A much-loved village inn is making a comeback thanks to a grant from Northumberland National Park Authority’s Sustainable Development Fund (SDF) in time for the 10th Anniversary of the Hadrian’s Wall National Trail.
The Samson Inn at Gilsland, at the far south-west corner of the National Park on the Cumberland border, closed in the summer of 2012 when the former landlord died and it has remained empty ever since. It is one of the last surviving working pubs of three that the village and surrounding agricultural area once kept busy and is situated just 50 metres from the National Trail path.
The new landlords, Mr Liam McNulty and Mrs Lauren Harrison, run Willowford Farm – an organic livestock farm and Bed and Breakfast. They bought the inn with the aim of creating a vibrant village pub for both locals and tourists and of promoting good local food and ales. They also intend to make better use of the upstairs space to create four, high-quality, en-suite bedrooms for holidaymakers. The refurbishment overall will result in at least four full-time equivalent jobs being created once the premises open.
Liam and Lauren applied for an SDF grant to help with upgrading the facilities including the exterior, the toilets, and the bar and restaurant areas. The SDF Grants Panel awarded them £11,625 to help towards these costs, since the project would benefit other local residents, accommodation providers and local food producers, and because its position will provide a service to visitors to Hadrian’s Wall and beyond.
Speaking for the SDF Grants Panel, Anna Charlton said: ”The reopening and refurbishment of the Samson Inn will go a long way to help make the village sustainable. After all, the pub is at the heart of any community. It is promising to see a reversal in the recent trend of rural pub closures.”
New landlord, Liam McNulty, said: “We’ve been overwhelmed by the support that we’ve had from the community, the village pub is so important to everyone and we can’t wait to get open!”
Lauren Harrison, landlord and partner, added: “We’re really grateful for the help from Northumberland National Park. It means we’re able to make the pub really warm and inviting and we’ll have a lovely beer garden too.”
Gilsland, close to the village of Greenhead which holds the Hadrian’s Wall Farmer’s Market on the second Sunday of every month, is a centre for visitors touring Hadrian’s Wall and other features of historical interest in this area of rugged Border country, popularised by the Romantic novelist Sir Walter Scott. Situated between Brampton and Haltwhistle, it is famous for the historic Gilsland Spa, Mumps Ha’ (Meg Merrilees), and the Popping Stones in the picturesque Irthing Gorge. The village is on the Hadrian’s Wall National Trail. Around 30,000 visitors walk this section each year. The accommodation would be available for visitors walking the Trail with bar lunches on offer to walkers passing through the village during the day and bar meals to those staying at other Guest Houses in or near the village in the evenings. Gilsland is a couple of miles south of RAF Spadeadam which often has visiting personnel also needing local accommodation and meals.
Tony Gates, Chief Executive of Northumberland National Park, who sits on the board of Northumberland Tourism, was pleased to see more provision for visitors, he said: “The National Park Authority is delighted to see a new outlet for local food and provision for tourism at a gateway to the National Park. We have seen so many rural inns and businesses closed in recent years that this is a refreshing change. We have set a pretty stretching target to grow the visitor economy in Northumberland by 6% over the next few years, and its small businesses like the Samson Inn which will help to get us there. The Samson Inn is sure to become a valuable local amenity and we wish the new landlords every success.”
Category: Northumberland National Park