The Green Dragon, Stoke Fleming
Proper village pubs are something we should cherish. Adopting a new one whilst on holiday is a close second to supporting your own local back home. In Devon we’re blessed with more than our fair share and they come in all shapes and sizes often with larger-than-life characters orchestrating proceedings.
The curiously named Green Dragon with its nautical theme and worn-in traditional charm represents all that I love about the South Hams and also what makes this area so unique. In a similar vein to the Millbrook Inn and the Pig’s Nose, these are places where the ‘internal’ pub needs exploring – that means all the snugs and curiosities and the different areas loaded with atmosphere that lend themselves to different moods on different days.
From the outside, this endearing pub just off the coast path looks an unassuming place but is well known on the local scene – serving serious amounts of time behind the bar gets you traction in this industry. Peter with his 24 years at the helm is a clever breed of landlord but one who has also managed to stay very modest – wife Alix I’m sure must take some credit here. With that combined input has come an individuality and by association a good local trade where engaging locals chew the fat and the beer slips down.
Stepping in we were welcomed by the long bar. Behind it we found Peter….. “I don’t like being a landlord” came the reply to one of our first questions. But don’t let this dry sense of humour deceive you – previously well known for being on the other side of the bar, his humble exterior soon gives way to a fascinating back story and a gentle warmth. A life spent on the water began just around the corner in Dartmouth as a crab fisherman in the early eighties. The death of a close friend caused him to adjust focus and a stint in London as a journalist followed. Then after rescuing, restoring and racing an 85-year-old Devon made sailing boat found abandoned in a Scottish canal, becoming a publican would be the next chapter for this nomadic voyager.
A veteran of 10 transatlantic single-handed races (these happen every 4 years) Peter is a man who likes to live life with the wind on his nose. The agreement with Alix before each one has been the same; be back for the August Bank Holiday otherwise it’s divorce! Now at a spritely 75, his most recent adventure has left him with unfinished business – 21 boats set off from Plymouth in June before Atlantic gales and hurricane force winds hit hard: 4 sank, only 7 finished….. could there yet be an 11th odyssey on the horizon?
The pub is filled with memories from his sailing past – charts, boat pictures, maps and books but also sofas, armchairs, a piano, huge fireplace, grandfather clock and a refreshing absence of any horse brasses on the wooden beams. Alix’s food is similarly understated but definitely delivers. The fresh crab sandwiches and deep flavours in the bisque-style fish soup are two specialties that I know will pull us back soon.
This is a classic South Hams pub where convivial hospitality rules the roost and the interior has been shaped by its owner’s eclectic approach to life. It’s also about as close to the water as Alix would want Peter to be working!
The Green Dragon, Church Road, Stoke Fleming. TQ6 0PX.
Tel: 01803 770238