The Mermaid Inn at Elsing near Dereham is the latest Norfolk pub to broaden its appeal to locals with disabled access, a disabled toilet, a tea room and internet access that will also host IT training.
Licensee Helen Higgins and her partner Kevin Wills, have been at the pub for the last thirteen years serving the local community whilst also catering for the many visitors who come to the area including walking groups from the Wensum Way nearby, birdwatchers and those who come to visit the historic St Mary’s church opposite.
The Mermaid is also home to a variety of village groups, not all of whom had easy access into the sixteenth century pub so Helen and Kevin approached Pub is The Hub for help and advice. After speaking to Terry Stork the advisor for Anglia, they discovered that they could apply for a grant of £4,000 from Norfolk County Council’s Community Services Fund to improve disabled access and facilities for the pub. The addition of the tea room and internet provision should also help to combat isolation for local residents.
Serving hot drinks and locally supplied and home-made cakes in the tea room, it will be open during normal daytime pub hours to begin with (12 – 3.30pm) but the aim is to open for longer if it becomes popular. In the winter the couple hope to be able to run IT training sessions.
Helen said: “Since taking on the pub thirteen years ago we have witnessed the decline of services in the area for our community practically leaving us as the last business standing. We have also followed the changing nature of the leisure market and realised that long-term business sustainability has to come from diversification. We’re hoping that the improved access, disabled facilities, tea room and internet provision support the long-term viability of the pub business by maintaining footfall.
“We have invested a substantial amount of our own money in this venture but it would not have been possible without the support, encouragement and financial help from Pub is The Hub and Norfolk County Council’s Community Services Fund.”
Cllr Bill Borrett, Shadow Chairman of the Adult Social Care Committee and Member for Elmham and Mattishall Division at Norfolk County Council said: “”I am hugely excited to open the Mermaid’s newly accessible facilities; they are a vital part of the community. Rural areas are often last in the queue when it comes to local services and the Pub is The Hub initiative can make a difference by helping local businesses make a real contribution to their local communities.” Terry Stork, regional advisor for Pub is The Hub added: “We were delighted to give Helen and Kevin a modest grant to open the pub up to the wider community with their all-inclusive welcoming policy and will continue to offer support and advice where we can.”
The Mermaid is also actively involved in lots of Village Hall events and Helen serves on the Village Hall management team assisting in many fund raising events and providing outside bars for concerts at the hall.
Photograph shows: Licensees of The Mermaid, Helen Higgins and Kevin Wills with Cllr Bill Borratt from Norfolk County Council & Terry Stork for Pub is The Hub