Here is just a little info to let you get to know our pub better...
Here is just a little info to let you get to know our pub better...
Here is little potted history of our pub and the local area... if you have a spare minute or two and maybe a cup of tea (or is that a G&T), we think it's well worth read.
The Pack Horse is a former farmhouse on the Mapledurham House estate, dating from the 17th century.
The name 'The Pack Horse' tells a story. Pack horses were used to transport goods to inaccessible locations until the coming of the first turnpike roads and canals in the 1700s, when wagons, coaches and canal boats evolved. Away from main routes however, the use of pack horses, often in large teams, persisted into the 1800s, and has left a history of old paths across more remote areas called pack horse roads.
One characteristic feature of the pack horse roads were guide stones or 'stoops'. These were predecessors to the milestones which featured on turnpike roads. Guide stones were usually located at the junction of several tracks, and were carved with directions to local market towns, sometimes with mileages indicated. The official 'mile' only went onto the statute books in the early 19th century, so the distances found on guide stones are 'customary' miles, often grossly underestimating the true distance. Rather, the stones simply provided an approximate guide, providing the traveller with a rough idea of where they were in relation to the other places listed on the stone.
Ancient pack horse paths can often be identified by distinctive narrow and low sided stone arched pack horse bridges, which can still be found at various locations - along with tell-tale names of public houses which existed to provide rest and refreshment for the carriers. Which is where we came in.
Sitting on the banks of the River Thames, Mapledurham is a quiet, rural village. Although lying quite close to Reading, the only road access is by a steep, narrow lane making the village difficult to reach, which has helped to maintain its unspoilt tranquillity.
Despite its quiet location, Mapledurham has many connections within the world of film and literature, thanks in the main to the exquisite Mapledurham house which lies in the heart of the village, and which remarkably has been owned by the same family for over 500 years.
Poet Alexander Pope was familiar with Mapledurham due to a long time courtship with Martha Blout. The Blouts bought the manor in 1490 and it has been passed through generations ever since. From 1707-1715 Alexander Pope was a frequent visitor to the estate visiting both Martha and her sister Theresa. Pope quarrelled with Theresa in 1716 for unknown reasons but his friendship with Martha lasted until his death in 1744.
Kenneth Grahame, author of Wind in the Willows, lived in Pangbourne, a couple of miles upstream from Mapledurham, and it is believed that Mapledurham House and Mill provided the inspiration for the Wind in the Willows' 'Toad Hall', as well as featuring in EH Shepard's illustrations for the book. It is a stunningly beautiful house, and the similarity of Toad Hall to Mapledurham house is inescapable.
Here is the wonderful description of Mole's first encounter of the river in Wind in the Willows: "He thought his happiness was complete... Never in his life had he seen a river before - this sleek, sinuous, full-bodied animal, chasing and chuckling, gripping things with a gurgle and leaving them with a laugh... Glints and gleams and sparkles, rustle and swirl, chatter and bubble..."
The nearby Quarry Wood is also thought to be where, in Grahame's charming narrative, Mole gets lost in the storm and is rescued by Ratty - who leads him to the safety of Badger's hidyhole.
In 1976 the famous wartime blockbuster, 'The Eagle Has Landed', starring Michael Caine, Donald Sutherland, Larry Hagman and Robert Duvall, was filmed at Mapledurham, renamed Studley Constable in the film.
Mapledurham Mill leat (the channel carrying water to the mill) is the scene of the dramatic rescue of a local girl by a German paratrooper, which results in the unmasking and ultimate failure of the raid.
If you look closely on a brick wall next to the watermill, you'll find Michael Caine's autograph discreetly etched amongst hundreds of other initials and signatures. The church was the scene for a dramatic shootout, with a jeep being blown up as it enters the church yard, and a cottage in the village was where Larry Hagman met his end.
To add a more contemporary note, Mapledurham Mill is also the backdrop in the image on the cover of Black Sabbath (album), by the band of the same name, lead singer of which is Ozzy Osbourne.
