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Interview with Robert Crosthwaite Eyre of The Bell Inn

PUBLISHED: 15:28 09 September 2014 | UPDATED: 15:32 09 September 2014

Archant

His family connection to the New Forest spans over 250 years, and from behind his bar at The Bell Inn, Robert Crosthwaite Eyre is well placed to give you a warm welcome

Tell us about The Bell Inn, how long have you been involved?

I have been directly involved for the last 10 years, after taking over from my Uncle, but The Bell Inn has been in our family for 250 years. The Forest Golf Course, which is also part of The Bell Inn, is the ‘Oldest Course in Hampshire’ and is played through the woodlands and heathland.

Explain about your family’s connections to the forest and Bramshaw

The family have been in Bramshaw since 1782. George Eyre was the prime-mover, bringing together in 1877 The New Forest Act; and was the first Official Verderer appointed by the King. Since this time, the Crosthwaite Eyre’s have still been elected Verderers; the latest being Oliver Crosthwaite Eyre who has many roles within the Forest to this day, including recently being appointed Chairman of the National Park Authority.

How important is it that we look after and maintain the forest?

The Forest has always been a part of my life, and I have been brought up understanding the conservation and history, and to this day still enjoy telling my friends why the animals roam freely. Maintaining the forest is very important and The Bell Inn was a founding partner of The New Forest Trust, for which we have raised over £20,000 to date. It still puts a smile to my face when I see the donkeys causing huge traffic jams as they lie on their back, legs in the air, in the middle of the road, with not a care in the world.

If you could spend one day in the New Forest what would you do and why?

Well I spend every day in the Forest, but, if I could pick a favourite it would include a drive through the forest with friends - picking a part I don’t know well, (there are still many), choosing a random track to drive down then walking the dogs; with the aim to get slightly lost and hopefully find a dog friendly pub for lunch. This is a great way to see the Forest and explore new parts.

You’ve recently undergone a great deal of renovation at The Bell Inn, what is your favourite part of the hotel and why?

We have just renovated our bedrooms and en-suites, lounge, meeting room, The Bar and Reception area, but kept all the original features with stylish twists. The large two-way fireplace in the bar is still my favourite area, especially in the winter after a day’s shooting, sinking a few ales on the sofa.

What do you do to support other local businesses?

Locals are very important to us, especially as I am one. We try and use as many New Forest producers as possible, including Bramshaw’s own Swallowfield Farm, they supply most of our meat and some of their herd graze on our land behind the Inn - you can’t get more local than that.

What’s the best thing about running your own pub and hotel?

That you can get away with ordering two starters for ‘research’ purposes and keep trying the food and drinks is a real bonus. But honestly for me it’s about being part of the local community, and offering something that people can enjoy; I take big pride in that. This inn is has been an integral part of the landscape and community for literally hundreds of years and an important local meeting place around the large bar. Families are welcome here as are dogs and there is a lovely buzz about the place.

What’s next on the agenda, any exciting plans for development?

We have a great new chef and, with the recent refurbishments, we hope to get The Bell Inn firmly on the map. I want to stand out as a family run business and put my stamp on the property, and one day pass this on to the next generation.

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