Amazing turnaround for Norfolk Pub of the Year

A pub which was facing permanent closure five years ago was yesterday celebrating being named CAMRA Norfolk Pub of the Year.

The Dabbling Duck in Great Massingham, near Fakenham, was closed for nearly six years in its former incarnation as the Rose and Crown, and the previous owners had attempted to have the building converted into housing.

This sparked protests from villagers which prompted King's Lynn and West Norfolk Borough Council to buy the pub and sell it on with a condition that it must be retained for this purpose.

Dominic Symington and Steve Kilham, two local farmers who had no experience of running pubs, had an offer accepted. They completely redeveloped the building and reopened it as The Dabbling Duck in December 2006.

CAMRA's East Anglia regional director Andrea Briers travelled to Great Massingham yesterday to present Mr Symington and Mr Kilham and pub manager Matt Bickerton with a certificate.

She said; 'The Dabbling Duck stood out for the wide choice and high quality of beer. It also has a very good restaurant, but still has a great local pub atmosphere.

'I hope it encourages people in other villages who fear they could lose their local pub to fight that little bit harder for it, because this shows what can be achieved.'

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The pub always has five cask-conditioned beers on tap, one of which is a guest beer.

It received the EDP Best Food Pub award in 2008.

Mr Symington said: 'We were looking for something to take on and when this came up we went for it.

'Being farmers we had lots of experience of being on the other side of the bar and we knew what we wanted as pub-goers.

'We took aspects of the things we like from other pubs around Norfolk when we redeveloped this place.

'Being a real ale drinker myself I am particularly pleased that we have won this award.'

Mr Kilham said: 'We have competition from the pubs on the coast where many people automatically go. We are a bit off the beaten track and have to offer something that people are prepared to travel for.

'We seem to have got it right and we owe a lot to the local villagers who fought for this pub, to the borough council and to our staff for all of their hard work.'

The Dabbling Duck had already been named as CAMRA's West Norfolk Pub of the Year and beat off competition from the Wyndham Arms in Sheringham to secure the county prize.

The Dabbling Duck is hoping to go on to be named CAMRA's East Anglia Pub of the Year, which is due to be announced in September.

They are up against The Cambridge Blue in Cambridge, the Fox and Hounds in Thurston, Suffolk, plus one each from Essex, Hertfordshire and Bedfordshire.

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