So I’ve skipped ahead a bit because I got fed up talking about renovations and building work. So I’ve moved on to the interesting bit – starting to decorate the pub. I will, of course, go back to fill in details about the refurbishments.

I love old furniture and the building lends itself to such decoration, which luckily is out of vogue at the moment so can be picked up cheaply. It never fails to amaze me how little money is asked for some beautiful heritage wood furniture that puts our modern rubbish to shame. It’s dark of course and that just isn’t popular at the moment. Some pieces started life quite light, like natural oak, but over hundreds of years of collecting dirt and being polished and oiled, these furnishings have darkened considerably until some are almost black.

It’s a cliche but I love blue and white crockery against a dark oak cabinet or dresser. Nothing looks nicer in my opinion and luckily I already had a bit of a collection. It’s not a valuable selection, just pretty and picked up over the years from a variety of boot sales, junk shops and the occasional antique fair or auction. They look stunning in the pub, but i have to be careful that they’re placed well out of the way of wandering hands! It’s not children you have to beware, more light-fingered adults who also like blue and white. So they’re arranged on tall pieces of furniture or behind glass, with lower more accessible shelves being filled with items I don’t like as much. Shame we have to do that but unfortunately people don’t have as much respect these days.

Would love this in my collection

Along with the dressers, sideboards and various shelves, we have dark oak tables and chairs, although I think some of the chairs have yew backs. They’re a bit of a mix and match assembly but it works well and looks quite charming. We’ve also got a few old church pews, which look great with suitable cushions and are more comfy than they look.

The idea is to have an interior that is welcoming, attractive and also comfortable enough that people want to linger – and order another drink or something to eat! So far it’s working quite well!

Inside the Pub

The Cross and Cow at the Bridge was once a wonderful old pub. The original part was built in the 16th century it is believed and it houses some lovely old beams. We understand these would have been recycled from old ships, once they had hardened, so the building had to be built to accommodaate some strange shapes so we believe. That’s why ceilings sag and rooms are quite small in old houses. They knew how to recycle in those days without having green bins and dustbins full of plastics and other non-essential items.

The original building was probably nothing more than a shack, strengthened with beams to prolong its life. People used to drink beer in those days, albeit weak, because the water was so infected it wasn’t safe to drink. So our pub was originally someone’s little home that opened up to sell the odd pint to weary travellers and perhaps friends. Over the generations it was extended until the most recent extension, which was most likely built in the 20s or 30s (1920s that is!). I doubt very much work had been done on anything since then, so almost 100 years of neglect. But it still contained some original features, which was wonderful, but gave us the headache of restoring them where possible and retaining the authenticity of the project. It also meant that the rooms were very small so something had to be done about the layout to accommodate the workings of a modern pub. We wanted to remove a couple of walls – a shame but it was impossible to work with the original layout, so they had to go. We would eventually have two bars, unlike most public houses these days that have only one large open-plan bar. That in itself made life a bit more difficult but we wanted to retain as much character as possible and thought we could live with this layout. We planned to serve food of course, since that’s where most of the income is these days, so one bar would be the food area and we wanted to turn the other into the cosiest pub lounge in the county.

That’s what we took on and it was of course a major challenge.

Once the living was sorted and shut off from the rest of the pub, we could start on the filthy work of restoring the working part of the building – and a daunting task it was.

The Grounds

As well as the building, of course we have to consider the grounds that the pub stands in. As gardens take a while to establish, we decided to get started on this at the same time we started on our living accommodation. There was no point sorting out the garden entirely because some of it would be wrecked when rubble, baths, sinks, etc were removed, but we thought we should start on something.

So we planned the finished article and started work on the areas further from the building. That’s counter-intuitive of course as normally you’d start near the property and work away from it. There were a few mature trees to be maintained, then we planted some lovely shrubs and had a patio area laid at the end of the “lawn”. The whole lot would be refurbished of course in due time, but to start we had the new patio, covered by a gazebo and it made such a difference to outlook that it quite cheered us up.

