Rishi Sunak praises Hunton villagers for coming together to take on pub

Rishi Sunak visiting the Countryman’s Inn at Hunton. Photo: Andrew Parsons CCHQ/Parsons Media.

A community which came together to protect its pub has been praised by Rishi Sunak.

Villagers in Hunton, near Bedale, formed a community pub society as the first step in purchasing the Countryman’s Inn.

Last year they completed the purchase with the help of a £230,000 grant from the Government’s Community Ownership Fund (COF).

Their application to the fund was supported by Mr Sunak in his role as local MP.

After visiting the pub and speaking to members of the Countryman’s Community Group, he said: “I am delighted the group’s bid was successful. It has match-funded the cash they had already raised in the community to secure the pub’s future as the hub of the village.

“It was great to talk to the villagers who are clearly very proud to have a stake in what they consider to now be their pub. All credit to the steering group who saw the opportunity provided by the Community Ownership Fund and have used it to protect a vital community asset for Hunton.”

During his visit, the Richmond MP was shown work being carried out on the kitchen. At present the pub is only serving drinks but hopes to offer food from early April.

Chris Heap, vice-chair of the Countryman’s Community Pub Society steering group, said the pub had closed during the Covid-19 pandemic and there was a real risk it would not reopen again.

“Four villagers got together in a back garden, two metres apart because of the social distancing that was then required, and discussed what we might do to save the pub,” said Mr Heap. “Someone mentioned the Community Ownership Fund and that’s what started it.

“Without the CoF monies, it would have been very, very difficult for our group to purchase and refurbish the Countryman’s and Rishi’s support for our application to the fund was very much appreciated.”

He said that trade at the pub was good, even with just wet sales, adding: “People are using the pub because for many of them they have a real stake in it and want it to succeed. It is making a real difference to our community.”

2 Comments

  1. Well done! About 20 years ago there was an attempt to turn it into a community pub but there was no grant in those days and not enough money was pledged by locals so it failed. Although I no longer live nearby I hope it’s a great success.

  2. Back in the day when I was a young lad we would always go to the countryman’s as a family for a meal after we’d finished getting the hay in and the food was always fantastic and it always had a great atmosphere. Good luck to all involved who are bringing this great pub back to life.

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