Villagers plan to open community pub-café early next year

Supporters of the Save the Blue Bell campaign celebrated a £8,500 award from the National Lottery Community Fund.

Villagers pictured at a previous event celebrating a National Lottery Community Fund award. - Credit: Jim McNeill

West Norfolk villagers are hoping to open their community pub-café early next year as renovation work continues at pace.

People in Stoke Ferry, near Downham Market, saved the Blue Bell Inn in June following 17 months of community fundraising events and efforts to buy it.

The pub was closed for almost three years as a result of poor trading, and was potentially going to be turned into a residential property by its previous owners.

Work is currently ongoing in Stoke Ferry to restore and reopen the Blue Bell Inn.

Work is currently ongoing in Stoke Ferry to restore and reopen the Blue Bell Inn. - Credit: UK Power Networks

But after securing the premises, around 72 volunteers have been carrying out work to open the Blue Bell fully as a community owned pub, café and hub in March 2022.

Jim McNeill, volunteer coordinator, said the renovation is "going ahead great guns."

He said: "We have started making the rear of the premises and its garden areas accessible and wheelchair friendly.

"Underfloor heating has also started to be installed."

Underfloor heating being installed In the bar area.

Underfloor heating being installed In the bar area. - Credit: Jim McNeill

Groundworks in progress to create a disabled parking space at the west Norfolk site.

Groundworks in progress to create a disabled parking space at the west Norfolk site. - Credit: Jim McNeill

Volunteers were recognised for their efforts after winning the Rural Community Business Awards held by the Plunkett Foundation.

They were presented the award by Great British Bake Off star Prue Leith.

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Mr McNeill said: "Each of our 72 volunteers is a community hero. The changes they have brought about at the Blue Bell and to our village itself are staggering."

Blue Bell volunteers, Elaine Ford and Ray Edwards pictured with Dame Prue Leith.

Blue Bell volunteers, Elaine Ford and Ray Edwards pictured with Dame Prue Leith. - Credit: Jim McNeill


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