Regulars bid to take over Norfolk pub
Stephen PullingerA Norfolk pub could be taken over by regulars - so that its landlord can retire.Stephen Pullinger
Its good beers, Friday night fish and chips and timeless interior (complete with roaring fire and talking parrot) have made it a legend on the Broads.
And over nearly four decades, Ray Norman - aka Winkle - has become almost as much a legend himself as landlord of the White Horse in Upton, near Acle.
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But while his larger-than-life character remains just as strong, it is his creaking bones and sciatica that keeps him in bed on a Saturday morning that have caused increasing concern of late to pub regulars.
For approaching his 67th birthday and admitting his body 'does not do what I want it to anymore', Mr Norman reluctantly decided more than a year ago it was time to retire.
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However, despite the Chapel Lane pub being on the market at �350,000 for more than 12 months, there has been scarcely any interest in buying it as a going concern.
Now a group of villagers, fearing the possible closure of their only pub or its conversion into houses, are promoting a plan that would help Mr Norman retire and keep their community hub going.
They have called a public meeting at Upton village hall at 7.30pm on Friday, April 9, to discuss the possibility of villagers buying and running the pub themselves.
The plan, inspired by similar ventures in other parts of the country but thought to be the first in Norfolk, would involve supporters buying �500 shares to become stakeholders.
Each shareholder would have an equal say in running the business but potential future dividends would be paid out according to the number of shares held.
Engineer Richard Thornhill, who has lived in nearby Boatdyke Road for 18 years, said they were also exploring the possibility of grant funding from a recently announced Pub is the Hub government scheme.
He said: 'People in the village have been very anxious to see business at the pub decline as it is really the hub of the community with some regulars having come in here for decades.
'In Upton, we have already lost the school, post office, shop and chapel. What's next? It is said that without such social centres a village dies and property prices fall as it fails to attract newcomers. We do not want to see Upton further become a dormitory for Norwich and Great Yarmouth.'
Mr Norman, who worked offshore before taking over the pub in October 1972, said: 'I've enjoyed every minute but my body does not do want I want it to do nowadays with sciatica and other things taking over. Mopping floors and lifting barrels are increasingly difficult.'