Linda Hayes: well-known New Forest hotel proprietor who kept her piano skills sharp

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Former Busketts Lawn Hotel owner Linda Hayes

SCORES of well-wishers attended the funeral of Linda Hayes, the former proprietor of Busketts Lawn Hotel in Woodlands for 38 years, who recently died at the age of 91.

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Linda and her beloved husband Con, who died in 2000 aged 74, provided jobs for hundreds of local people over the decades that they managed the busy hotel in Woodlands Road, Woodlands, where they also lived and brought up their three sons.

Thousands of weddings, dinner parties and other functions were held at the venue, a former manor house which they bought in 1968 after moving from Totton.

They were particularly fondly regarded by several generations of local teenagers who cut their teeth in the working world with their first weekend jobs in the kitchen, cleaning rooms or as waitresses and bow-tied waiters.

Guests would return year after year to enjoy the couple’s characterful welcome and charmingly traditional approach to hospitality – at which they worked incredibly hard into their 70s and, in Linda’s case, into her 80s, with early mornings and late nights throughout the week.

At Christmas time the hotel would be packed for festive dinners and Linda herself, accomplished on the piano, would play carols to lead the singing after the puddings had been served.

Linda was born in Southampton on 7th November 1926 and, after the family home was bombed in World War 2, moved to Netley Marsh with her parents and younger brother, Hector.

She married Con on 1st August 1954, introduced by St Theresa’s Roman Catholic Church in Totton, and they spent the first 14 years of their married life in Stirling Crescent in the town.

She played the piano at the Happy Cheese in Ashurst during the 1960s when it had a reputation as exclusive restaurant attended by diplomats, film stars and other celebrities at the time.

She was active in numerous local groups, both when running the hotel and after retiring in 2007 when she moved back to her family home in Netley Marsh.

Busketts Lawn Hotel became Hotel TerraVina after being bought from the Hayes family in 2007 by world-renowned sommelier Gerrard Bassett and his wife, Nina, who ran the hotel for 10 years before changing it into the present Spot in the Woods café and B&B in early 2018.

Linda was intensely proud of her three sons: the eldest, Damian, worked with her and Con running the hotel and later went on to become an accomplished full-time musician playing drums for many local bands.

Adrian became a professional adventurer, speaker, coach and author after 10 years as a Gurkha officer, achieving two Guinness World Records for Polar Expeditions. Eugene travelled the world working as an airline captain.

After being diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease in 2015, Linda eventually moved to Cranleigh Paddock Care Home, Lyndhurst, in May 2017 and, in the final six weeks of her life, in Bickerley Green Nursing Home, Ringwood.

She died peacefully in her sleep on 19th August with her family by her side.

A devout Catholic, Linda’s life was celebrated at a packed funeral service on 4th September at St Theresa’s Church where she worshipped for many years.

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