Life Behind the Pumps

Life Behind the Pumps

Have you ever fancied becoming a publican? Step behind the bar of two Heavitree Brewery pubs to find out what it really takes to run your own pub.

Landlords Neil and Carly Parsons live and work with one of the best views in Devon. The husband and wife team run The Passage House Inn on the banks of the River Exe in Topsham. This scenic pub is a popular stop-off for walkers, kayakers and cyclists and is only a stone’s throw from the centre of Exeter.

Not that the Parsons get much time to sit back and soak up the views very often. Running a pub is a busy career choice, but there are lots of benefits.


Heavitree Brewery’s Passage House Inn, Ferry Road, Topsham.

A way of life

“We love running a pub but it is definitely full-on. The hours can be long and you’ve got to really commit to it, but if you do you can get so much out of it,” said Carly.

Neil and Carly rent the pub from Heavitree Brewery and run it as their own business. Although they have worked there for 10 years, they only began managing the pub a year ago. It’s going well and is popular with locals and tourists.

“Trip Advisor isn’t everything, but when you see great reviews it’s good to know your hard work and perseverance are paying off,” said Carly.“We’re so happy to be rated the top pub in Topsham.”


Karen and Guy Bayliss of the Heavitree Brewery’s Ley Arms, Kenn.

No day is the same

Just a few miles away, tenants Karen and Guy Bayliss run The Ley Arms in Kenn. Karen agrees that managing a pub isn’t just a job, it’s a lifestyle.

“Running a pub is a way of life. You’re living and breathing it all the time. My favourite part is meeting and speaking to new people. No day is the same,” she said.

The best house in the village

The Ley Arms is a beautiful thatched building dating back to the 12th century.

“When you run a pub you always get to live in the best house in the village! I love it here. When I got here, I felt like I’d come home.”


Heavitree Brewery’s Ley Arms, Kenn – Photo by Theo Moye

Help from Heavitree Brewery

Heavitree Brewery is one of the oldest pub companies in the South West and is still proudly independent and family owned. Started in Exeter in 1790, the company stopped brewing in the seventies. Today it continues to run an estate of over 60 tenanted and leased pubs in Devon.

No two pubs in the estate are the same, giving tenants the flexibility to operate their business in a way that works best for them and their customers.

“They’re there for us and we really feel that they want us to succeed,” said Carly.“We run the pub but we have a tenancy operations manager that we see every month and we bounce ideas off him and get advice. Heavitree Brewery also help us if there are any problems.”


Heavitree Brewery’s Ley Arms, Kenn.


Carly and Karen’s top tips for running a pub

  • Make sure you make time for yourself to recharge – you need to have at least one day away from the premises each week. A day off is really refreshing and makes you think differently.
  • You’ve got to be adaptable – you’re a social worker one day, an events co-ordinator the next and a cleaner the next!
  • Pick the right team. Having the right people working for you really does help – they make your business what it is. You need people who are welcoming and happy to be there – your team creates the atmosphere.
  • Living and working in the same building 24/7 can be all consuming so it is important to get away. Use holidays and days off to do something outside the pub.


Find Out More:

  • Heavitree Brewery offers a range of tenancy and lease agreements.
  • Current vacancies include The Oddfellows in Exmouth, The Clifton Inn in Newtown and The Half Moon Inn in Clyst St Mary.

Find out more at, call the team on 01392 217733 or email

Photos by Theo Moye

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