A Michelin-recognised Upton pub has criticised “mindless” thieves who stole a heater from their bespoke customer pods.

The Crown Inn in Upton, like pubs across the country, has been forced to close for much of the last year. During this time, they’ve made a “huge investment” in carrying out work on the pub, including constructing wooden pods for customers to eat and drink outside which contain imported outdoor heaters.

However, before it could be fitted, one of the heaters was stolen from the pub’s garden.

Sharon, the pub’s marketing manager, said: “We’re gutted, we’re absolutely gutted.”

“It just seems so mindless, you’re sat here and you want to cry.”

The Crown Inn in Upton was taken over by Dave Watts and a new team in 2019, and Sharon says the pub “was just up and starting to establish itself when it was hit with the first lockdown.”

“We thought that would be a disaster,” she said, “but the community pulled massively around us. I can’t say we’ve enjoyed it but its been a great way to grow the community with the pub so it’s been lovely in that respect.”

The pub has gone from strength to strength over the past year, including acquiring a Mitchelin Plate, which recognises venues that “simply serve good food.” In particular, Mitchelin said the Crown provides “eye-catching dishes packed with colour and contrasting textures and tastes”.

Between lockdowns last year, the pub also organised a birthday meal, with 60 guests in attendance raising money for local charities.

“We just had the most amazing sense of community attached to the pub,” said Sharon. “People have really pulled together for us as a pub and as a community.”

She said the last lockdown has been “much quieter”, so the pub took the opportunity to carry out work to “refresh” the pub. Chief among this has been constructing the wooden bespoke pods in the pub garden, which have been under construction since November last year.

“They have been hand built with an awful lot of care,” said Sharon. “We sourced fireplaces which were shipped from the Netherlands so we’ve got something a bit special.

“We’ve only got two of them ready at the moment but we need to recoup some income before we can go ahead and build the next ones. There’s been a lot of prep. We’ve got electricity running out there, it’s not easy, it’s not just a case of putting something up in the garden. We’ve tried to do it properly with some long-term gain in mind, and so something different to everyone else.”

With the pub preparing to reopen on April 23, the finishing touches were being put to the pods before the pub suffered a major blow when thieves struck the pub.

“Our pods are outside and we’ve had one of the fires fitted,” said Sharon. “Fortunately that one is still in there. But we had another sat outside, and we had it out there since December, and when we came in to do renovations somebody said there wasn’t a fire there.

“We think it must have gone missing Monday evening but we can’t be certain. I’m guessing somebody has just driven by and thought it would be something nice to have!”

The thieves managed to avoid being caught on CCTV, with the pub appealing for help in finding the heater. Sharon said that they will now be “more wary” in the future after the incident.

“Unfortunately we’re a country pub,” said Sharon, “it’s probably not difficult to do what they’ve done.

“We feel like we’re living in a very safe community and that we can leave things out. Normally around here you can go out and leave the doors open.”

She said the theft had put a dark cloud over the reopening, and all the effort they’ve put into it.

“It taints everything,” Sharon said. “It taints the way you feel about things, and it makes you feel a bit sick. You’re trying really hard and feeling like you’ll be able to come out of the woods and looking forward to opening and then this happens.”

However, the Crown is undeterred in its reopening plans.

“We’re going to dig deep and find a way through it,” she said. “We’re just after any support or help.

“I suspect it’s gone and planted in somebody’s garden somewhere but if we can do nothing else but stop it happening to somebody else that would be great.”

Police have appealed for more information over the theft, with a spokesperson telling the Advertiser: “It was reported to us at 11.28am on Wednesday April 14 that a wood burner had been stolen from the garden of the Crown Inn, Upton.

“Officers have looked into all lines of enquiry available to them and the matter has currently been filed pending further information.

“If anyone has any information relating to this incident we would ask them to call 101 quoting reference 44210140431.”

For now, if you would like to support The Crown Inn, you can visit their website at: https://www.crownupton.co.uk/