our canine friends were welcome. So welcome, in fact, that there were almost as many dogs as customers in the bar area. All the dogs already enjoying this pub's hospitality when we entered had to adjust their positions in front of the fire to make room for Pythius-Peacocke and Polly, however they all settled down quite amicably once they sorted themselves out.

As we'd both looked up this pub on the Internet, (, we were somewhat surprised to discover it was not as bright and light as the website suggests. It was, however, a very friendly rural pub, with a charming beamed restaurant besides the bar, which appears to attract much of its trade from the many farmers living in the area. It was good to see a bar being used by locals, who were there for conversation and a pint of Hook Norton Bitter, or Old Hooky.

Naturally, I ordered Old Hooky, which is a perfectly balanced beer, brewed from natural spring water, in a family-owned brewery, just a mile-and-a-half away.

As the Hook Norton Brewery, with its fine Victorian tower, dates back 150 years and is the only brewery in the country still driven by steam, it's well worth a visit if you are in the area.

Having walked five miles, we were hungry, and managed to gobble up a couple of courses each with no trouble. Kate chose the duck liver pâté as a starter (£4.50), followed by rack of lamb (£12.95), and I went for pan-fried avocado and bacon (£5.25), which was served in a cream sauce, and pan-fried duck breast, served with a rich and very tasty strawberry sauce, at £13.95, pictured. I am not sure that the avocado dish worked - too much cream and not enough avocado to enjoy its true flavour, but the duck was sublime.

Kate rated her meal highly.

As both meals were served with gorgeously crispy home-cooked roast potatoes and loads of delicious fresh seasonal vegetables, bread and butter too at no extra charge, we were more than satisfied with our meal.

There's a children's menu at this pub, and although it contains the dreaded chicken nuggets (£3.50), it also serves a child-size portion of any of the roasts listed, for £4.50.

Because Kate works at Oxford University Press and was able to call on the expertise of her colleagues, we later discovered that the name of this pub originates from a poem called Win-hill by Ebenezer Elliott (1781-1849), an English poet known as the Corn Law Rhymer. "Stop! For the gate hangs well that hinders none; Refresh, and pay, then stoutly travel on!"

As we were indeed refreshed, we paid and made our way home.