Published: 06:00, 22 June 2021
| Updated: 14:24, 22 June 2021
A village pub continues to be the beating heart of its local community even in the wake of a ferocious fire which tore through the historic venue.
Landlord Alex Brooks has been overwhelmed by the support they have received
But many of its timber frames were reduced to crumbling piles of ash following a blaze which broke out around 3.30am on Thursday morning last week.
In the aftermath of the fire owner Alex Brooks pledged to rebuild the boozer "as quick as possible".
"I want to get back in there and operate it as a pub," the 33-year-old said. "I don't know how long this is going to take.
"June and July is the busiest time to trade in the garden but I need to check with building control to see if it's safe."
Since then the community has rallied together to offer help where needed and a fundraiser was set up, amassing more than £6,000 to date.
The dad-of-two, who took over the historic country pub in 2017 with partner Steph described the support they had received as "incredible".
"We are really touched by the messages. We've had lots of support from the neighbours and lots of cups of tea," he said.
"I'm using the village hall as a base to work from so I'm close to the site."
The landlord plans to use some of the money raised to support his staff, some of which lost their tips in the blaze.
Alex also wants to put on an event for the firefighters as a way of saying thank you for their "heroic" efforts during the blaze which raged on into the early hours and saw five fire engines, a height vehicle and a bulk water carrier attend.
Fire crews had to pump water from nearby swimming pools to bring it under control.
Members of the public had speculated the pub was hit by lightning, amid last week's torrential downpours and thunderstorms.
The landlord has since checked over the internal CCTV footage from the night but the exact cause remains unclear.
"We can see a massive flash, then sparks and the sky changes colour," he said.
"But I don't think they (fire investigators) can say definitely it is lightning."
Kent Fire and Rescue Service said the cause has been recorded as indeterminate.
In the meantime the pub has been helping others, even in its own hour of need.
On Friday Alex, with the help of a local locksmith, managed to gain access to and empty their freezers before the stock perished.
Grateful recipients included Holywell Park retirement home at the end of the lane and a homeless charity in Meopham.
The landlord also filled up a car load of frozen chips and other items to transport to the Slade Green food bank in Erith.
Its social media page was awash with well-wishers and messages offering to support Alex, Steph and their crew "every step of the way".
Alex also held a meeting with Dartford MP Gareth Johnson who pledged to assist the couple however he could.
"It's just about keeping up the momentum and getting it rebuilt as quick as possible while looking after the staff," added Alex. "That's now my aim".