A HAMPSHIRE that stood derelict just four years ago has just been crowned the country’s best in the prestigious CAMRA awards.

The Wonston Arms, in Sutton Scotney, near Winchester, will be presented with the accolade today after being named National Pub of the Year 2018.

The pub had been set to close in 2015, with developers eyeing the land, but after more than a decade as a regular, current landlord and owner Matt Todd dropped his life in the world of corporate marketing and stepped up to buy it.

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Matt said: “I’m overwhelmed that our little pub – which had been handed a death sentence four years ago – has now been named the very best in the country. I have strived to recreate the kind of wet pub I went to in the 1970s with my dad when I was a young boy in the north of England.

“The support from the local community and beyond has been overwhelming, helping to propel us forward despite these testing times.”

Since reopening the pub, landlord Matt Todd has focused on benefitting the community, making it an important asset for residents, as well as a successful business.

Alongside a selection of carefully kept cask ales and a gin bar with 180 varieties, the Wonston Arms boasts a range of pop-up foodie nights and social events, as well as fundraising.

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To date, it has raised more than £25,000, and each month it hosts a pop-up cafe, which has raised over £7,000 for local causes.

Winchester MP Steve Brine said: “The pub trade is not easy these days, to put it mildly. In this context, it is even more impressive what Matt Todd and the team have achieved. The fact he’s done so while staying so true to the values of real ale, a decent local pint and community is just great.”

Ben Wilkinson, of National Pub of the Year, added: “Matt and his team have created a fantastic rural village pub with a great atmosphere by shaping it around the community and its needs. They have realised that it takes something special to create a sense of real belonging so that people want to come out of their homes and back in the pub.

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“Pubs like the Wonston Arms highlight what communities stand to lose if their local pub closes - something being experienced in all too many places. These types of pubs are more than just businesses, they are the heart of our local communities.”

Pubs in the competition are selected by CAMRA volunteers and judged on their atmosphere, decor, welcome, service, community focus and the quality of the beer.