Pub rescued from closure named as best in the country

A pub rescued from closure to become a “fantastic” village local has been named pub of the year.

The Wonston Arms in Wonston, Hampshire, was derelict and empty four years ago before being bought by Matt Todd, who has turned it into a thriving local.

Wonston Arms
The redevelopment begins (Wonston Arms/PA)

The Campaign for Real Ale (Camra) praised the wide range of cask ales and gin on offer, as well as social events including music, quizzes, food nights and a photography club.

The pub has also raised more than £25,000 for charity.

Mr Todd said: “I’m overwhelmed that our little pub – which had been handed a death sentence four years ago – has now been named the very best in the country.

“I have strived to recreate the kind of pub I went to in the 1970s with my dad when I was a young boy in the north of England. The support from the local community and beyond has been overwhelming, helping to propel us forward despite these testing times.

“Ultimately I’d like to see our pub play a vital role in supporting and employing local residents and recirculating the local pounds that are spent in our pub.

“To do this, we need to ensure our continued survival with the likes of small business rate relief, which has been absolutely vital to getting us through our fledgling years, helping us to realise our potential.”

Wonston Arms
Camra praised the range of beers on offer (Wonston Arms/PA)

Ben Wilkinson, National Pub of the Year Coordinator, said: “Matt and his team have created a fantastic rural village pub with a great atmosphere by shaping it around the community and its needs.

“They have realised that it takes something special to create a sense of real belonging so that people want to come out of their homes and back in the pub.

“Pubs like the Wonston Arms highlight what communities stand to lose if their local pub closes – something being experienced in all too many places.

“These types of pubs are more than just businesses, they are the heart of our local communities and part of what makes the UK the country it is.”

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