AFTER standing empty for two years, the only spirits to be found at the George and Dragon were those of long-gone drinkers.

Once the focal point of the North Yorkshire village of Hudswell, the watering hole is little more than a shell.

But now, after a concerted campaign by people in the village, the pub is to open its doors once more.

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It has taken many months of hard work and about £227,000, but it has been worth it for the villagers who have now been handed the keys.

Standing in a prominent position in the centre of the village, the pub has been empty since August 2008, with only a few brewery signs remaining outside as a reminder of its past.

An icy cold draught, and that is not a reference to the ale, permeates every nook and cranny and while the old beer pumps are still in place, everything else in this once vibrant and crowded pub is gone, stripped out after the previous owners fell on hard times.

But despite that, locals believe the premises, with a stunning view of the Swale Valley and a sizeable community to serve, remains a viable business.

After months of waiting for someone else to take it over, villagers decided to take matters into their own hands and in a couple of months the pub will reopen, owned by the local people for the local people, under a cooperative known as the Hudswell Community Pub Limited.

Paul Cullen, director of the co-operative, said: “When we got the keys we were over the moon because we are finally in here. The pub is now ours forever and it will be a community facility that reflects what people in the village want.”

A total of £227,600 was raised in a matter of weeks to purchase the property, and a £50,000 grant from North Yorkshire County Council further boosted the coffers.

The co-operative has big plans and will incorporate a small shop, library and internet, as well as opening up a field at the back for allotments, to ensure it becomes a venue for the whole village.

Paul Hetherington, who has been involved in scheme from the start, said: “It’s just such a wonderful feeling, especially because I never expected us to achieve the total. It means a lot to the community and if we can’t make it work, no one will.

The village hall is great, but it doesn’t have the right atmosphere for certain events.

“We already have plans to bring back traditional games in the pub, such as quoits and dominoes, and get some other teams going.”

The only thing missing is a landlord.

Anyone interested in taking on the tenancy, is asked to contact Michael Hughes, at Sidney Phillips, on 01904-793333.