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The Anglers Rest, Taggs Knoll, Bamford, Hope Valley, South Yorkshire
According to recent UK statistics an average of 21 pubs are currently closing each week. Sometimes the derelict pubs are re-opened by new owners interested in restoring an old tradition; but unfortunately a lot of them are delicensed and turned into private homes, new flats or, worse still, supermarkets like Sainsburys. As a slight offset to this trend, micropubs have opened in former premises such as sandwich shops, restaurants, butchers shops, fishmongers, hairdressing salons, chemists, opticians, travel agents, saddlery shops, shoe repair shops, railway station rooms, kitchen showrooms, cabinet makers, fishermen's workshops, paper mills, e-cigarette shops, pet shops, dry cleaners, priory prisons, fish and chip shops, etc. In Sheffield alone there are now five micropubs, and I'm sure we'll be seeing more soon.
As a new trend, some of these pubs destined for closure -- 70 to date -- have been taken over by their local community. To be eligible for community ownership the pub must first be listed as an "asset of community value" with the local council, which then protects the pub from being demolished or converted. To date over 2,000 pubs have been listed as such. And then it just takes the community to step in and run the place.
Located in the Peak District, just eleven miles from Sheffield, the Anglers Rest was one of these endangered pubs. So in 2013 the Bamford Community Society, a group comprising nearly 300 local residents, was set up to purchase the pub. As the Bamford post office was also in danger of closing, it was decided that the pub would include a post office, and a cafe was included as well. And this idea was a success: in just the first two months of the pub opening, the cafe had 6,000 customers and the post office had 1,600 customers.
Ever since it opened I've been curious to check it out, but as it's outside of Sheffield I just haven't got around to it. So on the recent bank holiday Monday when neither of us were working we decided to take a drive out of town toward Ladybower Reservoir. There was a lot of traffic along the way, but most of the drivers appeared to be going to the Ladybower Inn and the Yorkshire Bridge pub, obviously for lunch. At the reservoir we left the traffic behind and headed on up to the village of Bamford until we came to the Angler's Rest.
After parking in the large car park, which is also used by village residents, we discovered just how massive this community pub is. We entered from the patio and made our way through the cafe, moving past a shop area with the post office counter, and then past the food counter, and finally through a door into the pub's front room with the bar and pool table, and further on was a large lounge room with inviting-looking wooden booths. The bar features five handpumps, and on this particular Monday three cask ales were on. I went for a half pint of Alchemy (4.2% ABV, Abbeydale Brewery, Sheffield, South Yorkshire), which was a bit disappointing, especially for a brewery like Abbeydale, who also produce the amazing Deception. Andrew had a half of Bollington Best (4.2% ABV, Bollington Brewery, Bollington, Cheshire), which was a well-rounded and quite hoppy bitter.
Once we got our pints we donned our boots, grabbed our hiking sticks, and trekked our way back outside to the garden, passing some nice abstract architectural photos which were on display as part of their monthly Art in the Café exhibition. When we reached the door I noticed a rack of tourist information, obviously for all of the Peak District visitors.
Outside on the deck we sat at a rather exposed picnic table. It was an odd day, ranging from hot sunshine to cool breezy cloudiness, requiring the sporadic removal and subsequent donning of my hoody. From my side of the table I had a nice view of a wide verdant hill beyond which was undoubtedly the River Derwent. We ordered a simple lunch with our halfs and decided we should have another half each, so I joined Andrew with the Bollington Best. Andrew's jacket potato looked really good, properly baked, with lots of butter melted into it. My mature cheddar and onion chutney panini was actually really satisfying, as it's so easy to get a disappointing panini. Both our meals included salad and tortilla chips. (Probably just Doritos…oh well, I'm going to California in a couple of weeks, so I'll have some proper ones there.)
As we ate our lunch more customers kept arriving, mostly for the cafe at this lunchtime hour. Apparently they serve breakfasts all morning, and they also offer a Sunday roast. Tuesday is Pizza Night, Wednesday is Pie Night, Thursday is Steak Night, and Friday is Fish and Chips Night, so the concentration is definitely on food and all ingredients are locally sourced. The post office, which is opened Monday to Saturday, offers normal postal service as well as free cash withdrawals, which is a very handy feature, as I imagine there aren't many cash machines in the area. And not only can you use the cafe's Internet access, laptop, and printer, you can top off your mobile phone and buy foreign currency as well, which would be very handy if Bamford decided to secede from the UK. They even offer a dry cleaning pick-up and drop-off service. Now, what pub have you ever been to that offers that?
The Anglers Rest is also walker, dog, and child friendly, which was quite evident when we were there. The cafe closes at 5pm but food is still available in the pub in the evenings. So there's really no need to ever leave...
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