VILLAGERS in Little Horwood are breathing a sigh of relief as their only village pub is safe at last.
The sale of the freehold of The Shoulder Of Mutton completed last Friday and the pub is now a free house owned by Premier Pubs And Inns.
Run by father-and-son team Andy and Matt Dickins, Premier has been operating the pub on a temporary lease since last September, when the previous owners, Oxford Hotels And Inns, had put the Grade-II-listed pub up for sale for an asking price of £400,000.
In December, concerned villagers set up the Shoulder Of Mutton Villagers Group to look into the possibility of taking on the pub themselves.
They were supported by Little Horwood Parish Council and the Little Horwood Trust, which underwrote the cost of a structural survey.
Ironically, under the care of temporary manager Annette Buckler, the pub had never been so busy.
And the good news is, Miss Buckler is to continue as landlady and head chef under the new owners, assisted by her mum and dad, Sue and Ron.
She said: “It’s absolutely fantastic. It’s the best thing that could have happened to all of us. It’s been nine months of very hard graft and it’s been very much worth it.
“I’d got quite attached to the place and didn’t want to see it fall into the hands of anyone who wasn’t going to do right by the village.”
Now the pub has been saved, the villagers’ group has issued a challenge to local people.
Chairman Frank Donlon said: “The success of the pub as a village amenity will depend significantly on the support of village residents.
“The last nine months should be regarded as a wake-up call for all of us – use it or lose it!
“Annette, Ron and Sue are offering excellent food, drink and entertainment in a quintessentially traditional English pub in the heart of our village.
“If they and we together cannot make a success of it, then we will undoubtedly have to face up to the fact that a village pub in Little Horwood is no longer a viable proposition.”
Call 01296 713703 or visit www.theshoulderofmutton.org.uk