Chairman’s Update – 5th April 2021

Dear All,

  • Progress Report
  • Opening plans

I hope you are keeping safe and well and looking forward to what we hope will be a memorable summer. It’s been a hard year and one that I know many of us will look back on with sadness and regret. I suppose we can only hope that a return to some sort of normality can pick up pace and that we can turn our thoughts to a brighter future.

In that vein I am pleased to report on the amazing progress that has been made at the Railway Arms in recent months. Our social media channels have been buzzing with updates and photographs have been posted at significant points. Feedback has been great and it’s clear that we’re all hugely excited by the prospect of the pub finally reopening after more than four years.

The Ladies WC has had to be completely refurbished after the disastrous leak from the water pipe and a slower leak from the roof left it damp, dank and unusable in October. The winter months hindered drying out but new insulated plaster board, windows, vanity unit and floor tiles have now been fitted and new bespoke cubicles are scheduled to arrive and be fitted over the next ten days. The cellar too had suffered neglect and long-standing water ingress from the rear of the pub and a failing drain left us with a damp wall and rotted floorboards, beams and joists at the threshold above. These have now been underpinned with specially engineered steel work and thankfully the cellar and floor above are now structurally sound again.

Decorating in the staff accommodation is almost done and the place will soon be ready for our new publican when appointed. Our recruitment drive has begun and we’re confident that the Railway will attract its new custodian over the coming weeks.

Those that have stopped by the pub recently will have noticed that the main bar floor has been sanded, oiled and waxed.  The wonderful oak boards have really responded to the treatment and it will, once again, be a major feature that I’m sure will be appreciated for years to come.

Decorating in the bar has delivered a bold new colour scheme that works beautifully with the floor and our handsome radiators and window shutters. These rare and unusual enhancements to the feature sash windows, and the windows themselves, are being refurbished by skilled craftsmen. The shutters, once back in use, will contribute to the thermal efficiency of the building and go a long way towards energy savings and, of course, the carbon neutral future that the Railway Arms will thrive in.

Key to this bright future will be the bar itself, now installed, refitted and ready to assume its role at the heart of the business. It belongs entirely to us and has not been subsidised by any brewery or pub-co in exchange for preferred access. The bar and the pub itself, is totally free of tie and we will be beholden to no-one, customers aside, for our range of drinks. The same can be said of the kitchen, now professionally cleaned and serviced. Our registration as a food business is in place and we’ll be acting in accordance with advice from environmental health officers as we make a start and await our first inspection.
The garden and courtyard area have already benefit from the great deal of hard preparatory work carried out by members of the gardening team since the big clearance in October. The lawn has been reseeded and the beds are already beginning to show signs of Spring colour. This will continue of course, and we will see the benefits as we work towards opening the pub in mid-April, utilising outdoor space only, until at least mid-May. New garden furniture, assembled by a socially distanced army of volunteers last weekend, is now ready for the big day.

Recruitment is well underway and a number of interviews have already taken place. More are planned for the coming week and we hope to be able to welcome a Business Manager and our much anticipated Publican before too long.

Special thanks must go to our volunteers, dozens of you, without whom none of this would have been possible. It is hard to single out individuals, but the contributions made by Mike Hibbs, Paul Wrigley, John ‘Ossie’ Austin, Lynne Baker, Wendy MacDougal and Edward Gildea make it easier. Without their defining efforts all the progress made by others would have been less focused. They have spent countless hours thinking and working to get the Railway to a point where, before too long, we’ll be able to invite you in. There is still much to be done but there is now a sense that it is all coming together. Of course, members of the Management Committee have continued the hard work of several years and have seen the emphasis shift from campaigning and fundraising to a focus on building works; scrutinising expenditure, identifying suppliers and stock; interior and graphic design; recruitment and a myriad of other concerns, all amid the additional pressure and uncertainty imposed by trying to re-open a much loved, historic, pub during a pandemic. Special thanks are, of course, due here too.

Firm arrangements for re-opening are still in development but I’m pleased to confirm that, subject to the relaxing of restrictions, we are aiming for Friday 16th April. It is likely that we will open for just weekends (ie Fri/Sat/Sun) to begin with and of course we will do so outside in the garden/courtyard only, until at least 17th May. Please stay tuned for more news as our plans develop.

I’d like to wish you a very happy and safe Easter and I hope you can enjoy it with friends and family once again. The celebrations of course mark an ancient spring festival, one where renewal and rebirth are welcomed. In that context let’s look forward to the not-too-distant day when we can meet at the Railway Arms again.