IT is the ancient country pub which has served Hampshire punters for generations.

But villagers in Netley Marsh have been left reeling after their local watering hole mysteriously closed.

Punters arrived at the White Horse in Ringwood Road on Friday to find the doors locked.

A message attached to the window written by former landlord Duncan Owers revealed he was closing his doors for good.

Yesterday a spokeswoman for pub owners Enterprise Inns said: “The White Horse has closed following the publican’s decision to cease trading.

“We are now actively recruiting for a new publican.

“While the pub is closed we are taking the opportunity to carry out some minor works to enhance the pub’s interior.”

She denied there were plans for supermarket giant Tesco to develop the site.

The closure comes just three months Mr Owers launched a new Thai menu with chef Sarah Wuthrick which appeared to spark a roaring restaurant and takeaway trade.

Previously the pub was run by couple Val and Rob Freeman and their son Russell.

Surprise The village’s nearest pub is now The Gamekeeper in Woodlands Road and two others are within two miles.

Totton North ward UKIP councillor Chris Lagdon said: “It’s an extreme surprise – I know Duncan has put a lot of work and money into it.

“It’s very sad to see another local pub closing and another death knell for the English way of life.

“Pubs are part of the community where villagers meet and it means people are going to have to go elsewhere for drinks or are going to have a supermarket.

Netley Marsh parish councillor Cllr Pattock said: “I am very sorry there is another pub closure.

“We don’t have many businesses left in the village.

“More and more pubs are closing and it is likely to happen at this time in the year when people have spent a lot over Christmas and aren’t going out in the early part of the year.”