Amberley pub has not lost its past after tasteful refurbishment

The newly refurbished Black Horse in Amberley well worth a visit...
The newly refurbished Black Horse in Amberley well worth a visit...

A long time ago, longer than I sometimes care to remember, being a country lad, I sought employment as a gamekeeper and went to work on Parham Estate as an underkeeper.

I fairly quickly found that the job did not suit me, I did not like killing animals so that other animals, pheasants in particular, could themselves be raised and shot for ‘sporting’ pleasure. After a year of discomfort, I also got the bullet.

During my stay though I did come to love the area and to this day I sometimes visit for a walk and to admire the abundant Arun valley wildlife I now strive, in my own small way, to protect.

One place I always enjoyed visiting was and still is the lovely little village of Amberley and its ancient Black Horse pub. Over these last five years I was saddened by the pub’s long closure, uncertain future and the danger of it becoming derelict or worse, turned over to housing.

When hearing it had recently been reopened, I persuaded a friend to nominate herself as driver and made a hasty beeline for the village. The inn, still familiar on the outside, was unrecognisable on the inside.

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No longer the small, gloomy, pipe smoke laden bars and dodgy cold loos of long ago, internal walls have been moved, and it has been delightfully and tastefully refurbished. Yet, somehow for me at least, it has simply moved with the times and managed to retain a welcoming atmosphere.

I guess that is in the main due to the warm welcome given to customers by a staff happy to take a moment, when not pulling pints of fine Amberley Ale or serving excellent grub, to discuss the project.

It is middle to high end pricing but not outrageously so and I enjoyed a fine meal and several pints while my friend supped a very nice sauvignon blanc with her weird-looking veggie meal which, with a dessert, was around 30 quid a head. I have paid a lot more for such a feast and enjoyed it far less.

So many pubs when ‘modernised’ lose something of their past but the old Horse has not. Sitting in front of the roaring log fire while contemplating the misty, rain driven journey home, I could not help but wonder what Hilaire Belloc, who was rumoured to drink there on occasion, would have made of the changes.

A wise man, with a great imagination and always with an eye to the future, I think he would have, albeit a mite reluctantly, approved. I look forward to a summer visit when the whistling swallows and the swifts invade that quiet little hamlet.

AN elderly lady fell over in Arcade Road last week and although there was no shortage of helpers to comfort her and keep her warm on the bitterly cold afternoon, she waited nearly an hour for an ambulance to arrive.

No fault or criticism of that excellent service is intended, they provide a fine service with the resources they have but, like the rest of our public services they are underfunded.

I blame austerity and the lack of foresight on the part of current and past governments for the decline in the failing NHS service. I know the lady to be a regular reader of this column and I do wish her well and a speedy recovery.

• If you would like to get in touch with Whispering Smith, please email: whisperingsmith1@gmail.com

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