Glan Llyn in Clawddnewydd - the champion of the Pub is the Hub scheme

Community supporters; (Back row) Glenys Matischok, Eryl Williams (Chairman), Eleri Jones, Tommy Grif

Community supporters; (Back row) Glenys Matischok, Eryl Williams (Chairman), Eleri Jones, Tommy Griffiths (Middle row) Sharon Williams (Secretary), Jason Roberts, Rowan Gibson, Gary Cotler, Gwyn Atkinson, Phil Millington (Front row) Jan Roberts, Ellie Roberts and Brenda Brown - Credit: Archant

Meet the locals whose pub is not just a great place to have a drink. Their community spirit kept it going and the hostelry is truly a local enterprise, writes Ray King

Sharon Williams (Secretary), Eryl Williams (Chairman) and Helen Roberts, Community Development Offic

Sharon Williams (Secretary), Eryl Williams (Chairman) and Helen Roberts, Community Development Officer at Cadwyn Clwyd - Credit: Archant

It must have been the most talked-about cherry brandy in history. And 52 years after Prince Charles ordered it as a 14-year-old in the bar of the Crown Hotel on the Isle of Lewis - sparking a media frenzy - the ripple effect is still being felt.

For the incident marked the beginning of the Prince of Wales’ interest in traditional British pubs and their potential to play a crucial community role, especially in rural areas. In 2001 this interest crystallised into his Pub is the Hub scheme which has transformed the prospects of many struggling country pubs..and the communities they have served for centuries.

Only two years ago the 16th century Glan Llyn, the village inn in Clawddnewydd, near Ruthin, fell into receivership and to the dismay of local people, faced closure. The ‘Glanny’, as regulars call it, is now the Campaign for Real Ale’s Vale of Clwyd Community Pub of the year and a thriving concern turning in healthy profits from serving 400 people in three nearby villages.

A key role in the rescue was played by Clawddnewydd villager Eryl Williams who just happens to be deputy leader of Denbighshire County Council and lead member for Education.

Target board

Target board - Credit: Archant

Born and bred in the village, his efforts earned him a nomination from locals for a Pride of Britain Local Hero award and an appearance on ITV’s Good Morning Britain. Councillor Williams called together people from community groups and with their support, launched a fund-raising drive which hit the £90,000 target in just nine weeks. That sum, together with a matching low-interest loan from Welsh Council for Voluntary Action, enabled the villagers to buy the pub.

But crucial to the process was the role of Prince Charles’ brainchild. Councillor Williams and his team approached Cadwyn Clwyd, the Ruthin-based rural development agency responsible piloting the Pub is the Hub initiative in Denbighshire and later administering the scheme throughout Wales.

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He said: ‘It was crucial we had their backing because, the fact that Cadwyn Clwyd and Pub is the Hub were backing us gave us a guarantee to suppliers that we would meet our financial commitments. They paid for the surveys and business plans.’ The Glan Llyn is now a community pub run by volunteers. Councillor Williams himself helps prepare the Sunday carvery. A games room has been opened, a new kitchen is on its way and other new features include a car park and a decking area, and much of it done for free by tradesmen.

‘Now the pub is thriving, our profit is already at £22,000, £5,000 of that from the Sunday lunches, and we are providing up to ten part-time jobs, most of them to young people. We started creating community facilities as far back as 1994 and now we’re also seeing that with a pub and a shop in the village, houses are being bought and young people are moving back into Clawddnewydd, and that’s helping the village school in Clocaenog. And saving the Glan Llyn means that the community now has an asset worth more than £200,000 that belongs to them.’

It’s a pattern that’s been repeated elsewhere in Wales, according to Helen Roberts, Cadwyn Clwyd’s community development officer, who ran Pub is the Hub in Wales until the current tranche of funding, granted in 2008, expired at the end of 2014.

She said: ‘Where appropriate we sought to encourage people to use the pub as a meeting place and also perhaps as a grocer, newsagent, laundrette – even a collection point for doctors’ prescriptions.

‘Many pubs are under threat and we want to get the community involved and thinking about what they can do to save them.’ Though the Pub is the Hub scheme is ended for the time being, Cadwyn Clwyd - soon to relocate from Ruthin to Corwen - remains active in stimulating grass–root participation and working to support a range of projects for the benefit of rural communities.

Meanwhile the Prince of Wales re-endorsed his commitment to the Pub is the Hub scheme by calling in at The Raven Inn in Llanarmon-yn-lal, Denbighshire, during a recent visit to North Wales and pulling pints behind the bar with the Duchess of Cornwall. w