The welcome trend of rural pub re-openings close to Dorchester continues. Following on the heels of the Rivers Arms at Cheselbourne, the Gaggle of Geese at Buckland Newton, closed for three years and in danger of being converted to a dwelling, is now open for business once more.
New owners Simon and Sarah previously ran the Hartington in Brighton. Deciding they needed a change, and actively looking for a rural pub refurbishment project, they eventually settled on the Gaggle of Geese. Sarah told me the pub “ticked all the boxes” on their wish list, bringing the “opportunity to do all the things we wanted”.
It was freehold, “with lots of outdoor space, and a good village community”. She did admit though, that after urban, cosmopolitan (but sociable) Brighton, the pace of life in rural Dorset took bit of getting used to, but said that the more relaxed outlook on life was “no bad thing”. They are delighted with the way they were welcomed in the village, and many local people rallied round to help with the restoration work, both internal and external.
Renovations and improvements included a newly-positioned front door and porch, a new kitchen, and the refurbishment of the skittle alley (which is wider than most, and so useful for other functions, too). Help was also given in clearing the large garden of years of weed growth, scrub and accumulated rubbish. It is now an impressive and attractive open space with outdoor seating, a children’s play area, a barbecue shack and a wood-fired pizza oven.
The garden also features a small apple orchard and a rather splendid wicker sculpture of a man walking a dog, by a local artist named Carol, which has become a permanent feature since a village scarecrow competition was held in the garden. On my last visit, Simon was busy discussing the provision of services to the planned accommodation, which will be in shepherd’s huts to the rear of the garden.
Sarah was keen for me to mention the many events which are planned. A weekly skittles friendly league will start on 17 July, a monthly wine and cheese club on 26 July, a kids club will run on Tuesday afternoons starting 31 July and continuing throughout August, there will be live music every first Sunday afternoon of the month, and a ‘Gaggle Fest’ will be held on 4 August – a day of live music, barbecues, pizzas and a cider bar in the garden, for which limited camping will be available.
There is a cosy bar, with imaginative use made of old wooden crates to hold bottles etc. There is also a spacious dining area in which to enjoy home-cooked food, with locally-sourced ingredients, prepared by professional qualified chefs.
On this occasion the specials board advertised a smoked salmon, prawn and mackerel salad, grilled sardines on Greek salad, warm goat’s cheese & beetroot salad with balsamic dressing, and sirloin steak with hand-cut chips, mushrooms, tomato and onion rings. Prices ranged from £10.50 to £18.
As it was a very hot day I had a pint of chilled Thatchers Gold cider, but there was an excellent range of real ales on offer, including Sharp’s Doom Bar, Dorset Sixpenny Gold, DBC Jurassic and Adnams Southwold. Actually, I was very tempted by the ‘cake of the week’, displayed on the bar (coffee and walnut, £3 or £5 with a pot of tea). Food is served right through from noon to 9pm Tuesday to Saturday, and to 5pm on Sunday. The pub is closed on Mondays.
With good food and ales, friendly staff and the large garden, the revived Gaggle deserves to become a destination pub of note. It is also dog-friendly, and four-legged visitors will be greeted by Aggie, the resident Border collie.