Village pub near Gillingham scoops CAMRA garden of the year award

ENJOYING a cold pint beneath a large pagoda-style shelter, surrounded by blooming wisteria…

It’s an enticing English summer scene – the stuff drinkers’ dreams are made of – and one that has landed a Dorset pub a prestigious award for offering exactly that.

The West Dorset Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA) has announced the White Lion, at Bourton, near Gillingham, as the winner of the 2023 Pub Garden of the Year award.

The pub scored top marks in an independent judging survey by West Dorset CAMRA members, being labelled a ‘fine example of a traditional English garden’, featuring roses and more.

The shelter offers a stage for operas, plays and the pub’s White Stock music festival.

The pagoda-style shelter, complete with wisteria

The pagoda-style shelter, complete with wisteria

Set on a hillside but terraced, judges said the garden has something for everyone, including a patio with water feature, fine mowed lawns, a chicken and duck run for children to see and excellent disabled access.

The pub is run by publicans Stuart Knowles and William Smith.

“Our vision was to run a country village pub with our own style, where our guests can relax in the garden with a cool drink and quite literally smell the roses,” said Stuart.

“Over the years we have set ourselves summer challenges to add to our interest in our outside rooms, this year we added a rose covered arch, always with advice from our locals.”

William added: “Life in the pub trade is stressful; our answer is to come outside into the garden and for a brief moment escape.

“Our pot like our beer is frothing over, with colour and fragrances all year round. We also grow herbs which we use in our food.”

West Dorset CAMRA members ran a mini bus trip to present the award and branch chair, Bruce Mead, spoke highly of the care and attention to detail in the garden.

“The White Lion was a clear winner in our pub garden of the year competition, with all of the judges having it in first place,” he said.

“It was great to see the broad smiles on Stuart and William’s faces as they accepted the award, which is thoroughly deserved for all the hard work they have put into creating such a fantastic garden.”

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I am the editor in chief of Blackmore Vale media, which includes the New Blackmore Vale, New Stour & Avon, Salisbury & Avon Gazette and the Purbeck Gazette, having been a reporter for some 20 years. In my spare time, I am a festival lover, with a particular focus on Glastonbury. I live in Somerset with my wife and two children.