Sarah Beeny meets the Wiltshire residents who are trying to renovate their local pub and rescue their community. First they must transform the pub's reputation.
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The British countryside.
With green valleys, wild mountains, rolling farmland and forests,
the landscape is as diverse as it is beautiful.
Many dream of escaping to the simple country life.
But for those who live in rural Britain, it's a different story.
Traditional industries are in decline,
and, across the land, local shops, pubs and farms,
the very cornerstone of country life, are closing at an alarming rate.
It just seems that the heartbeat of our green and pleasant land is fast disappearing.
This was a really vibrant shopping street.
And now we have one pub left, and that's it.
You need to keep these places safe and secure for our children to come and enjoy.
The one thing the countryside has going for it is the people who call it home.
But what if locals were able to take matters into their own hands?
What if groups of volunteers were given a load of money to turn their dreams into realities
and put the spirit back into their communities?
We're only going to succeed in this project if we involve
as many people from the community as possible.
We want good service.
With just 12 months to pull it off,
putting their villages back on the map is not going to be easy.
-I just know we are going to have battles every step of the way!
I have no building experience whatsoever.
What a shambles.
But the results might just be spectacular.
It's the biggest chance we've ever had to do something amazing.
It is a big ask, but it could work.
A group of volunteers have a big plan to transform their dying local into a thriving business.
I have the keys.
It hasn't been cleaned properly for a long time. Really disgusting.
Until I came here, I don't think I've ever lived real life! SHE SCREAMS
But can they get the community behind them?
Along with drugs comes bad behaviour.
Always kind of fights and a hostile atmosphere.
Ladies and gentlemen!
I'm a volunteer trying to do good for my community. Why are you shouting at me?
The Vale of Pewsey, Wiltshire - with big, open plains,
this is the Wild West of England.
Steeped in history and mysticism,
it's about as far removed as you can get
from the hustle and bustle of city life.
In areas as remote as this, it's essential there's somewhere
people can come together and share in the joys of rural life.
The Barge Inn and was built 200 years ago,
when the Kennet and Avon Canal opened.
For generations, it has been the hub of its community,
serving customers from the three tiny picture-postcard villages surrounding it.
Unfortunately, it's now in terminal decline.
Basic...I think is the best way of describing it.
It certainly needs a very good clean and a damn good smart-up.
Its reputation began to go downhill with its food.
If we wanted to go out for a meal, we wouldn't think about the Barge. No.
And then the pub's troubles really started.
It was kind of fights and a hostile atmosphere at times.
There were loads of bad things happening down the Barge,
because along with drugs comes bad behaviour.
Unless action is taken soon, the Barge will almost certainly go under.
When a pub loses its locals, it loses its heart.
It's a downward spiral and it's often too late to turn it around.
For this community to get a vibrant pub back, it's going to take money, hard work and passion.
Fortunately, one thing the villagers here aren't lacking is passion.
Three starry-eyed locals, Bev, Emma and Polly,
have spent the last 18 months trying to rescue the pub
that holds a special place in their hearts.
I love this pub. I love the setting, I love everything about it.
And the potential here, not just for us as residents,
but for everybody to enjoy it and everybody to share what it has,
that, to me, is what is important.
'I'm keen to find out why the pub means so much to them.'
Why does the pub matter? Ultimately, you want to go and have a drink,
you can buy some beer and have it at home. What matters?
The Barge is unique. It's the people who go in there are unique.
It has this amazing atmosphere, this amazing, energetic essence about it.
That's what makes it so quirky and that's one of the reasons why we love it so much.
How would you feel if a really good chain of pubs
-took the pub over and rekindled it?
-The Barge Inn at Honeystreet is the Barge Inn at Honeystreet.
-This is nothing to compare with any other pub.
So you really passionately feel that you deserve,
and the pub deserves, you to personally take ownership?
It served the community for the past 200 years. It's built to do that.
We're here at this particular time to help it maintain that.
This is a cracking opportunity
to get somewhere that can be a place that the whole community can come together.
Whilst no-one can doubt their passion and determination
to save their local, they do lack one crucial element - money.
That could be about to change.
It's May 2010. Bev, Emma and Polly have gathered all those
who share their love for the Barge.
Because this morning, the Barge Inn community project
are about to find out if they can take over the pub.
They've applied for a £400,000 grant from the Big Lottery Fund
under a scheme to regenerate rural communities.
-We're in the zone, then.
This has been bandied around the kitchen tables for years,
what we would do if we won the lottery
and we could implement this and do this and that.
All of a sudden, we're that far away from a dream we've all had.
And it's just like... Yeah, it's huge.
Everything hinges on this one phone call.
Terry. Good afternoon.
Fellow volunteer Terry picks up.
-0h, my God!
-The Barge Inn!
-ALL: The Barge Inn!
We're all raring to go now.
The reality's finally sinking in
that we've got a mountain to climb, but we are so excited.
