CAMRA’s Dave Richardson looks at how community-owned pubs are thriving around the county.

Community ownership has proved to be a successful formula for rescuing pubs from closure in recent years, and there are thought to be at least 200 nationwide.

Oxfordshire is a particular hot spot with 10 community-owned pubs and at least one active buy-out campaign under way, and two of the 10 will celebrate their first decade in community ownership next year.

The latest recruit is none other than the famous and historic Lamb & Flag in the centre of Oxford, reopened on October 6 after nearly two years of closure and leased from St John’s College by a Community Interest Company called the Inklings.

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But all the other community-owned pubs in the county are in villages or the outer suburbs of Oxford, and the Oxford branch of the Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA) recently organised a minibus tour of seven of them, having visited the other two long-established pubs on another tour in March.

First stop was the Ampleforth Arms on the Risinghurst estate in Headington, whose lease was acquired by a community group in 2017 after two years of closure. Now the lease is up for renewal and the group isn’t sure whether to bid for it themselves.

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Unlike the Ampleforth, most of the other pubs visited are owned outright rather than leased by their community groups, so the question of who runs it does not arise. Most have made the wise decision to appoint professional pub tenants.

Our tour then visited Great Milton, where a thatched pub called the Bull Inn (first recorded in 1684) was one of the Oxfordshire pioneers of community ownership in 2013. It now appears to be run successfully as the only pub in the village.

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We headed through country lanes to South Moreton near Didcot, where the Crown reopened under community ownership in 2019.

This was a classic tale of a pub-owning company appearing to let the pub run down and then sell it to a developer, but the community had other ideas and fought back. It is now another thriving village pub, even hosting parish council meetings and acting as a polling station.

Our next visit was to the Plough at West Hanney, which has had several changes of tenancy but has now settled down under the management of Owain Jones and Luke Mayor.

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The Red Lion in Northmoor was our next stop - another pub with an excellent reputation for food, then on to the White House in Bladon, in community ownership for only two Covid-scarred years.

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Our final stop was The White Hart in Wolvercote, very much a beer drinker’s pub with occasional themed food events, in contrast to other pubs in Wolvercote which are food-led.

Not visited on this tour were the community-owned Abingdon Arms in Beckley, with a great range of food and ales and fine views over Otmoor; or the Seven Stars in Marsh Baldon, another great country hostelry run for the community by a small pub group with more real ales and sharing plates on the menu.

They might soon be joined by yet another community-owned venture, as villagers in Stonesfield are making a second attempt to buy the closed White Horse from a private owner and save it from possible redevelopment.

Other buy-out bids are certainly coming, and CAMRA can help as there’s plenty of advice and resources listed on its website – visit

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Dave Richardson is spokesman for the Oxford branch of the Campaign for Real Ale and editor of the Oxford Drinker.

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This story was written by Andy Ffrench, he joined the team more than 20 years ago and now covers community news across Oxfordshire.

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