Jim Parker: Raise a glass to Wendy Bennett and those who have battled through with Torbay Together

Couple in beer garden

Glad to be back at the Chelston Manor: Pete and Di Dalzell - Credit: Submitted

You could sense it listening to Carolyn Custerson, the champion of Torbay's tourism and hospitality industry during its bleakest of times.

You could sense it listening to bubbly and effervescent Chloe Pavely who decided to open her first ever business just as cruel Covid struck.

You could sense it with Adam Fletcher who, with his team, has helped so many people  cope mentally with these challenging times.

And last but not least you could sense it with Wendy Bennett, the absolutely lovely lady who runs the Chelston Manor pub in Torquay.

They are shining examples of those who have shown resilience, a dogged determination and the ability to lead and inspire others through these terrible times.

Carolyn, chief executive of the English Riviera BID Company,  Chloe, owner of the now-award winning Fishcombe Cove Cafe at Brixham and Adam, from Andy’s Man Club and Women’s Wellbeing, all  'appeared' on the Torbay Business Forum's latest Breakfast Bytes webinar, brilliantly hosted by chairman Steve Reynolds, superbly organised behind the scenes by Emily Tucker from South Devon College and which I have the honour and privilege of joining every session.

The trio - mustn't forget vice-chairman Angela George who was asking some of the questions - were talking about the pandemic and the Bay being allowed to partly open up under Boris's roadmap.

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That includes beer garden service for pubs and that is when my mind turned to Wendy Bennett.

Former general manager at the Princess Theatre for more than three decades, we all thought she was taking a massive gamble with a total career switch as the landlady of a local pub. And then came Covid to cap it all.

But in typical Wendy Bennett fashion (behind the little lady is a huge Scouser battling spirit) she is s still there making the Manor a success during the toughest of times.

Wendy says: "Another lockdown over. Another re-opening to organise with new ways of working each time. So much time and effort goes into every re-opening. This time, I have lost track of the amount of hours I have spent researching gazebos, marquees, shelters, pods, etc."

She added: "We are so lucky at the Chelston Manor to have such a fabulous garden with plenty of space available. We have been able to provide areas of shelter whilst keeping plenty of tables to enjoy the sunshine when possible.

"We have loved seeing all of our friends back at the Manor. The support we have received from all of our loyal customers has been incredible and as we found throughout last year, everyone is happy to work with us to comply with all of the changing regulations. I personally, am so very grateful for this support. 

"We all know we have to be cautious still and ensure we are keeping all of the safety measures in place, but there is a real sense of excitement in the air. It has been so lovely to hear the chatter between friends, witness the smiles between customers who don't keep in touch other than to catch up at their local and then to see the genuine excitement when ordering their first pint after lockdown. It's like Christmas morning over and over again!

"It is so clear that we all have missed each other; we all need social interaction. Like many other establishments, the Chelston Manor is a community pub in every sense of the word. It is a privilege to be a part of the team that provides a place for our community to simply enjoy time with friends, family or loved ones. When you throw in a warm welcome, fabulous food, a decent pint and a beautiful garden to enjoy, what more could you possibly want?"

And a final message: "Thank you so much to everyone who has supported the Chelston Manor or indeed any other local pub or business. We simply couldn't do it without you."

Thank you Wendy and thank you to everybody across the Bay who have show so much fighting and , most importantly, community, all-for-one spirit to get us through this. There is still a long way to go but together in Torbay we can do anything,