With the money now in place, the locals might just save their local.
The Barge team plan to give the pub a more contemporary look
with which to set sail into the 21st century.
The old serving area will be replaced with a hand-crafted horseshoe bar,
and interior walls will be removed to make the pub feel more welcoming.
They will spend £200,000 to create an interior
they hope to become famous for beer, fine food and music.
There's soon to be someone else involved with Bev, Emma
and Polly's love affair with the Barge.
To bring a bit of spice to the team, support is heading their way from the bright lights of Manchester.
The Barge committee have hired 35-year-old music promoter Sandra Bhatia.
They hope her PR skills will make the pub a massive hit.
I have no real understanding. I've never lived in a rural community,
I've not spent much time in the countryside, if I'm honest.
All I can reference are stereotypes
and, dare I say it, tractors and combine harvesters
and pieces of straw hanging out of your mouth!
That's just a perception.
It's a complete contrast to be immersed in a world that's not yours.
I might as well move to Pluto from Venus.
Sandra will have to survive life on Pluto,
or rural Wiltshire, for a year if she is to turn the Barge Inn around.
In her new home in the West Country, Sandra's way of adapting to village life
is to surround herself with familiar friends.
This is my guilty pleasure since I was 17, 18 years old.
He comes everywhere with me.
And this is where it all happens, from here.
Next to another guilty pleasure, Mr Simon Cowell!
Sandra is confident she knows what the Barge Inn needs.
The basics - good food, good beer, good atmosphere,
but with a sprinkling of magic.
It's August 2010,
and the moment Bev has been waiting for has finally arrived.
I have the keys.
The long-awaited keys for the pub
that everybody is waiting to get in to do some work on.
As you can see, we've got lots of support, so everybody is going to come and get their Marigolds on
and start getting it prepared for the opening tomorrow.
Go on, Bev!
The Barge team want to reopen as quickly as possible
to make the most of the summer trade,
so they've given themselves just one day to get the place clean.
50 eager volunteers come to lend some much-needed elbow grease.
MUSIC: "Here Come The Girls" by Ernie K-Doe
0h! 0h, wow! Look at all this!
Sandra reports for her first day at work...
only to realise she may have bitten off more than she can chew.
That is not a good insight into how you run a kitchen,
if I'm going to be brutally honest. No, no, no.
I can't believe it's actually been cooked on.
I'll have a group of people in here doing all the paintwork and the floor.
I have a little group there that's going to do the kitchen.
Hasn't been cleaned properly for a long, long, long time.
Completely disgusting. It's going to be a long day.
Oh, my God!
That's the fat trap.
That needs to be cleaned out every so often, but it's overflowed.
Oh, my God. You are such a brave woman. Such a great woman.
Until I came here, I don't think I've ever lived real life!
Sandra might not be prepared to get her hands dirty,
but she's steaming ahead with a plan to launch the Barge
and she's thinking big.
Beer tent. Hopefully, we'll have some activities and things.
She intends to hold a music festival in just four months.
Time to get much-needed publicity for the pub.
We want as many people as possible to know about the pub.
Because, really, it's in the middle of nowhere.
It's got some kind of reputation, but we need to build on that.
We want to try to get in artists who reflect what the pub's about,
so, hopefully, we might be able to get some folk singers in here
but on a grander scale,
and create something that they haven't seen around here before.
Sandra is confident she can pull off her ambitious plan.
But could a music festival be too much for the local residents?
There's going to have to be a lot of conversations with the locals,
to do whatever we can to appease them and hopefully work with them.
I don't imagine that's going to be an easy ride.
I think it's going to be very difficult. Anything can be done.
You've just all got to be on the same page.
But there could be a bigger problem. If business doesn't pick up,
there might not be a pub to stage a festival.
With pubs closing at the rate of 25 a week,
the Barge Inn needs to make a lot of money quickly
if it's to avoid joining the casualty list.
Fundamentally, you want to make it profitable,
which it wasn't last year, to keep it open.
At the figures it's running and the moment, do you think it would shut?
We've just had three pubs closed in the last couple of months within a five-mile radius of here.
So, this day and age, it has to tick all the boxes.
If it doesn't, people will go and find somewhere that does.
The biggest box of all the pub will have to tick is food,
which now accounts for over 50% of all pub sales.
So the Barge team have called for reinforcements.
Riding in...well, floating in from the west on his trusty barge,
40-year-old Scouser Carl Games is the pub's new chef.
Having already turned around the fortunes of another local pub,
Carl is under no illusions about the size of the task ahead.
When they approached me about the project and possibly a job,
I was really keen to do it, because it's one of those pubs that should survive.
I think it's such a good idea, we know the business has got to work.
If the pub fails, it will have a big impact on everything else that goes on around it,
so it's got to work, it's got to be run as a business.
