Welcome to South Oxfordshire CAMRA.
Woodcote Beer Festival
The 'Festival of Ale' is held annually during the Woodcote Rally and is run and managed by South Oxfordshire CAMRA in conjunction with the Rally Organisers.
This year the event takes place on the 12th and 13th of July in the village of Woodcote about 8 miles north-west of Reading on the A4074 Reading to Oxford road.
Full details of the Rally can be found at www.woodcoterally.org.uk - Beer list and Tasting Notes.
Pub of the Year
South Oxfordshire CAMRA (SOX) presents five awards each year to pubs in our area. One is the Pub of the Year, which is the first stage of a selection process that culminates with the national award. This year we are pleased to announce the Bird in Hand Henley is Pub of the Year 2014 - congratulations again to Graham and Celia for attaining award.
(Incidentally, this year's top UK pub is the Swan with Two Necks in Pendleton, Lancashire.) The other four are seasonal awards that we present to recognise pubs that are making a real effort to provide the people of South Oxfordshire with great places to drink.
Pub of the Season
So last autumn we were pleased to make the Plough, Long Wittenham, Autumn Pub of the Season. The Plough is a lovely village pub with a spectacular long garden that backs onto with the Thames. Liam Carberry and his partner Kim took over the Plough last year and are really putting their personal stamp on it. Butcombe Bitter is the regular beer, plus two guest ales. And there's good eating to be had in the restaurant too.
Then we made the Town Arms, Wallingford, the Winter Pub of the Season. The Town Arms had fallen on hard times and was a possible candidate for closure. Luckily however, Paul Davies took it on and has turned it into a real success story. It's now a great town pub with two regular ales (West Berks Good Old Boy, and Loose Cannon Abingdon Bridge) plus three guests. The picture shows Paul with then SOX Branch Chairman Richard Starkey.
We recently made the Plum Pudding, Milton, the 2014 Spring Pub of the Season. Jez and Mandy Hill bought this pub from Greene King last year (it was previously the Admiral Benbow) and have already placed their stamp on it by serving four quality ales supported by a selection of good pub food. Some readers may remember Jez and Mandy from the days when they ran the Cherry Tree in Steventon. They went on to run another Good Beer Guide pub: the Blue Boar in Aldbourn, Wiltshire. Their successful model is now being applied to the Plum Pudding: they have already held their beer festival of the year, which is where the award was made.
Regional Club of the Year
SOX is one of the branches that form the Central Southern region of CAMRA. The regional organisation makes an annual Club of the Year award. This is open to members' clubs that allow entry on production of a CAMRA membership card or to anyone carrying a copy of the Good Beer Guide. We are pleased and proud to be able to say that Goring Social Club won this in 2013, having previously won it in 2011. It's a great achievement to be able to maintain such a high standard over a number of years. The picture shows Club steward David Dean receiving the award from CAMRA Regional Director Sandie Gill.
Rose and Crown, Henley. Brakspear closed this pub last August and sought planning permission from South Oxfordshire District Council to turn it into a six-bedroom house. To its credit, SODC voted unanimously to turn the application down. Brakspear has said it will appeal against the decision.
White Lion, Crays Pond. Well done, again, to SODC – the planning application to convert the White Lion to a house has also been turned down. The local residents have been fighting this very hard and have had their efforts rewarded. The fight isn't over yet – an appeal remains very much on the cards.
Queens Arms, Goring. Tesco intends to covert this pub into a convenience store, and it remains closed. Planning permission is not necessary for this, but is required for alterations to the frontage and signage. An application is currently being assessed.
Bottle and Glass, Binfield Heath. This closed in July 2013. Campaigners registered the Grade II-listed pub as an Asset of Community Value with SODC at the end of last year. Campaigner Max Tilney is running a community group which hopes to bid for the freehold. If successful, the most likely approach will be to incorporate the group as an industrial provident society for community benefit and acquire the freehold through share sales, donations, grants and loans.
