Ahead of us stretches October - the month of abstinence. It’s not just Stoptober, urging the dwindling portion of the population addicted to tobacco to stub it out - but also Go Sober for October, which encourages an alcohol-free month to raise money for Macmillan Cancer Support.
Before you know it, Dry January will be upon us. Is this the wrong time, then, for us to be featuring ten cosy country pubs? Quite the opposite. The more I see of pubs, the more I realise they are a powerful force for good, a social glue at a time of disconnected lives, unless, of course, you count social media as connecting with people, but I have my reservations about that.
Delve back in history and the pub was a den of iniquity. Take the George and Dragon in Great Budworth. A nicer pub you could not hope to find, and the villagers are very lucky to have it. But in a bygone age, wives would wait outside the pub on Friday afternoons to stop their salt worker husbands spending their wage packets over the bar. A relic of those days is the inscription in the pub’s porch, entreating us to ‘slay that dragon drunkenness’.
Let’s not forget that pub opening hours were first brought in to stop munition workers taking long liquid lunches during the First World War. Lloyd George said: ‘Drink is doing us more damage in the war than all the German submarines put together.’ Steady on Lloyd!
A century on, cheap supermarket booze is the big problem, and pubs actually tend to be upholders of responsible drinking. In many smaller communities, where church congregations have dwindled and shops and post offices have closed, pubs tend to be the only place where people gather under the same roof.
A pub closed - and they are still closing at a rate of 18 a week across Britain - is a community asset lost. So we’re particularly glad to be also reporting this month on a pub given a new lease of life: the Yew Tree Inn in Bunbury, thriving under new ownership after a few months out of commission at the start of this year. May the Yew Tree bloom and grow!
“Wives would wait outside the pub on a Friday to stop their salt worker husbands spending their wage packets over the bar”