Carl is so inspired by the project, he's taken on the role of head chef for the minimum wage.
I want people to come out and enjoy a really good meal of, not a la carte fancy stuff,
just like proper good cooking, where everything is done fresh.
We make everything on site, I want it to be a proper local pub again.
In the winter, I want it to be full of local people.
I want those people to start using the pub again, which will be ideal.
Carl will have to make sure the launch of the pub's new restaurant is a big success.
Sandra will also be judged by the outcome of one massive day -
her music festival.
Today, she has headed to London to meet up with band promoter Steve Budd,
who's promised her he has pulled in some big names.
These are the guys to make it happen.
It's like speaking to Jim'll Fix It.
-Are you OK?
-Nice to see.
I've spoken to The Magic Numbers, and they have confirmed that they're doing it.
They've headlined Glastonbury and had loads of hits.
I think it is a great draw.
The other person that we are waiting to hear from, which is Laura Marling.
I mean, each one of these acts is a hell of a live act.
It's the kind of bill any festival would kill for.
While Sandra's impressed with Steve's line-up,
he seems underwhelmed by her idea for the festival's name.
-Are you hooked on calling it the Barge Inn Experience?
OK, it's a working title. I know you don't like it.
What would you call it?
Listen, it's in Honeystreet. I think Honeystreet is a great name.
You know, Honeystreet Happening or...
I absolutely agree. Honeystreet dot, dot, dot.
We'll think of something else, but definitely,
because that would...that would raise a few eyebrows in a good way
-to the residents, because it makes them feel important.
Back in Wiltshire, Carl has come up with his own ingenious way
of enticing the residents of Honeystreet back into the barge.
In exchange for pub vouchers, Carl hopes to get
a regular supply of fresh and very local produce to go on his menu.
-Hi, Carl, you all right? How's it going?
-Got some spuds for you.
'We're going to do our first run of going round to people's houses, allotments.'
Lovely. Wow. Thank you very much.
'Hopefully, we'll get some nice vegetables, nice beetroot.'
Which one am I having, Issy?
-This whopper one.
-That whopper one!
-You like the whopper ones.
-What are you going to do with that? I've never cooked with chard?
I think that could be a soup. How much you reckon it's worth?
-Oh, I don't know.
-About a fiver, do you reckon?
-Is that about right?
-Yeah! That's all right.
-Well, is it on beer or food, I want to know?
-It's on food.
-There we go.
-Thank you very much.
-You're the first receiver of a Barge Inn voucher.
-Wow, I could eBay that in a couple of years(!)
-Thanks. See you again soon.
-Thank you very much.
It's important for Carl to take on local talent in his kitchen.
There's one young man in particular he's repaired to take a punt on.
What do you reckon to that?
Definitely taste the walnuts.
20-year-old Nathan has Asperger's Syndrome.
He has lived in Wiltshire all his life
but since leaving school at 16, has struggled to keep a job.
People think I will be daydreamy or something, and I'm not. I'm just... That's me.
Yeah, it's his willingness.
He's so keen and he does everything he can to please me.
Carl's been great with helping me get settled and sorted here.
He was really keen to use me and help me.
A lot of my other jobs haven't ended so well,
so what with it going so well at the moment, it's really nice for once.
Initially hired as a dishwasher,
Nathan's enthusiasm has impressed Carl so much,
he has asked him to the front of house when the pub's new-look restaurant opens.
To be front of house is a really crucial role,
because you are the face of the food, effectively.
-And to go from washing up to that, is that a scary jump?
It's kind of scary, but I do, with Asperger's and things,
I do like challenges, and it is a nice challenge to be serving people.
And what do you hope to achieve from this job?
From there, maybe learn other areas of the trade that will allow me to one day own my own pub.
Maybe build it from there.
-I am keeping my fingers crossed it all works out.
Sandra's also keen to encourage local talent.
With her newly christened Honeyfest to promote,
Sandra's holding a battle of the bands competition
in nearby Pewsey to find the cream of Wiltshire's music talent.
Well, today is the day.
The Barge Inn is well known for its music.
We want to gear up towards the main event on the 18th.
Yeah, we'll have established names,
but why not give the locals a chance to go and share the stage?
And the main thing is engaging the community
and getting, arguably, some of the younger people involved and fired up.
The prize - a chance to perform at the festival alongside the big names.
# I'm catching dragonflies that light above my head. #
# Don't let it all those islands. #
Talent in Wiltshire. Who realised what talent was on our doorstep?
The question is, will that talent have a stage to play on?
I really admire their ambition.
The festival needs to announce to the world that the Barge Inn is open.
But it also needs to not annoy the locals,
who are going to be its bread and butter.
It has fantastic food that's great value for money.
It's a really big challenge, but it is exciting to see if they do it.
Unfortunately, the idea of a festival has angered
rather than enthused the locals.
Including parish councillor Pete Emery,
who has lived here all his life.
