Villagers in North Pickenham are toasting a double round of good news – not only has their village pub reopened after four years but there are plans for a shop on site later this year.
The doors to The Blue Lion swung open in December after the pub was bought by Richard Pyne and his wife, Wendy, and on Friday, George Freeman MP for Mid Norfolk, performed the official opening ceremony with the unveiling of the new pub signs.
Richard is a former air conditioning engineer who describes himself as a complete beginner to the pub trade and an “outsider”, having lived in Bishop’s Stortford in Hertfordshire.
However he and Wendy are no strangers to Norfolk where they have spent many enjoyable holidays.
He said: “We were looking for somewhere suitable to run a bed and breakfast business. I came here to look and saw it was a glorious building. It’s a 17th century former coaching inn and has been at the heart of the village for hundreds of years.
“When I started looking into its history, I saw that the village was desperate to have a pub and at one time residents had hoped to buy it, but could not afford to.
“The feedback I have had has been brilliant – everyone is loving it and overjoyed to see it open again.”
The pub, a Grade II listed building, is at present the only facility in the village and Richard has plans for its function room in the old stables. “We intend to make this into a village store, selling everyday groceries and also include a coffee bar.
“I expect the shop to be open later this year, perhaps towards the end of the summer,” he said.
Traditional pub food will be served at lunchtimes and evenings with Richard cooking the meals himself. He has already brought in a pool table, juke box and fruit machine and darts can be played there too.
Said Richard: “We have a lovely big open fireplace and, most importantly, we also have our pub dog, Bolly-Buttons, a miniature schnauzer who gets very excited when anyone comes in.”
Outside, Richard plans to landscape the pub garden during the spring. Bed and breakfast is lined up in the future, once the necessary permissions are in place.