Winds of change at The Windmill in Weald – new landlords Andrew and Tracey move into historic pub
Weald correspondent Susan Gidman celebrates the news that the village’s last remaining pub has been saved from closure
When my husband Richard and I first moved to Weald, The Windmill was in difficulty and about to be sold by the brewery. A group of Weald residents got together to see if a rescue package could be put together. As it turned out, rescue wasn’t necessary as Matthew Rudd and Emma Cole bought and re-vamped the pub, and in the process, made it an award-winning venue.
In 2014 the pub was one of the final four in CAMRA’s ‘pub of the year’ competition. In 2018 Matt and Emma sold the pub and new publicans Richard and Kay arrived in Weald. It was Richard’s first venture into the pub trade and it was a bit of a struggle. Nothing quite prepared them for the long hours both behind the bar and the preparation for every day so, despite their best efforts, they decided to take a step back.
With the support of the Parish Council, a group of Weald residents got together to see if a rescue package could be put together – we’d been here before – but it wasn’t necessary as, during panto season, our fairy godmother waved her magic wand and brought us an interesting rescue package in the guise of North & South Leisure, a small family run Pub Company.
When I met up with the new tenants, friends and business associates, Richard and Peter, Richard told me that they had taken responsibility for the site on Monday 13 January 2020. He said that they have over 35 pubs in their portfolio, so have a wealth of experience of the ‘Great British pub’.
Richard from North & South Leisure (not to be confused with Richard the previous manager) said: “We’d like to thank Richard, the manager before us, for a very courteous and professional handover, it’s been really helpful for us to hit the ground running and it isn’t always the case when we take on new pubs.
“The number of people in the village who have wished us well, and offered to help in various ways, has been heartwarming. We can see how much the pub means to the community. Some have mentioned Matthew and Emma, the previous owners, who clearly knew how to run a great pub. We are well aware they won many awards, and with National recognition too, so we hope to emulate that”.
Needless to say, with the large number of other pubs in their growing potfolio, Richard and Peter appoint and work in partnership with pub Landlords who run the pubs day to day. In The Windmill’s case, that will be the new landlords, Andrew Roberts and Tracey Howes.
Andrew has almost 30 years’ experience in the trade, starting in Hotel management in 1992, and has worked in pubs and bars since 1997. Tracey has been operating her own business for the last 16 years and has held a number of roles in the hospitality industry. Andrew and Tracey have known each other since school days and had been talking for a while about running a pub together.
Andrew said: “The chance to take on The Windmill and run it as our own pub is absolutely ideal. To do that in partnership with a family run pub company that can support us, and that care as much as we do, means we can hopefully give the community a pub to be very proud of. We look forward to meeting you all.”
North & South Leisure have a wealth of experience when it comes to investing and re-invigorating pubs and can name the ‘Kings Arms’, Horsham and the ‘Catts Inn’, Rotherfield as just two. More locally they have worked their magic on the ‘King William IV’ in Pembury which was struggling under a churn of tied tenants before North & South Leisure bought the pub in October 2018. A full refurbishment and five awards later – including a Tunbridge Wells in Bloom Gold Medal and CAMRA’s Most improved pub in 2019 – the ‘King Will’, as it’s affectionately known, is going from strength to strength.
Richard has been amazed at the response from the village and commented: “The other pubs we operate are testament to the fact that Great British pubs, whether in town, village or country, are alive and kicking when they are given a little bit of care and attention.
“At The Windmill, we’ve had a brilliant response from the Village already and on Facebook we have had almost 5,000 people showing their support in just a few days. We will have a new website in the coming days too so please follow us for updates on Facebook by looking for, and liking, our page ‘@windmill. weald’
The refurbishment of the Windmill is well underway, ready for a relaunch set for Saturday 1 February (with fizz and nibbles promised) and just in time for the Six Nations Rugby and Valentines weekend, new beers, a new wine list, a Gin Menu and really good pub food, there are lots of reasons to visit.
Hopefully, we will see our lovely pub, founded in 1857, and the last pub in the village, thrive and be central to our community for many years to come. Look out for updates on the Facebook page and I aim to post news and events through the newsletter and Weald Diary 2020 as well as through the mysevenoakscommunity website.
It’s panto time at school – oh yes it is
The time has come again for the bi-annual Weald School Parent Teacher Panto. This year they are putting on ‘Aladdin’.
The show will have all the usual high-tech special effects that we have come to expect and an ‘All Star Cast’ – well the almost famous stars of Weald – and plenty of age appropriate puns and jokes will get you all laughing (or groaning).
This is going to be the final production for writer, producer and director Rachel Cope who, since 2014, along with many other parents and teachers, has put her heart and soul into making hilarious and entertaining shows to raise money for the school.
Rachel’s’ time at the school will end in July, along with some of the other on stage and back stage panto regulars. So, unless other parents step into these shoes, this may be the last Panto performed in the village for a while. Don’t miss out on what is sure to be a night to remember.
Roberta Briant, who plays Aladdin, said: “Rachel has enhanced all our lives by producing this absolutely totally wonderfully silly event!” Most of the cast have been part of the panto family from the start in 2014, so they are seasoned performers now.”
Tickets are selling fast, so get yours from the Weald Community Shop or directly from the School. You can arrive early for drinks at the pop-up bar and there will be an interval too. The shows start on Thursday 6 February, curtain up 7.30pm, Friday 7 February, curtain up 7pm, Saturday matinee, curtain up 1pm.
The Weald Village news is compiled by Susan Gidman. If you have any news or events you would like her to consider for the village column you can call her on 01732 454222 or email: firstname.lastname@example.org