Journal 2010 03 04

Humshaugh villagers save The Crown Inn pub from closure

Mar 4 2010 by David Black, The Journal

 Residents of the village of Humshaugh get together to run the local shop and pub The Crown Inn after they were threatened with colsure. Pictured Steve Robins 56. and temporary Landlady Jayne Walsham 47.

BATTLING villagers who raised £36,000 to safeguard the future of their local shop have now stepped in to make sure the ale continues flowing in their only pub.

 Drinkers in Humshaugh, Northumberland faced the possibility of not being able to pop into the local for their favourite pint for months, when last orders were called at the Crown Inn on Sunday night.

 The pub – described as the heart of the picturesque village – was closed down after its tenants moved on to pastures new and owner Punch Taverns was left still trying to find a new buyer.

 Now it is open again after just two ‘dry’ evenings, thanks to another rescue effort by determined villagers fighting the loss of vital rural services.

 Local company Humshaugh Community Ventures (HCV) – which was set up last year to save the village’s only shop from the threat of closure – has signed a temporary lease with Punch Taverns to run the Crown.

 The pub will be open to thirsty customers each evening and all day on Saturdays and Sundays.

The temporary takeover means a nostalgic return as landlady for villager Jayne Walsham, 47, who was tenant at the Crown with her husband Don from 1992 to 1998. Yesterday Jayne, who has a 13-year-old daughter Jodi, said: “It is quite exciting and the adrenaline is going again. When we came out of the pub last time Jodi was a young baby and it was quite a relief, because it was very hard work. I have recently been made redundant, so the timing is right for me to go back and run it for HCV.

“Running a pub is a way of life and you have got to want to do it. It is not nice to have the only pub closed down in a place like Humshaugh. It is the heart of the village and you can’t keep the pub shut in a village like this, which has a brilliant community spirit.”

Local people raised £36,000 last year to buy Humshaugh’s threatened village store, which is now being run by a 40-strong group of volunteers on behalf of HCV.

Yesterday parish councillor Dick Moules, who chairs the shop committee, said: “The last thing we want is for our village pub to be mothballed between now and the start of the tourist season. The Crown has an excellent reputation and we want to keep it alive until the new owners, whoever they might be, can take over.

“We will be running the pub for at least six to eight weeks, but it could be indefinitely if no one comes forward to buy it. We are just filling the gap at present. We already have the shop and I’m sure we’ll get an awful lot more volunteers to help out in the pub. We are a not-for-profit organisation so we can use any money we do make in the shop to fund other projects in the village.”

A spokeswoman for Punch Taverns said: “Our priority, and that of the local community, was to make sure the Crown Inn remained open until we find a buyer. We are talking to a couple of prospective purchasers but, in the meantime, we have signed a Tenancy at Will – a short-term agreement – with the local community group. It is good news for the village.’’

Hope of restoring post office at store quashed

HOPES of restoring a post office counter service to Humshaugh’s community-run village store have been dashed.

The local post office was axed just over a year ago as part of nationwide branch closures, and replaced by a mobile service which visits the village on weekdays.

Recently volunteers at HCV approached Post Office Ltd with a view restoring the counter in the shop under a ‘partner service’, which would allow much longer opening hours than the visiting van.

They argued the need was greater since their next nearest post office, at Simonburn, has been ‘temporarily’ closed since July 2008.

However, Post Office Ltd has refused to change the present Humshaugh service, although it says it might add Simonburn and Mickley Square to the mobile route.

HCV director Steve Robins said: “We are extremely disappointed that, once again, Post Office Ltd has rejected our well-argued case. The village shop is about to be re-fitted and we could easily have accommodated a small post office counter.”

Shop heads in right direction

SALES and profits at Humshaugh’s village store are ahead of target, four months after it started a new lease of life as a community-run venture.

The shop will close down for about a week in the near future to allow a £10,000 re-fit to be carried out, including converting the old two-counter layout into more of a self-service store.

The work is being funded from part of the £36,000 which was raised by the local community to purchase, stock and re-fit the shop, which is open seven days a week and manned by volunteers.

Shop committee chairman, Dick Moules, said: “Things have gone incredibly well, sales and profits are ahead of budget and there is just a tremendous atmosphere in the shop. Customers are very tolerant of our ineptitude with the till and people find it a great place to meet and talk.

“When the store closes for a few days for the re-fit we will probably just sell newspapers, bread and milk from the pub.”