Below is an article written by Jerry Brunning about The Druid and our plans for it. It was originally published in the Autumn 2023 issue of the excellent Five Villages Chronicle, the website of which is here. The digital copy of the complete issue can be found here.
The Druid Inn
Well at least the Druid has been saved. So many rural pubs are just shut down and left to decay before being sold off as houses and you don't need to look outside the Five Villages to see the evidence. But The Druid is now secure as a pub and will serve it’s community for many years to come or until the Senedd bans them.
I imagine that you'll be wondering what sort of pub we're going to give you and, when asked, I usually say one I'd like.
I've always used pubs as places to meet and socialise. I want a pleasing, comfortable building, quality food and drink (for me interesting cask beer, decent red wine and classic dishes done well), kind staff and reasonable prices. I want the building to be clean and in good order with everything working most of the time. I want to feel safe. I want it to be somewhere I can use time and again because I know I like it and I know what I'm going to get. I don’t want to be entertained in my pub, in fact the opposite, I find people trying to entertain me distracts from the pleasure I get from just talking with the people I'm with. So I don't like gaming machines, pool tables, dart boards, television, music, quiz nights, pub football teams or anything else that tries to interfere with simple socialising. I just want the pub to be the same pleasing place every time I choose to visit.
Why the Druid? Well it's simple really - it's a lovely village and a lovely pub. Practically a pub needs to be in a good location vis-a-vis potential customers and the building needs to be one that will respond to love and affection. It’s a considerable advantage if there is no competition, although competition seems to follow me. Gorsedd is in a proper settled community, the surrounding villages are charming and of an ilk and none of them have a pub. It has drawbacks - it's small, the garden faces north and does not have views and there's no gas in the village but apart from that I think we can make it work. It’s charming now but when I stand and stare at the building I can't help thinking it must have been even more charming before the first war. There would have been truly outstanding views out over the Wirral and on to Liverpool, you might even have seen a few tall ships, while Gorsedd would have been a quiet rural community. It must surely have been a truly spiritual place. I think that spirituality still lives in the fabric of the village.
The modern-day Druid Inn is a typical example of a pub that has not had investment for a long time. It’s tired and shabby and needs its socks pulled up. So that’s where we’ll start – sorting out the fabric of the building so that we don’t have to worry about it again in my lifetime. We can't do everything so the pantile roof and strangely sculptured plaster work will, I think, have to stay. The flat roofs will need replacing, the fireplaces opened up and the fire surrounds rebuilt. It needs rewiring and replumbing, it needs a new kitchen which will probably be our biggest expense. The loos need renovating and refitting. All the floors need to be renovated with a combination of tiles and floorboards. Then we’ll need to furnish it, put our pictures in and then add the tech that today's business needs. I don’t want the pub to be flash or garish or unusual or unique, I want it to be comfortable. I always tell my crew that it should be like visiting a home loving eccentric Aunt who’s gathered all sorts of strange pictures and possessions over the years. Eclectic.
Once the building is ready, or more likely at the same time, we need to get staff. This is no mean task nowadays but we have the small advantage of a stable (relatively) workforce of 130 or so souls which will hopefully reassure potential staff that we are half decent people to work for and could be a good long term bet. We'll have to train all these people and this will be a combination of on site instruction with some of the new staff going to work in our other four pubs so they can get the hang of things and teach the others. This is why we can't open too close to Christmas as it might be too much pressure for new and inexperienced staff. They’d get flustered, the customers would be impatient, I’d be upset and dogs would howl. No - we need to ease our new team into their new roles during the quieter January and February period so that by Easter we are firing on all cylinders.
Matt Marren, our principal chef, will be beavering away in the background with the process of getting the menus right and the kitchen staff working together as a team. A starting menu will have to be created, a few items on the menu will generally change every day thereafter so we will need a bank of dishes for months down the line. I like classic dishes done well but of course I’m old fashioned and we also need to cater to modern tastes – vegan, vegetarian, Asian fusion etc. which I have to say I like too if for some reason the fish pie’s not on.
Then, finally, we have to tell everyone about it. This has, in the past, proved to be a problem for me and I think it's because I don't use social media, I don't have first-hand experience of how it works when it comes to telling people what's happening. I still love local newspapers and local mags like this one. What a joy to have a decent parish magazine - "priceless" as it correctly describes itself.
1 do think web sites are important. They are the modern-day equivalent of a company brochure, but they are workaday tools for people who are largely already customers or close to being one. You can book a table, check opening times, download the day's menu, get the address, send a link to your friend. So, in the hope of getting around this hole in my knowledge, for this pub I've hired a professional who I hope will do the job of telling people about us without sounding like a prat.
One thing I should warn you of is that there will be lots of people who won't like the Druid. For a start all those people I've mentioned above who do like to be entertained. They do want to play darts and watch TV and they really like quiz nights and a pub cricket team. I sympathise with these people greatly; I often want these things too. However, I have learnt over the years that doing one thing well is much better than trying to be all things to all people. I believe people want meeting places and that's why pubs have been a success since Roman times.
The people I expect to be customers will live not too far away, will come from all walks of life but will have one thing in common, an appreciation of a good aesthetic. Perhaps a better word would be traditionalists, our customers come from every walk of life but are traditionalists, lovers of classic pubs. That sounds right to me, I hope it's not pretentious.
My one sadness is I can't see how I'll be able to regularly use this pub myself. Obviously I'll visit during the day to just to see what's happening, but I also like to use the pubs as a customer.nWith the other four I regularly pop in for a pint and a scotch egg. This one is 45 minutes from my house and there won't be any chance of getting Beth, my wife, to come and collect me if I get drawn into having a few too many. Perhaps I should get myself a driver or maybe find a local B and B. We'll see.
So, I hope many of you will become customers when we finally open. Watch this space for more news or, for those that prefer the online world I believe we have a Facebook page. If I were you I'd stick with this lovely magazine.