|Two years ago The Saddle Inn was closed down, overgrown and looked every bit to have served its last pint like so many other rural pubs.|
Now it has been officially named the Best Family Pub in Britain, in the Great British Pub Awards.
A bigger turnaround you could not possibly hope to see.
Since reopening Graham and Angela Rowson have been steadily rebuilding their customer base, while renovating its extensive interior and grounds.
Now, the inside looks tidy and understated with a dining area and separate pool table section, with flat-screen televisions dotted around the pub.
Outside, the huge garden and lawn has been completely transformed, with a wide range of children’s activities and facilities.
During countless afternoons spent in pub beer gardens as a child, while my parents snook a cheeky pint or two, the best I could have hoped for was a rusty climbing frame or swing.
But at The Saddle they have decked out the large lawn out with a range of play equipment, mini football pitches and a mini golf green.
He also has pens for various cuddly-looking creatures and a beginners petanque/bowling green.
It is the first pub I have seen with a separate building providing baby changing facilities as well as quirky ‘parking spaces’ for horses.
There is an extensive car park at the front of the pub which enables Graham to host a range of events such as car club meets.
When I stopped in, a motorhome was parked and hooked up to the pub’s electricity supply, while the campers enjoyed a few pints of real ale and some dinner inside.
If I go away on holiday, it is invariably under the cover of canvas, and I have found myself quietly sneering at the mobile retirement homes.
But, with plenty of real ale, a night in the pub and a bed right outside the front door, it all began to make sense.
A nice pint of guest ale has to be raised to Graham and Angela for saving a pub from becoming a soleless housing estate, and turning it into a national champion.