Joy as pub prepares to reopen for first time since September
- Credit: Sonya Duncan
There aren't many pubs where you can paddle your canoe or dock your boat right on the doorstep.
And very few, if any, are so loved they're owned by more than 1,000 happy customers.
The unique, and now community-led, Locks Inn in Geldeston officially welcomes back customers for the first time since September on Thursday, May 13.
Graham Elliott, who spearheaded the community's efforts to buy the pub at auction, said: "Everyone involved is really excited to be opening and we have been blown away by the reaction to our efforts.
"A lot of people said this wasn't the right time to buy a pub but I think it is the perfect time to buy a community pub.
"This is a place to meet friends and make friends and I know it is a very special place for so many people, but I didn't realise how special and for how many."
The reopening follows a successful three-day preview for some of the 1,400 shareholders who have "helped secure the long-term future" of the historic pub on the Norfolk and Suffolk border.
An official opening ceremony was held in the pub's garden on Wednesday, with the help of town crier Yanny Mac.
From Monday, when lockdown restrictions are eased further, customers will be welcomed into a temporary bar area set up in the pub's function room, while work in the main bar and kitchen is completed in the coming weeks.
In the meantime, the pub's scenic beer garden will be open, with caterers available to provide food.
Mr Elliott, who stepped down from his role on East Suffolk Council after more than a decade to focus on the pub, said: "We think we have the widest community ownership of any pub in the country, with quite a big waiting list for people to get involved.
"We could have done some quick fixes and been open already but this is a long-term project and it needs to be done properly.
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"The long, winding road to the door will be getting some major repairs too in the coming weeks, so it will be better for your wheels too."
Visitors to the pub will see a familiar face behind the bar, with Jodie Barrett returning as manager alongside husband Frank.
She said: "I'm really pleased and honoured to be back.
"Everyone was devastated when we were told the pub was going up for auction, but it was really good news that the community group was successful in their bid.
"It is so good that the pub is getting the love and affection it needs and everyone sees it as a long-term project, but we're taking the time to do it properly."
Community is at the heart of the pub, and customers will soon be able to literally take a pew, with the main bar set to be refurbished with benches from St Michael's Church, which can be seen in the Beccles skyline from the pub.
Rev Rich Henderson said: "My connections with the pub goes back to my childhood, when we would visit the Broads every year, moored at Beccles and visited from the river.
"What we have seen here has been remarkable in the toughest of circumstances and I am really pleased to see the pews here, staying in the community and at the heart of the project."
But there's one thing essential to the true Locks experience, and the relaunch of the Big Dog Ferry for 2021 will offer visitors a unique arrival.
The start of the ferry's season, timed to coincide with the pub's reopening, means customers can book on one of four daily return trips from Puddingmoor to the pub's garden.
Skipper Carl Murray said: "I'm ecstatic to be back, it's been a long time coming.
"It's been 18 months since we last sailed.
"I've been doing this for 10 years and it is what I look forward to every year, knowing I will be on the river to see spring waking and summer appearing.
"It is a really special job."