It’s a double celebration for Wakefield licensee Sam Thompson-Hall of the landmark Navigation Inn at Calder Grove. Sam received a prestigious long-service award to mark her 20th anniversary at the helm and is set to fully reopen the inside of the pub for first time since 9th February when it closed due to flood damage.
Over the last two decades, Sam has dealt with 14 floods at The Navigation, which is situated in a stunning island location next to the Calder & Hebble Navigation. The latest flood – caused by Storm Ciara – swept away much of the garden, filled the cellar and wrecked the downstairs bar and function room. Now, thanks to Sam’s tireless work and a £114,000 revamp by the building’s owner Star Pubs & Bars, the inside of the pub can completely reopen from 29th August.
Born in a Dales pub, Sam has lived in Wakefield for 30 years and has worked in numerous pubs across Yorkshire. Since taking over The Navigation in 2000, she has built on its reputation as the perfect place to head on a sunny day and added countless features to ensure it caters for all.
The family-friendly pub has a 240-seat waterside garden with a £10,000 play area, added by Sam last year, and an ice cream parlour. The menu includes rotisserie chicken, traditional pub favourites and kids’ meals served in a box complete with a toy. Sam has got drinks covered too, offering everything from barista coffee to premium gins. Customers’ four-legged friends haven’t been forgotten either, with their own menu of fish fingers or sausages with gravy bones followed by doggy ice cream.
Despite the disruption and the regular closures caused by flooding, Sam says The Navigation is her “ideal pub” and is about to take a further five-year lease on it. Says Sam: “The setting is gorgeous, and the pub and the people are lovely. I can’t imagine being anywhere else. Customers enjoy sitting out in the garden and watching the river and the boats go by. It has got a real holiday vibe, which people have valued more than ever this year with so many travel plans disrupted.
“I’m so glad to have reopened the garden. Many people are being cautious about Covid but tell me they feel safe coming here because it’s so spacious. It’s nice to be able to lift people’s mood and spread some good cheer at a time like this.”
Comments Adele Mason, Star Pubs & Bars’ area manager for Wakefield: “It’s an honour to present this award to Sam. In challenging times, Sam is an inspiring example of resilience. When a flood comes, she stays positive, pulls out all the stops and gets The Navigation back on track. Sam is a first-rate licensee who has kept a much-loved Wakefield pub thriving over two decades. You name it, she has thought of it – she is constantly adapting the pub to meet customers’ changing needs.”
Adds Sam: “I‘m always ready for the unexpected – one day the garden is full of customers, the next there are people canoeing on it. I try to look for the silver lining. It’s due to the flood that we’ve now got a beautifully refurbished function room. It’s perfect for social distancing, and we’re already taking bookings. It has been a long six months, and it’s exciting that the whole pub can finally open.”