Cambridge-based writer, thinker, psychologist and wandering minstrel
Published April 23rd 2013
A large measure of community spirit please
The days of the village pub seem to be passing, and fewer and fewer villages can boast their own pub as each year goes by. But recently there has been a movement seeking to stop this decline: the purchase of local pubs by the villagers themselves, to be run as a community enterprise. It is exactly this kind of project that The Plough and Fleece in Horningsea near Cambridge represents, since the locals took it over from Greene King brewery in late 2012.
And this is certainly a pub worth saving from redevelopment. The front room is a wonderfully cosy, archetypal pub bar with wooden beams and an open fire with original stone hearth. The back room is more modern, but also larger and lighter, lined with windows and double doors which open onto a small patio and grass lawn ideal for summer drinks.
Landlord Tom Canning is also the chef – and a very good one at that – with the food representing excellent quality at a reasonable price. They do roasts every Sunday lunchtime; during the rest of the week expect a menu featuring dishes such as beer battered calamari, Mediterranean vegetable tart, and ham, egg and chips, with eggs from their own hens. Ale drinkers should be happy too, as they always have 3 or 4 real ales on tap and bring in new ones regularly – check the website for the latest selection.
But, fittingly, it is in its community spirit that this pub really shines. A book club meets once a month, quiz night every Tuesday, and every Thursday the back room is used for a popular musicians' night, where anyone who plays or sings can come along and do some songs or join in with everyone else. As this suggests, this pub is quite active musically, with regular gigs organised by Cluzion music. In July each year they even host a small weekend festival showcasing local and regional talent.
And things get even more ambitious than this: they recently put on a two-man, one-woman version of Jesus Christ Superstar with landlord Tom as one of the actors (his talents know no bounds), and I've heard a rumour that this will be followed by Les Miserables later this year…
The Plough & Fleece is a good example of what a community-owned pub can be: homely, lively, musically vibrant, and not afraid to try new things (especially if they verge on the ridiculous or impossible…). There's nowhere else quite like it in Cambridge.