It meant that we could get away from things when it all became too much; take a glass of wine to the peaceful area and forget about building work for the time being. We actually did about half the garden – which is probably about three-quarters of an acre, so quite a size to re-establish. The rest was to be done once the pub was completed and would probably be one of the last areas to be taken care of.

As well as tarting up the overgrown garden and taming the wilderness, we uncovered an old wall. It wasn’t particularly attractive so we painted it a lovely shade of pale green to fit in with the surroundings and add a calmness to the outdoor space. We’ve now decided that this little oasis will be fenced off and used as our own private garden, separate from the pub garden that is open to all. I think this will give us some sanity in what is sometimes far too much exposure to the human race

Our Living Accommodation

So the first thing was to get the living accommodation sorted out enough that we could move in and save rent. We called in the builders to get the big jobs done fast, then set about doing the tarting up ourselves. We had a bit of remodelling done in our quarters, opening up rooms and making a nice airy space.

We now have 3 bedrooms, a spacious living room with open plan kitchen area, a separate office and two bathrooms and a cloakroom. The living rooms were all knocked into one, which made it seem so much bigger, then when the plastering was done and we had a nice blank canvas, we started on decorating.

The kitchen and bathroom installations were done by specialist companies, simply to save time and get things moving. Then we had flooring contractors in and were ready to start on the redecoration. It didn’t take very long because there was nothing to prepare, just get painting and with the help of some friends and relatives it was sorted in a few weeks.

Then we moved in, which was a bit of a pain since our stuff was scattered everywhere. Of course the day to day stuff was where we currently lived, so proved easiest and we had a moving company sort that. So then we had the basics to get moved in and had to collect the rest of our belongings around us.

A lot of our stuff (junk, some might say!) was in storage at two different locations. We started off at one place, then found somewhere cheaper for the rest of our belongings, so that meant two trips and two loads of furniture and boxes. Luckily we still have the horse trailer and it’s amazing what you can fit into it. It’s always such fun to go through boxes when stuff has been packed away for so long. You simply can’t remember what you own, so it’s always a surprise and so often you wonder why on earth you kept things and paid for them to be stored!

Once that lot was sorted, we had to pick up other things that had been left for safe-keeping with relatives. But eventually we collected everything and had all our treasures around us again. At last it felt like home and we were feeling strong enough to tackle the rest of the building and get going on our business. Such fun…..

What we bought

Sometimes you wonder what you’ve done when the deed is done and you’ve handed over your life savings! It’s called “buyer’s remorse” I think and can happen with any major purchase. But when you’ve sunk everything you own into a new home and new business venture all rolled into one, it’s even more of an issue. Have we done the right thing? Where do we start? Will we make any money? Have we just tied a noose around our necks for the next 30 years until we’ve paid off the mortgage?

It was certainly a major project and one of those things where you can’t decide where to start. So we thought about it for 24 hours and made a plan. That took another day, but eventually we had a real idea of where we were going and where to start.

Since we needed somewhere to live and it would be a big saving to move out of our rented flat, we decided to start on the living quarters first. The bathroom was a horrendous mess, since someone had already started to take tiles off the walls, so that was to be the very first room to tackle. We did have a small budget left to pay for some of the work to be done by professional builders, but we felt we should tackle the living quarters ourselves to save as much as possible.

The Cross and Cow Inn

Welcome to our new blog about the acquisition and refurbishment of The Cross and Cow Inn at the Bridge. We’ve had all sorts of help and support completing this project and it has become a major part of our life. We’ll be making a record of the progress so far – which started a while ago so we’ll be adding the first couple of years shortly, then continue with everything going forward.

We’ve come to love the Cross more than any other inn we’ve owned – and there have been a few over the years. We hope you enjoy reading about our progress and will visit us soon to sample our beers and great food.

Oh, and by the way, the Cross is haunted by a very friendly ghost known as Betty. She used to be a barmaid and we believe she met an unfortunate end while she worked here. We’re going to do more research on Betty and bring in a medium to try to get the story directly from her. In the meantime, you can sometimes see her in the old public bar, wearing a mop cap and having a laugh. Let us know if you catch sight of her.