Country Matters by The Hodge April 18

A local pub, the Royal Oak, in its majesty.
Country Matters
By The Hodge

“Whoe’er has travell’d life’s dull round,
Where’er his stages may have been,
May sigh to think he still has found
The warmest welcome at an inn.”

William Shenstone 1714-1763 Written on a Window of an Inn

Last October my theme for this humble page was the sad gradual loss of that institution of the countryside and the village especially, the country pub. Statistics suggest that one hostelry a day disappears in Great Britain and someone with a cleverer mathematical mind than my own should be able to calculate on that basis when the very last one will close forever. I just hope that I am long gone before then.
But having listed some of the local inns that have gone, I am here today to report on encouraging and hopeful news – a few have bucked the trend and reopened and we in this locale I hope will do our duty and flock to their doors to give them our support.
Firstly, Kemble’s only pub, The Tavern, is now reopen and doing great food according to reports I hear. A community the size of Kemble deserves a hub where locals can gather to drink, socialise and eat and I very much hope that The Tavern will now have a long and successful future. Incidentally, as a promotion, they are currently offering a 50% discount on food orders on Mondays, an offer that’s hard to ignore.
Then in South Cerney where there are two such establishments, its oldest and third, The Royal Oak, has reopened after about six months when locals feared it would be gone forever. But instead of a new landlord parachuted in from some distant part by the brewery, a unique modern experience for this village is a co-operative arrangement whereby eight villagers have got together, pooled their talents and hard-earned cash as a collective. These enthusiastic locals have some experience both in the world of licensed premises and food sourcing and catering so it is not entirely a blind dream. Together they have stripped the interior of the pub and they reopened the bar a couple of weeks ago and the kitchen a week later. The extensive dining room is being refurbished next and will soon burst forth with a quality menu with both British favourites and an international influence to cater for almost all tastes. As might be expected when gardens on television get makeovers on a regular basis, there are plans to really make the outside area user friendly for both drinkers and diners in the summer months – in other words the complete package.
But being locals themselves, the new landlords and landladies are keen to maintain the village pub feel and the aged locals coming in for a pint and a packet of crisps will be made as welcome as the tourist parties attracted to the Cotswold Water Park and looking for the genuine experience of a Gloucestershire pie and pint. And talking of welcome, dogs have a space reserved in front of the log fire as long as they are accompanied by well-behaved humans.
Such co-operative ventures are to be welcomed and reflect successful initiatives in other parts of the country to keep alive village pubs and shops as the hub of the community. All we need now is news that the village Post Office will be taken over and re-opened there and the Royal Oak will indeed be the complete package. It is a brave move by these individuals and I very much hope they succeed and perhaps inspire others in the Cotswolds to get together and keep their village pub alive – and thriving!

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