Sunday 9 August 2015

The Ups and Downs of the Village Pub (Part 1)

No puncture issues this morning so I set off in bright sunshine with the prospect of a hot ride ahead. It was so nice that every time I got close to home I found a turning to take me a bit further away and ended up doing about 80 miles - I had originally planned to do around 50!

Returning to an earlier theme - the ups and downs of the village pub a few things struck me. When I was a teenager most rural village pubs had a limited offer - beer, wine, spirits. Some had good beer - real ale from the cask but Watney's Red Barrel (that dates me) and bottles of Double Diamond were the norm. A few pubs served bar snacks. And a very few had a small restaurant - usually in a room at the back. But the village pub was a cornerstone of the community where you could meet friends and catch up on the gossip. Most pubs were welcoming, even if you lived in a different village. And riding there on a bike, in the mistaken belief that you could legally drink more than when driving a car, offered lots of opportunities.

So, I've been musing on the place of the pub today. So many have closed - the Bull at Troston has now been shut and up for sale for a couple of years. Interestingly, the sign this morning in front of The Bull is advertising a 'pop-up' pub in the village hall. So the demand for a community facility is still there, but probably not at the level that the pub owners can make a living from? And I guess if it's owned by the brewery then they're thinking more in terms of shareholder returns than community support.

Other village pubs have changed their offer. The Elveden Inn is a good example. When I first went there in 1979 it was a small, dingy place catering mainly for the local village with some trade from the A11 which passed nearby. I remember it as a place that did a steady trade - good enough to make a living from but not much more. Which was fine - supply and demand in harmony. Now the Inn has re-invented itself, catering principally for a visiting trade - functions, out of town eating, breakfasts and accommodation. And it's thriving. I suppose it also helps that it's part of the Elveden Estate owned by Lord Iveagh (of the Guinness family).

So there we are - I'm going to have a ride around in the next couple of days to see if I can develop these musings on the role and place of the village pub a bit more.

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