THEY were on a huge learning curve when they arrived at The Noah’s Ark pub on the picturesque village green almost exactly seven years ago.
But now Amy Whitmore and Henry Coghlan are very much part of the community.
They don’t deny it has been a hard road since they took over and refurbished the rundown pub, but they have gone from a staff of eight to a team of 18 with four full-time chefs.
“I suppose the pub felt a bit like our first baby,” said Amy, who actually gave birth to the couple’s first baby, Biba, 18 months ago. “Our reputation has grown and grown and we have really become a food destination.
But throughout all the transformation, the village drinkers have remained at the top of the pub’s priorities.
“We had a little bit of resistance from the locals at the beginning,” said Amy, “but it’s a balance.
“They were worried we were turning into a gastro pub, but without the people coming in to eat, we couldn’t keep it a good pub for locals who want to come in to drink, and without the locals creating the lovely atmosphere, it wouldn’t be a success for those who want to eat here – one can’t do without the other and we very much welcome both.”
The Noah’s Ark is a great supporter of the village cricket team which plays on the green in front of the pub, providing help towards kit and other team necessities.
There are two book clubs in Lurgashall, both of which now meet in the pub, and the Chiddingfold, Leconfield and Cowdray Hunt meets every year outside The Noah’s Ark in February.
Now Amy has joined the committee of the biggest event on the village calendar, Lurgashall fete, which regularly raises some £8,000 to be distributed among village causes.
Behind the pub there is a new venture in what was the old stable block.
‘The Bottom Stables’ is shopping with a difference, care of Hollie Monhemius and her family who moved to Lurgashall in 2009:
“It’s all about sourcing the unusual.” said Hollie. “We have the work of local craftsmen and women and we also have things from further afield.”
The shop, which opens on Saturdays and Sundays, now attracts customers from far and wide: “Villagers use it to buy greetings cards and little gifts and we also have quite a following from Londoners at the weekends.”
Across the pub car park is the entrance to St Laurence Church.
It is once again without a vicar, but villagers continue to rally round, with monthly churchyard working parties and organising church flowers, and the annual Christingle service was held as usual last Sunday.
The church also hosted a visit from the bishop of Chichester, the Rt Rev Martin Warner, at the start of November.
Across the village green, Pam Foray still runs the village shop.
Pam and her husband Martin came to Lurgashall more than 12 years ago and despite hoping for semi-retirement, she opens the shop seven days a week.
“We have our fair share of weekend and holiday homes here,” said Pam, “but people living on the estate around the village hall are brilliant about supporting the shop – without them it would be a real problem. We do have to try to think of different things to keep attracting customers.”
But there are those in Lurgashall without transport and for them, the shop continues to be a vital lifeline.
The ‘Doris’ dial-a-ride bus service no longer exists and the only other bus service is a Tuesday and Friday service to Midhurst.
Pam provides all the essentials and runs other services such as the prescription pick-ups.
The village hall provides another meeting place, with regular events for every taste from the Curry and Quiz night, the regular Monday lunches and the flower show to yoga classes, pilates and puppy training.
Just last week a Christmas wine tasting evening was held with a presentation by Hennings Wine Merchants and shortly the annual children’s Christmas party takes place, this year taking youngsters on a space mission with its special ‘Blast Off’ theme.