THE Gaggle of Geese in Buckland Newton - made famous by its biannual goose auction - reopened on Thursday, July 31 to a full house.

The opening night was a runaway success with more than 500 people passing through the doors. Proprietors Mark and Emily Hammick, who own and run The European in Piddletrenthide, could not be more thrilled.

Emily says: "It was the most incredible party. Someone said that there was not anyone they knew who wasn't there. All of Buckland Newton came and they all walked through the door and said, 'Oh, this has changed!' We had an amazing evening."

Emily shows me photographs of how it was before and it is true that the pub has been transformed in the month since the couple bought it. The dark blue carpet has been replaced by one of creamy beige that lightens up the bar and dining room and is complemented by pale green and deep red walls. The dining room has been panelled, and fresh flowers and - as you might expect - pictures of geese adorn the place. The overall effect is bright and welcoming. To top it off, local artist Sarah Hough has designed a new sign and logo for the pub.

"It's back to its former glory," says Reg, the pub's main supplier from St Austell Brewery.

Mark explains: "The essence of it is that it looks like somebody's front room, which is how it was at the start of the public houses."

So successful was Mark and Emily's first venture at The European that locals started to come in and petition for them to buy The Gaggle of Geese when it was up for sale.

Emily says: "A whole lot of locals came in and said, 'Please buy our pub.' We said, 'We can't afford it.' And then we went to the bank manager and he said, 'Yes, you can.'"

She adds: "Everyone was so pleased that it did not get closed down."

The Gaggle dates back to the 1800s. Originally called the Royal Oak, three landlords ago, it changed its name in honour of the goose auction.

Joining the Hammicks in their new venture and at The European as head chef and business partner is Kevin Chandler, formerly Gordon Ramsay's 'number two', who brings with him chefs Neil Ingram and Lewis Knight. Kevin formerly worked at Ramsay's Maze, Petrus at The Berkeley and The Pear Tree Inn in Whitley, Wiltshire.

What is the food like? "He says it's going to be 'modern pub classics'," says Emily.

"Mark and I, when we started The European, saw too many wonderful local suppliers to go abroad or elsewhere.

"Our lamb comes from Mark's parents' farm - they farm at Wraxall near Cattistock - and the salad comes from there as well. The more local we have become, the more people want to get involved. People call up and say, 'I've got too many carrots - do you want some?' The other day a diver came in with 150 scallops, we put them straight on the menu and they were just an hour and a half old.

"We also get meat from Sydling Brook Organic and Genesis Farmers and Richard Peck - Pecker - shoots pigeons for us. We buy whole carcasses and butcher and hang them ourselves, so we use the whole pig or cow.

"For example, on our lunch menu on Saturday we had pork terrine and pork shoulder and in the evening we offered pork belly and pork loin."

Soon the couple will introduce their own livestock, including cows, chicken and geese, and they intend to cultivate a kitchen herb garden and nurture the current apple and pear orchard.

While the Hammicks have a lot of exciting new plans - outdoor seating, perhaps eventually accommodation - they are adamant that some things should remain.

Emily says: "We are carrying on the goose fair - September 14 is the next auction - and we will be trying to make it more exciting and more diverse.

"We will be trying to incorporate a beer festival to try and make more money for the charity, which is Julia's House this year. And we have the village fete coming up on Monday, August 25 and we are keeping the skittle alley."

While Mark grew up in Dorset, Emily was a land agent up until her transformation to a barmaid at The European. The pair met when Mark was running the Acorn in Evershot and Emily was down here on work experience.

"We thought we could do this ourselves," says Emily of running a pub, and they bought The European in January 2007. They opened that pub in April last year and by October, they had won the South West Dining Pub of the Year in the Taste of the West Awards. It would seem they have the Midas touch.

What is the secret of their success? "Passion, honesty and good food," divulges Mark. "It's about having fun."