A landlady who is leaving her pub after more than two decades years has paid tribute to her punters, saying they helped her through the toughest times of her life.
The mum-of-two wants to spend more time with her new husband Trevor, who she married in August, but will sorely miss her regulars who supported her through the death of her sister and best friend Sandy in 2010, and her son Connor’s cancer in 2017.
Mrs Frith said: “I got divorced, I lost my sister to suicide, my son has had cancer – we’ve faced things that you don’t expect to hit your life and you have to face it in front of everybody. You’re sort of on the stage.
“My customers have been amazing over the years and have supported me through everything I’ve been through and hopefully, I’ve supported them back. I just think I am really, really blessed.”
Connor, 24, had sarcoma and was close to having his foot amputated, but has since got the all clear.
The landlady, who became a grandmother for the first time last year, says stepping away from the Shepherd Neame pub was a hard decision, but she is happy with it.
However, Mrs Frith won’t stop working entirely. She is helping her daughter Aimee, 23, who is taking on her first pub – the Fat Ox in St Michaels, near Tenterden.
She said: “I felt like I wanted to retire so I could spend more time with Trevor. I’m always on the go doing something and this opportunity came up for my daughter. It’s only a seven-minute drive from where we live so I can help her out and I have something else to look forward to without being fully hands-on.
“She’s going to be a 23-year-old landlady which is amazing and I will be by her side working for her, so I’ll be semi-retired.”
Looking back on her two decades at The Walnut Tree, Mrs Frith recalled the kindness of comedian Paul O’Grady, who lived in the village, and died in March, aged 67.
She said: “When Covid struck, he phoned me up and offered us financial help which made me cry. He went to me: ‘Stop crying you silly cow, don’t cry, don’t cry’.
“He also mentioned us on a Pride of Britain Awards podcast because we were feeding vulnerable people during lockdown. Some people were getting sponsored and others we fed for nothing – we just wanted to help.”
Mrs Frith says her job has been a privilege and has enabled her to raise funds for charity.
She said: “I wing walked and skydived for charity. I took part in the village soapbox derby twice.
“I met my now husband here. That’s a highlight because he has changed my life completely.
“When I first came here it was going to be for three years or six years and then you have life-changing moments which have made me grow as a person.
“It’s not just a job, it’s a way of life and a privilege to have been here.”
Mrs Frith is expecting to leave The Walnut Tree, in Forge Hill, at the end of November.