ONE of the best-known pubs in the New Forest has closed following the sudden departure of its new managers.

Two members of staff at the Waggon and Horses in Undershore Road, Lymington, decided to run the business themselves – but quit after just three months.

The Wadworth brewery has launched a search for new tenants and is unable to say when the riverside pub will reopen.

It follows the closure of one of Hampshire’s top live music venues, the Talking Heads in Southampton, which has shut as a result of the recession, and the demise of the Wheatsheaf, in East Street, Titchfield, which has been boarded up without explanation.

Last night the Campaign for Real Ale (Camra) said that 16 pubs were closing every week, with suburban areas the hardest hit.

The consumer group said that in two years 1,078 pubs had gone under in Britain’s suburbs, with eight closing every week compared to six in rural areas and two in town high streets.

The British Beer and Pub Association blamed a 3.4 per cent slump in beer sales for the loss of 9,000 jobs last year.

Chief executive Brigid Simmonds said that almost 140 million fewer pints were sold in pubs in 2011 and warned that the decline would continue if the Budget in March included another increase in beer tax.

The Waggon and Horses used to be run by Alan Scouse, who opened a coffee shop on the premises and sold home-made cakes in a bid to boost trade. However, Mr Scouse later left to write a series of children’s books about a family of moles living in the New Forest.

A Wadworth spokesman said: “Two members of Alan’s staff took on the tenancy but decided to leave about three months later, giving us only two or three weeks’ notice.

“We’re currently searching for new tenants and for the time being the pub will remain closed.

“Our recruitment manager is actively looking for someone who wants the pub and has the ability to run it properly.”

Attempts are also being made to reopen the Talking Heads. As reported in the Daily Echo, campaigners battling to save the club in Portswood Road say that the owner, Mark Hughes, is in talks with a mystery investor.

Nearly 4,000 people are backing an online campaign to keep the much-loved venue alive.