The big thing with Honeyfest is trying to understand what's going on.
Rumours are rumours. Until you get the definite truth,
you just say to people, "We'll find out more."
As a parish council, if somebody asks you something, we need to find out.
We need to find out for the village. It's something that has never happened certainly in the parish
and certainly not in Honeystreet, not to the scale of this.
It's just got everybody's back up.
Annoyed that they haven't been consulted,
Sandra must face a crisis meeting with the all-powerful parish council.
Unless Sandra can talk around the parish council,
it's going to be extremely unlikely that the festival will get the licence it needs.
I think they're not used to this amount of excitement
and this level of publicity
and artists and things like that.
They're just not used to it, so it is very hard to convince people overnight.
It's a difficult thing to do. They're in a really difficult position.
But we are where we are
and, hopefully, we can come up with a compromise that works for everyone.
Later, the vote goes against Sandra.
Her chances of holding the event on 18th December are looking slim.
The Barge team may have kept their pub afloat for three months,
but the backlash against Honeyfest has made them realise
that unless they can win back the locals, the love affair with the Barge may soon be over.
What have been the challenges so far? What's the biggest hurdle been?
A few local people, and it's a question of they did not understand the bigger picture,
so perhaps, as a community project, we were at fault by not explaining it all of the time.
All we're trying to do is to breathe new life into it.
We could have gone for any little place or pub that came upon the market.
That isn't why we've done this. We've done this because this place is unique.
You're right, you're right.
And you've obviously put so much heart into this.
It's not just me, it's everybody else. We can all see the bigger picture. It isn't rocket science.
You need to keep these places safe and secure for our children to come and enjoy.
You have to keep an essence of a community going
to share with everybody now and in the future, otherwise what is the point?
The lack of local support is really biting the business.
Sales had already slowed at the end of the summer
and now they've virtually ground to a halt.
I think last night I did one bowl of chips, so it's that quiet.
And in the bar, I think Paul said he sold five pints of beer.
There you go. Cheers, ta.
Carl is determined to take action.
It's late November, and Carl is planning a locals' night to get people back into the Barge.
To promote it, Carl and his kitchen team are hitting market day in nearby Devizes
to show potential punters just what they're missing.
-They're from the Barge Inn. Have you heard of us?
-I love a mussel.
-Freshly cooked today.
And we're having a launch night tonight.
We've got fantastic food, entertainment and sampling of the menu.
Just trying to get people to come in, let them know about the community group
and the takeover and the things that are going on.
And hopefully it's going to be pretty successful. Some chips there, guys.
-That is nice!
-Yeah, come and see us.
While Carl tries to lure back the pub's customers with free food,
Sandra is on a charm offensive to get Honeyfest back on track.
As you well know, some of the residents in the local area
have reacted in a not-so-positive way,
so the point of right now is to do a little bit of PR, answer some questions,
deliver the right information and hopefully allay some of the fears.
She has recruited a secret weapon.
Ben, a sympathetic member of the parish council,
is only too aware of the local concerns.
and we're going to have a mini-Glastonbury, I think is the worry.
The dust has settled since last week, so hopefully we'll go out today
and have a chat with a few of them. They'll recognise me, hopefully,
and we can allay some of the fears, really.
Tonight is possibly the most important night in the pub's recent history.
I'm in a panic, because I know the time is getting on,
and people will be getting here soon, and I want to get this place cleared and get it all organised.
Nathan, don't worry about putting them out too nicely. They can dish them out.
After a long day in the market, Carl must now impress his new customers
with a taste of the latest pub menu.
With such a bad reputation for food,
everything hinges on the kitchen running perfectly.
Getting the locals on board is essential.
Ultimately, the community needs to have some input.
Because it's their pub. So that's the idea of tonight -
to showcase our ideas and get their feedback.
They might say, "Actually, don't like that".
The team hope all their hard work hasn't been for nothing.
We need some encouragement as well because sometimes you do think,
"Is it working? Are we doing the right thing?
"Do people really want us to do this?"
Sometimes you do get people that just shout stuff at you and want answers,
you know, quite rude or aggressive.
You think, "I'm a volunteer, I'm trying to do something good for my community.
"Why are you shouting at me?"
How many people upstairs do you reckon?
We've got about ten or 12 dishes going up.
I reckon they're separate ones so it'll be good.
This is most definitely the busiest we've been yet.
But it's all fun. It's great.
Carl may be winning over locals with his food,
but can Sandra convince the parish councillors about Honeyfest?
As a parish council, we have to do what we understand to be the truth.
And we have to do that, and if we're not given the information,
we can't support it.
You know, if we just know a bit more about it...
You know, what you told me was completely different
than what other people have told me.
And this is where you've GOT to get it across.
It confuses us as a parish council big time.
Who's telling the truth?
I mean, we are so much in the middle.
Ladies and gentlemen!
Thank you very much for coming tonight!
