Herbie’s local has good food, friends and all that jazz

PERFORMANCE Students from Bridgwater College Rock Academy on stage at The Fountain Inn in Rowlands Castle.     Picture: Allan Hutchings (111265-964)
PERFORMANCE Students from Bridgwater College Rock Academy on stage at The Fountain Inn in Rowlands Castle. Picture: Allan Hutchings (111265-964)
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IT’S a 280-year-old coaching inn in one of the prettiest locations on the south coast.

And in a little under a decade it has become one of the top local destinations for live music.

The Fountain Inn, in Rowlands Castle, is the pride and joy of Herbie Armstrong, an award-winning musician who performed alongside his friend Van Morrison.

He and wife Elizabeth bought the pub 11 years ago, won over by the building’s irresistible charm with its picturesque views over the village green.

It still retains its period charm, with a cobbled entrance and vintage pine furniture.

But it’s in the evening that this quaint watering hole really comes alive.

Every Tuesday and Thursday there is an open mic night, when anyone, of whatever age or musical prowess, can get up on stage and perform.

On Friday and Saturday nights, it is sometimes standing room only as local bands take to the floor – producing a sound that Herbie describes as an ‘eclectic’ mix.

Herbie threw his full support behind the Love Your Local campaign and championed the area’s local pubs.

He said: ‘Pubs at the moment are having a really rough ride. We have been really busy, though.

‘The music we have really brings people in.

‘I love it. It’s like a big family. Complete strangers will walk in and nobody looks down their noses at them.

‘People start talking to them. It’s very much like an Irish pub.

‘It’s got the ambience that everyone is a big family.’

The punters at the pub, which also boasts an Indian restaurant and bed and breakfast, say the music is what really attracts them.

Mick Hudson, 66, from Rowlands Castle, said: ‘I just love live music.

‘It’s a very down-to-earth sort of pub. It’s not too posh, it’s not spit and sawdust – it’s a bit in between.’

Manageress Sandra Kinge, 55, laughed: ‘I just love working here – it’s my life!’

The pub attracts a committed crowd of music-lovers and has a resident bass player and guitarist.

Herbie said: ‘Complete strangers walk in – they say they want to get up and sing.

‘People will say “who is this group? Where are they playing next?” But it’s just people getting up and doing open mic!’

He added: ‘We have a whole range of music.

‘It’s quite like The Script, meets Snow Patrol meets Van Morrison. It’s what I would call real Earth music.’

The band Screw Loose will be performing at the pub from 9pm on Saturday.