Chapter One

Ditchling: the perfect village life, and where it all began...

father daughter

Mr and Mrs Clarke was dreamt up in a pub… and it is probably our favourite pub in the world. It is one of those places that conjures up very special memories and we look back at the times we spent in The Bull in Ditchling as some of our happiest moments. 

Our love affair with The Bull started in 2014 when we decided that we wanted to move out of London and were spending weekends touring the country in search of the perfect place to call home. We were in our early thirties and had spent the last ten years living the sort of London life that ruins the liver, the mind and eventually the soul. We’d had our fill of the big smoke and needed to escape to fresh air. But where should we move too? We had no ties and we thought it would be frivolous to just book a room in a lovely pub or country hotel every weekend before we decided to settle…

Bath was too busy, The Cotswolds too close to parents, Surrey too commuter belt. Let’s give Sussex a try. We turned to our good friend Chemical Ed (a chemistry teacher, not a tyrannical war lord producing weapons of mass destruction!). “Ditchling is right up your street. Get yourselves to The Bull and I bet you a tenner that you will move there!” Challenge accepted we thought.

It was a dreary Saturday and it had taken six hours to fight our way through south London. We were not in the best frame of mind and close to murdering each other. We parked the car and wandered around the front of the normal looking village pub, sat on a cross road, opposite a church. “This looks pretty standard” was my grumpy retort as we walked up the steps. We sat at the bar, ordered a drink and a sandwich without lifting our heads. Then there was a slow realisation that this was different – there was a gentle hum of conversation, the crackle of a fire, a couple of trendy but charming locals saying hello to our dog. We both looked around and we didn’t say a word. This is a good sign. We didn’t have anything to complain about.

The drinks arrived – both were delicious. The sandwiches were roast beef and the chips were triple cooked. “This is it”, Mrs Clarke said. “I agree”, was my reply.

Within minutes we were on Rightmove and booking in viewings…

The viewings were comical and our experience of trying to find a house were so bad that we decided to start Mr and Mrs Clarke. Every evening was spent at the bar of The Bull planning how we would run our estate agency. By this time we had been renting in the village for nine months, working in London and Brighton and looking for a home to buy in the village. Every Saturday was spent viewing properties with characateur estate agents speaking in riddles and spending more time on Twitter or Tinder during the viewing than talking to us, then going to The Bull for a de-brief, drink and inevitably supper.

It was a magical time in a magical village. We never found the perfect house but we found so much more… the perfect pub and Mr and Mrs Clarke.

The fact that we decided to start an estate agency whilst having a pint of Harveys Best and a glass of sparkling wine at the bar makes this pub all the more important in our journey.

Alex & Paul

pub setting

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