Rusper landlady wants to sell village pub as a ‘piece of living art’

JPCT 030512 Sara and Clive Blunden at the Royal Oak, Rusper, receive CAMRA Pub of the Year award. Photo by Derek Martin
JPCT 030512 Sara and Clive Blunden at the Royal Oak, Rusper, receive CAMRA Pub of the Year award. Photo by Derek Martin

A landlady wants to sell her traditional Rusper pub as a ‘piece of living art’ to keep it open and not ‘turn her back’ on her friends.

Sara Blunden, 55, and her husband Clive, are looking for a patron to provide minimum of £300,000 to cover the mortgage for The Royal Oak pub in Friday Street, Rusper.

She said: “The pub would remain the property of myself and Clive and there would be an understanding that it would remain the pub that it is at the moment, a special place where people still care about each other and look after each other, a safe haven in a mad world!”

The Blundens have been making up the losses at The Royal Oak after saving it from developers seven years ago.

They have kept it open for its community of regulars - some of whom regularly volunteer behind the bar.

The life-long Rusper woman who has childhood memories of the pub said: “I just don’t know what I’m going to do with everybody - they are my friends now, it’s really difficult.

“I often sit behind the bar on a weekday lunchtime marvelling at the banter and laughter that goes on and it leaves me with a heavy heart to think that I might have to let these people down.”

She added: “If we could cover the mortgage this place would be viable, it wouldn’t earn us a living but it wouldn’t cost us any more savings.

“Somebody paid £89 million for three not very nice [Francis Bacon] paintings - my thought is to put this place as a piece of living art.”

Around a third of The Royal Oak’s regulars volunteer behind the bar, said Georgina Wills, 36, of Rusper.

“[I volunteer] because I love it here, it feels like you’re part of the family.”

The landlords serve Christmas lunch free-of-charge for their regulars who live alone.

Regular, Russel Davison, of Rusper, said: “It’s a very very traditional pub. You can come in here, people talk and look after one another.”

And Jonathan Slane Hill, 65, of Newdigate, added: “It would be terrible [if this pub closed].

“The thing that makes this so special is the way the individual customers are treated as members of the family and it really is along that line.”

The Blundens have also raised more than £27,000 for St Catherine’s Hospice over the seven years.

“I just had too many friends go through there, knowing what a amazing job they do. A couple of really close friends,” said Sara.

The couple celebrated their seventh anniversary owning the pub on Saturday November 23.

She added: “Somebody told me this place is like Marmite - it isn’t for everybody.

“But if we change we would just be like any other pub in the area and it wouldn’t be worth saving.

“I just sit there sometimes thinking I will really miss you lot when this place is gone, but hey! We haven’t stopped fighting yet!”