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Saving the Packhorse Inn

3 Apr

The Packhorse, South Stoke, BathApproximately 18 months ago I became involved with a campaign to buy back and restore the only pub in the village in which I live. The role I carved out for myself was running the social media campaign to keep the Packhorse in the news. Although I work in Cyber Security by day, it seemed to me to be a fairly good fit for what I’d been doing in the publishing world – not only did it give me the opportunity to use and hone the skills I learned when pitching and publishing the Ferret Files, I also had the opportunity to expand my circle of contacts within the media. I should add that the project to bring the village pub back to life was a community effort, with many hundreds of ordinary folk pitching in their time and skills for free. Over the course of a year and a half, thousands of people-hours were put into the garden alone. For the strip-out, we filled 25 skips with rubbish. When the call went out for a local stonemason to assist with the reconstruction of a (c)17th fireplace that was discovered behind plaster, an ex-lecturer from Bath University, now living in France, gave up a week of his time to lead the restoration work. From an insider’s point of view it seemed that the wind had our backs, and whenever we needed a specialist the right person with the right skills and attitude came our way at the right time.

The end result is a testament to what can be achieved by a small group of dedicated individuals who refuse to take ‘no’ for an answer and believe that they are capable of succeeding no matter what the odds. At the outset, the neersayers were many; we simply got on with the task in hand and left them in the dust, raising just over £1m in funds, which allowed us to purchase the pub, complete renovations and open debt free. If you want to read more about the project and the history of the pub, which is 400 years old this year, then have a rummage around the website: As resident PR bod I wrote most of the content.

The Packhorse Bath Opening Day March 18th 2018

The Packhorse Project Team – I’m far left

On the day we opened, it snowed heavily overnight. By 9am a team of 15 shovellers of all ages and sexes had assembled and together we dug out the village. We’d waited six years to reopen the Packhorse and there was no way a little bit of snow was going to call a halt to proceedings! The BBC covered the event and broadcast footage over two nights. More importantly, the story was soon picked up online by the Daily Mail, followed by the Mirror, the Sun and every other UK national. The feelgood story continued trending at number #1 for the Mail Online and was only knocked off the top spot by news of Putin’s reelection later that evening. The next day we featured in every single national newspaper, and over the following week appeared in publictions in South America, China and Germany. Requests for interviews followed and were duly answered. I did my first ever radio interview for BBC local radio. In retrospect it appears that our feel good story was one that the world wanted to hear, and perhaps due to the situtation we find ourselves in globally right now, was in dire need of.

The message that this story contains is pretty simple when you break it down. What appears impossible on your own becomes much easier once you have the right team in place. If you believe in your project and ask the Universe for help when you need it, help will appear. This is how we accrued our stonemason, our lead gardener and our interior designer. Most of all, by committing to take part in a community minded venture and expecting nothing in return, I ended up with a whole load of media experience and an immense feeling of pride in a job well done. Oh, and I now have a pub that serves great food and an unbeatable range of craft beers and real ales within spitting distance of my front door.

That’s what I call a job well done!

Here are the links to the various publications we’ve been featured in. More are being added all the time.

Bath Echo

The Guardian

Bath Magazine




Ali Vowles radio story (starts 20:24)

The Observer

The Sun

Daily Telegraph

Daily Mail

Daily Mirror



And again in the Metro

Bath Chronicle

Bristol Post

Good Housekeeping



Somerset Live


360 TV


And the international links:




Spanish (it’s actually Russia Today!)

Czech Republic





China / Chinese language



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