Wheatley: Beer festival marks new era for village pub

Beer festivals at the Cricketers Arms in Littleworth, on the outskirts of Wheatley, used to be a regular fixture on the social calendar. On October 2-4, despite Covid-19, the festival was back – the first to be run by the pub’s new management.

David Nelms, with wife Joanne and son Josh, took over the pub on a most inauspicious day – that fateful Friday on March 20 when all pubs were ordered to close. But since re-opening on July 4 the pub has been a big success, as villagers have rallied around and more visitors from further afield have come to support it.

David – a builder who lives locally – has leased the free house for three years from previous owner Stuart Bull, a website designer who has returned to Sheffield with wife Angie. Under Stuart’s 11-year ownership the Cricketers ran regular beer and sausage festivals, and secured a place in the Good Beer Guide including the 2020 edition.

“Stuart had been looking to get out of the pubs business for some time, and being a local I didn’t want to see it close as developers were hoping to turn it into housing,” said David. “If the pub proves to be viable then I hope to buy it, and support has been fantastic. I have had no experience running a pub but I have organised the annual Littleworth ball, and I live just around the corner.

David Nelms at the Cricketers

“Taking over the pub on lockdown day was certainly a challenge, but we spent that time working on it and brightening it up, and introduced a takeaway burger menu. I was in a pub in nearby Horspath when Boris announced the closure, but we took on the challenge and we are absolutely loving it.”

Two local real ales are usually on the bar, and recently these were Jack’s Spaniels, a 3.8% blonde beer from Gun Dog (now brewed at Phipps brewery in Northampton); and Dragonfly, a 5.2% pale ale from Loddon. An American-themed menu is served plus pub classics, and since the 10pm curfew was introduced opening hours are 4pm-10pm Monday-Thursday, and 12-10pm Friday-Sunday.

The Cricketers can be reached from Oxford by taking the 280 bus towards Aylesbury, alighting at Wheatley and then a 10-minute walk. Enjoy!

Tel: 01865 872738. https://www.the-cricketers.com/