In days gone by the stage coaches would rattle along the narrow road behind The Halfway Bridge, stopping here before crossing the stone bridge on their way to Petworth. The George and Dragon, as it was then, formed the halfway point to rest the horses and refresh the passengers travelling between Petworth and Midhurst. These days you’re more likely to see a vintage car parked on the gravel drive and the Halfway Bridge makes a great base to explore this picturesque part of West Sussex and do some walking in the South Downs National Park.
The Old Coaching Inn at the The Halfway Bridge
I visited The Halfway Bridge with my sister for a short break in West Sussex, a chance to visit Petworth and see some of the pretty villages and scenic countryside of the South Downs. On my drive down from Bristol I’d passed through the market town of Midhurst and seen signs for the Cowdray Estate, which is well known for hosting international polo matches at Cowdray Park. We arrived at The Halfway Bridge mid-morning and since it was too early to check into our room, enjoyed a cup of coffee in the bar while we planned the day ahead.
A warm welcome at The Halfway Bridge
First impressions of the inn were excellent, a charming building with the red brickwork and stone facing and small terracotta roof tiles, typical of the Sussex style. The inn is set back from the busy main road, with a gravel parking area and a sunny garden to sit outside at wooden chairs and tables. To the side of the building is the original ‘front’ which would have faced the old coaching road, with a porch and stone steps leading into the bar. The inn is now more of a restaurant than a pub, although there are bar stools and a couple of tables for those looking for a pint of the local ales.
The Halfway Bridge also has a sister pub at the Crab and Lobster near Chichester, and is part of The Sussex Pub Group, with a range of local inns and restaurants providing stylish country atmosphere with an emphasis on good food using local ingredients and suppliers.
Our bedroom at The Halfway Bridge
After leaving our bags at the Inn we were out for most of the day, exploring Petworth town and visiting the nearby National Trust property of Petworth House. In the late afternoon we returned and were shown to the accommodation in a separate building, a couple of minutes walk along the lane from the inn. The Cowdray Barns has been very nicely converted into 6 rooms and a suite, retaining the stone and brick architecture and stable doors, overlooking a grassy garden, which must have once been the farmyard. The doors and windows are painted in a soft green-grey, unlike the building across the lane with its distinctive yellow paintwork, which my sister told me marked it out as being owned by the Cowdray Estate.
The rooms in the old barn building are arranged in pairs that share a small porch, with a place to leave your muddy boots. It’s an ideal arrangement if you’re travelling with children or friends so that you can create a connecting arrangement, but perfectly private if not. We were in a standard room which was cosy and nicely furnished with beds that could be made into a twin or double. We loved the exposed beams and quality furnishings with natural fabrics in the linen curtains and headboards and crisp white cotton duvet covers.
The soft, silky quilted throws in creams and pinks completed the restful colour scheme and the furniture was individually chosen with dark wood antiques, like the chest that doubled as a coffee table. The only thing I could fault were the wall-lamp shades, some of which were scorched and needed replacing. In the fitted wardrobe, we found a fridge which meant that there was fresh milk on offer for our tea and coffee (rather than those horrid UHT cartons) with an iron, ironing board and hairdryer. There was a small flat screen TV positioned so that you could sit in bed and watch, although I rarely switch the TV on when travelling.
Our bathroom at The Halfway Bridge
In our bathroom we found classic fittings, with a shower over the bathtub, and a similar style of decoration with soft cream and olive green. The towel rail was super heated and we couldn’t see any way to adjust it, with white fluffy towels, and a nice selection of Cole and Lewis toiletries that we saw came from the lovely Artful Teasing shop selling scented gifts in Petworth.
Settling in with a G&T in The Halfway Bridge Bar
After our day exploring Petworth and Petworth House, we were certainly ready to settle in at the friendly bar of The Halfway Bridge for a well-earned gin and tonic. The bar stocks a range of local ales like those of the Langham Brewery just up the road as well as a tray of vermouth and selection of gins. I settled for the local Chilgrove gin, which the individual G & T menu told me combined floral notes and citrus botanicals and combined it with a fever-tree lemon tonic, which slipped down a treat.
As a country inn, the bar is dog friendly and will offer a drinking bowl and a doggie treat from the bar for your four-legged friend if you’re passing on a country walk, although only access dogs are allowed in the restaurant and bedrooms.
