ALE Winter 2002/2003 No. 308

Gamekeeper Turns Poacher

The Poacher in Elsworth spent the whole of 2001 behind "wooden curtains" as its owner tried to secure planning consent for a lucrative conversion of the property into a private house. However, the District Council stood firm, influenced no doubt by a vigorous "save our local" campaign within the village.

The pub was put on the market and rescue came from an unlikely source. Andy Banham had been in the brewing industry for 25 years, much of the time with Greene King, where he was latterly a Trade Manager. In a number of cases it fell to Andy to decide that particular pubs were no longer viable and that the brewery should dispose of them.

Ironic, therefore, to find him taking on a pub which had seemed doomed to join the great estate in the sky. More importantly, Andy's vast experience in the trade made him ideally qualified to know what pitfalls to avoid and what opportunities to exploit. His wife Sue had previously been a field manager for a market research company, so they make a formidable team. Andy and Sue have been running the Poacher now since February 2002 (see ALE 305), and they can be rightly proud of what they've achieved.

The pub itself is a lovely low-slung thatched building. Inside is a single L-shaped bar with a low, well-beamed ceiling, pine padded benches, raspberry-coloured walls and stripped light-wood flooring (apart from the tiled "corridor" between the front and back doors). There's lots of family-oriented memorabilia plus such interesting items as a framed letter from Prince Charles and a yeast tun from an old brewery, now used to keep paper for the open fire (which boasts a splendid fireback).

On the real ale scene, Greene King IPA is complemented by three ever-changing guest beers, mostly from local brewers such as Potton, Elgoods Nethergate and Ridleys.

Food is served all sessions except Sunday evening, and is extremely popular - booking is recommended, especially for Sunday lunch. Andy's philosophy is to put into practice what he tried to get "his" tenants to do over many years.

It seems to be working.

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