My Pub

My Pub: The Barge Inn, Honeystreet, Wiltshire

By Liam Coleman contact

- Last updated on GMT

My Pub: The Barge Inn, Honeystreet, Wiltshire

Related tags: Chef, Public house, Inn

Surrounded by crop circles, campsites and canal boats, the Barge Inn attracts an eclectic crowd. Manager, Toryn Hockham, discusses the unique location, customers and offer of the pub.

The Pub

The pub is in the Pewsey Vale alongside the Kennet and Avon canal. You could go for miles along the towpath and there is no stop really until you reach London or Bristol; that’s by boat or by foot.

The Barge Inn was built originally in 1810, but in 1858 it burnt down and all that was left was the cellar. It got rebuilt within six months and that reincarnation is what stands on the site today. It was originally the canal equivalent of a Motorway service station, which had a mini-brewery, butchers, slaughterhouse and smokehouse.

The painting on the ceiling of the pub was completed in 1997 by Vince Palmer. He did it that summer just laying on his back on the scaffolding and came back in 2011 to touch it up and add a couple of bits. He wasn’t commissioned; he just had the idea of doing it because he loved the atmosphere of the place. It is really well done and hopefully it stays for a long time. You always notice new things in it when you are looking around. Right in the corner you have the pub and then the surrounding attractions, such as Stonehenge, going around. There are then some aliens hidden here and there. I have heard there are nine aliens hidden in it, but I have only ever found three, even with looking for hours.

We are quite associated with the supernatural because there are a lot of crop circles around here and with it people doing the crop-circle tours.

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Facts 'n' stats

Address: The Barge Inn, Honey Street, Pewsey, Wiltshire, SN9 5PS

Tenure: Freehold

Staff employed: 21

Wet:dry split: 60:40

Ales on the bar: Croppie, 1810 and Roswell – all from Honeystreet Ales

Most popular dish: Boho Burger (6oz burger with smoky bacon, brie, jalapeños, caramelised onion, salsa, lettuce, tomato and mayo) with chips

The customers

As well as the crop-circle enthusiasts, through the week you get a lot of walkers and hikers going along the towpath and along various other walks around here.

In the summer, you get a lot of boats being used by people on holiday, as well as the people that live on the water.

This place is very weather dependant, but we can get quite a lot of trade in. If it’s a lovely day at the weekend, you get loads of families in. Weekends are always busy with families, especially when the kids are off school.

We have an affiliation with the campsite that is connected to the pub. The guy who owns the whole place – Ian McIvor – runs the campsite separately. But we do still get a lot of trade from the site; if the campsite is busy we will be rammed continuously.

I only took over the pub in April, but we have been told by the previous tenants that it does get very quiet in winter because we are in the middle of nowhere. If it is a nice day you would still make the extra effort to come here though.

Earlier in 2016, the second series of the Channel 4 programme The Hunted was being filmed here. There was a man and woman at the bar, one of whom had a small handheld camera. We thought that was a bit weird and they were playing up to the camera, so we asked them what it was about. They told us they were doing a show and it came up that they were doing The Hunted. Then they got caught here – someone here phoned up the hunters because you can get a £250 reward. They went to leave and a big 4X4 came flying down the track and stopped them right here. That will be airing in September.

The manager

I had not been against working in a pub, but I was used to being on the other side of the bar.

Darren Simons and Violet McLaren, who are the tenants here, have a pub in Swindon’s Old Town called the Victoria, where I was the assistant manager. I worked there for about four years and when this came up earlier this year they asked me if I wanted to come and work here. Darren is the designated premises supervisor; he and Violet have it on a 12-month tenancy with a view to seeing what happens and possibly buying it.

Ian McIvor owns the whole thing, so it is not brewery-owned. We’ve got separate ties into certain drinks, such as Stonehenge Ales, but it is more like a freehouse in essence. Ian has owned the whole area for about six years, but is now looking to retire and is looking to sell the area as one entity.

The team

We have three full-time bar staff and in the kitchen we have the prep chef and the head chef. In total there are 11 bar staff and 10 kitchen staff. That’s all the way from somebody washing up to head chef.

The offer

I would say our split is 60:40 in favour of wet, but that can on occasion change to 50:50. There are some days when I do the till I’m amazed by how high the dry sales have been. That’s when you get a really hot day and you have to do 250-300 covers. I have never known a place so weather dependant.

Friday nights we always have a jam night, where people can just turn up with their instruments. People can play covers or their own stuff and people just join in. It gets really busy because there are a lot of musicians around here on the boats.

On Saturdays we always have a band on. We are looking to make that year-round and hopefully that will draw people in during the winter.

We’ve thought about doing a quiz, but that would be something we would save for the winter. We don’t need it at the moment, but when we do need it we will arrange it because everyone comes out for quizzes.

Future plans

The pub is for sale and the current tenants are in the market to get it, but it’s open to the free market so a guy could come in now and decide he likes it. Hopefully whoever buys the pub retains the place and keeps the history of it.

I would not want to change too much at the pub in the next few years because it has always been busy here. But it’s good to go with the flow and take little ideas from what people want because otherwise it’s hard to keep everybody happy.

You get so many people here from different walks of life and different cultures. It’s good because everyone seems to get on, but if you change one thing for one lot, another group might not like it. There is nothing that I think needs a severe change. Everything works in harmony, so it’s good at the moment. Something might change, but I can’t predict the future.

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