THE weather forecast was not good - but I've got so used to packing my Wellingtons when we go for a dog walk nowadays that my friend Liz and I arranged our visit to Northleach anyway.

Our plan was to enjoy a good lunch at a dog-friendly pub, then walk along the River Leach, which is about six foot across at this point, and then travel on to the little village of Eastington.

Northleach is an easy journey from Witney. I didn't time it exactly, but I don't think it took us more than 20 minutes down the A40 towards Cheltenham, turning left on to the A429 to Northleach.

We had hoped to lunch at the Sherbourne Arms, a really attractive traditional Cotswold inn, which stands in the middle of the town's Market Square, but dogs aren't allowed there during meal times.

We made for The Wheatsheaf Inn instead, where we were able to leave our car while we explored and walked after lunch. The Wheatsheaf is a 17th-century coaching inn, built in Cotswold stone, which is situated on the right-hand side of the main road running through the town. It features flagstone floors and large open fireplaces, which are filled with logs at the moment, and look particularly decorative.

We found it difficult to describe the decor. Both Liz and I finally agreed that with the flagstones and the wooden flooring, the assorted wooden tables, high back chairs, and wooden window shutters, it fell mid-way between rustic and stylish modern. The three interjoining areas (two restaurant spaces and the bar area) are certainly quite spacious. The few ornaments and pictures adorning the walls are linked with horse racing, which I presume is due to the fact that it's owned and run by the Champion family.

Dog was welcomed and, as is his custom, he tucked himself under the table, knowing he has no option but to keep still while we eat. His time comes later. What neither Liz or I realised until the meal was almost over, was that he must have rolled in something rather nasty during his early morning walk, as a strange and rather pungent odour began to waft up from under the table. It became so offensive that we decided not to stay for coffee, but to dunk him in the river as soon as we possibly could.

The menu was extensive, with loads of delicious options listed. We could have had sandwiches, priced from £4.75 for one-and-a-half rounds, or home-made soup of the day at £4.90, but I was hungry, so I chose a delicious half of crispy duck on the bone, served on a bed of redcurrants and with a redcurrant and thyme sauce, pictured, at £14.95, which proved one of the best crispy ducks I have ever been served. Delicious - I can still remember its mouthwatering flavour and crunchy texture as I write.

Liz was more than happy with the garlic-and-herb roasted pork tenderloin (£13.50) she ordered, savouring every mouthful, as it was so well cooked and presented.

Other dishes included: brie, walnut-and-rosemary lasagne (£11.95), baked flat field mushrooms filled with spinach and Stilton (£11.95), and fillets of lemon sole, filled with a salmon and asparagus mousse, at £17.50. A children's menu offers four different meals for £5.50, and Sunday lunch with all the trimmings costs £11.95.

I drank a half of Old Hooky bitter with my meal. I would have tried Spitfire, but apparently the barrel was empty.

Leaving our car at the hotel car park, we made our way to the Market Square and began searching for the access to the River Leach, which would (we hoped) cleanse our smelly dog. After passing the famous Mechanical Music Museum and the Dolls House shop, we finally found a footpath on the right, which led us to a very fast flowing little river, which fitted the bill perfectly.