NESTLED in the heart of a historic Hampshire town for centuries, The Bugle Inn may seem an unlikely music hub.

But those behind the bar at the Botley pub say it is becoming increasingly popular as a venue for both established and up and coming bands.

Now it is hoping to give budding stars a helping hand.

The pub, on the High Street, has been run by landlord Derek Woods for the last two and a half years helped by his partner Sabina Gasienica.

Derek had seven years’ experience running a pub from the past at the Barleycorn in Hedge End, but spent 17 years out of the trade working as a carpet fitter until he returned to it in 2012.

He happened to be having a drink at the pub when he spotted the ‘for sale’ sign and has never looked back.

“It’s pretty prime location so if you want a pub it’s ideal,” said the 65-year-old.

“It’s a very traditional pub.”

Built in 1650 it was sited at the first crossing point along the River Hamble.

And more recently Derek has no doubt that soldiers gathering for D-Day at a nearby camp would have spent time there, which is why he has kept the wooden flooring untouched.

The pub is clearly divided into drinking and eating areas, with the bar at the centre and Derek says inevitably the pub does look to the meals to provide more income.

He and Sabina, 35, have made many changes, using candlelight in the evenings, switching the menu from Lebanese to classic English pub food with fresh local produce, fresh flowers and a heated outdoor patio area, Derek says improvement work is an ongoing process.

But one new aspect that has taken off is the pub’s live band nights on Saturdays, mainly with bands that have links to the Hampshire area and happen to have drunk in the pub.

One of its most well-known acts is Coast, a celtic rock band that supports Bon Jovi, which kicked off their European tour from the Botley venue in June last year.

And on April 11 it will welcome Madison Heights, a nine-piece blues and Motown band.

Demand to perform is so high that now the pub takes demo tapes and vets acts.

It also serves up live jazz music with customers’ Sunday lunch.

And now it is looking into holding regular open mic nights for undiscovered talent.

Derek admits however that beyond Botley and Hedge End the pub’s musical reputation may be little known.

“It’s a hidden secret. It’s trying to put in on a secure footing before we throw it out to the world. It gets bigger and better all the time.

“You get a lot of people coming in for the bands and the bands say it’s nice for them because people have come in specifically to listen.

“One band two nights before they came here they played to 19,000 people.”

The approach appears to be working as although the pub trade has suffered in recent years with venues closing across the country, Derek says trade since he took over has increased year on year.

The pub’s cheapest wine is £5.30 for a 250ml glass and cheapest beer is £3.50 for a pint.

10 High Street, Botley, Southampton SO30 2EA. Tel: 01489 781509.