The last thing you're going to eat is some chocolate and Guinness.
You can have a piece of chocolate brownie first and then Guinness to follow.
Even if you hate Guinness, you'll absolutely love it.
The guy from Belgium said so.
I've never seen the pub so full.
An enormous improvement. No question about it.
Such a good atmosphere and... everyone's mingling and happy to see each other
so, yeah, it's excellent. It's back to how it used to be.
# I'm pretty convinced it's where I'll spend the rest of my days. #
Don't break the branch, please.
OK. Which way are you going to pull?
You've got to go round! Completely come round in a circle!
-The other way!
-With concerns that they might not even make their first Christmas now behind them,
locals night has been a massive boost to the team.
The locals night made it totally worthwhile
and to see the pub full of people,
old faces that haven't been here for such a long time
and walking away having enjoyed themselves
and saying, "We'll be back cos it was a really great night,
"it was like it used to be",
That for me was the icing on the cake.
It's like, OK, this is what it's all about and that evening achieved it.
The weight of local opposition to Honeyfest however
has led Sandra to a difficult decision.
I am off to pin these...
..onto the noticeboards.
Sandra's lesson in the ways of the country is beginning to have an effect.
I didn't understand the way villages worked.
It's not about e-mailing and mail-outs
and SMS and all that kind of thing.
No. It's plain old human one-to-one contact.
Carl's food has increased takings by 7%,
but it's not enough. He's worried the tired decor is driving customers away.
The committee had planned to refurbish in January
but delays in planning mean they've now pushed the build back to spring.
Carl might be able to offer his customers great food,
but he still can't offer them pleasant surroundings
in which to enjoy it.
It is still tatty upstairs and that.
If you're sitting somewhere shabby,
you don't expect the best food.
I've seen quite a few cars, as soon as they come in the car park,
turn around before they've even come into the pub.
Are you finding it rewarding or frustrating or both?
-Which is bigger, the frustration or reward?
The rewarding's good because people are surprised to see what they actually get.
We hoped to be three months into it by now and really flying,
but it's understandable why the hold-up's happened.
Nothing can be done about it.
No. I have to say - I'm going to be really honest here -
I think they're flipping lucky to have you
and to be honest, the one thing that's going right is the food.
I've eaten it myself, it's delicious. Clearly everyone else sees that as well.
I see how exhausted everyone is with everything they're doing
and they're mostly doing it for free so I'm not going to grumble.
I'm getting a wage. I'm working with them and they're working with me.
I'm really impressed with your stoic spirit.
Well, thank you!
Getting on with the refurbishment is now proving more vital than ever.
It's early March and with only two months to the festival,
time is ticking by. I suppose when I look at it,
I don't know how to say this in a nice way, so I'll just say it, from October till now,
kind of not a lot's happened in the big scheme of things
from an outsider's point of view,
you kind of think, it's the same as it was.
On the surface of it, it doesn't look like much has happened,
but in actual fact, we have made a hell of a lot of progress.
In the main, it's been about turning a negative reputation
of a pub around.
A lick of paint isn't going to change a reputation of the pub.
No, but it's quite a good point in any business or anything,
if people can see something's different they kind of go,
"That might be different as well. We'll give it another try".
One week later, the refurbishment finally begins.
The team have given themselves just six weeks to transform the interior.
Today's the first day we've got our contractors in to do the heavy stuff.
We're on a very tight timescale, but there's nothing new with that.
Sandra has been busy booking bands for the festival.
All her efforts will be judged by that one day.
We've almost sold out.
And the artists are doing it for free as well.
The fact that they're supporting the project,
that was a really nice thing to do,
and one of the ladies
who's performing just won Best Solo Artist at the Brits.
-That will help.
-That really helps!
How much are the tickets out of interest?
They're £20 for locals and £35 national.
In the main, it's designed for the locals.
I actually think Honeyfest is a very brave move.
I think there's two choices -
Sandra could let the Barge Inn take up slow momentum and slowly grow
or launch it into the stratosphere in one huge almighty event.
And so that's what she's going to do
and it's going to go ahead whether the Barge Inn is ready or not
and whether the locals want it or not.
There's just one slight problem -
Sandra doesn't have the licence she needs to hold the festival.
This morning she has been summoned to an appeal hearing
at Wiltshire County Council in nearby Chippenham.
If the verdict goes against her,
then the last eight months of hard work will have been for nothing.
I think we've had around 30 objection letters that have gone in.
It feels a little bit like I'm on trial,
but I've been through this that many times now with this project...
..that many times,
well, what else can you throw at us?
Honeyfest is a good-natured event.
It's the launch event for the Barge Inn community project
and I can guarantee it will not happen again.
The final decision will be made by the council committee.
There is plenty of opposition.
To help fight her corner,
Sandra has brought along her events manager, Graham.
-Will there be any readmission?
