At the bottom of the hill on Newbold Road lies a pub that many of us have driven past. But few have experienced the friendship, loyalty and support that makes it tick.
Separated from the nearest estate by the railway line, The Avon Mill must be doing something right to keep bringing in the punters. It is a perfect example of how important a local pub can be to its community.
“Many people don’t realise it’s here,” says ‘Mac’ McKenzie, the landlord of 20 years. “It’s the sort of pub you can come into for the first time and go away having made lots of new friends.”
The first impression is of a traditional family pub with a classic bar/lounge setup, children’s play area, and a menu headlined by Sunday roasts and home-made pies.
But the most striking thing is the warmth and togetherness that unites staff and customers. As Mac says: “We don’t call them customers – they are all our friends.”
“It’s a friendly, community-centred kind of place,” says regular punter Wayne Holborow. “You have a good laugh in a good friendly environment.”
Susan Mackie agrees. “Everybody knows everybody, and it’s just a really nice place,” she said. “I would come in on my own because I feel safe with everybody.”
The camaraderie here is infectious, and feels more like a close-knit family than a mere collection of beer-drinkers.
“We have 18 year-olds sitting with the 80-year-olds,” Mac says. “There are families who have been coming in here for four generations.”
The family bond works both ways. “We’ve all seen Mac’s grandchildren grow up,” says Susan. “You couldn’t even see them over a box of crisps and now they’re above the bar!”
But the feeling of family unity goes further than that. Regular fundraising events and free Christmas dinners for the elderly aside, there is a personal touch here that only a local pub can offer. “There’s a chap who comes in and his wife’s not been very well,” says Susan. “And I think it helps him when he comes in once or twice a week because everyone’s so supportive.” Wayne nods enthusiastically. “One of the locals had lung cancer and this was his environment. And I’m sure it was a contributing factor to him recovering.”
Susan sums it up: “You can come in here with the weight of the world on your shoulders, and go out laughing.”