Simon Rayner, owner of the Hare and Hounds at Bowland Bridge, and Force4Good collaborator
The Hare and Hounds is a gorgeous 17th-century inn, located in the picturesque village of Bowland Bridge, not far from Windermere in the Lake District. It’s a ‘proper pub’, where locals can pop in for a pint, and is the centre of the local community. Think exposed brick, flagstones, a wood-burning stove, a modern British menu for lunch and dinner, and four cosy guest bedrooms. Under the ownership of Simon and his business partner Andrew Black since August 2021, the pub has flourished and enjoyed regular write-ups in The Times, The Guardian and The Mail on Sunday.
I meet Simon at his home, not too far from the pub, and I immediately feel like I really am in the heart of the Lakes. So much so, that my satnav gets confused (and I lost!), and I have to pull over to ask a local farmer for directions. When I finally arrive, Simon greets me at the gate, and I fall in love with the farm where he lives. Sat at the table in the gorgeous farmhouse kitchen with a cup of tea, we talk all things pub, the Lakes, and sustainability…
What do you love most about the Lakes?
Simon grew up in the Lake District and spent his childhood in the area around Windermere. Having moved away to live in London for 20 years, he felt the pull to come back to the local area. The 'pull', he describes, was mainly about the people. "I have such a warmth for this area, it's so beautiful and we have an amazing opportunity to become leaders (in sustainability) and to break some boundaries." Simon goes on to say, “It's an amazingly open-minded community, and we get everyone coming into the pub, from local farmers to businessmen from London. It's a real melting pot of mindsets."
On the topic of his favourite places, there are a few he speaks of: “I love my farm, and Gummers How is my favourite walk. It takes minimal effort, with maximum reward. The view is just amazing. We are also so lucky with the pubs and restaurants we have in this area. I love Homeground, The Lake Road Kitchen and The Brown Horse.”
What is your favourite memory in the Lakes?
“My favourite memory is when I was about 15 years old. We had an amazing summer, and would just go and camp down by the lake, making the most of the outdoors, just sitting and looking at the view.” He continues to paint an idyllic picture: “I just had the best childhood. I was able to go off horse-riding and exploring. It was very carefree.” Talking of his two-year-old daughter, he says, “raising a child here is brilliant.”
Tell me the story of becoming the Hare and Hound’s newest proprietor?
“It has always been my dream to own a pub as I love people. Historically, people have gone into the hospitality industry as a stopgap, but now more and more are seeing hospitality as a career. I enquired with the owners of the Hare and Hounds a while ago, but nothing really happened. It’s literally around the corner from my house and I’ve known the pub for years, however, it never really seemed to reach its full potential under some of the past owners.
Then the owners got back in touch. I had a ‘throw caution to the wind’ moment and agreed to buy it with my business partner, Andrew. After the lockdown, people wanted to see a community centre again. We have breathed new life back into the place.” At the time of buying the pub, Simon was working in London, leading media campaigns for Paramount Pictures and Gordon Ramsay.
On the topic of sustainability, what is your key focus?
“There is a lot of waste in the hospitality industry, and we are constantly looking for solutions around this. It’s important to me that we look at new ways of not using single-use plastic such as reusing bottles and using glass and tin where possible. We also pick flowers from the garden to cut down on carbon emissions from flying them in from overseas, use local suppliers and seasonal produce, and buy really good quality meat. There is a big difference between what’s perceived to be sustainable, and what truly is sustainable. It is hard, but we are moving into a time where everyone should naturally be moving into sustainability… everything that we are doing has a sustainable focus." When asked what his key message to others would be, he describes himself as “a big champion of businesses that are sustainable. We just need to make better choices as people”.
What excites you about the future?
“I would really love my house and business to be completely off-grid, and for us to generate our own heat and light. My dream is to have a smallholding next to the pub, and to be truly self-sufficient.” With the war in Ukraine and the rising cost of living at the forefront of our minds, Simon also mentions the trepidation he feels around this right now, but beyond that, he is excited about the possibility of generating power. “We’ve all got to think about the choices we make, such as thinking of ways of generating your own power. Imagine the impact that will have both financially and environmentally. The government are looking at more sustainable ways of creating alternative energy, but let’s do more ourselves and see what we can do working together as a local community.”
He also talks about his excitement about the future of the Lake District. “The pandemic has given us an amazing opportunity with bringing more visitors to the area, and I’m looking forward to seeing what develops around here. It has so much to give, and I’m looking forward to it becoming more diverse.”