Halkyn Heck! A Post Office in a pub? What will they think of next?
By Ceidiog Hughes
North Wales’s newest post office boasts an added attraction – a range of award-winning beers and ciders. And the Royal Mail couldn’t be more royal with the HRH Prince of Wales-inspired Pub is The Hub responsible for re-opening the post office in the Blue Bell Inn, in the village of Halkyn in Flintshire, Wales, UK.
Three years after the village post office closed when the sub-postmaster retired there is once again somewhere to buy stamps, post letters and parcels and collect pensions. Thanks to landlord Steve Marquis and Pub is The Hub, the Prince’s rescue plan for rural pubs, administered in Wales by regeneration agency Cadwyn Clwyd, there is now a post office counter service in the bar of the pub high up on Halkyn Mountain.
Former consultant engineer Steve, mine host at the Blue Bell for 11 years, said: “I used to live in Bayton in Shropshire and I’d seen what could happen to a village when the post office closed and then the pub went and I didn’t want to see it happen here. All around us the local post offices had closed and the postmaster here was retiring and no-one wanted to take over so I contacted the Post Office and told them I’d be happy to take it on from here. Pub is The Hub have helped me enormously and so have Cadwyn Clwyd. They’ve given me lots of support and just holding your hand when you needed it and the Post Office have trained us properly and it’s been very well received locally.”
Pub is The Hub, founded in England in 2001 and the brainchild of Prince Charles, was launched in Wales by Ruthin-based Cadwyn Clwyd four years ago, financed from the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development (EAFRD) through the Welsh Government’s Rural Development Plan. It was piloted initially in Denbighshire, but Cadwyn Clwyd has now rolled it out across seven more counties, Flintshire, Conwy, Gwynedd and Anglesey in the north as well as Ceredigion, Bridgend and Vale of Glamorgan.
Malcolm Harrison, a former director of Thwaites brewery, is the Pub is The Hub Adviser for Wales and he said: “The scheme has done very well but we’re looking for a lot more pubs to get involved and we can help them tap into the funding that’s available. We want to preserve rural services and the pub is usually the last to go in a village, after the school and the shop. We just need landlords and the local communities to think laterally and think of ways to use the pub to host services like the post office here in Halkyn or it could be a shop, even a cinema, a library, an internet café or a crèche.”
Steve Marquis added: “We have had massive support from the local community as well and not just from nearby. We organise guided walks and special events and we have people coming here from over an hour’s drive and they have all been supportive. Some of them drive all that way just to post a letter or get a parcel weighed. We like to have a bit of fun here as well and we’ve got a blackboard for people to write down puns and the post office topic has provided a rich fund of them – things like ‘Signed, sealed, delivered and poured’ and my favourite ‘Whisky in the Giro’.”
It is estimated that five pubs are closing every day across the UK – almost 2,000 closed last year – and many of these are in rural areas where village shops and schools are also under threat.
Prince Charles believes rural communities “…are facing unprecedented challenges…” and the country pub which, he says: “has been at the heart of village life for centuries, is disappearing in many areas”.
He wants to see more pubs offer new services such as a post office or a shop and that’s the goal of Cadwyn Clwyd’s Rural Services Officer Helen Roberts who says: “We want the village pub to be at the heart of the community and the Blue Bell is an excellent example of how a local pub can help maintain those vital rural services that are so important to village life. “We want to get the community involved as well as the landlords in thinking about what they can do to enhance the services on offer through the local pub. We are open to suggestions and would like to hear from communities and pubs interested in getting involved because we can offer expert advice including help with business plans and even financial help.”
The scheme is open to pubs in all rural towns and villages in Flintshire and the participating local authority areas and licensees and communities who are eligible can benefit from capital grants of up to 75 per cent of the total eligible project costs, to a maximum of £10,000. Licensees will also benefit from the services of a specialist pub advisor who will provide support and guide them through the process from start to finish.
For more information and to receive an application pack contact Helen Roberts at Cadwyn Clwyd on 01824 705802 / 01423 546165 or e-mail: email@example.com.