A FAMILY is leaving a Hartley Wintney pub after achieving great success in little more than a year in charge.

Mark and Penny Thornhill will say farewell to The Cricketers, in The Green, at the end of this month to take over The Rockingham Arms in West Wellow, in the New Forest.

They will be moving on with their daughter Amelia, who works at The Plough at Longparish, and their other daughter, 12-year-old Poppy.

Mr Thornhill, a former policeman with the now defunct Royal Parks Constabulary, said his new venture, owned by Upham Brewery, has the potential to be transformed into a boutique hotel.

He said: “It is a brilliant new opportunity, and it’s a chance to do a ground-up refurbishment of a pub that’s been closed for a while.

“Hartley Wintney has been fantastic for us, but we just feel the time is right to move.”

The family took over the pub in February last year, and quickly collected a stack of awards.

The pub was included in The Michelin Guide 2014 after just six months, and received a rare three-star rating from the Sustainable Restaurant Association.

The pub even had a famous visitor, in Johnny Depp. The Hollywood actor visited in May last year, and called the pub “wonderful” when asked about it by Gazette leisure editor Joanne Mace at a press conference for his The Lone Ranger movie.

Speaking about the pub, Mr Thornhill, 47, said: “I have worked in the industry for years and without a shadow of a doubt these are the best customers I’ve had.

“My wife was born in Hartley Wintney and it was great to be back.”

The owners of The Cricketers, The New Pub Company, did not return calls by The Gazette about the future management of the pub.