The Fox Inn is owned and run by brothers Robert & Will Wallis. It was the first pub – and original
home – of the Woodhouse family, whose brewery ‘Hall & Woodhouse’, now in Blandford, was formerly in Ansty.
How did you end up at the Fox?
We (The Wallis family) have been farming in Ansty for 21 years at Brewery Farm. Over the years we have diversified into the tourism market with 3 luxury lodges and a campsite. When The Fox Inn became for sale as a freehouse back in 2018 myself and my brother Will took the chance to acquire the historic inn – the link to the Woodhouses is where Brewery Farm got its name!
After negotiations, we took on the pub on 3rd June 2019 and opened the doors at the end of June after three intense weeks of refurbishment! We took the chance on the pub having never been involved in hospitality before for a number of reasons. The first was simply as an outlet for our homegrown organic meat. Two; to ensure our holiday guests have a great place to go to. Three; to make a proper hub for the village. We are proud to say we have achieved some of our goals (many more to go!) with a lively locals bar and thriving seasonal trade with quality food & drink.
What’s your favourite local place to visit on an afternoon off?
On a rare afternoon off when I am not pouring pints or chasing cattle, nothing beats a walk to our neighbouring pub The Hambro Arms at Milton Abbas with Pepper (the dog)! We are lucky to be surrounded by such an abundance of fantastic walks. You are spoilt for choice with many circular routes that find their way back to The Fox, including the famous Dorset Gap & Rawlsbury Camp on Bulbarrow Hill. Should you fancy a longer walk the pub can provide a cracking picnic. During Lockdown 2.0 we have also made our own walking routes book for charity donations.
Tell us about your 2020…
During Lockdown 1.0 we offered weekly takeaways one day a week with a changing theme weekly: to include pizzas from our proper pizza over, burgers, fish and chips etc. Most weeks we were doing over 100 meals! It was great to be able to see all our locals and give them (especially those working and with young families stuck at home) some respite from having to cook each night.
Over the summer we were overwhelmingly busy and we adjusted our business to work with the restrictions including a bespoke handmade bar outside, huge outdoor menus to minimise contact and enough seating for
150 outside socially distanced. We also served all day everyday from 12-9pm to help spread the volume of customers across the day which worked brilliantly in keeping a steady and safe flow of people. Throughout the summer we also sold bespoke ‘Fox’ pint glasses to raise money for our local school at Cheselbourne.
And what’s been your biggest challenge?
Finding staff who want to come and work out here (or indeed are able to) as we are quite rural! Made even trickier by the constant change in needing staff from being shut without announcement to suddenly open and being run off our feet, to being shut again! Although we are incredibly lucky with the staff we do have who have been brilliant throughout what has been an extraordinary year.
What are you most proud of?
No one particular thing, but of everything we have achieved in such a short space of time, especially with Covid chucked in the mix! In a year like 2020 it can be hard to remember the positives. But before we took on the pub it was beginning to lose its reputation. With the support of our staff, locals, and friends, we believe the pub has turned a corner. We have an exciting and changing choice of beer and drinks, a seasonal and quality menu, a great team, fresh décor and regular events including tasting nights, live music, quizzes and fundraisers. We are now
attracting people from far and wide including walkers due to the fabulous surrounding countryside and even horse
riders who can make use of our hitching post while they enjoy lunch or a drink!
What part of the pub is your absolute favourite?
Our recently refurbed Private Dining room ‘The Den’! We completed it during Lockdown. With a table for 10, comfy seating and log burner and cosy colours it is perfect for private parties, shoot groups, business meetings and more. On a winters evening there is nothing better than settling in with a proper pint in.
Which dish is your most popular?
We always have lots of seasonal specials and often host theme nights including, pie & wine, gin & tapas and so on but our top seller is always ‘The Fox Burger’. It’s no surprise: made from our own organic cattle on our farm just 50
meters away, with Somerset bacon & Dorset cheese!
We’re not going to let Tier 2 get us down! We’ve been open again since the 2nd, but please brush up on the new rules before coming: one household inside, and up to six people outside – so grab a coat, hat & five friends and we’ll see you soon. Current opening times are: Thursday from 3pm through to Monday 11pm – takeaways also
And we have lots of exciting plans for coming festivities. Watch this space!
Visit the website here give us a call 01258 880328
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