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How the people of Hungerford helped save the Tally Ho

PUBLISHED: 14:30 03 October 2014 | UPDATED: 15:33 07 November 2017

Just look at those hanging baskets. Clearly the Tally Ho! team have a lot of talents.

Just look at those hanging baskets. Clearly the Tally Ho! team have a lot of talents.

MAUREEN MCLEAN

When the Tally Ho! was threatened with redevelopement, locals and lifelong regulars sprung into action to ensure it stayed as a pub - and became an instant success story

This is how you know you are in a good pub. You walk in and Monty – the smiling barman – offers you the ‘usual’. When it’s only the second time you’ve ever visited, this is as warm a welcome as one could imagine.

The pub is the Tally Ho! at Hungerford Newtown, and, in case you need to know, in my case ‘the usual’ was one of those refreshing elderflower spritzer-style drinks us drivers now enjoy. But then The Tally Ho! is no ordinary pub. It’s a community venture, owned by local residents who were determined to keep it as the heart of their village. Nor has it been an easy battle. In 2012 brewers Wadworth sold the premises for development. For a while it looked like the pub would disappear, to be replaced by homes, but a consortium of more than 60 potential shareholders and volunteers campaigned to take it over.

For some 250 years ‘the Tally’, known until the mid-20th century as The Oxford Arms, had been at centre of the community’s life. During the 2nd World War villagers mixed with American and Canadian servicemen who decided it was the perfect English watering spot.

Backed by the local CAMRA (Campaign for Real Ale) branch and supported by MP Richard Benyon, they eventually prevailed and last autumn re-opened the premises.

Villager Paula Woof, now aTally Ho Community Pub Ltd director, recalls: “It wasn’t just getting to own the pub – beyond raising the money there was a huge amount of work to do for it to be ready for opening – a major refit from top to bottom. And many of us had never had anything to do with running a pub before so it was a big learning curve.”

Volunteers turned their hands to everything and anything that needed doing. They included Wally Hunt, known as ‘Wally the woodman’, who was born in the village and had his first ever alcoholic drink at the pub on VE Day.

Now 84, Wally and his wife Shirley are still regular visitors (perhaps Wally more than Shirley!) and he says: “None of us wanted to see it become a flats development. I was more than happy to invest. You come in here and might bump into people you haven’t been in touch with for a while, or have a great lunch and chat. The kitchen team are brilliant – I’ve seen them serve up as many as 69 meals at a time.

“So many pubs are closing these days and it’s nice to be part of one that beat the odds. People worked so hard to make this happen – and just look at it now!”

Wally’s right – this is indeed a special place. Proper, tasty pub meals made with fresh seasonal veg (including from shareholders’ garden plots) and meat from down the road. Look out for items like honeyed ham from the Benham Estate and home-made desserts. The specials often take the pub into the ‘upper leagues’ of pub grub, featuring the likes of mussels or black pudding in new recipes. There are beers on tap from local breweries and a little shop in the corner offering more local treats. During our visit the shop featured everything from bottles of West Berkshire Brewery bottles and jars of honey to eggs, marrows and squashes.

There’s a cosy log fire when the temperature drops and outside a nice little patio garden for warm days, but pride of place goes to a banner declaring that you are at West Berkshire Campaign for Real Ale’s Best Community Pub. It’s a well deserved prize and we suggest you visit The Tally Ho! during a day out in beautiful countryside.

It’s just half a mile from junction 14 of the M4 and open seven days a week, serving food lunchtimes and evenings. Book up for Sunday lunch – this is becoming a ‘must-do’ experience. See www.thetallyhohungerford.co.uk.

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