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Beloved Somerset pub marks five years since community ‘found a way’ to save it

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On the day of the Packhorse’s grand reopening exactly five years ago it snowed heavily. “Boy did it snow,” said Phil Legard, one of the hundreds of shareholders who together had raised more than a million pounds to save the beloved pub near Bath.“By 9am the village was cut off and the first thing we had to do was organise a team of people to grab their shovels and dig so our first customers could actually get here,” said Legard. “But that is what the Packhorse is about.

Community spirit, finding a way.”The weather for this weekend’s anniversary – a fiesta of drinking, music and birthday cake eating – has been kinder and villagers have been reflecting on the value of the 400-year-old pub to the community. “We don’t have a post office or a village shop,” said Legard. “So the Packhorse is vital.

The pub is the hub.”At a time when pubs continue to close at a rate of more than 30 a month in England and Wales the story of the Packhorse – which the shareholders billed as the biggest community buyback project in British pub history – is as cheery as the blazes that burned in the fireplaces this anniversary weekend.In 2012 the pub in South Stoke was shut and earmarked for housing but the villagers fought back.

Lovers of the pub raised money to buy the building and donated knowhow and skills to restore it and turn it into a going concern.Since the reopening its customers have got through more than 1,000 casks of real ale and cider, 16,000 bottles of wine, almost 30,000 bags of crisps, 13,600 plates of fish and chips and 14,000 Sunday roasts.

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