Nigel Way Those times seemed the best,

Dartmouth seemed slightly smaller and life was easier and perhaps more enjoyable – but I think that might be old age talking, and me looking back through rose-tinted spectacles… The demise of the BID (Business

Improvement District) initiative in 2016 had a profound effect on me – I was hugely frustrated that, collectively, Dartmouth businesses missed a great opportunity to mar- ket the town more effectively to the benefit of all and was saddened by the unnecessary rancour that it caused. I don’t think we’ll get that opportunity again. We are losing some of the things

that made Dartmouth attractive or different e.g. the range of unique shops. As we lose them because of high business rates or online shop- ping then what we have left e.g. pubs, restaurants, cafés and other visitor experiences, must be done well. That said, I think Dartmouth’s retail landlords could do more to help our local shops survive but, in return, shops need to be open longer e.g. weekends or later in the evenings when the visitors are about.

I think it needs new skills nowa-

days to run a successful hotel and pub. In past times, many of us did much of our social networking in pubs – that’s much less true in our digital ‘connected’ world. Excessive consumption of alcohol is also much less socially acceptable. We used to be a tight little circle in the town. The tradesmen I used in the hotel drank in our bars – putting my money back over the counter to me so I could pay them again. I can remember that when I arrived, it was common for customers to dress up smartly for a Friday or Saturday evening. Pubs paid a very important part in our lives then – much less so nowadays. All of our hotels have combined being a pub and hotel and a focal point in the town, with the excep- tion of The Anchor Hotel in Porlock Weir. Here, it’s more a matter of

taking advantage of the trends to healthier living and wellbeing – my children are worried that I am becoming a bit of an elderly hippy. If independent hotels are to survive, they need to become more of a destination, in amazing locations but offering more of an experience than you can get at home. At The Anchor, we are very focused on being as ‘green’ as possible; we provide yoga and mindful- ness classes and offer menus that cater for our ever-changing tastes – ‘flexitarian” I think they call it! I was very young when I bought

too much notice of sob stories across the bar. The bank manager from Lloyds told me to stick to my business and he would stick to his! When I came to town, Dartmouth

“We leave with mixed feelings – as Anne said to me – it’s like selling your house with all

your furniture in it and leaving behind your children as well.”

was already a destination for tour- ists but still a bit of a secret. We certainly didn’t make much of the river and the embankment as we do now but those are the sort of things that help the town stand out – people seem to choose to come to Devon first

the hotel which is something that is rare these days. I suppose it’s unlikely that the hotel will, therefore, ever go back into private hands. Everything now has to have ‘brand values’ or be celebrity endorsed – not a trend that I think is necessarily good. Looking back, we had a few lucky

breaks. Everyone told us that Dart- mouth died after Regatta, which it did a little. We were lucky that in our first winter, they filmed an Ag- atha Christie ‘Ordeal by Innocence’ film in Dartmouth which gave us a huge boost. They filmed here in the hotel as they thought it looked as if it was still in the 1940s or 50s. The money they paid was then used to renovate the Galleon bar. We’ve always worked hard to find new ways to entice customers into the bar and hotel especially over the lean winter months – I was once told by a well-known publican in the town that every £ in my till was a £ less in his. I have kept that thought at the forefront for many years since – he also once told me to never lend money to your cus- tomers. I am afraid I didn’t follow that particular advice as much as I should in those early days, taking

and then, second, decide the town to stay in. That means we have to work harder to attract them here and not go elsewhere – Mayflower 400 is, therefore, an important opportunity for us to get behind and make as much of it as we can – I fear we may not though. When we came to Dartmouth,

we only expected to be around for 5-10 years. We stayed a little longer! But I have loved every minute of my time in Dartmouth and I am very proud of what we have achieved. But my wife and I have also been very, very lucky. We have been privileged to share the important times in people’s lives, be they weddings, anniversaries, birthdays or even wakes. We leave with mixed feelings – as

Anne said to me – it’s like selling your house with all your furniture in it and leaving behind your children as well. That makes me feel a bit guilty but my shoulders now feel much lighter. We have had many very touching letters and messages since announcing the sale. As to the future – I will enjoy running my other hotels but with- out the same pressure as before. I want to enjoy more time with my grandchildren and learn to do new things such as how to lay hedges. I am looking forward to life – it’s the beginning of a new chapter.”•


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