The Antelope Inn in Hazelbury Bryan

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The Blackmore Vale, Antelope Inn

Welcome to The Antelope Inn. I recently had the opportunity to chat to its owner Alasdair Warren, whose family have lived in Dorset for over 200 years. 

Alasdair is a lover of great local pubs. Having lived in London for some years he has now returned his roots, to live near Bridport and is on something of a mission that we should all applaud. He is determined to save or bring back to life some classic Dorset pubs. His enthusiasm and passion for the project is infectious as he talks about restoring pubs to their former glory at the heart of local villages.

In May 2019 he started on this personal by purchasing a pub he knew well from his youth, The Pyemore Inn in Bridport, which had fallen into disrepair and embarked on a project to bring it back to life. He has since bought three other premises across the county, amongst which is ‘his absolute favourite; I would be in there every night if I could!’.

Built in the 1700’s The Antelope was originally a combined dairy farm, brewery and Ale house. By the mid 1900s the farming had ceased but the main buildings remained as a brewery and public house. The origins of the pub’s name are not completely clear but was most probably prompted by its location near the Blackmore Forest and the wildlife that made frequent visits to the village.

This is a beautiful spot to visit for a pint. The pub’s location in Hazelbury Bryan is in the heart of the Blackmore Vale. Its real Hardy country and the Antelope is surrounded by our beautiful Dorset countryside and not surprisingly in more normal times attracts many walkers and cyclists alike.

Whilst welcoming all passers by who drop in, the pub is very much a hub of the local community, a true village pub where you can pop in at the end of the working day for a restorative pint or two.  It has been traditionally very much a ‘Wet’ pub where you come in for a natter and catch up on what’s what rather than for gastro meals. Alasdair is very aware of the important social role a pub plays in the workings of a village community and is a great fan of pub games and keen to see the pub’s skittle alley in regular action.

The pub is managed by Greg and Rhiannon Chauncey who grew up in South Africa, although originally from the UK. They were in the process of taking a couple of years off to travel and see the world and found themselves in Hazelbury Bryan. Loving the place and the people, they stayed.

Traditionally, The Antelope hasn’t served food although a light menu was introduced last year and Covid allowing, you can arrange to have food prepared for shooting parties and other special occasions.

In buying the pub just over a year ago, Alasdair wanted to ensure that The Antelope was in good shape for the future and has invested in restoring its traditional feel to revive the original character and make it a comfortable place to spend time. Too often changes are made to pubs that alienate their customers that it will depend on. Initially cautious, it seems clear that from the comments received that the residents of Hazelbury Bryan approve feels as if the changes have always been there.

Covid and resulting restrictions haven’t helped but it was the constraints of the first lockdown presented an opportunity to finish work on external decorations and get the garden looking terrific.

Recent TripAdvisor comments confirm the appeal of The Antelope – ‘wonderful clean, warm, traditional friendly pub. A+ Food’.

Alasdair is quick to praise Greg and Rhiannon for their enthusiasm and creativity who run the pub day today. It has been a turbulent year for them, to say the least, and now with the help of their daughter, Hannah, it is very much a family affair. They clearly love running this beautifully renovated pub and are excited that food will play a bigger role in future. They managed to hold a socially distanced Christmas market and plan to introduce a regular monthly fresh local market.

You will find a good selection of local real ales and ciders with carefully chosen guest ales at The Antelope. I asked Alasdair about his plans for the future. The focus like so many pubs is now about keeping ‘our heads above water’ during continued Coronavirus restrictions but there are plans to extend the kitchen and expand the range of food offered. He also hopes to refurbish an area above the pub to provide accommodation to add to the barn and stables which are already for holiday lets.

As we all endure this gloomy period and miss the warmth and welcome of our local pub, it’s comforting to hear an owner and staff talk so enthusiastically about a more optimistic future. With the effects of the pandemic threatening the future of a quintessential part of village life, it is great to know that we have Alasdair doing his best to prevent this

When we return to some sort of normality, I suggest you make a beeline for The Antelope!

 

Toby Hartwell

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