When I mentioned that it was about time that I enjoyed a good ale, some decent pub grub and an autumnal country walk, a friend recently recommended the John Bunyan pub in Coleman Green.

After quite a hazardous drive weaving through the narrow country lanes hidden behind Heartwood Forest, I’m in need of a drink!

As soon as we push the door open and step over the threshold, everybody turns around to have a look at us and the place goes quiet.

I sense that its quite a close-knit community, but I love finding myself so off the beaten track in such an idyllic rural spot.

We walk to the bar and order half a pint of Country Best Bitter. The friendly landlord shows us to our table. I sit back and enjoy the taste of my classic pale ale, with its light bitter flavours and pear aroma.

The John Bunyan is a truly old-fashioned country pub, a local gem. Customers leave their wellies by the door and seem to treat the place like home. The guy on the table next to me is tucking into a pie while wearing pink socks, the warmth and softness of the red patterned Axminster carpets under his feet. There are a few dogs relaxing alongside their owners.

I take in that homely feel that only these authentic country pubs can exude. Light wooden beams run all along the length of the low ceiling, matching the tables and chairs. A vast array of intriguing decorated jugs, gravy boats, Toby tankards and ceramic urns of every colour, shape and size hang in rows along the beams. The landlord tells us that all of this vintage crockery was here when they took over and they have been amazed by how unusual some of it is. They have not only kept it going but have added to the collection. He proudly shows us his wife’s three Harry Potter wall plates and he’s sure that she’ll will be adding a few more soon.

We look up at the tasty choice of wholefood dishes on the specials board. I go for the stilton and butternut squash risotto. It arrives in a small ovenproof dish and smells fresh and homemade. The seasonal flavours blend perfectly, the squash and cheese are not overly chopped up and the dish exudes warm colours. The landlady is clearly an amazing cook, busily preparing all the dishes behind the scenes. My risotto disappears within minutes and I make sure the landlord passes on my compliments to her.

We decide to have another drink and chat with the landlord. He tells me that they’ve been running the pub for more than ten years now. Apparently in the summer the garden is full of families and it gets quite lively, and in the winter the pub is very popular as customers enjoy the Christmas quizzes and warming themselves by the real log fire.

“We get a variety of customers of all age groups throughout the year and quite a few people from North London,” the landlord says. He tells us about the many walks and trails you can go on around the surrounding woodland and into Heartwood Forest, some of them are four or five miles long.

“Who on earth is John Bunyan?” my daughter asks me. I pretend that I know everything about the Baptist preacher - how he spent years of his life writing and preaching and was held in Bedford gaol for twelve years where he began to write The Pilgrim’s Progress and Grace Abounding, his spiritual autobiography.

The Pilgrim's Progress, published in 1678, was his most famous work; an allegorical narrative about Christian conversion translated into more than 100 languages! In Part 1, Bunyan enters the Celestial City and in part two his family join him in achieving salvation. I then own up and show her the short biographical synopsis on the first page of the menu explaining who he was!

We say our goodbyes and set off to explore the field and meadowland behind the pub. I take in deep breaths of clean country air as we cross the tranquillity of this expansive field, passing farm buildings in the distance.

Oak trees spread their sprawling branches as little birds flutter about. We spot a fox running across the field, his red fur vibrant against the subdued autumnal colours. Gentle breezes begin to pick up and soft pinks smudge across the sky like faint brush strokes. There will be a full harvest moon tonight. I’d love to camp here all night under midnight blue frosty skies gazing up at the stars.

As we leave, we spot a perfectly isolated old cottage and my husband fantasizes about how he’d love to live in it. I am reminded that ultimately, he is a country lad and that will never change but enjoy making innocent fun of him, “Deep down you’re such a socialite aren’t you?” He smiles.

  • Marisa Laycock moved from south west London to St Albans in 2000. She enjoys sharing her experiences of living in the city