LANDLADY Zoe O'Hara has run the White Horse for five years - but her connection with the Marchwood watering hole goes back a lot further than that.

Zoe, whose grandparents moved to the village in the 1960s, is the daughter of fellow publicans Bobsy and Patrick O'Hara, who run the Lord Nelson in neighbouring Hythe.

Bobsy and Patrick first met in the White Horse and are still together 44 years later.

Zoe often accompanied her parents to the pub and was later taken on as a Saturday girl, spending five years behind the bar in the early 1990s.

"I've known the pub all my life and when it came on the market in 2010 I didn't hesitate," she said.

However, the building was in a poor state of repair. Several windows had been smashed and boarded up which, together with a raft of other problems, meant a major facelift was needed.

Zoe and members of her family worked flat out for three weeks to complete the work.

"We did a three-week refurb and were here day and night," she said. "The whole place was stripped bare before being equipped with new toilets, new lighting and all new furniture. We also repainted the outside of the pub and built a beer garden the following year.

"I've got a fantastic family. My mum gave me a lot of help and advice and my dad was here all the time doing DIY - he saved me a fortune."

But Zoe, 42, was careful to retain the traditional character of the building, which has been a watering hole for at least 150 years.

She said: "It's still a quaint country pub. I don't want to see it modernised - I like the oak beams and open fire. I want to keep it as a pub should be."

The White Horse, pictured below, is not normally part of the New Forest tourist trail. But the absence of holidaymakers is more than made up for by the patronage of villagers and people from Marchwood Military Port.

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Many customers are drawn there by the wide range of activities on offer, including live music and a popular beer and cider festival.

Zoe said: "For every occasion we have an event. We serve haggis on Burns Night, stage an Easter egg raffle for the kids and go all out at New Year."

The pub is also gaining a well-deserved reputation for the quality of its Sunday roasts.

Chef Simon Browne works for Zoe's parents at the Lord Nelson during the week but has been popping over to the White Horse on Sundays for about three months.

"He's so good - his roasts are amazing," said Zoe.

  • The White Horse, Main Road, Marchwood, Hampshire, SO4O 4US, 023 8066 3077.