Our regular column in which you discover the faces and stories behind the pub sign. This month we’ve been chatting to Gavin at the Ship inn in West Stour.
The Ship Inn is owned and run by Gavin and Sally Griggs, owners of the Ship Inn, West Stour
How did you end up at the Ship Inn?
Throughout my teens, and university, I had always worked in pubs, bars and hotels so back in 2005 when the London-based photography agency I was running was sold, I decided to do something I had always wanted to do, move out of London and buy a country pub. Fifteen years later, I am still here.
Tell us about lockdown – were you entirely shut down, or could you pivot your business to offer something new?
We totally shut down. Two days after lockdown came I started helping out down at the Hawtree Riverside garage in West Stour. I have known the Hawtree family for a long time and Sebastian and Paul who run the business were finding themselves inundated with requests for food and drink deliveries from the Spar supermarket side of the
business. I ended up helping out for twelve weeks doing whatever was needed, from stacking shelves, answering phones, taking orders, working the till, processing the food and drink orders and then delivering them to all the
It was different to running the pub, but we were still helping the community where we could. With the forced closure of lockdown and with Sally being a decorator, she used the time to completely spruce-up and
redecorate our trading areas.
What was the biggest challenge in getting ready for reopening?
Making sure that all the correct Covid measures had been correctly put in to place so that when we re-opened the premises, it was safe for both staff and customers. The government guidelines to re- opening were extensive and
certain parts were not applicable to all hospitality businesses as they all vary in shapes and sizes. Once the guidelines were read and absorbed there was a great amount to do from doing risk assessments, subsequent customer guidelines, adjusting the trading areas to meet social distancing guidelines to buying all the necessary signage, hand sanitisers, protective screens, PPE, training the staff, implementing our own web based track and trace system. We opened on July 7th so from when the guidelines were released to when we re-opened it was a short space in time to get all this done and make sure that it was done correctly.
Which bit are you most proud of?
The team I have at The Ship – from the front of house to the chefs in the kitchen and the housekeepers, the way we have all had to adapt to a different way of working in that everyone is kept as safe as possible.
Did the ‘Eat Out to Help Out’ scheme work for you?
We didn’t take part in the scheme. With the reduction in covers from 78 to 38, throughout the whole pub we were already fully booked throughout August. Not only that, but we had also furlough payments; if we were to give away money from each meal and then claim it back, there was concern about those payments being delayed as well at a time when cash flow into the business was of the utmost importance.
What part of the pub is your absolute favourite?
The old door that’s between the middle and bottom restaurant. The pub was built in 1720 by an old ship’s captain and when he retired he was given his boat. He dismantled it, and used it for the timbers of the pub. The old door
remains and information we found in a local library tells us the history of the door. It is gnarled and worn and on it
has the initials “BC.” – it’s the door from the Bosun’s Cabin from the original ship. Back in the days of coach and horses, they used to transport prisoners from Exeter jail up to Andover jail and they used to stop overnight at The Ship to feed and water the horses. The prisoners would be locked overnight in what is now our bottom restaurant,
so the old door has two big sliding wooden bolts on one side to keep them in there, and the door has large holes drilled in it for ventilation, some of which were later plugged up with cork to stop the wind whistling through!”
Which of your dishes do your customers rave about?
Roast loin of venison, with truffle!(*and I’d strongly recommend the
chicken & bacon ciabatta for lunch, myself – Ed)
What’s your favourite thing to do locally with some time off?
Running a hospitality business, with my wife, Sally, a painter and decorator who also helps out at The Ship, well, we don’t really get a great deal of time off together! But when we do have a day off we like to walk our dogs, Douglas and Elliot, up in Duncliffe woods. As for eating out, we both like spicy foods, so more often than not we would probably end up going for a curry in Shaftesbury at either Chutneys or Aroma in the evening.
Social distancing has meant a great drop in the number of people that we can seat indoors, from 78 covers to 38. The warm months of July and August meant we could utilise the garden more but as the winter is now drawing in and people not wanting to sit outside we are largely going to be relying our interior areas. The reduction in seating volume, together with now a 10pm curfew present further challenges as we head into the winter months.
Contact the Ship in here – or call 01747 838640