Better access for award-winning pub

An award-winning community-owned pub in rural Oxfordshire is greatly improving the access and facilities for disabled customers with help from a loan arranged by Co-operative & Community Finance.

The Abingdon Arms in Beckley won the 2018 Sawday’s Pub Guide award for Best Community Pub and is listed in the inews Top 50 Pubs for Sunday Lunch. It was bought by the local community in January 2017 following a successful community share issue that raised £505,000 from 280 investors.

The 18th century Grade II Listed building has a prominent position overlooking the Otmoor nature reserve, and the pub garden is very attractive. It was a favourite haunt of Lewis Carroll, the author of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland.

The Beckley & Area Community Benefit Society (BACBS), which now owns the Abingdon Arms, was awarded a grant and loan from the More Than A Pub programme, which was set up in 2016 to support community ownership of pubs in England. This programme is funded by the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government and Power to Change, and is delivered by the Plunkett Foundation. Co-operative & Community Finance arranges loan finance for groups that have successfully attracted local investment, usually in the form of community shares.

In this instance the society did not require additional funds to purchase and refurbish the pub, so it was agreed that the loan and grant could be used to improve accessibility and extend the range of services and amenities provided by The Abingdon Arms. A project is underway to provide fully accessible toilets and to improve access through the pub’s front door and to the upper garden terrace. Architect’s plans have been approved and a builder has been appointed.

Mike Hobbs, Chair of BACBS, said: “Community ownership has made a huge difference to the feel of the pub. Previously it often felt cold, both in temperature and in the lack of welcome. Now it is very much the heart of the community. And it’s not just Beckley. The community benefit society aims to serve six villages in the surrounding area. New relationships have been formed and this had helped to build a more cohesive community.”

“One of the best pub gardens in Oxfordshire … possibly in the whole world!”