Love Your Local: The Rising Sun, Swanmore

Simon Long with mum Sue Watts and her husband Mark Watts (landlords)'Picture: Miles O'Leary.
Simon Long with mum Sue Watts and her husband Mark Watts (landlords)'Picture: Miles O'Leary.

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With its oak beams, crooks and crannies and charming surroundings, The Rising Sun is a quintessential British pub.

The Swanmore local, built in 1672, is a freehouse owned by dedicated couple Mark and Sue Watts.

There isn’t a jukebox, fruit machine or television in sight – instead it’s the perfect place to go and chat over some great local beer and freshly-cooked food. And while many pubs are struggling to make ends meet – The Rising Sun is looking to become even more appealing to its customers.

Yesterday, it began brewing its own real ale, and if the batch comes out well, then it will be drank at the wedding of Sue’s son, Simon Long.

Simon, 27, is helping to brew it with Pete Anstey, 60, a customer at the pub, which is a former coaching inn.

The plan then is to make a barrel in time for the pub’s second real ale and cider festival on Saturday, August 23, before brewing it on a regular basis for customers all year round.

The name of the pale ale will be Sunset Beer because of the link that has to the name of the pub. Talking about why he wanted the pub to start brewing, Mark, 56, said: ‘I think it’s the way forward.

‘More and more people now are drinking real ale.

‘It seems to be back in vogue which is excellent.

‘The younger generation are now drinking it, and I think it ties in nicely with the fact that a lot of our beers are local.’

Beers currently on tap come from Suthwyk Ales, in Southwick, Irving and Company Brewers, in Drayton, Portsmouth, and Itchen Valley Brewery, in New Alresford.

The pub’s oak beams are from boats in Portsmouth and there is an alcove with tables known as a ‘dungeon’ because of its low, curved brick ceiling.

Years ago it was used to store beer and animals were kept in there.

Sue said: ‘We have a good, strong customer base.

‘A lot of them go around to different festivals and then tell us what beer they like and want us to do, and if we can, we’ll put it on for them.

‘It’s all about being a team.’

Drinkers can buy food and beer to take-away and there is also claims that a ghost called either Edward or Harold May sometimes walks around inside. Sue said it all came about after a customer went to the bar for a drink and said he believed he had seen a ghost and that it was called one of those names.

Mark and Sue have done some research and found out that both a Edward and Harold May lived in Swanmore in the 1800s and they worked as a type of inspector.

Landlords Mark and Sue Watts said becoming a freehouse was the best thing they’ve done.

The couple, who have been married for 17 years, bought The Rising Sun from Punch Taverns around five years ago after running it for a while on behalf of the company.

Mark said: ‘It’s the best thing we’ve done, because we own the business, we in a great place and we have got smashing customers.’

But at the same time, they said that despite having the freedom to sell and do what they want, people shouldn’t think that their life is easier now.

Sue said: ‘When we first bought it, I thought it was going to be a lot easier being a freehouse, but actually it’s not because you don’t get lots of benefits from it.

‘You don’t get the support of the big companies.

‘They are able to buy things in bulk and get good deals on them.’

Mark and Sue previously owned The Blue Hayes Restaurant, in Romsey, and prior to that they ran The Brickmakers, in Swanmore.

They decided to get back into the pub trade after running their own restaurant because Sue missed the benefits of having a local.

‘I missed the pub trade,’ Sue said.

‘I missed that feeling of being part of a community and I missed the same people coming in the door every day and that sense of community spirit. We had the opportunity to come back to Swanmore and we took it.’ Regulars will be going on a tour of Irving and Company Brewers on May 8. Tickets cost £10 each and must be bought in advance.