North West Essex

Campaign for Real Ale

Campaign for Real Ale

Railway Arms SAVED!

The Railway Arms – Saffron Walden’s First Community Owned Pub

It has been a long an arduous process since the Railway Arms was closed back in January 2017 with developers circling and another corporation pursuing a quick buck at the expense of another much-loved pub/community asset.

STRAP – Save The Railway Arms Pub – formed soon afterwards in the wake of the closure, has had to fight tooth and nail against the owners to gain Asset of Community Value (ACV) status from Uttlesford District Council as well as galvanising the community to raise funds via a community share scheme to put a competitive offer in to the pub’s owners.

Protestations from the owners – firstly to the ACV request and then to a community offer to purchase the Railway, meant that almost 4 years passed whilst the owners submitted various plans to change the current building. STRAP – under the now formed community benefit society (Saffron Walden Community Pub Ltd) were able to resubmit their offer earlier this year which was finally accepted in July.

The news that the purchase of the Railway Arms by the Community came through at 3pm on Monday 12th October and provoked an immediate dash to Bedford to pick up the keys to the pub. When the keys arrived just after 6pm the STRAP committee were privileged to open the doors of Saffron Walden’s first Community-owned Pub.

A mountain of junk mail in the bar and a Marie Celeste feel to the flat above the pub confirmed expectations that there is much work to do. Meanwhile congratulations and offers of help have been pouring in as well as a willingness to get the old pub ship-shape. Carelessness and disregard on the part of the previous owners and their caretakers has left the pub with the aftermath of a bad leak in the ladies’ toilets which will take time to refurbish. The kitchen and the flat will also need a deep, deep clean but fortunately the bar and cellar have fared better; the cooling unit responded to a service and is in good working order now. Requests for quotes to set up the cellar and refit the bar have been sent to potential suppliers.

The recent announcement, placing Essex into the government’s Covid-19 Tier 2 restrictions, has everyone having to rethink plans for working inside the pub and for future opening prospects under the new restrictions.

Fortunately outdoor work could still proceed whilst respecting the rule of six, with the initial urgent task of clearing vegetation from around the buildings. The fire escape and access ramp were blocked and buddleia was blocking drains and causing damp to the south east corner of the building. The north range of buildings was difficult to access at all. A huge difference to the visual appeal of the pub can already be seen.

Over the coming weeks work will continue and hopefully the pub will re-open its doors very soon, although with the Covid restrictions it is unsure what form this will take. It may initially re-open part time with volunteer help and a limited range of drinks, but at this time it is still undecided. However in time this old pub will be restored to its former glory offering a good range of beers, wines, soft drinks and pub grub. It is clear that the community love the pub and it’s future looks to be secure for decades to come

More details can be found on the website.

We look forward to welcoming visitors to the Railway Arms very soon.

Steve Langford STRAP - Saved The Railway Arms Pub