The Wonston Arms – Hampshire

THE Wonston Arms, a small community pub in the heart of a Hampshire village, has been named CAMRA’s top pubThe pub, in Wonston, was derelict just four years ago when owner and landlord Matt Todd bought it. Since reopening, it has focused on benefit-ting the local community. As a result, has become an important asset for residents, as well as a successful business.Alongside a selection of carefully kept cask ales and a 180-strong gin bar, the Wonston Arms boasts a range of pop-up foodie nights and social events selected to meet local demand. Darts matches, folk music, jazz sessions, quizzes and a photography club all take place, and local food vendors are invited for fish and chip, pizza and curry nights.The pub is also the heart of fundraising for the area. To date, it has raised in excess of £25,000. Every month it hosts a pop-up cafe, which has raised more than £7,000 for local charitable causes.Matt Todd said: “I’m overwhelmed that our little pub – which had been handed a death sentence four years ago – has now been named the very best in the country. I have strived to recreate the kind of wet pub I went to in the 1970s with my dad when I was a young boy in the north of England. “The support from the local community and beyond has been over-whelming, helping to propel us forward despite these testing times.“Ultimately I’d like to see our pub play a vital role in supporting and employing local residents and recirculating the local pounds that are spent in our pub. To do this, we need to ensure our continued survival with the likes of small business rate relief, which has been absolutely vital to getting us through our fledgling years, helping us to realise our potential. Now we’re in a position where contin-uing to build our business may end up ensuring that we’re penalised for growth through the rates system, and we need all the help we can get.”National Pub of the Year coordinator Ben Wilkinson said: “Pubs like the Wonston Arms high-light what communities stand to lose if their local pub closes – something being experienced in all too many places. These types of pubs are more than just businesses, they are the heart of our local communities and part of what makes the UK the country it is. The Wonston Arms serves excellent cask ales and is a great social environment for all. It fully deserves its title as the best in the country.”