New life breathed into historic Broads pub

Stephen PullingerWith its tranquil waterside setting it assuredly counts as one of the Broads most iconic pubs, popular with generations of boating holidaymakers.Stephen Pullinger

With its tranquil waterside setting it assuredly counts as one of the Broads most iconic pubs, popular with generations of boating holidaymakers.

And it even entered regional folklore as the place an 11-year-old Prince of Wales once stayed, only to be ticked off by the landlady for a noisy pillow fight.

But the decades of happy memories and history surrounding Hickling's Pleasure Boat Inn appeared under serious threat when it closed for several months last year.

Bu this week, the pub's long-term future was secured when local businessman John Uff, 47, finally completed a deal to buy it for a large six-figure sum and run it as a freehouse.

His friend Paul Thurston, 57, who re-opened the broadside pub last summer as the tenant of Enterprise Inns, will carry on as landlord.

Mr Thurston was landlord of the successful Nelson Head, in nearby Horsey, several years ago when he first became acquainted with Mr Uff who runs his email delivery company in the village.

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He confessed he had faced a gargantuan task cleaning and painting the premises and installing new kitchen equipment when he initially took over at the Pleasure Boat Inn last June - and he then had to smooth over a complicated dispute with boat owners who moored there.

But the pair are now confident that, as a free house, they can transform it into a destination food pub popular throughout the year.

Mr Thurston said: 'We want this to become widely known as a traditional local pub serving good beers and good food where people will feel welcome and at ease, with a lovely garden and a fire in the winter.'

'We see this as creating a good news story in a climate where so many pubs in the area have been closing,' said Mr Uff, adding that they would be taking on extra staff, including an additional full-time chef.

The season has already started well for the pub with a large group of Scouts on a flotilla of sailing cruisers from the Hunter's Yard at Ludham mooring up on Wednesday night. As well as its 40 permanent moorings the pub offers about 20 moorings for visiting cruisers.

Mr Uff said his large investment in the pub represented a vote of confidence in the Broads' enduring appeal as a holiday destination.

'The feedback we have had from a lot of people who came last year is that they intend to visit the Broads again. The more good pubs we have the better it will be for holidaymakers,' he said.

On Friday, people are invited to drop in the pub for a special celebration day to mark its becoming a free house.