Village Voices Nature Note: Pub Games

01 Jan 2021
Remember pubs? There were about 47,000 of them in the UK before Covid. They may be becoming an endangered species now, however, so Christmas seems a good time to be celebrating how their wonderful names connect the human and natural worlds. You don’t have to leave Suffolk to do an eco-pub crawl. You’d quickly build up your bird list with a nearby Cock, Swan, Duck (sometimes with Dogs), Eagle (Spread or otherwise), Falcon and Pheasant; there’s also a Magpie at Stowmarket, a Peacock at Chelsworth, and even a Turnstone at Hopton-on-Sea.

Among mammals, we have plenty of Lions, Bulls, Horses (usually Black, but also Sorrel at Shottisham), Harts (White), Boars (Blue), Dogs (sometimes with Partridges), Foxes, Greyhounds, Hares (with Hounds), and one or two Beagles and Bears. Plenty of trees too, with Oaks, Chestnuts, Cherry Trees, Walnuts and a Willow (Stowmarket).

Bees feature in the Beehive at Horringer, then there’s an Eel’s Foot at Eastbridge, and marine life in the Dolphin (Thorpeness) and the Butt and Oyster (Pin Mill). The only flower I can think of in Suffolk is the Rose, but there may well be others – I don’t spend my whole time in pubs!

If you want to go twitching for bird names more widely in Britain you can find a Bittern, Bustard, Chough, Crane, Dotterel, Flamingo, Goshawk, Nightjar, a couple of Kittiwakes, a Quail (improbably in Wandsworth, London), and even a Stormy Petrel pub (in Shropshire) and a Sociable Plover (a real rarity, despite the name, in Hampshire).

Maybe pubs should be more adventurous in their choice of wildlife names to attract new customers in these hard times. How about moths, for example, which are fellow imbibers in the evening hours and a treasure-house of magical monikers? I know of only one pub called after a moth, the aptly named Drinker in Harlow, but there are so many opportunities here for the entrepreneurial imagination.

In terms of place names, why isn’t there, in the appropriate locations, an Essex Emerald, Jersey Tiger, Isle of Wight Wave, Tunbridge Wells Gem, Kentish Glory or a Rannock Sprawler? And surely a capacious Manchester Treble Bar would pull them in? Then there are all the local characters you see propping up the bar, who would be only too pleased to be memorialised this way: the Forester, Gypsy, Traveller, Old Lady, Nonconformist, Dingy Footman and the Flounced Rustic, not to mention the Hebrew Character, Alchymist, Powdered Quaker and that Suspicious chap in the corner. The Scarce Vapourer bar would be available for smokers, and the Oak Lutestring for the more musical. And who could resist the enticing appeal of the Feathered Ranunculus or Softly’s Shoulder Knot?

Happy New Year
Jeremy Mynott