Hampshire Pub Saved From Closure Is Named 'Best In Country' – Because Kindness Counts

The Wonston Arms was derelict and empty just four years ago.

Pubs are closing down at a rate of one every 12 hours in England, Scotland and Wales – yet one fine establishment has found a simple solution to surviving the heightening crisis: giving back to the community.

The Wonston Arms, a small pub nestled in the heart of a Hampshire village, has been named the best in the country in CAMRA’s National Pub of the Year Awards 2018 – thanks in part to its focus on kindness.

The pub was derelict and empty just four years ago when owner and landlord Matt Todd bought it. Since reopening, it has focused on the local community, with a particular emphasis on fundraising.

To date, the pub has raised in excess of £25,000. This includes fundraising from its monthly pop-up cafés, which have raised £7,000 for local charitable causes.

Wonston Arms

The Wonston Arms has a selection of carefully kept cask ales and a gin bar with 180 varieties. It hosts pop-up social events to meet local demand – darts matches, folk music, jazz sessions, quizzes and a photography club all take place regularly, and local food vendors are invited for special fish and chip, pizza and curry nights.

Todd was over the moon to find out his pub won the award: “The support from the local community and beyond has been overwhelming, helping to propel us forward despite these testing times,” he said.

And local MP Steve Brine was pleased to see the hard work of Todd and his team pay off. “The pub trade is not easy these days, to put it mildly,” he said. “In this context, it is even more impressive what Matt Todd and the team have achieved. The fact he’s done so while staying so true to the values of real ale, a decent local pint and community is just great.”

Pubs were selected by CAMRA volunteers and judged on their atmosphere, décor, welcome, service, community focus and quality of the beer. Runners-up include the Cricketers Arms in St Helens, Merseyside; the Chequers in Little Gransden, Cambridgeshire; and the Volunteer Arms (Staggs) in Musselburgh, Scotland.

Ben Wilkinson, National Pub of the Year coordinator, said pubs like the Wonston Arms highlight what communities stand to lose if their local pub closes – “something being experienced in all too many places”.

“These types of pubs are more than just businesses, they are the heart of our local communities and part of what makes the UK the country it is,” he said. “The Wonston Arms serves excellent cask ales and is a great social environment for all. It fully deserves its title as the best in the country.”