Crimea hopes to regain Pub of the Year titleBy Amy Taylor
March 21, 2013
WINNER of the News & Mail Pub of the Year competition in 2010, the third oldest pub in Aldershot has seen more than a few changes over the years and a few dreams realised for its owners.
The Crimea, which dates back to the early 1800s, has seen generations of drinkers, and for landlords Ray and Jan Hedgman, tending to it has become their life’s work.
The couple have run the pub since 2009 and since then have been almost permanent fixtures behind the bar, taking not a single day of holiday since they took it on.
“It becomes your life,” said Ray, who before meeting Jan and buying the pub’s lease ran the bars at his beloved Aldershot Town FC.
“Even on our night off we often come down for a drink. People like to see the landlord, and it keeps away trouble because they know you’re there keeping an eye on things.”
“We have seen dads, sons, and granddads coming in,” added Jan, who unlike her born-and-bred Aldershot husband has previously managed pubs around the country.
“We recently had the funeral of a lady who was 91, who used to be landlady here. She moved up to Yorkshire, but her last wish was to have her wake here, so we had lots of older people here that remembered drinking in the pub.”
Part of their success is their proximity to the football stadium, which was also the reason they bought the pub in the first place.
“When I used to drink in this pub a few years ago, I had a dream of being the Aldershot Town fan that lived the closest to the grounds,” said Ray.
“I reckon I must be now. This is the focal point for the fans, it’s just packed. I love it – I would stay here just for the Saturday.”
Their other winning characteristic is their flexibility. Though the couple do not serve food – they tried it before, but one day they would do 10 meals and the next they wouldn’t do any – they encourage families to bring their own picnics when the weather is nice and make use of the Crimea’s large front garden.
“We try to accommodate everyone’s wishes,” Jan said. “Families can bring picnics or I put on a barbecue and they can bring their own food to put on. All we ask is that they buy their drinks.”
They are also known for their bouncy castle, which, if the weather holds, stands outside the pub from April to October, and for their welcoming attitude to children and dogs.
Prices haven’t risen at The Crimea for 15 months, despite the tightening of belts in pubs all over, but the Hedgmans have noticed some of the strain.
“People don’t realise how hard it is,” said Jan. “A few years ago our regulars would come out three or four times a week, now they’re coming out once.”
Despite the difficulties, the job remains their passion. “It’s very rewarding,” said Ray.
“When I ran the bars at the football club, it was very intense for three hours, and then quiet after that. This is completely different.
“You have to be someone’s shoulder to cry on, you have to listen to people, and you have to agree with things that you don’t always want to.”
Pick up a copy of the News & Mail for your Pub of the Year voting form.