Greyhound, Whitchurch. Punch Taverns has closed this pub and put it on the market at £475k.
Update 6/7/2014 - Good news! Now re-opened by an experienced publican under a long lease. Please visit and send us a report.
Four Horseshoes, Checkendon. This closed in October 2013 after going through a number of tenants in recent years. The owner, Brakspear, says it is looking at a number of options including a shop/post office and inevitably, homes.
Publicans seem to move on more frequently than they used to, so it's a great pleasure to be able to report that Graham and Celia have notched up an impressive 20 years at the Bird in Hand, Henley. The Bird, of course, is a Good Beer Guide regular and a previous Branch Pub of the Year. To mark this milestone the SOX Branch presented Graham and Celia with a special achievement certificate.
Having spent the last few months under water, it's not easy to look back to last summer and remember that was actually a pretty good one. The Woodcote Rally had been rained-off in 2012. But in 2013 the weather gods compensated by giving us fantastic week-end and the SOX beer tent was a particularly popular place to be – note the clear blue sky and scorched grass in the picture! We almost ran out of beer by Saturday evening and our friends at West Berkshire Brewery had to deliver some emergency supplies on Sunday morning. Later in the year we presented the Woodcote Committee with a large cheque as our contribution towards their charity donations.
The Pack Saddle, Mapledurham, re-opened in December 2013 following a long closure for repair and refurbishment after the serious fire the previous February. Wadworth Brewery has relinquished the tenancy on this Mapledurham Estate-owned pub and it is now being run by local businessman Sean Valentine as a freehouse. There has also been a slight change to the name – it's now the Pack Saddle at Mapledurham. The pub retains its inviting and welcoming environment and the layout is essentially the same as previously, with the upper bar area serving four real ales including two locally-brewed Loddon ales; Sharps Doombar and Fullers London Pride are the other current offerings. A range of events are planned throughout the year for the large outdoor paddock area, including a beer and food festival.
The Admiral Benbow in Milton has been sold by Greene King. Happily, instead of immediately trying to turn it into a house or a mini-supermarket, the new owners have renamed it the Plum Pudding and are running it as a free-house. Even more happily the owners, Jez and Mandy, have a first-class track record in running Good Beer Guide pubs having previously had the Cherry Tree in Steventon and the Blue Boar in Aldbourne Wiltshire. The Plum Pudding's first beer festival will be on 4th and 5th April: at least 16 ales plus a range of ciders.
Good news too at the Sun, Hill Bottom near Whitchurch. The pub has been bought by local builder Richard Hazell who is running it as a free-house.
On the down-side, along with many other parts of the country we continue to experience pub closures. In our area these tend to be in villages – town pubs (mostly) seem to be able to keep going. In the last six months:
- The White Lion, Crays Pond, was closed by Greene King in August and sold. The new owner has submitted a planning application to turn it into a house and has already removed the kitchen and other interior fittings. The residents are fighting this vigorously, and at the time of writing are awaiting a decision from SODC.
- The Bottle and Glass, Binfield Heath, closed in July and has been put on the market by Brakspear for £475k. Max Tilney, who used to drink there, is trying to get enough financial backing from villagers to buy it for the community and manage it himself. The pub has been registered as an Asset of Community Value, and the villagers have until June to raise the cash.
- It could be the end of the line for the Sprat, Didcot. At the time of writing it's still open, but planning permission is being sought to demolish it and build seven houses.
- Pubs that are closed at present and being advertised for sale include: the Barley Mow, Blewbury, and the Crown, Nuffield. Hopefully we'll be able to report their reopening at some point. The Dog and Duck, Highmoor, has been closed and for sale for well over a year now and looks like a lost cause.
- The Queens Arms, Goring, is closed and Greene King has sold it. Tesco has been given an option to lease it and plans to convert it to a convenience store. This has attracted plenty of opposition in the town. A lot of pubs have been lost by this route because it doesn't require planning permission for change of use.