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Pub returns to being a community focal point

There was plenty of chatter and laughter – and a glass or two raised to honour the Queen’s memory – as drinkers were welcomed back to the Coach and Horses in Timbersbrook, near Congleton, on Friday.

The bar was packed within an hour of the pub’s reopening on Friday afternoon, the victory round after the community campaigned to save its local.

The beer hadn’t flowed at the “Fair House” since it closed during the first lockdown more than two years ago.

Robinsons brewery then decided to sell it and the pub was bought by a developer who submitted plans to build two houses in its place.

But the planning application was withdrawn a day after Cheshire East Council granted it asset of community value status, which means that a property cannot be sold without the local community being given an opportunity to bid for it.

That followed a campaign by the Timbersbrook community to save the Coach and Horses, which was then bought by villager, businessman Cedric Stonex, who has since completely refurbished the premises.

On Friday, he was there with wife Anna to welcome drinkers back to the Coach, along with its co-managers Curtis Fleming and Josh Stephens.

“It’s a great relief to be open. It’s been such a long time,” said Mr Stonex, who owns Carlisle-based handcrafted bag firm Chapman bags.

“We thought we could open sooner than now. It’s just a great relief to be at this point and see some people enjoying themselves.”

He said it was “vital” that Timbersbrook had its local pub back.

“Timbersbrook has no village green or a church, so this is the focal point for the community here. It’s important for people to have somewhere to come and chat and socialise.”

Eighty-five-year-old Winifred Hilling has lived in Timbersbrook for most of her life and was one of the first to enjoy an opening day drink at the Coach.

She was with daughter, Elizabeth Jervis, and they had waited outside for the pub to open.

“I think it’s fantastic. They’ve done a really good job here,” said Mrs Hilling. “Hopefully it will become the centre of the community where people can meet up.”

Mrs Hilling said she enjoyed seeing some familiar faces, adding: “It’s nice to see people together as there was a long time when that couldn’t happen.”

Mrs Jervis, who lives in Northwich, said: “With the Queen passing, we wondered whether we should come, but you’ve got to support the people who have done such a fantastic job of reopening the pub – and it was a chance raise a glass in memory of the Queen.”

It was Buglawton couple Alex and Emma Carter’s first visit to the Coach and Horses.

“I came straight after work,” said Mr Carter. “We’ve never been here before but heard about how much the community had fought to keep it open and there’s such a welcoming atmosphere. We just wanted to support the locals. There’s a great selection of beers – and the pub isn’t owned by a brewery. I’ll be spending more time here than my local.”

Brothers Peter and Brian Dean live next door to each other in Timbersbrook and were enjoying an opening day pint with relatives.

Peter said: “We’ve always drank here and seen quite a few landlords over the years.”
He said the effort to make sure it reopened was “a community thing”.

“There’s nothing else in Timbersbrook so the pub is somewhere people can meet once again. There are two people here this afternoon that I’ve not seen for ages; it’s all about the community and that’s what Cedric wanted it for,” he added.

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