Country pub saved by goodwill spirit

The Farmer Inn, Catherington. Landlady Elaine Fields centre with daughter Louisa Fields and son James Fields. ''Picture: Paul Jacobs  (13727-1)
The Farmer Inn, Catherington. Landlady Elaine Fields centre with daughter Louisa Fields and son James Fields. ''Picture: Paul Jacobs (13727-1)
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It was a tired-looking pub that was given a fresh start after customers rallied together and cleaned it up.

Now everyone at The Farmer Inn, in Catherington, has celebrated the fact that it’s been 18 months since they put in the effort.

As previously reported in The News, landlady Elaine Fields, 54, sent out a message on Facebook asking villagers to help refurbish her new pub.

She was left stunned after dozens responded and turned up with tools, mops and buckets.

On Wednesday she thanked them again by holding a champagne reception with a free buffet.

Live jazz band Strictly Swings also performed.

Elaine said things had gone tremendously since the pub’s transformation. ‘Trade has grown consistently and it’s still continuing to grow,’ she said.

‘Each a week we get a new local who didn’t know we were still here and they’ve been coming back afterwards.

‘I’ve got no complaints at all.

‘It’s amazing to think about all the help we got and I know that we could rely on people again.’

Elaine said she was still working hard to build up The Farmer Inn as a traditional country pub which is the centre of the community.

‘We’re getting there but I think we’ve got a way to go yet,’ she said.

Some of the things she’s introduced include board games for families and blackboards where staff and customers can write each other fun riddles to solve.

‘Blackboards are our way of communicating with customers when we aren’t talking to them,’ Elaine said.

‘We also use them to advertise our events, food menus and drink offers.’

There will be an Irish-themed event marking St Patrick’s Day throughout the evening tomorrow. Locals will sing Irish tunes and there will be competitions for the best Irish joke and jig.

Life is a family affair at The Farmer Inn.

Elaine’s son Jim Fields, 26, is the head chef and his partner Alice Philltot, 26, helped out until their son George was born four months ago.

Elaine’s daughter Louisa Fields, 27, goes on maternity leave this Sunday.

Jim, who used to work in the kitchen at The Red Lion in Horndean, said: ‘It’s a fun job.

‘We make a great team.

‘You get your good and bad days working with your family, but overall it’s nice being around people you’re close with and who you grew up with. We treat the staff and customers like they’re family too which brings everyone closer.’

CARING Elaine Fields does more than just fulfill her normal managerial duties at the pub.

She’s also committed to raising money for worthy causes.

Last year she organised a charity festival which raised about £700 for Hannah’s Holiday Home Appeal, which helps to organise holidays for families caring for someone with a life-threatening illness.

She hopes to do the same thing again on May 25 – and would love to raise £2,000.

‘It’s a cause close to my heart,’ Elaine said.

‘I’ve chosen to support it because my daughter Louisa had a serious illness when she was younger,’ Elaine said.

‘A charity similar to Hannah’s Holiday Home Appeal arranged for us as a family to go on holiday with her.

‘It was a much-needed break and meant a lot.’

Elaine is from Birmingham and has lived in Horndean for 20 years.

She was an IT Contractor Account before she took over The Farmer Inn.

She made the switch after growing tired of the travelling that came with her previous role.

‘I was getting to the stage in life where I didn’t want to travel any more,’ she said.

‘When The Farmer Inn became available it planted a seed in my mind that maybe it was a good idea to run my own business.

‘Now my commute to work is only a couple of miles.

‘Running The Farmer Inn as a family business took a lot of thought.

‘You have to consider that if it fails then the burden is placed on the whole family.

‘But things have turned out really well.’