RESIDENTS gathered together today (July 20) to clean up outside a village pub that suffered a huge fire yesterday.
Around 20 people were clearing thatch, tidying the garden and making the Gribble Inn ready to host a wake tomorrow for a member of the community who passed away recently.
The fire started around 5.30am yesterday and at its peak saw around 100 firefighters and 14 pumps fighting the flames.
Local farmer John Pitts, managing director of the Woodhorn Group, arrived with a digger and tractor, which were used to clear piles of thatch removed from the building by firefighters and left in Gribble Lane.
Mr Pitts said: “It’s been a hard road for Nikki and Simon in their quest to make the Gribble great again.
“They have worked every hour God sent and often more. They not only restored the Gribble to health but made the pub part of the community in a way that perhaps it never had been.”
He went on to say: “The Gribble will of course bounce back and I pray that this will be with Simon and Nikki at the helm. They deserve all the support this community can give them, and they will get it.”
Chairman of Oving Parish Council Sjoerd Schuyleman said he was ‘deeply distressed’ to hear of the fire.
“The emergency services have done a sterling job and I want to record the parish council’s gratitude to them, Southern Electric and the Red Cross for providing support as well.
“I know I echo the sentiments of many people in sending Simon and Nikki and the Hague family, our very best wishes from the whole community.
“We, as a parish council, are prepared to assist in any way we can in the future.
“I feel sure that there are many other people prepared to offer help, and I would urge you to register your desire to do so on the Oving parish web site.”
This is available at www.ovingcommunity.co.uk.
Speaking at the clear-up this morning, Nikki Tester, who runs the pub with Simon Wood, said the firefighters had done a ‘brilliant job’.
“They worked so hard yesterday,” she said. “It’s the first one in 30 years they’ve saved. Usually [the fire] gets underneath [the thatch] and they lose the whole thing. In that way we’ve been lucky.”
The fire crews put up a barrier which meant half of the pub was saved and the roof was only burned away on one side.
She said firefighters were forced to work in 15-minute shifts yesterday wearing breathing apparatus to combat the environment they were in.
The cause of the fire is now being investigated by West Sussex Fire and Rescue Service. No one was hurt in the fire, even the popular pub dog Flint was unharmed, spending yesterday with friends.
The skittle alley and microbrewery that were put of the pub were undamaged by the fire and hopes are to open a small bar in the skittle alley so Oving still has a village pub.
To read more on the clean-up operation and possible causes of the fire, as well as pictures of the team at work, see Thursday’s Chichester Observer (July 24).