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Pub owner bids fond farewell after 16 years

PUBLISHED: 14:22 20 October 2020 | UPDATED: 07:17 22 October 2020

Lee Bellis outside the Locks Inn, in Geldeston. PHOTO: Lee Bellis

Lee Bellis outside the Locks Inn, in Geldeston. PHOTO: Lee Bellis

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From “baking summer days” to “watching brooding skies in autumn and winter”, the long-standing owner of a much-loved border pub has said her final goodbyes ahead of its auction.

Lee Bellis outside the Locks Inn, in Geldeston. PHOTO: Lee BellisLee Bellis outside the Locks Inn, in Geldeston. PHOTO: Lee Bellis

Lee Bellis “lived and breathed” the Locks Inn, in Geldeston on the Norfolk-Suffolk border, ever since moving into the pub’s apartment in 2004.

But now, after 16 years, Miss Bellis is now preparing for her retirement, with the pub up for auction tomorrow.

She said: “There really is no place like the Locks, both in terms of the pub itself and the surroundings.

“From baking summer days when the garden is full, to the wet and soggy winter months when it becomes a warm and cosy refuge among the marshes, it has been a pleasure to be the custodian of this idyllic spot for the last 16 years, even with the challenges of occasional floods, having no mains services, gas or electricity.

The Locks pub in Geldeston. Picture: Victoria PertusaThe Locks pub in Geldeston. Picture: Victoria Pertusa

“I’d love nothing more than to continue to oversee it as it grows and changes but, as time waits for no woman, I am now planning my retirement, so it is unfortunately goodbye from me.

Miss Bellis, who bought the pub alongside her ex-partner in 2004, hailed the beauty of the pub’s location.

She said: “I had long thought it was a beautiful place, an island away from the world.

“I’m sure the locals can remember a time in the 90s where the atmosphere did not match the surroundings, but the Locks I could see in my mind’s eye was peaceful and idyllic, a place where you could enjoy that unique Waveney feeling of idyllic isolation, soak up the sun in the spring and summer, or watch the brooding skies in the autumn and winter.

The Locks pub in Geldeston. Picture: Victoria PertusaThe Locks pub in Geldeston. Picture: Victoria Pertusa

“From the off, we’d made the right choice. We moved into the large apartment above the pub and lived and breathed the Locks.”

At the time, Miss Bellis was director of the Green Jack Brewing company, with the pub the perfect setting to “experiment with recipes and develop the emphasis on unique takes on traditional classics.”

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She said: “The people of Geldeston were instantly supportive of the new Locks.

The competition was fierce at the 10th thumb wrestling championships at the Locks Inn at Geldeston. Picture: Anthony CarrollThe competition was fierce at the 10th thumb wrestling championships at the Locks Inn at Geldeston. Picture: Anthony Carroll

“After I finished my stint as landlady in 2007, the pub was taken over by Colin Smith, who spent a decade refining the Locks experience, catering to huge crowds and establishing it as a fantastic wedding venue before retiring in 2018.

“The next tenants, Grain Brewery, had a fresh take on the Locks experience with huge investment in renovations along with a new menu and some weird and wonderful selections on tap but, sadly, the events of this year have led to the decision for them to leave.

“I was sad to see them and their staff go, but I know there are many visionary and highly talented owners and operators who would love to oversee the relaunch of the Locks once the restrictions around the pandemic are over and we can get back to normal.

“Whoever ends up winning the auction, there really is no better place to live and work than the Locks. The people of Geldeston could not be more supportive and the unique location truly does make it the best pub in the world.”

The Waveney Valley championship competition of Dwile Flonking at The Locks Inn, Geldeston in 2017. PHOTO: Sonya Duncan.The Waveney Valley championship competition of Dwile Flonking at The Locks Inn, Geldeston in 2017. PHOTO: Sonya Duncan.

READ MORE: ‘It’s been a blast’ – Pub to close 17 months after major revamp

Miss Bellis said support for the pub ahead of Wednesday’s auction “demonstrates the warmth with which people regard the Locks.”

She said: “The Locks offers a unique opportunity thanks to its incredible location and the excellent on-site facilities.

“After the significant recent refurbishments and a new commercial kitchen refit, the only pressing upgrade I could imagine making would be to add an additional toilet block as queues can get long in the summer months when things can get very busy with a constant stream of visitors trundling up the gravel drive or arriving by river, where a wonderful mix of nature and pleasure awaits on a hot summer’s day in the famous beer garden.

The Waveney Valley championship competition of Dwile Flonking at The Locks Inn, Geldeston in 2017. PHOTO: Sonya Duncan.The Waveney Valley championship competition of Dwile Flonking at The Locks Inn, Geldeston in 2017. PHOTO: Sonya Duncan.

“The thing I want now for the Locks is to see someone take it over who loves the places as much as I have and who can look after it in the decades to come.

“The auctioneers have several interested parties registered to bid, including a local businessman who wishes to remain anonymous who has had his eye on it for a while and said owning the locks would be a dream come true, and has promised to invest heavily.

“Myself and my family welcome bids from any potential new owners who want to invest their time in keeping this fixture of East Anglian life a wonderful place to be and enjoy.

“I would like to wish all bidders good luck, health and good fortunes for the future.”


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