North Pickenham community’s bid to buy village pub

Villagers, parish councillors and the North Pickenham Community Project LTD members outside the old

Villagers, parish councillors and the North Pickenham Community Project LTD members outside the old Blue Lion pub in the village which they want to buy after it's closure. Picture by: Sonya Duncan - Credit: Sonya Duncan

A determined band of villagers who want to reopen their rural pub as a community centre need to raise quarter of a million pounds in their quest to buy the venue.

The Blue Lion in North Pickenham, near Swaffham, has been closed since March 2013.

People living in the village rallied together to safeguard its future and it was added to Breckland Council's community asset register.

More than 18 months down the line, the village community has so far secured £83,000 - but still needs to find further funds to meet the £250,000 price-tag.

In a bid to raise money and awareness, a pop-up cafe will be held in the village this weekend with refreshments available for Peddars Way walkers.

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Thomas Ryan, chairman of the North Pickenham Community Project Limited, said: 'It's important for people to keep in touch and we all used to talk at the pub, the church used to hold its coffee mornings there, people used to go in there to have a chat and it was a meeting point - but now there's nowhere, absolutely nowhere.'

The group, made up of more than 100 people of all ages from the village, has so far secured £77,000 in pledges and raised a further £6,000 in cash through fundraising events including raffles, selling soup and rolls to walkers and a duck race.

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They host their pop-up cafes at the pavilion at Johnson's Playing Field in the village.

It is hoped they can take advantage of the increased footfall along Peddars Way as people head to the recently-publicised restored St Mary's Church at nearby Houghton-on-the-Hill.

If they fail in their bid to buy the pub, the villagers will put the money they have raised so far towards community projects.

Pub owner Sandra Inglis, who ran the Blue Lion from November 2012 to March 2013 before shutting its doors, previously told the EDP that it closed due to a lack of trade and that she was 'willing to let the community to have a go'.

Breckland Council received 65 signatures in support of the pub becoming a community asset last September.

Other Norfolk pubs which have been added to Breckland's community asset register include The Crown in Great Ellingham and the White Hart in Rocklands.

Elsewhere, The Crown in Reepham was made a community asset as was the King's Arms in Shouldham.

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