When Adam Jones boarded the Sheffield United FC team bus and stayed in top hotels it is unlikely he had running The Plough Inn in the quiet backwater of Burton Salmon in mind, but that’s where he and partner Jules Heseltine have made a real impact in their community over the past 18 months.
The pair have thrown themselves headlong into life in a village of just 420 people and have attracted visitors to a spot that neither of them were particularly aware of in the past, despite having lived just five miles away.
“I was personal chef to the team when David Weir and Lee Carsley took over at United,” says Adam. “The club had been spending £200 on Domino’s pizzas after a game and David Weir had brought in a sports scientist who recommended better quality food intake, as well as making sure the hotels were supplying top grade food where the team was staying.
“I was there to ensure they ate the right kind of meals. I had what was the size of an aeroplane kitchen to work with at the back of the coach.”
Adam’s new kitchen or rather the food that comes from it, is one of the lynch pins of The Plough Inn’s renaissance since he and Jules arrived in the village that is nestled in the south-west corner of North Yorkshire between Ferrybridge and Monk Fryston. It’s agricultural land all around with hints at mining, notably with a large pond due to subsidence, just before the village.
“‘It’s a completely different world to anywhere we’ve lived before,” says Jules. “It’s a lovely quiet village as the main road passes us by. Visitors who come are here to visit friends, family, the school or the pub and the pub is on a road to nowhere here on Common Lane.”
The Plough Inn may not have the advantages of procuring too many tourists in the same way pubs in the Moors, Dales and Wolds do but its location can have significant benefits.
“We’re only a short drive from Leeds and minutes from Castleford and Pontefract so if you get your food right there are hundreds of thousands that are just looking for somewhere different to go for a meal in a rural area. We’ve now become a destination pub/restaurant and our mix is around 60/40 to dry sales over wet.
“I had a time running a ‘boozer’ in Kippax and I’d never want to go back to that. The future for country village pubs is in making sure your food offer relates to demand and that’s where Adam’s experience lies.”
While food is one of the keys to the sustainability of The Plough Inn, the community aspect is what Adam and Jules feel is vital and not just for their business but also for village life.
“We’re trying to bring back the village pub mentality here at Burton Salmon,” says Adam. “We’ve organised fun days and last year we had a Christmas lights switch on. There had been a few lights previously around the church hall but in 2015 we didn’t just light up the pub, we got hold of a snow machine, the village school children came and sang songs and carols, we had a couple of waitresses dressed as characters from Disney’s Frozen and even Santa managed to fit us in. We also run a weekly quiz night.
“Burton Salmon Primary School has 52 children. We’re talking with the new head teacher who wants us to get more involved in next year’s harvest festival. It’s all another pin in the village being a community.”
The currently defunct village cricket club is the next piece in the jigsaw. Adam and Jules have a role in bringing it back to life.
Richard Wright has lived in Burton Salmon for nearly 15 years, has three grandchildren at the school and played for the team on local farmer David Atkinson’s land for several years. He’s full of praise for what has happened at The Plough Inn recently and has the bit between his teeth over the rebirth of the club.
“When I first moved here the pub was more of a drinking establishment and was very busy. It lost its way for a while when a succession of pub managers came in.
“The emphasis is now on Adam’s very good food but it also caters well for drinkers. Before he and Jules came along it looked as though the pub might disappear and that would have been devastating. It’s the hub of the village.”