A PUB has stood in the Loxley Valley for more than 200 years – and the Appleyard family have gone to great lengths to maintain the tradition.
They bought the Robin Hood Inn, tucked away in countryside at Little Matlock in Stannington, 13 years ago to save it from closure and quickly established it as a place for good food, real ale, community activities and attractive accommodation.
But now they are preparing to shut the doors themselves, saying they can no longer continue pouring their money into the business.
A planning application has been made to the council to convert the grade II-listed building at the end of Greaves Lane, off Wood Lane, into three apartments with the intention that the family moves into all of them.
It is certainly not a case of a smart property development move, they point out. After the whole family have worked hard to try to keep the pub going, they have been forced to take a “very, very sad” decision.
“Our quality of life has suffered in order to keep what we see as the unique Robin Hood,” says Bridget Appleyard.
“We’d love to keep it but it is not financially viable. It has been on the market for over a year.
£People love the Robin Hood but they say it’s in the wrong location and it’s a white elephant. We have had to accept it.”
The pub was built in 1804, with trees and shrubs planted in the area to replicate Matlock in Derbyshire.
Half of the building was originally cottages, whilst the other half overlooking woodland was called the Rock Inn, going on to survive the 1864 flood.
The name was later changed to reflect the Loxley connection.
The Appleyards bought it in 2003 when there were plans to turn it into apartments.
“We lived in the Loxley Valley and we wanted to save it and to turn it into the type of place we ourselves wanted to walk up the hill to visit,” says Bridget.
With daughter Keeley as licensee and upper rooms converted into four boutique-style rooms, the family put their “heart and soul” into the pub, making the business a success (the Sunday carvery was enormously popular) and attracting tourism awards.
“But it was very draining and after four-a-half years we thought it was time to move on and to pass it to other people who could take it to the next stage.”
They gave a lease to a group of people “with the perfect credentials” and with a view to them buying the property. They ran the premises for 18 months until they hit financial problems.
The Robin Hood returned to familiar hands, with Bridget, husband Scott, Keeley, son Elliot and Bridget’s mum, dad, mother-in-law and uncle and friends all pitching in.
But, as with many pubs, times were tougher than ever. Scott took a job that saw him flying to and from Brazil to work as a project manager in a paper mill. “It was the only way we could meet the crippling overheads.”
The pub closed on Mondays and Tuesday. It has stayed open on Wednesday nights – that was quiz night and Bridget did not want to let down the regulars – and on Thursday nights, but it is hardly worth it. “If we take £50 on Thursday night we have done well.”
Most of the business is done at weekends, with Bridget working hard in the kitchen to ensure the Robin Hood retains it reputation for good local food. “We kept to our beliefs of fresh home cooking, doing quality rather than quantity.
“There is a hard core of regulars who love this place and I’ll be sorry that they will be losing their local. Everybody knows the pub. Thousands turn up on Bonfire Night, Mother’s Day and at Hallowe’en but it’s only an occasional place for the rest of the year. A building this size can’t exist on that. Every month we were putting our own money into this place.”
So Bridget and Scott are planning to sell their home to help finance the proposed conversion into three apartments with a view to them being joined by Keeley, who now has a one-year-old child, and Elliot.
While working with the council to ensure that the proposed changes are in keeping with the historic building, they will honour bookings for parties and other events, which means the pub still stay open until at least August.
Bridget says the family will miss it dreadfully. “It’s very sad but we’ve been pushed into a corner. We hope people will understand that unfortunately it is the end of the road for the Robin Hood.”