New landlords at the Foresters Arms pub, Fairwarp, are in their element.
Business partners and long time friends, Seb Griffiths and Dave Brooker, lived in Uckfield for years before they considered taking on a pub and only one of them, Dave, had ever visited the Foresters.
The pub became available just as they were ready for a lifestyle change. They couldn’t imagine anywhere better than living in the Ashdown Forest and swapping town life for country is working well for them.
Both live in the village and are integrating into village life. They had planned to make lots of changes updating the premises but having listened to villagers and regulars they realise that what is wanted is a traditional pub with traditional surroundings.
Seb said: “They treasure this place and want a proper village pub, with good pub food, not a gastro place, no fads, nothing pretentious. They want a pub that is traditional with great food and a good atmosphere.”
Dave said: “Our business plan is on hold. It wasn’t at all what people wanted and the most important thing to us is listening to, and looking after, our customers.”
He added that another priority was keeping on the staff who had previously worked at the Foresters. “They have all been great in helping us settle into to the pub.”
Seb said: “We don’t see it as a job. We don’t see it as having to come to work. This is a different way of life and it is enjoyable.”
Both men have a background of working in food retail.
Seb, who moved to Uckfield 26 years ago, was an area manager for the Co-op – and before that was a store manager in food retail.
Dave, who had lived in Uckfield for 30 years, was also a store manager for the Co-op and worked in HR management for Somerfield in London and in Bristol.
Now neither of them wears a watch and they tell the time by their regulars … and the rising and setting of the sun.
Seb added they have the faith and support of villagers. “They have been amazing. It’s humbling. They really care about Fairwarp and are involved in village projects.”
One of the projects is to raise money for a pavilion on the playing field and Seb and Dave are keen to play their part.
Dave said: “We try to do our bit. There is no shop or anything else here, just us.”
Wednesday mornings are now designated for pop-ins. From 10am the door is open so people can call in for a chat. That’s how they met the new vicar Dr John Caperon, who took on his role three or four weeks before they arrived at the pub.
“We’ve already learned that you don’t play darts with the vicar,” said Dave.
The landlords are pleased to be welcoming customers from Nutley, Maresfield, Tonbridge, Tunbridge Wells, Crowborough and surrounding villages, whether for lunch, evening meals or at weekends.
They have brought live music in for the first time in years, organised their own fete, Morris dancers have entertained and they have parties and functions planned in the run up to Christmas, including discos on Friday and Saturday nights in December.
The men say they have been lucky since they moved in. Early on the pub was the pit stop for the Duchenne Dash, a London to Paris bike ride, and 160 cyclists stopped off on their way to catch the ferry at Newhaven, the summer has been perfect for making the most of the pub garden and the pubs longer opening hours.
Seb said: “This is a hidden gem and everyone should come to have a look at it at least once.”
The pub’s opening hours now are Sunday, noon-10.30pm, Saturdays 11am-11pm, and the rest of the week 11.30am to 11pm.