Mapledurham house was also utilised by John Galsworthy for the later chapters of the famous 'Forsyte Saga' trilogy, where it was the weekend country estate of Soames Forsyte.
Sarah was born and bred in Reading but has travelled further afield -but like a boomerang always returns to Berkshire. Having been in the catering industry for most of her life, she has seen it all, done it all and got the T-shirt... and the grey hairs (sorry - stress highlight). Her career history has its roots firmly imbedded in Home Counties and Brunning and Price pubs in the area: she started as a deputy manager at the Rowbarge and progressed up the ladder before taking up the reins at the Packhorse. She is always keen to 'check out the local competition' although sometimes this is just an excuse to 'check out the wine'. Sarah is a keen swimmer and has been known to partake in some heavy duty mountain biking.
Char joins us from a couple of our sister pubs including the Rowbarge, the Pheasant and the White Hart, Chobham. Also known as Lottie by her dad, a farmer. Char is incredibly untidy and forever drives Lizzie mad for making a mess in the office she is our paperwork guru - thank goodness she loves it as nobody else does! One day, Char hopes to be running her own B&P pub or her own rum bar. Maybe combining the both?! Newly promoted to deputy - Char is climbing the ranks fast.
Lizzie has been with us since the beginning of 2013 and in between then and a far-east adventure she has come on in leaps and bounds, growing to become a leading member of our lovely team. In her spare time Lizzie enjoys helping her brother maintain riverboats, a result of growing up on the shores of the River Thames. Lizzie is also a keen gin drinker and our gin loving deputy manager Tom has often found himself deferring to her when it comes to expanding our incredible collection of gin.
Phoebe's been here the longest, mainly due to our 104 gins that she's still trying to work her way through. Your go to girl for any advice on what gin to try next. She's a keen football player in her spare time and a complete perfectionist when it comes to working the restaurant.
Sean, better known as 'Prawn', is Langos younger brother. If he's not working in the pub, he's probably... erm... in another pub - it's always twelve o'clock somewhere! A keen Reading football team supporter, you'll never find him working when they're playing - watch out for him in the crowd though!!
Sally works with us part time whilst also being Head of Art at a local secondary school. Often you'll find her hiding from all her naughty school children that come in for lunch here. Sally loves a suntan and if she's not working she'll be drinking and eating at lovely locations with her other half, Graham.
Young Tom joins us behind the bar when he's not studying/partying hard at Leeds university. You'll always find Tom close with dog biscuits in hand for all of his canine friends. Unbeknown to him, he's known as 'pyjama boy' due to his love of big baggy shirts - dont' tell him we told you though!!
Jess works here with us during time out from her journalism course in Portsmouth. If she's not working (which she usually is) you'll find her enjoying the nightlife in Reading with the rest of the crew. The only one that strays from our love of gin here, you'll ofter find Jess with a very large glass of rose in hand.
Kirsty is a newbie here at the Packhorse, with 4 degrees under her belt she's a super smart cookie and always great for a chat. She's a keen ultra marathon runner, once running 70 miles - we know, we think she's crazy too! Don't be fooled by all the degrees, she's a secret party animal at heart so she fit's in well here.
Stephen is the newest member of our team in the kitchen and he's already making a great impression. Probably one of the calmest chefs we've ever met and always up for a chat, especially if you're talking about motorbikes. Watch out for all of his fun new dishes on our menu - our mouths are already watering!
After a 35 year career working for various public and utility companies you'd forgive Colin for wanting to take his foot off the pedal and spend time with his long suffering wife June, three children and growing flock of grandchildren. Not so because after sending June around the bend with his endless tinkering in and around his Erlegh home he decided to put his handyman skills to good use and answer our SOS for a skilled practitioner of DIY after James, Tom and Rick's attempts nearly had all four walls of our veritable establishment down. In the year that Colin has been with us he's become a firm part of our happy team, providing the nuts and bolts to help us maintain our fantastic appearance and atmosphere that you all love.
Use the calendar to book a table. If the time you're after is not available, give us a call and we will try our best to fit you in. We keep some tables for phone bookings.
Friday 22nd September 2017