A local’s guide to Emsworth

PUBLISHED: 09:34 23 July 2020

Emsworth provides plenty of opportunities to take to the water

Emsworth provides plenty of opportunities to take to the water

Emma Caulton

Residents reflect on life in this picturesque waterside village

Fat Olives opened in Emsworth 20 years ago in a fisherman’s cottage dating back to the 17th centuryFat Olives opened in Emsworth 20 years ago in a fisherman’s cottage dating back to the 17th century

Emsworth is enchanting: an old fishing village sitting at the top of Chichester Harbour with mill ponds either side. Its location has shaped its character, industry (boat-building and fishing) and leisure. Emsworth has also established a reputation as a food and drink destination with a deli, greengrocer, wine merchants and eateries including Good Food Guide recommended 36 on the Quay found among its higgledy-piggledy streets. This means Emsworth attracts foodies as well as artists, sailors and locals pursuing personal passions.

Ken Brown, Harbour Records

Harbour Records, a stone’s throw from Emsworth’s picturesque harbour, has been established as a niche vinyl emporium for six years. It is owned by Phil Church and managed by vinyl and music enthusiasts Ken Brown and Rob Moore, who both have a long history of involvement with the Portsmouth music scene. Ken promotes shows in the area under the auspices of Square Roots Promotions while Rob is a popular DJ. Specialising in vinyl (but also quality used CDs), Harbour Records is a crate-diggers dream.

Ken’s local life

“There’s a real community feel about the village and we have lots of regulars who often drop in for a chat. We love to hear music-related tales of years gone by.”

A secret: “The Solar Heritage harbour tour. This is an historical trip around the harbour, with interesting commentary from a local guide, on board an Aquarius C60 pollution-free, solar-powered catamaran. Lovely in summer months.”

Something special: “It’s an obvious one, but the Harbour itself is beautiful, especially when the sun is out. Even when it’s blowing a gale and tipping down, it’s still amazing! Walks around the Harbour and shoreline are good for the soul, as well as the body.”

Favourite pub: “They’re all great, but if you twisted my arm I’d go for The Blue Bell Inn, down the road from the shop, They also serve fantastic food.”

Evening out: “Wemsfest. A wide variety of quality folk, roots and blues brought to the area by local promoter Mark Ringwood.”

Local Event: “Once a year there’s National Record Store Day. We have a great selection of music released especially for this event and we supplement that with in-store acoustic performances, prizes and discounts.”

Karen Hall, Karen George

Karen opened her boutique Karen George in 2017. She was previously a Director of Rachel George, a shoe shop in Chichester which closed due to rising overheads in the city. However, Karen had a burning desire to open another shop on a smaller scale and when a shop became available in Emsworth the temptation was too much to resist! Initially Karen sold accessories and shoes, with many customers from Rachel George following her footwear brands. It soon became clear that there was a demand for clothing, too. Now 80 per cent of her business is clothing, stocking names such as Marble, Adini and Luella.

Karen’s local life

“The best things about Emsworth are the little independent shops and eateries, and the locals, who are so friendly and supportive.”

Favourite eateries: “I’m still working my way round all the different places to eat, but I often frequent Driftwood café and the Blue Bell Inn. Then there’s exquisite Fat Olives for a special treat - they source local ingredients and produce the most fabulous meals.”

Shops: “One of the newest additions to Emsworth is PO10 where local artists get the opportunity to display their work. It is always a nice shop to browse for something more individual. Emsworth has pretty much everything apart from a bank – although a mobile bank visits twice a week.”

Overnight: “Emsworth is a great destination with a choice of places to stay including Brookfield Hotel and 36 on The Quay.”

Walk: “I try and walk around the pond every morning before opening the shop. It sets me up for the day. It’s so pretty with plenty of wildlife for company. Everyone greets you with a smile or a ‘good morning’.”

Steven Borland, Partner, Borland & Borland

Such is Steven Borland’s local knowledge and passion for Emsworth that he’s written a book, Mud Pattens in the Morning [a local history of wildfowling], which features a timeless picture of Emsworth Harbour on its cover. Steven established Borland & Borland Estate Agents in Emsworth in March 1995 with the intention of moving away from the corporate agency style towards a truly independent agency offering a more personal service.

Steven’s local life

“Who would have thought we’d be celebrating our 25th anniversary in a lockdown? Still, we couldn’t have chosen a better spot. The pretty harbourside village is hard to beat with its tranquil harbour waters to the south and the rolling South Downs to the north, plus its variety of independent shops and restaurants in the centre, Emsworth has it all covered.”

Something special: “Check out Emsworth Museum: it traces Emsworth’s fascinating maritime history, including its oyster industry, and author PG Wodehouse’s links with Emsworth.”

Event: “The regular Farmer’s Market in St Peter’s Square with local food and drink producers is a highlight.” [Returning post-lockdown to a local car park to enable social-distancing.]

Favourite café: “Driftwood Café is the perfect place to meet for tea, coffee and cake with its airy, coastal décor, relaxed atmosphere and courtyard garden.”

Shop: “Portal Dingwall & Norris Wine & Spirit Merchants, established since 1830 with a fine choice of wine and port, plus a corner devoted to whisky.”

Walk: “One of our favourite walks takes you through Emsworth Marina past The Deck café and round Thorney Island. If you’re lucky you might even spot seals off the coast!”

Thomas Giles Babb, Blue Bell Inn

Giles has lived in Emsworth since 1994 when his father, Thomas Babb Senior, bought The Blue Bell Inn. He recalls Emsworth being a wonderful place to spend weekends and summer holidays. However, being a pub landlord was not on his radar. Having worked in various restaurants and for the royal family, his intention was to become head chef, not a business owner. When his Dad was struggling to find a chef, Giles returned to the business on a temporary basis - and never left. He bought the pub from his father in 2010. Last year he also established The Thomas Babb Brewing Company and expanded to a second site, The Star and Garter in East Dean. During lockdown Giles had to rethink his operation, launching a frozen ready meal service and a chilled cook at home meal service, both using locally sourced produce.

Giles’ local life

“Emsworth has a fantastic community spirit with a vibrant high street. Food is a strong theme here.”

Something special: “It’s a great place to do watersports. There are two sailing clubs, and the quay or the bottom of Warblington Road are both perfect for SUP, kayaking or windsurfing.”

Favourite shop: “Emsworth is full of quirky independent shops like family-run Chalcrafts antiques.”

Restaurant: “Fat olives – Julia and Lawrence offer exceptional seasonal menus in a relaxed environment.”

Walk: “We love a walk along the shore, through the churchyard of St Thomas à Becket to Langstone, for a pint at The Royal Oak or The Ship.

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