Why the Woolpack’s still at the heart of rural life

Paul Cullen in the library area of the George and Dragon community pub in Hudswell near Richmond
Paul Cullen in the library area of the George and Dragon community pub in Hudswell near Richmond
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THE portrayal of a village pub at the heart of rural communities in TV dramas such as Emmerdale’s The Woolpack is close to reality new research has found.

They are not just places to pop into for a drink, they are also melting pots for bringing the community together from all walks of life and are vital meeting places for those living and working in rural communities and in some cases also house small shops, libraries and Post Offices.

Lorna Chapman, a volunteer helper, greets a customer on entering the Little Shop.

Lorna Chapman, a volunteer helper, greets a customer on entering the Little Shop.

Dr Ignazio Cabras, an Associate Fellow of the York Centre for Complex Systems Analysis at the University of York, and a Reader at Newcastle Business School, Northumbria University, led the research. “We see rural pubs depicted on TV, such as The Woolpack, as the local meeting point and hub for the community to engage with each other,” he said.

“This has now been proven as an accurate depiction of life in rural England,” he added.

Across Yorkshire a number of communities have fought battles to keep their pubs open at a time when many have struggled because of the recession.

Among them are The George and Dragon, at Hudswell, near Richmond, with Martin Booth, Paul Cullen and the others from Hudswell Community Pub Ltd launching a community share issue to raise money to buy the pub. It later reopened and also includes a shop, library and even a community allotment.

Yesterday landlord, Stuart Miller, who leases the pub from the community said: “If you don’t have a pub in a village then you are just a suburb where people don’t know each other or speak to each other.”

Coun John Blackie, the leader of Richmondshire District Council, is a great supporter of rural pubs saying: “They are an absolutely vital part of rural life.”

“In deeply rural areas if a pub closes it probably means as much to the local community as loosing a village school,” he added.

Members of the community at Gunnerside also made calls for somebody to buy their pub The King’s Head and Coun Blackie somebody had now taken on its running.

The study, which also involved Dr Matthew Mount, now a lecturer at Leeds University Business School, focused on pubs in rural communities or small parishes in England. It highlighted a strong relationship between the presence of pubs and social events and activities taking place in a parish – much stronger than that for other community facilities such as sports halls.

Dr Cabras said: “Pubs function as physical incubators which foster engagement and involvement among the community, as well as creating jobs for local people and local suppliers.

“It is vital the Government supports rural pubs with appropriate policies to ensure our rural way of life is maintained,” Dr Cabras added yesterday.