STRAP Chairman’s Update – 19th October 2020

Chairman’s Update – 19th October 2020

Railway Arms Pub, Saffron Walden


  • A week like no other
  •  A mountain of work to do
  •  Tier 2 Covid -19 restrictions and their implications
  •  Outdoor work carries on
  •  The garden re-emerges from threat of development and years of neglect
  •  Get involved – Complete our online questionnaire and let us know how you can contribute
  •  Share Offer Open. Buy shares in Saffron Walden’s first Community-owned Pub
Dear All,

It’s been quite a week at the Railway Arms. After the disappointment of Friday 9th the euphoria of the long-awaited purchase of the pub on Monday was all the more keenly felt. The news came through at 3pm and immediately a dash to Bedford to pick up the keys was underway. When they arrived at the pub just after 6pm we 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 confirmed our expectation that we have a lot of work to do. Meanwhile, congratulations and offers of help were pouring in and we knew, of course, that we could call on a huge body of support in turning things around. Carelessness and disregard on the part of the previous owners and their caretakers has left us with the aftermath of a bad leak in the ladies’ toilets and they will take time to refurbish. The kitchen and the flat will need a deep, deep clean and thanks are due to those who bagged up rubbish and stored abandoned possessions safely away in unpleasant circumstances. Fortunately the bar and cellar have fared better; the cooling unit responded to a service on Friday and is in good working order now. Quotes to set up the cellar and refit the bar have come in with more due in the coming  weeks.

Thursday’s announcement, placing Essex into the government’s Covid-19 Tier 2 restrictions, has left us having to rethink our plans for cleaning the pub and ancillary buildings, plans which had been carefully honed only the previous evening at the first SWCP Committee meeting to take place at the Railway Arms. We’re taking advice from our Plunkett Foundation advisors of course, and a webinar is planned for Tuesday evening to explain the implications of the new restrictions for our work and for our prospects.

Fortunately outdoor work could still proceed whilst respecting the rule of six, and we’re lucky in that we have been able to assign large areas of work to individuals to ensure safe practice and permit plenty of distance between people. Our initial task in clearing vegetation from around the buildings was urgent. The fire escape and access ramp were blocked and the buddleia was blocking drains and causing damp, particularly in the south east corner of the pub. We could hardly access the north range of buildings at all. Thankfully two or three members of the emerging gardening group were available and ready to start clearing buddleia from the courtyard/car park on Friday. Further socially distanced effort on Saturday has really turned things around and made a huge difference to the visual appeal of the place, returning the outdoor space to something like its former glory.

The fence that divided the garden had fallen under the weight of brambles and it is clear now that opening up the former private garden to community use will make a huge difference. A hidden patio area has been revealed and pressure cleaned but there is still a great deal to do. Our volunteer garden designers are sharpening pencils even now ready to realise the full potential of the space. The gardening group is forming and their efforts will surely be appreciated by us all in time.

We know that everyone wants to play their part in this journey and we have thought long and hard about the areas of need and listed them in our new online questionnaire. We’re asking for short- and long-term involvement across a range of essential activities. We need leaders, thinkers and doers and we’re confident that you will all find something that you can get involved in. Please click our survey here and let us know how and in what ways you can support Saffron Walden’s first Community-owned pub.

Our share offer remains open of course and we have an ambitious target to raise £75,000 before the end of October. Over £50,000 has already been raised and has been matched pound for pound by the Community Share Booster Programme, our sole and very welcome institutional investor. It is hard to miss the links to the share application form on our website and we really would urge you to read the business plan and share prospectus. These documents outline our ambitions and underscore our commitment to what has become a very real and present opportunity to do something truly different in Saffron Walden. If you haven’t made the step to shareholding yet, or if you know someone who has been holding back waiting to see if it would actually happen please consider an investment, we’d love to have you on board and we’d love to give you a voice in our plans.


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