-The music will finish at eight.
It's very polite, commercial, folk music.
With a mountain of objections to get through,
the jury is still out on Honeyfest.
If they do get the licence,
it leaves just seven days for the Barge to get its doors open.
Today Bev is going to see the £20,000 hand-crafted oak bar
she hopes will make the pub look fantastic.
Crikey! This is just incredible.
We aim to please.
-Pleased? I'm just like...!
-Have you see the bottom bit?
-So this is your end.
-Oh, my God!
This is where you walk in.
-It looks huge!
-It IS huge!
-You sure you got your sizes right?! No, it's fine.
-I can't believe this.
It's going to look amazing.
I'm completely overwhelmed by it, I don't know...
-Can we have another week to finish it?
-I wish I could say yes.
After five hours of deliberation,
Wiltshire Council have reached their decision.
Everybody we expected was there.
And do you know what, they put across quite a good case, I have to say.
Yeah. I'll tell you in detail when I see you.
-It's fairly entertaining in parts.
But...guess what, though?
-'We've got it?'
Finally, it's happening.
In a week's time, this field will be hosting
11 acts, playing to a crowd of 1,500 people,
to launch a pub that currently doesn't even have a bar.
With no kitchen to work in,
Carl and Nathan have travelled to Somerset for some culinary inspiration.
Five years ago, the Pony and Trap in nearby Chew Magna
was on its last legs.
The skill and tenacity of local chef Josh Eggleton
has seen the pub's turnover increase by 700%.
Five years ago, when we opened, we weren't doing this sort of stuff.
These dishes are a little bit more fancy, I guess.
Earlier this year, it became one of only 10 British pubs
to be awarded a Michelin star.
Whilst Carl hopes to pick up a few tips in the kitchen,
Nathan will receive invaluable training from the restaurant's front of house.
Tuck your shirt in.
-Always start off with the knife.
-That's a good idea.
The knife always sits there.
Service! This is the rare beef salad.
Rare beef salad.
Going to Table 11.
-I'll show you.
It's a brilliant standard of service here.
It's more about the quality of things has changed,
but how you do them hasn't changed so much.
We did have a lot of people come in, read the menu and walk out.
And I think to a certain extent,
you've got to believe in what you do, as well.
And you have to stick to your guns.
We get that with the scampi and all that.
Lunchtime was just Ploughman's and baguettes.
We just make sure it's the best Ploughman's we can do.
Get a good, decent, local Cheddar, make a homemade coleslaw,
make that chutney, make the piccalilli, so it's the best Ploughman's you can get.
'He says it's taken him four and a half years to get the Michelin star.
'It's not something I'm necessarily after -'
it came because he was doing good food, well-cooked,
and also, really locally sourced.
So he's using things that are so fresh,
it's a really nice family feel to it. Some fantastic ideas,
which a lot of them,
I think, could carry into the Barge in time.
With the pub launch and music festival just two days away,
it's all hands on deck to get the pub ready in time.
There's the guys in there finishing off the painting.
And the guys laying the floor,
were here, they've worked all day and then all night
and left at 11 the following morning,
just to get our floor down for us, they've all worked really hard.
The fact that they've done this in, I think it's three weeks,
completely revamped a pub, put a whole electrical system in,
new floor, new bar,
it's just incredible.
Just over a year ago, the Barge was a tired, depressed old pub.
It's now very different.
With the addition of a huge horseshoe bar, open seating
and a totally revamped interior, it has the potential to become
a top canalside destination.
I'm gobsmacked. I walked in, and I couldn't talk.
All I could do was this.
I worried about the colour, worried about the bar,
I worried about the colour of the floor. When I first saw it, "Look how dark it is, it won't work."
The taps came in and I was thinking, "Look at the size of them."
But it's all come together
and the colour is perfectly... You know, it works.
With the pub expecting over 1,000 people to descend on it,
now it's just the small matter of transforming the grounds
into a fully functioning festival.
-She's going to set up near the wishing tree.
We're running between there and the bar tent.
The residents of Honeystreet aren't totally in the festival spirit.
The sudden impact of something coming to the village
on a scale of 1,500 people, you know,
that's a massive amount of people in this small, little community.
Suddenly, these people are going to be coming from everywhere,
throughout the country. That's really unheard of.
Even those behind the project know the risks Honeyfest poses.
You're really under scrutiny from the locals here
and there's a lot of people who aren't that keen on Honeyfest.
If anything goes wrong, the finger of blame will be pointed at you.
Do you feel under pressure?
Definitely. We feel like that a lot of that all the time.
There's been issues ever since we've taken over of some kind or another that we have had to deal with.
It is a massive thing to do here.
It is... I mean...
None of us are thinking this is a walk in the park. It's terrifying.
If you look at how much there is to do, and how much time,
it's going to be right up to the wire getting this place ready.
After nine months' debate, deliberation and planning,
the day of reckoning has arrived.
