Locals in a Suffolk village are so keen to see their community pub reopen that they have rallied round to help refurbish it.


The Chestnut Horse, in Great Finborough, also has a new extension to provide extra room for diners, following investment from owner Hawthorn, the community pub company.


Pub Partner Sharon Shipp expects a full pub garden when she reopens at 5pm today (Friday): “There’s such a great community feeling in the village, and lots of people who live here have helped me get The Chestnut Horse ready for reopening.


“Two men from the village have painted inside and out, a local artist has designed and painted a beautiful new pub sign, a retired couple stripped down and refurbished all the outdoor tables and seating, and my new neighbour sourced the materials that I used to re-cover the seating inside.


“Everyone’s been so supportive and people are excited to see what we’ve done, so I expect a lot of them will be here today. We’re fully-booked.”


And when Sharon, who took on The Chestnut Horse in September 2019, wanted extra dining space, community pub company Hawthorn, which owns more than 700 community pubs across England, Scotland and Wales, invested £107,000 in an extension at the rear of the Grade II-listed building, providing seating for up to 30 diners.


Sharon, who runs the pub with her son Robert and daughter-in-law Clare, will reintroduce food – home-cooked, value-for-money dishes using local ingredients – when pubs are allowed to reopen fully on 17 May. And in June live weekend entertainment will return, with acts booked from then through to December. Six furloughed staff will also return, with more being recruited.


Andrew Parker, Hawthorn director of leased and tenanted operations, said: “Sharon is a model Pub Partner when it comes to engaging with the local community and how to immerse yourself in it, and is always putting others first.


“This is Sharon’s second spell at The Chestnut Horse, having first run it from 2004 to 2007, and Hawthorn was delighted to support her request for more dining space, which, once pubs are able to fully reopen, next month, will help make this popular community pub into an even more successful business.”


During last year’s first Covid-19 lockdown, Sharon ran the pub as a village shop, providing locals with a selection of fruit, vegetables, milk, eggs and essentials; and has more recently run a takeaway food service. Her efforts earned her a local radio award for community service.


Situated at the heart of the village, The Chestnut Horse is the start and finish line for the annual Race of the Boggmen, a contest between Great Finborough villagers and those from neighbouring Haughley, and which is staged every Easter.

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