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Monday, 17 December, 2001, 15:31 GMT
Prince toasts the village pub
Prince Charles in the Craven Heifer Hotel in Stainforth
Prince Charles samples the community hospitality
The Prince of Wales sampled more than village life in North Yorkshire as he launched an initiative to help local pubs survive.

The campaign called "Pub is the Hub" encourages village pubs to diversify to safeguard against closure.

Research by the Countryside Agency found more than half of all English villages have no pub and seven out of 10 have no local shop.

Prince Charles launched "Pub is the Hub" in the village of Stainforth on Monday where he enjoyed a pint of beer and a glass of whisky in the Craven Heifer Hotel.

Prince Charles with local children in Stainforth
The Prince met local children outside the pub

The hotel is an example of a pub which has developed to meet the needs of the community.

The landlord and landlady, Debbie and Michael Prior have set up a shop and a post office over the last year.

At the oak-panelled bar the Prince was offered a large malt whisky and a jug of water by Tom Sharp, a part-time barman who was also a farmer.

As he took a sip he said to Mr Sharp: "I think I ought to try a Thwaites."

After being given a pint of Thwaites Bitter, the Prince took a sip and said: "That's very good."

It was brilliant to get his endorsement for what we are doing

Debbie Prior, pub landlady

Then realising he still had the whisky he continued: "This mixing is going to make it very exciting."

The Prince then exchanged jokes and Christmas greetings with regulars at the bar before visiting the tiny shop and post office.

Mrs Prior told the Prince how they had set up the shop and post office and he eventually bought a sticky toffee pudding, a Christmas stamp and a small Wensleydale cheese.

He paid for his purchases with a 10 note he already had in his hand.

Mrs Prior said: "I think I'm overcharging you."

To which the Prince replied: "It doesn't matter, it will pay for my drink."

Prince Charles in the Craven Heifer Hotel in Stainforth
Beer versus malt whisky

Commending the "Pub is the Hub" initiative the Prince said: "I just wanted to say again how much I admire the Priors and others like them in other parts of the country who have helped to show the way that pubs have a huge potential to act as one-stop shops."

After the visit, Mrs Prior said it was a great boost for the area which she said had been "devastated" by foot-and-mouth disease.

She said: "It was brilliant to get his endorsement for what we are doing."

In his foreword to "Pub is the Hub", Prince Charles said: "Rural ways are facing unprecedented challenges.

"Now, perhaps more than ever in their history, they must draw on their resourcefulness and resilience, built up over centuries, to meet changing circumstances and find new ways to help themselves."

Success stories

Country pubs are facing a number of threats to their future.

These include a shift from landlord to manager-run theme pubs, the effect of foot-and-mouth disease, young people travelling out of the village to drink, and tighter drink driving laws.

There are a number of success stories where pubs are staying open by providing extra services.

The Miners' Arms in Brassington in Derbyshire has started offering information technology classes in a room which has been linked up to the University of Derby's High Peak College.

Practical advice

Sandra Thorpe, the landlady, told BBC News Online: "We have enough room for a personal computer and a video facility.

"It has helped to break down barriers, but we have had some funny looks when people have put their heads around the door, saying 'I am just going upstairs, is that all right?'

"It has certainly not done trade any harm."

The "Pub is the Hub" guide will provide practical advice for diversification, along with case studies of 12 pubs which have already diversified.

The BBC's Catherine Marston
looks at the role of the pub in local, village life
See also:

16 Nov 01 | England
Vicar holds service in pub
20 Oct 01 | England
Pub's prayer potential
03 Sep 01 | Glasgow 2001
Physicist honoured for pub cabarets
05 Jun 01 | Education
Pupils tuck in to 'pub' lunches
02 Aug 00 | Wales
'Cyber pubs' log on
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