As is evident in the photograph above, The Jolly Tanners at Staplefield, West Sussex, had apparently taken on extra supplies for the Branch’s Christmas Lunch.
The landlord, Chris (above left), greeted the officers upon their arrival, and this warm hospitality continued throughout the duration of our visit.
Twenty-nine and a half members had booked lunch at this new venue and, I think that is fair to say, thoroughly enjoyed each others company and some good home-cooked food.
There had been some concern that the very heavy snow that had fallen during the previous week might cause difficulties for many members to travel, but rainfall on the day before had cleared much it, at least from the main roads.
The traditional pre-lunch walk was postponed as the woodland pathways might be very slippery - and the last thing the committee wanted was for any of our normally sure footed walkers to take a tumble.
Interestingly, because of this decision, the diners were rather more elegantly attired than is usual - it is normally all party frocks and wellies.
A roaring log fire in the bar where our tables were laid-out was appreciated by everyone as they arrived out of the chill. Christmas cards were exchanged and from the outset, there was a wonderful atmosphere present.
It was a joy to see two new members, Sarah and Eoin Sinclair with their young daughter, Rose - the ‘half’ mentioned earlier; and their adorable, three month old, tri-coloured hound, Harry.
Few members could resist picking up Harry and giving him a cuddle, and he finished up being handed around the diners like some wonderful party game.
Our Chairman getting to know young Harry - and vice versa.
Sue Parsons’ Honey also made a well-behaved appearance at the table, understandably enjoying being fed a few meaty left-overs.
We had a lovely surprise visit from honorary member, Judy Howorth, and her husband, Roger. They were not staying to dine with us, but it was still very good to see that Judy was recovering so well from her recent health problems.
The Jolly Tanners’ young staff worked very hard and our starters were served exactly on schedule, this was followed by the tasty, generously proportioned, main course. The wine was also very good and helped to event go with a swing.
Our Chairman rose from his place at the top of the table and delivered a short, well received speech.
He then announced the winner of the Walks Trophy. This goes to the hound who has attended the most of our monthly walks. This year, the trophy was jointly won by Barney Cooper and Bessie Williams.
Brian then read out my citation which praised the winner of this year’s winner of Lowdown’s Winnie’s Wheelbarrow Trophy, Sheila Williams.
Sarah Cooke and Mike Jones won the Free-Draw and each had the cost of their meals met.
The Free-Draw tickets that were used at the Christmas Lunch
After some delicious coffee was served, groups formed and chatted, before the party broke up and we all headed home.
This report would be inadequate if it did not emphasise two things: the accommodating and very dog-friendly nature of the venue; and the wonderfully friendly atmosphere of this event which marks for many of us the start of the Festive Season.