Surlingham pub wins top community award

A couple who turned around the fortunes of a once-closed riverside pub have scooped the top prize at South Norfolk's Community Pub of the Year awards.

First-time landlords George and Natalie Linder, who reopened the doors of the Coldham Hall Tavern, in Surlingham, in March 2010 after a seven-month refurbishment, said they were delighted to receive the accolade.

The annual competition, run by South Norfolk Council, asks customers to vote for their favourite pubs, before a shortlist of five finalists are inspected by a touring panel of judges.

Mrs Linder, 31, said: 'We've only been open for a year-and-a-half so to be recognised for what we have done already is a real achievement.'

She added: 'It's right on the river – it is such an amazing pub, particularly in terms of location. It was a real shame for the village to lose it so we wanted to bring it back.'

The new-look pub, nestled on the edge of the Broads, had been closed since December 2008 and the Linders were quick to rebuild its reputation as a picturesque spot to enjoy quality beers and food made from locally-produced ingredients.

They even commissioned a new beer, named Yareside, to celebrate the pub's successful return and hosted their first beer festival in August.

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The couple are keen to host more community events, with the possibility of bringing back a traditional regatta to the village with the help of local sailing clubs.

Mr Linder, 29, said: 'It's hard work but it's rewarding. We're still trying to get the pub back to its former glory. About 20 or 30 years ago it was the place to be – that's what we want.'

The landlords were given a plaque and �1,000 to put towards holding a community event over the next year when the competition's winner was announced at South Norfolk Council's offices in Long Stratton yesterday.

Plaques were also awarded to the competition's other finalists – Burston Crown, near Diss; The King's Head, Bawburgh; The Greyhound, Tibenham; and The Green Dragon, Wymondham.

Sue Thomson, chairman of the district council, who judged the shortlisted pubs alongside John Longden, chief executive of Pub is the Hub, and fellow councillor Derek Blake, said: 'This is the third year we have run this competition and we have seen some excellent pubs, but Coldham Hall has set a new standard.

'It's a wonderful example of what can be achieved through hard work, determination and self belief.'