VILLAGERS who feared their only watering hole would be sold off for development are celebrating after it was sold to a local landlord who intends to launch it as a gastro-pub.
Residents of Woodgreen had come together to try to buy the Horse & Groom after it was closed in September by owners Hall & Woodhouse.
Although they failed to reach the £700,000 target they were delighted to learn that Jason Schinkel, who already runs The Bat and Ball in Fordingbridge and the Radnor Arms in Salisbury, is the new owner.
He has now announced that he already has a talented chef lined up as part of his plans to give the Horse and Groom a revamp and make it a foodie spot.
Mr Schinkel (52) said: “I really want to reinvigorate the pub and make it great for all the local customers. I am going to take it more upmarket and make food a really important part of it.
“My other pubs are well known for the quality of their food and I want the Horse & Groom to have the same reputation.
“I am planning if all goes well that I will be able to reopen it mid-January and am really looking forward to welcoming locals back.”
Julie Rich, who organised the community bid to buy the pub, said it was “disappointing” they had not won but were glad that it was to remain a pub.
“We gave it our best shot and I don’t think we could have possibly done much more”, she said. “It was an amazing effort and it was quite humbling.
“Jason is a fabulous publican but I hope the community effort shows the owner that residents are really behind keeping this as a traditional pub.”
In the run-up to Christmas, villagers have been enjoying a pop-up pub that was opened in St Boniface Church opposite the Horse & Groom.
Vicar Nicky Davies created the new social spot called the ‘Room at the Inn’ as somewhere villagers could get together while the Horse & Groom has been shut down.
She said: “The pop-up pub has been a great success. It has been very busy and there have been lots of good conversations and chance for socialising. Thanks must go to our two fantastic ‘Janes’ who have worked so hard!
“It has brought the community together at this festive time and I am glad that the church is at the heart of it, as we celebrate the wonderful good news of Jesus’ birth.
“After all, the stable at the Inn must have been packed with people and animals too! There really is ‘Room at the Inn’ in Woodgreen this year.”