Meet the 77-year-old Waterlooville entrepreneur who’s transforming a tourist retreat in Gambia

Entrepreneur Brian Steer
Entrepreneur Brian Steer
Jack Martin is calling for the return of this much-loved Tom Parker milk float after it was stolen during the night

Original Tom Parker Dairies milk float is stolen

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BUSINESSMAN Brian Steer has staked his claim to one of the Portsmouth area’s oldest entrepreneurs.

The 77-year-old is currently expanding his self-made tourist retreat in Gambia, to add to his long list of business ventures.

The self-proclaimed wheeler and dealer first discovered the west African country when he let wife Jackie pick their honeymoon destination after their 2011 marriage.

He has now turned a piece of derelict land in Bijilo, south-east of the capital Banjul, into a tourist retreat, with six African huts and two large fishing lakes.

Brian, of Lovedean Lane, Waterlooville, said: ‘I had a eureka moment. Why not excavate and construct a big lake? The excavation was unbelievable.

‘They were almost working continuously night and day.

‘It was all dug out by hand, no mechanical work in Gambia, it’s blood sweat and tears. And from there I created a small office, all made out of local bricks.

‘And a few years later, about 18 months ago on the site, we had a trickle of people coming in and fishing.

‘I thought “I’ve got the site, wouldn’t it be nice if I could get paying guests to enjoy this”.

‘It was another eureka moment: let’s have some huts. So we created six. All the furniture is hand-made.

‘The ethos is to get Gambians working, and help the economy.’

Guests at Mango Village are provided with self-catering huts, kitted out with en-suites and satellite TVs.

The lifelong Portsmouth resident, whose career started as a dockyard apprentice at the age of 15, has dealt in industries such as property lettings, coffin making and tarragon farming.

Brian’s next ideas for his resort include introducing laser gun sports to the area.

He said: ‘The sport I want to do on my site is laser target shooting. I’ve taken this right up to various ministers.

‘But they’re very worried about people walking around with imitation guns, so that’s still bubbling away.’

The experienced entrepreneur shows no signs of letting his age catch up with his plans for the future.

He said: ‘I hate the idea of being called an old age pensioner.

‘I feel that as long as you’re able, you must work – and I don’t believe in the concept of retiring.

‘I’m 77 now. I kicked this off four years ago and I shall go on, and I dare say if life is good to me, we could talk again in another 10 years.

‘I’m all ideas on this.

‘We’re going back again next month and boy, I just can’t wait.

‘Tourist season kicks off on November 10, and we’ve already got people wanting to avoid the doom and gloom in the UK.’