Dinner is served at The Halfway Bridge
We moved into the restaurant area for dinner and found a series of individual rooms, giving a bit of privacy and cosy feel to the evening. The decor is everything you’d want from a country inn, with old wooden beams, original brick walls and block wood floor arranged in a herringbone pattern. There was a mixture of fashionably mismatched furniture, leather chairs and soft chenille and velvet cushions with pine tables laid with fine cutlery, glasswear and table napkins. Over dinner we could look around at the wines on display over the wood burning stove and the old photos of the inn taken in the last century.
Making our choice from the menu was tough as there were so many delicious sounding items. I was pleased to see a balance of classic favourites and more gourmet choices, and care had obviously gone into sourcing local and quality ingredients. As a starter we chose ham hock croquette with Madeira poached apples, caramelised apple puree, tarragon and pine nut pesto and apple blossom. The dish was delicious, with large, meaty pieces of ham in the croquette, the flavours really enhanced by the apple puree and fresh pesto, with a pretty scattering of blossom from nearby apple orchards. Ham Hock was £8.50 – starters £6.50-8.50.
For our main course I chose the fillet of hake in a classic bouillabaisse souce with mussels, clams, saffron potatoes, confit baby fennel and taragon oil. My sister chose from the Classics on the menu which included a burger in brioche bun with triple cooked chips or beer battered haddock and chips, although she went for the seared calves liver with creamed potatoes, kale and a sauce of shallot and balsamic vinegar.
My hake was nicely cooked, breaking up into large flaky pieces, arranged on top of the shellfish and cubes of potato with fork sized pieces of green beans. The vegetables were perfectly cooked, on the crisp side, although the sauce was quite salty with oriental overtones of soy sauce rather than the fishy flavours I was expecting. The calf liver which was very tender and beautifully enhanced by the fruity sharpness of the balsamic vinegar and shallots, the kale was beautifully buttery. Hake was £18.50, Calfs liver £17.50, mains from £14 to £22.50
I hope you’re getting the picture here, that this is an ambitious restaurant, aiming for food that’s unpretentious but definitely a cut above the normal pub fare. This impression was borne out when our desert arrived. We could have had a comforting seasonal fruit crumble with vanilla custard, but wanting to explore something more adventurous, we went for the lemon and lavender terrine, with raspberry parfait and lemon meringue.
What arrived would not have been out of place from a Michelin star kitchen. The desert was one of the prettiest I’ve come across in a long while, the combination of flavours evoking summertime on a plate. The raspberry parfait, an iced mould of tangy fruitiness, softened by the creamy terrine infused with delicate lavender and lemon flavours, scattered with fresh and freeze-dried raspberries and tiny lemon meringues that popped with sugary citrus flavour. Deserts £7-7.50. I can safely say that we went back to our room feeling very full and happy with our delicious dinner.
Breakfast at The Halfway Bridge
After a great night’s sleep in the Cowdray Barns we were back in The Halfway Bridge restaurant for breakfast, to set us up for the walk we had planned that morning. To get us started there was a table laid out with a tempting selection of juices, fresh fruit, nuts and seeds to eat with granola or cereals.
A fresh pot of coffee and tea was brought to us with some hot toast with a selection of different breads and then we ordered from the cooked breakfast menu. I went for the smoked salmon, poached eggs and muffins as I normally go for Eggs Benedict when in a nice hotel, my sister choosing bacon and scrambled egg with her muffin. The smoked salmon was plentiful, cut in generous slices and the poached eggs perfectly cooked with the yolk running out as I cut into it.
It was a really delicious start to the day before we checked out and set off on our walk from the nearby village of Lodsworth.
Picnic and Pedal Power
Although we’d already planned our walk, if you want to combine some activity with more of The Halfway Bridge’s delicious food, they do offer a Pedal and Picnic package, for those who want to explore the Sussex countryside by bike. Picking up the bikes at nearby Midhurst, you can combine cycle hire and route information with a picnic that includes sandwiches, homemade cakes, crips, fruit and ginger beer. The Pedal and Picnic package costs £28 per person for a picnic and three hours cycle hire or £32.50 for a picnic and all-day hire – just ask when you book.
Who is The Halfway Bridge best for?
