A change for the worse?Wow - one thing that has changed in the past few years is the Ampleforth Arms. Some of you may know that I once spent some time at the Benedictine abbey after which the pub is named, so I do have a special fondness for something so far away bearing the name. But when Mike, the landlord when I was councillor, was there the place was interesting. I know he always had problems with too little trade - I tried to get him a sign put up on the A40 advertising the fact that there was a pub with good home cooked food (ie way better than McDonalds for anyone looking for something to eat on the way into Oxford), but the pub was always quite homely and welcoming.
We went in there today for some relief from street surveying and it was like a barn somehow. We have to climb across in front of people watching the football on the big screen in the area that used to be the main eating area. A wall's been ripped out to make it all one big room so there's no room to hire if you want some private party or similar. And there's no food - worst of all. Mike's cullinary skills were legend. I seem to remember he even offered a delivery service to local pensioners who were housebound for a while. Today, nothing, or at least "only during summer months". Blimey. I'd starve if I didn't eat for six months!
Do you use the Ampleforth? What do you think of it now? It seems to me that it's become a typical "estate pub" - a barn of a place with very little to recommend it unless you want to watch the big screen (which at least used to be in the other room so you didn't need to disturb fans just to get to the bar or out the door). Yet it's in the right place to be the centre of a community.
I'll reserve judgement till I've been up one evening. You really can't tell the whole story from a Sunday lunch. But I won't be surprised to find it a similar atmosphere of an evening. Maybe the "local" is simply a dying institution. That would be sad. I'd love that whole parade to be the centre of this pretty isolated community. I'd better go reintroduce myself to Mr Ghandi as well. I see his property empire has gone from strength to strength in the intervening years.