With the paint barely dry,
over 40 volunteers are in the wings.
The Barge Inn is about to play host to its biggest-ever knees-up.
Hundreds of locals are expected,
so the Barge team know everything HAS to run smoothly.
It's not just their local pride at stake,
it's their reputation.
It has to go without a hitch. There's so much hanging on this.
If the trust is broken between the locals and the project,
then we've got a problem. It just has to work.
CHEERING AND APPLAUSE
# As heavy as a book can be
# I will carry it with me... #
With fine weather and huge crowds,
the event gets off to a great start.
# Love is sweetness on our tongues... #
I was slightly sceptical about the Wire festival.
But actually now were here, it's a lot of fun.
It's like you'd want to spend a summer's afternoon
or the weekend down at the pub, down at the Barge.
We live a mile from here so...
it IS our local pub.
It's dramatically different. We'll wait and see. Today's the first day we've seen it.
It's so crowded you can't move in there!
1,500 people have descended on the Barge.
It's the busiest it's ever been in its 200-year history.
That can only be good for business.
The festival has drawn a diverse crowd,
many of them haven't had to come far.
-We've only come from Woodborough, less than a mile.
-Woodborough, just down the road.
Sometimes people have a knee-jerk reaction, don't they?
Sometimes it's the case where people just say no because they don't understand what's going on.
I think a lot of people thought it was going to be Glastonbury and there was going to be
30,000 people, all of a sudden, coming into their little place!
CHEERING AND APPLAUSE
It took us at least five minutes to walk here. That was good!
# You'll never forget
# The way that she let it She don't feel the same
# I only want to find a way... #
By the time festival favourites, Magic Numbers, hit the stage,
even Pete the parish councillor appears to have been won over.
I'm glad it's working. They've got everything right.
You know, there's nothing wrong with how it's all working out there.
It all good. I haven't got a negative thing to say.
Praise to Sandra here, I think.
# I just couldn't take my eyes off you
# I shall be released. #
As headline act, Damien Rice, brings his set to a close,
Barge volunteer, Emma, is on a high.
Apart from having my little girl, passing my driving test,
getting married, it's on that kind of scale.
It's one of those overwhelming days where you've just achieved something you never thought you could do,
or you would ever do. It is just incredible. All that work and effort
has paid off in the most fantastic way.
I'm completely blown away by that.
I thought that was absolutely wicked.
-Damien was just...
-You know what, the whole vibe of the day, it all fell into place.
There's no way this would have happened without her.
She's just got some talent, that girl!
It's been, probably one of the best days in my 35 years.
It's been a real journey.
In a lot of ways.
I'm glad it's done.
Honeyfest could not have gone better for Sandra.
Now the pub's kitchen and restaurant will be in the spotlight.
I'll take them two when you need them, but I'll help take them up.
Two portions, please, OK?
The official launch of the new menu.
We've got Nathan, his first night, taking control of upstairs,
which is kind of a mix of happiness...
and maybe terror!
It's only because it's the first night.
We've got to expect a few little ups and downs.
I'm sure he's going to be all right.
'Instead of just being waiter now,'
I'm full front of house head waiter,
making sure all the different areas of the pub are working together,
which is a lot to handle.
If it does go wrong,
it's obviously my head on the firing line for it all.
The heat is on.
Tonight's biggest booking is a table of 14
for the Wiltshire Ladies Dining Club and Carl's only too aware
how influential the seemingly mild-mannered ladies can be.
They do a dinner club once a month.
I have this thing where one lady can tell about 200 other ladies
that something was either good or bad.
If we get it right, they might tell ten other friends,
if we get it wrong, they'll tell everyone.
I'll give you a few minutes with the drinks and I'll come back in five minutes to take your orders.
There's an added pressure - tonight, Nigel Kerton,
the food critic of the Gazette and Herald, is paying a surprise visit.
It'll be not just on food, not just on the service
but on the whole thing from when we walk in the door
until we walk out of the door.
Just because it's a community project
it doesn't mean Nigel will go easy on them.
I'm here to be down the line, to be impartial.
If I don't like it, I say so. If I like it, I praise them up.
Joining him is his wife, Joy,
who just happens to be a professional chef.
One duck, two soup, three scallops and one small chicken salad.
-First Carl has to satisfy the lovely ladies of Wiltshire.
This is an enormous improvement.
They've done it very well. They've changed it tremendously.
It's absolutely delicious. The sauce, particularly, is lovely.
It's the atmosphere, it's the low-key, friendly...
Quality food in a pub.
Will Carl and Nathan win over food critic, Nigel, so easily?
So far, so good. But there's a potential clash in the pub's diary
because the Barge team have also arranged an open mic night.
How are you doing, are you all right?
Can I say, thank you, that's so kind of you.
-It was lovely. You did us proud.
-Good, I'm glad you enjoyed it.