I would highly recommend a stay at The Halfway Bridge for those who want to explore the delightful Sussex countryside and South Downs National Park. The inn is ideal for couples who want to combine sightseeing and culture with great food and is also an excellent base for those who enjoy walking. There are a wealth of things to see nearby, including Petworth town and Petworth House run by the National Trust, as well as the market town of Midhurst and Cowdray Park and ruins. Your visit to The Halfway Bridge could also be combined with a stay at the sister inn the Crab and Lobster in order to explore Chichester which is a short distance away. The arrangements of two rooms together means that the Cowdray Barns could accommodate families with older children or friends travelling together, although I’d say that the inn has a fairly ‘grown up’ feel so I don’t think it’s ideal for younger children. There is free wifi both in the inn and the rooms and parking immediately outside both locations.
Also worth knowing
The short walk in the dark from the Halfway Bridge Inn after dinner to our rooms in the Cowdray Barn did make me feel that I might not be so comfortable sleeping away from the main inn building, if I was travelling on my own. I’d also say that in the dark, the steps and uneven lane might not be ideal for elderly travellers. You should also be aware that this is an ‘inn with rooms’ rather than a fully equiped hotel, so if you’re looking for the broader facilities and service that a hotel can offer, this may not be the place for you. You can check here for options of other hotels in West Sussex.
If you go
The Halfway Bridge, Petworth, West Sussex. The website price per night based on 2 people sharing b&b for a standard room like ours is £140 on weekdays or £155 on weekends, but check the website as prices may vary depending on the season and availability. The Halfway Bridge also has a sister hotel, The Crab and Lobster at Sidlesham.
Things to do near The Halfway bridge
Wander up the lane to Lodsworth Village
Just a short stroll up the country road or across the field from The Halfway Bridge, is Lodsworth Village, which we drove through on our way to Petworth. If you like craft beer it’s definitely worth a stop at the Langham Brewery, where you can try a couple of their beers before purchasing some bottles to drink later and have a quick look at the brewery and chat with the friendly staff. A bit further up the road is the Lodsworth Larder, a village shop and deli where you can buy some delicious local cheeses and other things for your picnic. If you park your car here it’s worth taking a stroll back down the road to see the pretty village church of St Peter’s as well as the other old houses around the village and the local pub, The Hollist Arms.
Shopping and more in Petworth Town
The nearest town of Petworth is a shopper’s delight and one of the best places for antiques in the south of England. We loved wandering around the streets, admiring the old buildings and dipping into the stylish boutiques and gift shops as well as buying our picnic at The Hungry Guest. It’s easy to find free parking on the streets for the first hour, or otherwise park in the town car park. More information on the Discover Petworth website.
After looking around Petworth Town, you can walk or drive to Petworth House with a deer park which is free to wander around, although the National Trust car park costs £4 for the day. The deerpark and lake was created by Capability Brown and is a pleasant place for a walk or a picnic. Once you have paid to visit Petworth House, you’ll walk through the lovely grounds, which include a couple of temples, flowering shrubs and clouds of daffodils and bluebells under the trees in springtime.
Petworth House, managed by the National Trust, is a place that culture lovers should not miss when visiting this part of West Sussex. The 17th century mansion is set in a 700 acre deer park and is stuffed full of fine paintings including those by Turner, Constable and Van Dyke. The elegant interiors are filled with classical statues and the servants quarters in a separate building are also very interesting, to appreciate the work that went on in the kitchens to keep the household fed and watered, and all those copper pans looking shiny. Entrance is £15 adults, £7.50 children, £37.50 families, free for NT members.
A morning walk near Lurgashall
We did a lovely circular walk from Lurgashall, starting from the Noah’s Ark Inn and passing by the Lickfold Inn, both of which should be on every food lover’s list, stopping at the Blackdown distillery where you can taste the fruit wines, gin and vermouth that they distill there. The walk took us across open fields, past farmyards and millponds and through woods that were carpeted with bluebells before we ended with a stroll through the apple orchards in full blossom. You can follow the walk here.
Book for The Halfway Bridge
The Halfway Bridge, Petworth, West Sussex. The list price per night based on 2 people sharing b&b for a standard room like ours is £140 on weekdays or £155 on weekends, but check the website as prices may vary depending on the season and availability. Check out the best prices on Booking.com. The Halfway Bridge also has a sister hotel, The Crab and Lobster at Sidlesham.
See more photos from our trip
Heather and her sister were hosted for a 1 night stay with dinner at The Halfway Bridge. Some of the links in this article are affiliate links which provide a small commission when you book that helps support this blog.
This article is originally published at Heatheronhertravels.com – Read the original article here
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