FOR the past six years Alan Hardy has enjoyed regular visits to his local village pub, tucking into the tasty food served up by its chef proprietor.

The 70-year-old businessman was also impressed by the way Paul Grundy had taken the Bridgewater Arms, at Winston, near Barnard Castle, and turned it from “an ordinary pub” into “an asset for the village.”

So when discussions over a new lease between Mr Grundy and the brewery owners stalled, Mr Hardy decided to take matters into his own hands - he bought the pub himself.

“Paul deserved to have somebody to support him and I was just fortunate I had the funds at the right time. It was a fortuitous coming together,” he said.

Mr Grundy took over at The Bridgewater Arms in 2008 after 24 years at The Black Bull, Moulton.

Matters came to a head in July when Mr Grundy's lease at Winston ended and a temporary manager was appointed to take over.

Mr Hardy said: “I was very disappointed to hear Paul had difficulties renewing the lease and was about to leave the operation.

“After the event, I approached the brewery and inquired whether there was the possibility of acquiring the freehold.

“We agreed a purchase and I spoke to Paul. He confirmed he would be very pleased to continue running the operation on a long-term basis.”

Mr Hardy's background couldn't be further from the pub trade.

After working in engineering for a number of years, he set up his own company supplying pipeline fittings and valves to the petrochemical industry.

He described his purchase of The Bridgewater Arms as a “one off” to secure its future, but also as a commercially sensible deal.

“I have had a lot of pleasure here and will continue to do so,” said Mr Hardy, who lives near Piercebridge.

“It is nice to be able to preserve a facility like this in the village, but is is a commercial investment from my point of view.

“I don't invest in equipment – it's the personnel who add value to the business and that's what I have bought here. Paul is what makes the place successful.

“The feedback I have received from people I have spoken to has been very positive.

"They had said how much they were going to miss Paul and what a shame it was for the village.”

Mr Grundy said he was delighted to be back.

“We had built up a successful business here and this was the perfect opportunity to come back on a freehold basis," he added.

“Word is getting round. When I left in July, I had 200 email addresses from customers wanting me to inform them when I found somewhere.

“I have now emailed them all individually.”

He received the keys to the pub last week and was back offering a full menu by the weekend.

“We had a busy Friday and Saturday, with a lot of regular customers and quite a few from the village.”

Mr Grundy plans to run the pub much the same as before, with lunch and dinner available Tuesday to Saturday.