Wendlebury is one of those hidden Oxfordshire villages cut off from daily life by the M40. Once upon a time, many roads led to Wendlebury but now you loop several times over motorways and the A34 bypass before being delivered to a small settlement based around an ancient T junction.
Wendlebury dates back before the Norman Conquest. There's a church which strangely lacks a steeple and a number of old houses in Cotswold stone and at the centre of the village the Lion, recently renamed, which was formerly the seventeeth-century Red Lion tavern. It's a long, low, roadside building with bedrooms in its roof for landlord and staff. Recently, however, a new, nicely-executed 12-bedroom accommodation block has been added to the rear of the pub. A conservatory dining room had also has been added and a brand new kitchen. And a general manager called Claire has recently arrived to work with Bella the housekeeper and a cheery Hungarian waiter called Tamas.
Ably assisted by young women from the village, these three run a real home from home pub. The Lion is a great place to stay if you're looking for a weekend getaway in the country. The food is locally sourced, the beer is provided by Brakspear – and the welcome is warm.
Moreover, if you are spending the weekend shopping at Bicester Village this is absolutely the place to stay. Bicester Village is an Oxfordshire phenomenon and particularly popular with Chinese visitors to Britain. When I mentioned Oxford in Beijing recently, a few people had heard of Inspector Morse and a few more had heard of Oxford University, but absolutely everyone had heard of the famous outlet mall at Bicester Village. This major point of commercial pilgrimage is only a 2 mile/£6 taxi ride away from The Lion.
However, if you don't feel a retail need this autumn, there is still much to be enjoyed at The Lion. There are three wood-burning fireplaces inside the pub – and one outside. There is an Aunt Sally in the grounds if you fancy throwing sticks at an old woman's head (a peculiarly Oxfordshire pastime that may date from the English Civil War) and Laura and Bella kindly keep a “Bits & Pieces Box” for guests who have forgotten anything - and by “anything” I mean everything from needle and thread to collar stiffeners, cufflinks, batteries to bow-ties, shoe shine to sun cream.
In short, this is a nice place to stay in a nice part of the world and while I admit that sometimes “nice” is an overused word, sometimes it is just apt.