North Yorkshire brothers in at the Arms rekindle lost community spirits

Peter Hardisty pictured at the Aldwark Arms, Aldwark, York (SH100142409b). Pic: Simon Hulme
Peter Hardisty pictured at the Aldwark Arms, Aldwark, York (SH100142409b). Pic: Simon Hulme
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WHEN TONY Hardisty had to pack up farming in his 40s due to operations he needed on both his knees it was to be the end of his family’s tenure started by his father Ronald at Woodholme Farm in the village of Aldwark on the banks of the River Ure.

The 200-acre tenanted dairy, beef and arable operation run in conjunction with another farm in nearby Shipton by Beningbrough, with his brother David, was taken back in hand by Aldwark Estate and Tony pursued a career in property.

Two years ago the Hardisty family opened for business again in the village when Tony’s three sons took over the pub that used to be The Bay Horse but is now the Aldwark Arms. It was a landmark moment for Tony and his wife Ann who still live in the village.

Peter, Ian and Andrew stepped in after the pub had been closed for six months. Peter is now at the helm having gained experience at other village hostelries in the area since first going into the business when he was 17.

“I’ve been very fortunate to have worked in two really successful businesses with two great owners at The Victoria in Cattal and The Crown at Great Ouseburn, and as I’ve lived in Aldwark for most of my life I know the villagers, the area and the others we attract.

“I used to come in when I was younger and it always had a great community feeling. The previous owner tried really hard and had done a lot of work to the place but in our opinion had gone a little too far with fine dining and in doing so we felt he’d lost the locals.

“We could see how we could make it work and bring it back to life by involving the village while also retaining a reputation for serving good food. We thought it was a great opportunity because of our family history and my background, and that if we all pitched in, then we could get it back to where it needed to be.

“Our customers want Yorkshire portions at realistic prices and to know that our produce is as locally sourced as it can be and cooked really well. We get most of our meat from Hartley’s butchers in Tholthorpe just two miles away. We still encompass fine dining and have five chefs but we just don’t go wholly that way. It’s about getting the balance right.”

Aldwark is a fast growing village. At the 2001 census its population was just 116, by 2011 it had risen to 308. Nearby is Aldwark Manor Hotel & Golf Course that attracts visitors to the village and it’s popular with walkers and cyclists too.

Peter is aware of the role the pub plays locally: “Aldwark has developed massively in the last ten years and that has added even further to what has always been a great community spirit from when it was more agriculturally based.

“It’s an amazing village and we get a great deal of support from those who live here now. The local shoot comes in every Tuesday and all of the farmers in the area come too. I’d say we get at least half of the village in every week and they like coming in big groups which is even better as it creates a terrific atmosphere.

“We get a lot of business from those who are stopping at Aldwark Manor but who fancy getting out and about. They come here for a drink and a meal and I think they’re very pleasantly surprised with what they find.

“We were keen that it would not be the kind of place people only came to for meals and we’ve priced our drinks and selected our ales accordingly. Black Sheep is always on and we have three guest ales at all times in addition to John Smith’s. Starbeck-based Daleside Brewery has come up with our own Aldwark Ale and we have a Yorkshire cider from Cropton-based Great Yorkshire Brewery.

“We run regular live music nights and we host our now annual Aldwark Beer & Music Festival over two days in July where we have 20 beers.

“Our second anniversary of reopening the pub is in a couple of weeks on Sunday, December 6 and we’re now just starting to get really settled.

“What everyone comments on is the friendly greeting they get from us. We just want to make sure it carries on that way.”