Anne Voss Bark owned and ran the Arundell Arms for nearly 50 years. She developed the hotel from its humble origins to a nationally known country sports hotel. During her time at the hotel she welcomed thousands of guests and ensured they had an enjoyable experience whislt staying with us.
She was also a passionate angler and was one of the founders of the Westcountry Rivers Trust.
Knowing nothing of either fishing or hotel keeping, Anne Voss Bark bought the Arundell Arms in 1961 with her first husband, Gerald Fox-Edwards. In those early days, she ran the hotel on a shoestring while also working as a marriage guidance counsellor. Gerald was a dedicated fisherman, and looked after that side of the business.
It was only after Gerald’s death in 1973 that Anne decided to take up a rod: “With the extra responsibility for the management of the fishery, I needed to know more,” she later recalled. “After a few casting lessons from our river keeper and instructor Roy Buckingham, the magical moment came when I took a fish on a dry fly. After that, work became an encumbrance — all I wanted to do was fish.”
One of her proudest moments was catching three salmon on the Lyd on a fly in one morning. But her particular delight was night fishing for sea trout: “There’s a magic about it. All is quiet, you cast, suddenly a fish comes up, takes your fly, and then all hell breaks loose.”
She was born Anne Bennett in London on October 7 1928, the daughter of a barrister, Sir Wilfrid Bennett, 2nd Bt, who in 1938 decided to rent an estate in Lincolnshire. Having employed a French governess to educate Anne and her brother, Ronnie, he joined his regiment to Palestine, and the family would not see him again until the end of the war. After the RAF had requisitioned the house in 1940 the children attended schools in London and Wimborne St Giles, Dorset.
Although offered a place at London University, Anne’s heart was in acting, and she was determined to prove herself on the stage. She trained with Nancy Price, whom she described as “an elderly actress of the 'emotive’ school”, and at 17 was taken on by the actor and impresario Donald Wolfit. Under his aegis she toured in Shakespeare in England and North America, but on her return to Britain struggled to get parts.
Her father died in 1952, leaving the family short of money, and Anne decided to seek more stable employment. She was taken on by the advertising agency Crawfords, where she became interested in commercial television, rose to become an account executive, and met Gerald Fox-Edwards.
Fox-Edwards, who had served with the Navy during the war, suffered from bronchitis and pneumonia, conditions aggravated by the smog with which London was in those days often enveloped. His doctor advised a move to the country, and the couple decided to buy the Arundell Arms.
Built in the early 1700s, it had been a fishing hotel since the 1920s, but when Gerald and Anne took over it boasted few comforts. Only one of the 17 rooms had a private bathroom, and smoke from the old coke boiler often made the dining room uninhabitable. Having begun the long process of improvement and redecoration, they were able to open for the 1961 season. They went on to introduce fly fishing courses, ultimately bringing thousands of people to the sport, many of them women. The hotel has since won many awards.
In 1975 she married Conrad Voss Bark, former parliamentary correspondent for BBC Television and the author of a number of notable books on fly fishing. Although he gave lectures on fishing at the Arundell Arms, it was Anne, with her charm, purposeful efficiency and impeccable manners, who remained the guiding spirit at the hotel.
Anne Voss Bark edited a collection of essays, West Country Fly Fishing. She was also a champion of river conservation, and, with friends including the Poet Laureate Ted Hughes, was a co-founder of the West Country Rivers Trust. The first such organisation to address the problem of farm fertilisers leaching into the soil in vulnerable river catchment areas, it became the model for similar bodies both in Britain and abroad.
She was vice-chairman of the Salmon & Trout Association, and in 2001 received a Lifetime Achievement Award for services to angling. In 1996 she was appointed MBE for services to tourism.
Conrad Voss Bark died in 2000. Anne continued to run the Arundell Arms until 2008, when she handed over to her son, Adam Fox-Edwards. Advised by her son to “slow down” when she was 75, she traded her Porsche 928 for a three-litre Jaguar.
She is survived by the son and daughter of her first marriage and by four stepchildren.
Anne Voss Bark, born October 7 1928, died November 18 2012
2017 DEVON FISHING BREAK
Two nights bed and breakfast and one days trout fishing on the rivers.
Single: £225 | Classic double: £330 | Large double £390
Subject to availability. Rates shown are per room. Valid 1st April - 14th October 2017. Not to be used in conjunction with any other offer.