First-time freehouse buyers Sam Burroughes and Vicky Collins have snapped up the Whalebone Inn in the village of Fingringhoe, near Colchester, Essex. Both Burroughes and Collins have plenty of experience of the licensed trade, gained while previously working in London. The Whalebone, which dates back to the mid 18th century, is an attractive, Georgian, Grade II- listed property with uninterrupted panoramic views across the Colne Valley, through which the tidal river runs to the old port of Rowhedge. Fingringhoe is a small village about four miles south of Colchester, near to marshland bordering the River Colne. The Whalebone Inn, which is situated in the centre of the village in Chapel Road, once had the jawbone of a whale on its wall. To the side of the Whalebone stands the village pond and a 600-year-old oak tree, which is reputedly the oldest in Essex and is known as "The Highwayman's Tree". According to local legend, it grew from an acorn placed in the mouth of an executed pirate. Vendor Vivien Steed acquired the Whalebone Inn in 1996 after it had stood empty for eight months under threat of conversion to a residential property. She transformed the business into a highly-successful freehouse and restaurant, with an excellent reputation throughout the surrounding villages and the wider Colchester area. More than half of the turnover is derived from food sales. The Whalebone Inn is renowned for its mix of traditional and contemporary food, all of which is cooked to order and makes use of fresh produce, notably West Mersea seafood, game from local shoots and homebaked breads. It also has a superb collection of fine ales and fine wines. The business is featured in the main pub and food guides, such as Les Routiers, The Good Pub Guide and The AA Pub Guide. The property comprises an open plan restaurant to seat 45 diners, a function room within a converted barn catering for 40 to 50 people, a separate family room and three-bedroom owner's accommodation, which Steed has had completely refurbished. The inn has immense character, with original exposed beams and log fires, scrubbed pine tables, bare board floors and colour-washed walls. Outside there is a lovely beer garden, which is very popular due to its peaceful valley views, as well as a patio and car park. During the summer months musical events and Shakespearean plays are occasionally performed in the garden. There is scope to extend the present trade kitchen and also the existing trade areas by linking the main property through to the detached functions room. Bill Colquhoun, associate director of the Ipswich office of agents Christie & Co, who negotiated the sale on behalf of Vivien Steed, commented: "We were delighted to handle the sale of the Whalebone freehouse, which is a quality country inn with lovely open views and a superb reputation. "The good level of interest generated by the sale once again demonstrates the high ongoing demand for established freehouses throughout East Anglia, with private buyers still in plentiful supply.