The entrepreneurs behind the now-defunct social networking site Bebo have reopened a 17th century pub in the first phase of the rejuvenation of the village of Woolsery in north Devon, which includes the opening of a new hotel.
The Grade-II-listed Farmer’s Arms, a thatched former blacksmith’s, has been transformed into a pub and restaurant with two bars, a dining room, a small upstairs lounge, and a garden with outside seating.
The Farmer’s Arms was purchased in 2015 by Michael and Xochi Birch – co-founders of Bebo – after Michael, whose grandmother was born above Woolsery’s village shop, heard the derelict building was for sale.
Its fallen-through roof has been re-thatched, the walls rebuilt, and reclaimed oak floors laid.
Ian Webber, formerly head chef of Gidleigh Park is executive chef of the Farmer’s Arms and has devised two menus: a rustic, hearty traditional bar menu served in the pub and a more refined option served in the restaurant, where the spotlight is on local ingredients and balanced flavour combinations.
The opening of the Farmer’s Arms is part of a wider project within Woolsery village. The so-called Woolsery Project came about after the Birchs were offered more buildings for sale following their purchase of the pub.
The project centres around a 70-acre farm with 16 acres of orchards, a kitchen garden, flower gardens and an array of heritage breeds such as Devon Ruby cattle and Devon Large Black pigs, as well as flocks of chickens and ducks, all of which will support the food and beverage outlets in the village.
Aside from the reopening of the Farmer’s Arms pub and restaurant, the Woolsery Project also encompasses the Woolsery Fish & Chip Shop, the Village Post Office and shop, four guest cottages and a hotel within a Grade-II-listed Georgian manor house, all of which are set to open in 2021.
Michael Birch said: “We really want this village to thrive and our long-term goals are to preserve the historical architecture of the village, bring back its energy and vitality and in turn create employment opportunities. We’re extremely excited to open the Farmer’s Arms, offering a warm and friendly pub celebrating the best of British pub tradition with a few surprises.”
Typical dishes in the pub’s Farmer’s Bar, which sits in the oldest part of the building, and public bars include: pork scratchings with sage and onion; mutton stew with smoked garlic mash; and Fowey mussels in cider, tarragon and cream served with natural ferment homemade bread.
Guests will also be able to order takeaway from the Woolsery Fish and Chip Shop which was bought and refurbished by the Birchs in 2015.
Typical dishes in the main restaurant include: Heritage carrots, venison broth, burnt onion and juniper; duck liver, runner beans, gooseberry and mustard; and cod and smoked mussel, purple sprouting broccoli and elderflower buttermilk
The pub has been redesigned by Hannah Lohan Interiors, evoking the feeling of a traditional pub, with a modern twist.
Across the buildings that make up the pub, there are four open fireplaces, natural flagstone flooring, contemporary art and “playful” taxidermy.