Cromer pub landlady set for adventure in retirement

A landlady who has spent decades running bars in North Norfolk is retiring from the hubbub of the pub - to tackle a 700-mile cycle ride and take a tilt at Mount Everest base camp.

Hilary Thompson, who retires from The Cottage in Cromer on Saturday, spoke of the changing face of licensed premises as she prepared to pour her final pints.

The 60-year-old former Cromer mayor, who is both a town councillor and a county councillor and is standing in the current North Norfolk District Council elections, said: 'Things have changed so much'.

She grew up as the daughter of parents who ran the Seaview Hotel at Mundesley. Then, aged 21, she became the youngest landlady in the UK when she took over The Weavers Arms at Swanton Abbott when her father died.

By that time, Miss Thompson had already been named 'ideal barmaid of the year' for the Eastern Region in a national contest.

After a spell away from behind the bar, she returned to North Norfolk in the 1980s and worked as bar manager at the Red Lion and the Cliftonville Hotel in Cromer, then moved to Cromer Social Club for five-and-a-half years.

Finally, in 2005, she became licensee of The Cottage on Louden Road in Cromer.

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Miss Thompson said: 'This is a traditional pub. Pubs used to have a smoke room, a public bar and a lounge bar and people dressed and behaved accordingly.

'That is not the case in very many places. We don't allow any swearing and don't have any loud music. And we shut in the afternoons. But we are very popular because we try to make everybody feel special when they walk through the door.'

She added: 'People's attitude to drink has definitely changed, and not for the better. People do not have the same respect for alcohol.'

Miss Thompson also spoke about how the growing range and quality of real ales had changed the face of pubs in her time as a landlady and bar manager.

She runs The Cottage with her partner William Cox, who two years ago retired after 50 years of working as a North Sea crab fisherman.

They are planning a trip to Iceland, which will be their first holiday for seven years.

Then, in September, Miss Thompson will tackle a 700-mile cycle ride between Cromer's twin towns Nidda in Germany and Crest in France.

Hardly stopping for a rest, the all-action ex-landlady will then head to the Himalayas in October to hike to Mount Everest base camp.

She said: 'I am really looking forward to having the time to do things. Running a pub is antisocial. We very rarely got to bed on the same day that we got up.

'But I will miss it. I have loved the job because I love people. That's what is so special about it.'

The Cottage will remain open as a pub, with meeting rooms that can be hired by local organisations, under new landlords Peter Miles, Mark Pearce and Phillip Overall.

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