You must have been going manic down there, were you?
It was a little on the busy side, I have to be honest with you.
Thank you, ladies, and gentleman!
While Carl laps up praise from admiring diners,
he'll have to wait a few more days to see what the papers say.
"A bit noisy, but nice.
"The Barge Inn was packed on Friday night when we decided to try it, after a gap of some years,
"because it's been taken over as a community-run pub.
-"We had attentive but not hovering service from waiter, Nathan." Well done, Nate.
"Despite every seat being taken, there was plenty of room at our table.
"Then a group of canal boaters in the adjacent crop circle bar
"began to sing loudly and play drums."
"In fact, my wife Joy remarked it was too loud for her liking."
-We'll change that back to Sundays.
-Yeah, I think so.
-Sunday night's better.
-I do, too.
"I had a warm chicken and bacon salad, which was perfect,
"and Joy said her goat's cheese salad was delicious.
"For mains, I had good old Wiltshire ham, egg and chips,
"a brace of perfectly cooked eggs on top of succulent ham
"served with crunchy chips and a side salad.
"After handing over a reasonable £42.20 for our meal and drinks,
"we then negotiated the unlit car park to find our car."
-You haven't even been open for two minutes!
-That's a pretty good review.
Two weeks after the launch, Carl and his team have served 2,000 covers
and takings have soared through the roof.
This is certainly a lot busier than the last time I was here.
So busy, in fact, they'll take help from anyone.
-Are you cheese or ham?
Hi. Is anyone else cheese?
You're cheese, yeah.
This is a sign of things to come.
-25 covers, like that. Straight up.
-It's a bit worrying, isn't it?
Doubling what you were taking within a couple of weeks of opening,
-I think that's pretty impressive!
-It is, yeah.
-You can't complain.
-You can't complain.
-A good time to ask for a pay rise, I reckon.
-Too flipping right!
It looks like the faith Carl put in Nathan is beginning to pay off.
How would you describe it, both of you, in terms of your personal lives?
It's teaching me a lot about...
things I wasn't as interested in before.
Now that I'm in somewhere that has a chance to do so well,
actually, getting involved,
trying to help make a difference.
We know we're getting good because we're getting our local custom
from the surrounding villages, we're getting them coming back.
We've had a table of six or eight, for the last three weeks on the run.
They've booked for next week as well.
That's like every week and they're enjoying the service that Nathan's putting up.
It's all... It's good.
With her time in the countryside coming to an end,
it's been a roller-coaster year for Sandra.
Was it what you were expecting when you set out?
I had no idea what to expect.
Other than living in a different environment.
The people were so friendly and welcoming,
they became like a surrogate family, I suppose.
What have you learnt about yourself?
In the main, I've learnt how to keep my mouth shut!
I'm pleased that I managed to survive!
I'm pleased that they didn't manage to drop-kick me out of here, for a start!
Are you looking forward to going home,
or will you be a bit sad to leave?
I'll be a bit sad to leave. I'll be sad to leave these guys.
Will you be back for a visit?
Yeah, I'll come back.
With Sandra packing her bags, it will be down to Bev, Emma and the rest of the team
to keep the Barge afloat.
So, you did it, you pulled it off!
-How does that feel?
-Especially for you.
-I never anticipated that.
We had Honeyfest and it's been silly since,
which is fantastic.
None of this could have happened without the passion and perseverance
they've shown as volunteers.
I'll always be involved. I'll always be on the team
and always want to put the time I've got into it.
I've never done voluntary work before and it's been inspiring.
It's really changed my outlook on a lot of things.
It's a really nice, satisfying thing to do.
It's been really, really worth it.
Look at it. He's smiling!
Everybody's smiling. It's got to be good.
Just over a year ago,
this place was just about to call last orders for the very last time.
But thanks to the efforts of Bev and Emma and the rest of the team,
this place is now the talk of the area for all the right reasons -
good beer, great food and fantastic entertainment.
I really think it's only a matter of time before this pub,
run BY the locals FOR the locals,
becomes the heart of its community once more.
If you been inspired to create a community project in your area
and want to out how to apply, go to:
Next time, can a passionate bunch of volunteers in Caistor
use their local heritage to create a thriving business?
My dream's for it to become a cultural centre.
Or, will the conflict between past and future stop the project?
We've not had a discussion of what gives in this building,
and nothing is giving yet.
I don't understand this "fire me now."
I have to keep telling her it's not London.
I've been persistent and fought every step of the way
to make this what it can be.
Subtitles by Red Bee Media
E-mail [email protected]
Sarah Beeny follows a passionate group of locals as they spend a year trying to rescue their community. When the residents of Honeystreet in Wiltshire applied for a grant from the Big Lottery Fund to renovate their local pub, they had no idea what was in store. With pubs in Britain closing every week, the volunteers must first transform the pub's reputation. But will they really succeed where countless others have failed?