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Is this real ale drinkers' favourite the UK's most eco-friendly pub?

PUBLISHED: 07:31 20 August 2019

The Sweffling White Horse has been singled out by CAMRA in a list of the UK's top 10 eco-pubs  Picture: GREGG BROWN

The Sweffling White Horse has been singled out by CAMRA in a list of the UK's top 10 eco-pubs Picture: GREGG BROWN

Suffolk pub owners who spurned profit margins and business growth in favour of a sustainable ethos are celebrating a beer drinkers' accolade.

Marie Smith and Mark Sealey at the Sweffling White Horse  Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWNMarie Smith and Mark Sealey at the Sweffling White Horse Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN

The Sweffling White Horse, near Framlingham, has been named as one of the Campaign for Real Ale's (CAMRA) top 100 pubs in the country and one of its top 10 eco-friendly pubs.

It describes the business, which has won numerous environmental awards, as "a real ale pub that is entirely heated by wood, uses all renewable energy and sources food and beer locally from within East Anglia".

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Mark Sealey and Marie Smith reopened the closed-down pub at the end of 2011, having first launched an eco-friendly campsite to fund its transformation.

Ms Smith described the accolade as "really amazing, especially in this day and age when we seem to be shouting about businesses that are keen on growth and about profit margins and increasing profits. I think it's really important to turn things around".

Marie Smith and Mark Sealey at the bar of the Sweffling White Horse, near Framlingham  Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWNMarie Smith and Mark Sealey at the bar of the Sweffling White Horse, near Framlingham Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN

"I really don't understand why businesses need to grow and grow and to me I think it's great when businesses turn that on its head," she said.

To them, success is "seeing a happy bunch of people in the pub having a really good time, making new friends".

When they bought it, the pub had been closed for five years and been at risk of being turned into a home, but villagers had opposed the move, she said. The inside had been gutted, leaving just an empty shell.

"The pub needed a lot of work and we didn't have the money to do it," she recalled.

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The pair had bought the site having sold up their homes in Southend-on-Sea and left their office jobs in search of a better life.

A year and half after setting up the campsite - "the heart of the dream" - they had raised enough funds to relaunch the pub. "From the word go it was lovely. In flooded regulars who have become firm friends."

They also managed to attract a lot of passing trade, and, using their local ethos, persuade customers to try out locally-made drinks, or ones which passed their quality and sustainability test - or 'groovy scale'.

"I think the important thing there is you can't just open a pub and expect people to support it and that's where a lot of pubs fail," she said.

"We have got quite a few regulars from Sweffling but a lot of our regulars are from further afield, and we have done what we believe in and what's true to our hearts."

They stock low ABV beers, brought in low-tech entertainment like bar billiards, a piano and a darts board, and have introduced live music having sounded out their customers.

The campsite, open from May to the end of September, includes a gypsy caravan, bell tent, a tree house and some quirky eco-facilities.

The pub includes LED lighting, double glazing, reclaimed wood furnishings, waterless urinals, solar panels, and it is powered with 100% renewable energy.

"Being environmentally-friendly is what we are about personally," said Ms Smith, who said it had been "an amazing journey".

They make enough money to pay the bills, she said, but "our profit margins are much lower than a normal pub".

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