Devon Villagers Rallied to Save Their Local

Residents of a small Devon village were horrified when their local pub was put up for sale and then had a planning application lodged for change of use to a private residence. The Tally Ho Inn, one of the South Hams' best loved pubs, had been at the heart of village life in Littlehempston for centuries, so the locals were not prepared to let it go without a fight. They  set up a co-operative to buy this Grade 2 listed building and looked to raise £350,000 to ensure its future for generations to come. It was hoped that support would come from both local people and those further afield, who liked the idea of preserving British heritage and owning a share in a traditional pub.

The share offer launched on May 1st 2013. Central government backs co-operative schemes like this and a big attraction is that, under the Enterprise Investment Scheme (EIS), purchasers of shares should get 30% of their money back from the Inland Revenue.

Rural pubs are vulnerable to closure - populations are scattered, and cheap supermarket booze and fast food outlets lure away trade. But the local pub is a vital piece of social infrastructure at the centre of the community. Closure of local facilities has hit many villages throughout Britain, but recently some have resisted the trend with increasing numbers of community-run enterprises starting up. Community shops led the way and, within the last two years, increasing numbers of community pubs have set up.

The campaigners wishing to save the Tally Ho were passionate about what the pub could offer its community and  looked at ways of adapting the traditional model to ensure survival: as well as offering fine foods and ale, and the scope for other services such as selling local produce, taking deliveries, book exchange and wi-fi connection.

There was also great potential for joint activities with the village church next door, another Grade 2 listed building, that was also under threat of closure. After a huge effort by the village, it was saved by being imaginatively adapted for both religious and community use, attracting a wide audience from all over the district. Littlehempston villagers are adept at moving with the times and protecting their heritage!

Unlike most of the country, pubs seem to be thriving in the South Hams. In fact only nine have shut over the last decade, so the Tally Ho Inn looks forward to a great future as well as a great past - it's variously dated to between the 14th and 17th centuries and is the epitome of the Olde Worlde village pub (it was selected as the film set for the latest Comic Strip jaunt "Five Go to Rehab" directed by Peter Richardson). And it was a place worth fighting for. As one local put it, "I'm not going to see centuries of local history disappear on my watch without a fight." This is a special pub that should attract support from far and wide - in the words of the late television chef and publican, Keith Floyd, "This was one pub I always wanted to buy".

The Tally Ho is on the route of the proposed cyclepath that would link Totnes to several villages to the north. The path will be part of National Cycle Network route 2 (NCN2) which runs all the way from Dover in Kent to St Austell in Cornwall, but it will also make it easy and pleasant to travel a couple of miles out of Totnes on foot or cycle to a re-opened Tally Ho. So the team behind the campaign to buy and re-open the Tally Ho are also firmly behind the cyclepath campaign as it can only help to make the Tally Ho an even more viable concern.