I’ve been driving past The Rising Sun in Donhead St Mary for a few months now with a feeling of anticipation and interest. First, there was lots of activity. Were they doing it up? Was it being turned into a home and losing its ‘pub status’? What was happening? Then a sign went up. I’m pretty sure it said something about coffee and cake…I can’t remember the precise wording but, if there was coffee and cake involved, I was sold. I visited their Facebook page, which has lots of posts about gingerbread people (I love gingerbread). My mind was made up, I had to visit!
Last week I finally got the chance. The car park is now sporting a sign that says ‘coffee tavern’ so after investigating their info online we decided to pop in for a light lunch.
On arrival we were greeted by friendly staff as well as a log burner, vintage china, squishy armchairs and real ale on tap. New owners, Nicky and Andy came up with the idea of a ‘coffee tavern’ as a hybrid between a coffee shop and a taproom. Niky explains, ‘We want The Rising Sun to be a welcoming place for all parts of the community, particularly young families and retired folk who wouldn’t necessarily have thought of a pub as somewhere to spend an hour or two.’
The pub already has a friendly, quirky feeling about it but the couple are still trying to put their mark on the place. They are keen up-cyclers and their green ethics show in their decor, which includes up-cycled candle jars and chairs from local charity shops. ‘I guess my 7 year stint at Neal’s Yard Remedies is partly responsible for my green ethics’, explains Niky, ‘but Andy and I are ‘wombles’ at heart and often think to ourselves “that could be useful later on” which lingers despite reading Marie Kondo’s book and trying to declutter!’
Niky and Andy are also supporting some of the area’s great local food and drink producers; ‘We know we can get our meat cheaper elsewhere but chose to use the local family butcher Butlings and we currently have Sixpenny Brewery as our cask ale’ says Niky. ‘We always look for the most local brand; from crisps, to soft drinks and everything in between.’ They continue to keep food miles low by having two local ladies making homemade cakes and another who supplies jam and chutney.
And it doesn’t stop with the food! The couple are also trying to showcase local artists and craftspeople. Niky is enthusiastic about the talent; ‘We’ve just started selling cards by Shaftesbury artist Sarah Robinson and are in discussion with Alan Morgan about selling his photographic cards and prints. In the ladies’ we sell organic soap from Enchanted Plants and curtains plus cushion covers are being made by Impeccable Curtains in West Stour; we just love being able to support all these neighbouring small businesses.’
So, what does the future hold? Niky is particularly excited about the Summer; ‘We have a big garden that we’d love children to romp through and engage with nature instead of an electronic device and look forward to longer, warmer days.’
The couple are also planning to use the building for workshops and would like to run events with a ‘make do and mend’ vibe, allowing people to learn new skills. This would fit well with their plans to make the pub an important part of the community.
Lunch was lovely and I’m definitely planning another visit soon. I want to try my hand at decorating gingerbread people and intend to hunker down in a squishy armchair with a pot of tea and a good book!
The Rising Sun, Salisbury Road, Shaftesbury, Dorset, SP7 9LT.
Tel: 01747 828514
Open Thurs 11.00-15.00, Fri 11.00-21.00, Sat 11.00-21.00, Sun 11.00-20.00, Mon 11.00-15.00