This quintessentially English inn, in the pretty village of Child Okeford near Sturminster Newton, was created from three cottages in 1949. Initially called The New Inn, it changed its name to The Saxon Inn some 50 years ago. It is currently owned by Sarah-Jane Collins and her partner Richard Hutton who are ably assisted by their resident pub dogs Reggi and Herman who enjoy walks on nearby Hambledon Hill.

Sarah, you are the head chef, what sparked that love of cooking?

I travelled a lot with my parents and grandparents who introduced me to lots of different foods. My grandmother encouraged me to cook, and my Ma let me loose in the kitchen. I pretended that I was presenting my own cookery slot on Pebble Mill at One!

How did you and Richard end up at The Saxon Inn?

After completing a Hotel Management BTEC, and then running a pub, I owned multiple businesses in different industries including a beauty salon, and a grazing business called The Pickle Radish. I was working at Allington Farm Shop when our local pub asked if I would be their general manager, and I was back in hospitality, which I love. Richard, who had been a deputy pub manager in the 1990s before working in the motor industry, then suggested that we should run a pub together. Six weeks later we found The Saxon Inn. It was meant to be!

What influences your menus?

Great local seasonal ingredients cooked with love. We buy all our veg from Gold Hill Organic Farm, charcuterie from The Real Cure, chutneys and preserves are From Dorset with Love, artisan bread from Sturminster, and Farm Girl Sausages from Wimborne. We recently added faggots to our menu, made from Bere Marsh Farm’s free-range pork, served with creamy mash and onion gravy. Our Saxon burger comes with Dorset Blue Vinny or Dorset Red cheese, and The Book and Bucket’s Hardy and Blyton cheeses are on our Dorset grazing board.

What’s on the menu for January

Lots of hearty comfort food. Specials such as smoked haddock gratin, stuffed butternut squash and lamb tagine, alongside signature dishes like our beef wellington. For vegan diners there’s roasted beetroot, spinach and coconut curry, or Farm Girls spicy bean burger, with vegan cheese or Dorset Red. Popular winter desserts include cherry kirsch cheesecake and Saxon Christmas brownie with plump cranberries served with clotted cream ice cream.

And behind the bar?

Local beers and ciders include Gritchie (Guy Ritchie’s microbrewery), Palmers, Eight Arch and Cranbourne Vintage Cider. We have around 30 gins, including Dorset ones like Conker, Golden Cap, Pothecary, Shroton Fair Gin and Tack Room.

You have two canine staff members

Front of house and chief guest greeter is Reggi the whippet, assisted by his apprentice Herman the dachshund. We offer a warm welcome to dogs and their humans, water and treats are always available. The North Dorset Trailway - great for walkers, cyclists and buggies - is nearby; we can also supply details of shorter walks around the village. If you fancy a challenge, climb Hambledon Hill then reward your efforts with one of our legendary Sunday lunches. You can always stay over. We have four ensuite bedrooms (one is dog friendly). With so little light pollution, we’re close to the Cranborne Chase, our night skies are a stargazer's delight! And our freshly cooked Dorset breakfasts will fuel you up for the day ahead.

What do you do on your days off?

As we only arrived a year ago, Richard and I are still discovering local gems. We love popping into Shaftesbury, having a coffee at Pamplemousse followed by a browse of their fabulous array of independent shops, then we have a ‘Hovis moment’ on Gold Hill.

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