How it all began…
We met in 1998 at Southend on Sea Borough Council payroll office – where we both worked. A mutual love of the outdoors took us on many camping trips together over the years. Our favourite weekend activity was to jump on a train on a Friday night with our tent & bikes to spend a couple of nights camping in the Suffolk or Essex countryside – preferably near a good pub!
We would always pack our ‘bible’ (the latest ‘Good Beer Guide’ from CAMRA) so we could make sure we visited the best pubs in the area.**
Like many of you, we were often uninspired by campsites with big open fields & regimented rows of pitches – so we sometimes preferred to camp in the woods instead. We frequently chatted about what our dream site would be – or what kind of site we’d have if we built our own. One day, after Marie had retrained & begun working as a Nanny & Mark having spent time travelling around NZ, we realised we were in a position to make that dream a reality and we began to plan..
Looking for the right piece of land to build our campsite seemed long & arduous, but as soon as we saw this place we knew it was the one. The garden had been neglected for quite a few years and was therefore pretty overgrown & wild – but the mature trees and split-level layout won us over immediately.
The pub was not part of our original plan – the estate agent had failed to mention it was a pub (it had been closed 5 years so they listed it as a house) but the moment we walked inside we could tell it had never been converted to a house. Within hours of discovering this, we realised – with us both being CAMRA members and fans of ‘real’ pubs – we would love to try our hand at running a pub too! Like the garden, the pub was also in a state of disrepair – so it also needed lots of work..
With the help of friends, family & neighbours we finally got the campsite up & running in June 2010. Income from the campsite paid for the renovation of the pub building and it finally re-opened it’s doors in December 2011.
The rest – as they say – is history!
Marie Smith & Mark Sealey
** – so you can imagine how chuffed we were to when our pub was chosen to feature in 2014’s GBG!!!
Here’s some photo’s of the pub, cottage & garden when we first purchased it: