It was the Spring of 2016 and Sam, our new farrier, was attempting to lift the foot of our rescue donkey, Paris. Hating having his feet touched, he attempted to give Sam the slip and proceeded in throwing me face down into the gravel before cantering off down the field - ears forward -looking very rather smug.
Having only just met Sam, I wrongly thought he was a man of few words; what had started off as an awkward conversation quickly moved into a chatty one as he helped me drag a very stubborn donkey back up the field complete with a new set of playground knees for his owner.
At that time I was running The Pilgrims Rest as a cafe but had been itching to turn it into a wedding venue for some time. As we chatted, Sam mentioned that his girlfriend was looking to leave her job (and obligatory neck tie) in the events team of a 5* hotel. Sam headed home and announced to a bemused Amy that had found her a new job. Two days later she knocked on our front door; I was greeted by a huge smile and we hit it off straight away.
Amy was amazing from day one. In the early days she and I pulled out the old commercial kitchen, painted walls and scrubbed floors. I bought a book called “Building a website for idiots” - built one and launched the business. We had no wedding licence then, no chairs, let alone a mirror in the dressing room and looking back it is quite extraordinary we had any bookings at all!
But faith in our new venue came in the form of Zoya and Damien who loved it and booked nonetheless. By the time they married we had a wedding licence, chairs and a large dressing room mirror. Ever since we have kept improving, and adding to, the venue with seasonal looks, pea-lights galore and a second dressing room. It is funny looking back at old photographs and seeing how far we have come.
Initially, Amy would run the wedding days on her own - even cleaning the loos the following day (what was I thinking?). Our couples loved her and, as it turned out, so did Sam who finally proposed to his childhood sweetheart of 13 years on their favourite beach in Cornwall. Now happily married, Amy is on maternity leave with their new addition, the gorgeous little Jack who was born straight into lockdown. Not quite the maternity leave she was planning at all but we are all looking forward to having her back in January - 2021 is certainly going to be a busy year.
It was in early 2018 that Amy and I realised we needed another team member. We advertised, read though heaps of C.V’s and, although highly qualified and experienced, none of them felt right. One of our caterers mentioned he had met another Amy who he thought we would like. A phone call later, Amy-Lou bounced down the path to The Pilgrims Rest, laughed at my jokes (always a winner for me) and Amy and I knew we had found our girl - she was the perfect fit.
Amy-Lou (or Little Amy as I call her) is a self confessed geek and loves a spreadsheet almost as much as she loves weddings. This little power house has been incredible during the last few months working with couples during a very difficult time and I am eternally grateful for everything she has done. Recently she was bemoaning the fact she needed to take some holiday. “It’s very annoying”, she said, “It just gets in the way”. But to the West Country she finally headed with her own Sam for a staycation and is now back after a well earned break.
Talking of the West Country, another “A”, in the form of Anita, packed up her bags in Devon last year and moved to Battle, settling just across the road from The Pilgrims Rest. Her neighbour Tres, who makes the best coffee in Battle, brought her in one day to meet her new neighbours and is now another member of our team. Anita sprinkles her fairy dust wherever she goes keeping The Pilgrims Rest shining like a new pin; fluffing the furs; polishing the windows; even folding the loo paper into little points. She meets and greats and helps on wedding days and we really can’t remember how we managed without her.
Anita brings with her the four legged member of our team - Amber - her beautiful little dog. With a coat like velvet and a permanently wagging tail , Amber keeps Anita company while she dead heads the roses in the garden and sweeps up confetti.
We certainly have created an “A” team in more ways than one. Our most recent member of the team’s name doesn’t begin with an A but has the right vowel so we think it counts. Waverley joined our team a few weeks before the world turned upside down. As it turns out, she met her fiancé Luke right outside The Pilgrims Rest a few years ago. Back in the office once again after lockdown, she announced that they had finally decided to tie the knot and were nipping down to the registry office to say their “I do’s”.
Not knowing us especially well, being a team newbie, Waverley asked if they could take a few happy snaps outside The Pilgrims Rest in her dress. Well, we couldn’t idly stand by and have one of our team left out in the garden, so we suggested they made a morning of it getting ready in The Bryant and Fitzherbert dressing rooms. As a surprise wedding present, we asked the lovely Sarah Williams to come and capture their morning, and capture it she did. There were lots of tears (joyful ones) and smiles (huge ones) with both of them looking fabulous and very, very happy.
Choosing a venue is as much about the team behind the scenes as the venue itself. As you will see from our reviews the Pilgrims Rest team goes above and beyond to ensure your day goes without a hitch. It might be small, but it really is a perfectly formed “A” team.
If you would like receive more information about The Pilgrims Rest or arrange a personal video tour then please email us on firstname.lastname@example.org or call 07552873448 .
Photographer: Sarah Williams Photography and Darren Buss Photography