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Anne Voss Bark

Anne Voss Bark


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. 

Here are some of the obituaries that were published in the national and angling press. 

 

 

 

Anne Voss Bark

Anne Voss Bark, who has died aged 84, began her career as an actress but made her name as the proprietor of one of Britain’s best-known fishing hotels, the Arundell Arms in Devon.

Anne Voss Bark
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Anne Voss Bark fishing in Devon 
 
 
 
 

Situated in the village of Lifton, near the border with Cornwall, the Arundell Arms has 20 miles of water on the river Tamar and its tributaries, and employs two fishing instructors for those who wish to learn or perfect the art. It is considered by many to be the “home” of fly fishing in the West Country.

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

THE TIMES 

Anne Voss Bark

Voss Bark: when she discovered the joys of fishing, she said, she suddenly began to find hotel work boring and just wanted to be out on the River Tamar
 
  • Voss Bark: when she discovered the joys of fishing, she said, she suddenly began to find hotel work boring and just wanted to be out on the River Tamar
    Voss Bark: when she discovered the joys of fishing, she said, she suddenly began to find hotel work boring and just wanted to be out on the River Tamar 
 
 

Hotelier who turned a run-down Devon establishment into one of Britain’s leading venues for fishermen

For nearly 50 years, Anne Voss Bark owned and ran — in a very hands-on way — an 18th-century coaching inn; the Arundell Arms at Lifton in Devon. She turned it from a run-down place, with only one bathroom for 17 rooms and a coke boiler that regularly smoked out the dining room, into an international mecca for fly fishermen and an award-winning country hotel.

 Anne Voss Bark   1928- 2012  :  An Appreciation by Michael McCarthy for the International Fario Club

The old saying that there’s more to fishing than catching fish was perhaps as well exemplified as ever by the case of Anne Voss Bark, the châtelaine of the Arundell Arms in Devon.  Anne’s obituaries have rightly stressed her many qualities: her indefatigable building of a wonderful hotel, her own passion for angling, her unceasing work in defence of West Country rivers, and the warmth that accompanied her perfect, pre-War manners – but somehow none seems to me to have quite captured what it was that made her exceptional.

For it wasn’t her obvious offerings, elevated though they were, the comfort she provided, her marvellous food, her twenty miles of Tamar tributaries, even the friendship she so readily gave to those who came within her orbit, and I say that as someone who knew her well for thirty years and counted her as a friend for most of that time. 

Rather, it was somehow the way in which she exemplified what it was all worth – I mean, what the experience she provided was worth.

At the heart of it of course was fishing, fishing these exquisite, granite spate rivers running off Dartmoor down through their hidden green combes. Every day you fished the Arundell Arms waters, the river was yours entirely, with everything that came with it: the explosion of wild flowers in April and May, the kingfishers, grey wagtails and dippers in the stream, the buzzards mewing in the sky, the otters that you knew were there, somewhere, and the shadowy, silvery shapes beneath the surface, the brown trout, the salmon, and the peal, to give the sea trout, the Arundell Arms’ special fish, its West Country name.

Fishing these wonderful watercourses was exciting and pleasurable, yet there was something deeper: it was a particularly intense way of experiencing nature. To be there in the wild river, hunting, with everything hunting around you, the birds, the mammals, the fish, the insects, was to be truly at one with the natural world, it was to live, if only briefly, at a higher level, and Anne instinctively understood that. For what she offered above all, beyond hospitality, beyond friendship, was a presiding intelligence; and this was an intelligence which saw, and which made you realise, that to come to her world, and take what it had to offer, was not just enjoyable; it was civilising.

I spent many hours on the Lyd, and the Thrushel, and the Carey, and one might think that nothing could have added to their perfection, but if I look back I know that in my time, something did, and I give thanks for it; it was the presence of the presiding spirit of these waters, poised and benign, the goddess of the springs, as the Romans would have said, Anne Voss Bark.

 

 

 

Anne Voss Bark’s contribution to the world of game fishing may have gone largely unseen by many anglers, but was in fact of great significance. As the proprietor of the Arundell Arms Hotel at Lifton in west Devon for almost forty years, Anne had an obvious vested interest in the well-being of the fish and the rivers in which they swam, but her influence stretched way beyond the Tamar system. In the early 1990’s she was one of the founding members of the new Westcountry Rivers Trust, a pioneering step in fisheries conservation whose model has now been rolled out not just nationwide, but literally, worldwide.

I first knew her as Anne Fox-Edwards when, in the late 1960’s, she presented an image of charm, efficiency and impeccable manners as the owner of the Arundell Arms. Her first husband, Gerald Fox-Edwards, was at that time in poor health, and the day-to-day running of the hotel was overseen by Anne. Gerald died in 1973, and subsequently Anne’s marriage to Conrad Voss Bark saw her interest in fishing flourish, taking them to fish in the far north of Scotland, British Columbia and many other places. Anne was the first woman to give a presentation to the Flyfishers’ Club of New York, just a small part of her role as an international ambassador for fishing.

At a local level Anne was on many committees within the various structures of River Authorities, Water Authorities, etc., and for many years was chairman of the Tamar and Tributaries Fisheries Association. She was hugely involved during the planning of Roadford Reservoir, and on all such matters brought to bear her formidable intelligence. She made a point of understanding all the issues, and if she did not have all the facts at her disposal, she would make sure that she sought advice from those who did. This complete grasp of the situation was a hallmark of her character, and woe betide any officer who could not explain or justify the matter under discussion.

However, despite this formidable portrait, I knew Anne as a fair and kind employer, possessed of an old-world charm and manners sadly rare today. She was hugely passionate about the wild fish in our rivers, and absolutely loved all aspects of fly fishing. No guests at the hotel could fail to notice these things, and it is this love of the wild fish and her work for them, and her great charm, for which she will be remembered. She was once described in a magazine article as ’svelte and dynamic’ – she liked that.

David Pilkington 

 

 

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