New pub landlord helps mums on the school-run

James Penlington, new landlord of The Bell, Lower Road, Stoke Mandeville.
James Penlington, new landlord of The Bell, Lower Road, Stoke Mandeville.

A new landlord is helping out parents by letting them park at his pub during the busy school-run.

James Penlington has invested his parents’ retirement fund in refurbishing The Bell in Lower Road, Stoke Mandeville.

And determined to become a vital part of the community he is positively welcoming mums who park their cars in the pub car park during drop-off and pick-up time at the school up the road.

He said: “I’m happy to help them out. It is safer for them to park here rather than on the roadside. I want this to be a community pub with longevity. I want a nice local trade at the bar with neighbours talking to each other.”

James, 34, has a long background in the hospitality trade and was general manager at The Royal Oak in Marlow before moving to the Vale.

Now he and his wife Nicky, an intensive care paediatric nurse, live above the business with their two small sons George, aged two, and Thomas, one.

Mr Penlington says he is entrepreneurial and has always wanted to work for himself. When his grandmother was in Stoke Mandeville Hospital his father and grandfather did a search of pubs in the area and discovered The Bell.

He now has a 10 year lease and has invested £100,000 in refurbishment.

“It’s frightening, but no matter what went before, this pub has a lot going for it now.

“It’s a great location, has a large car park and good grounds.

“Loads of people live around here and I hope they will embrace and support us.”

Although promising to serve top-notch food, Mr Penlington says The Bell is first and foremost a pub where people can chat over a drink.

He said: “I’m very anti the whole, ‘you must eat if you are in a pub’. A lot of gastro pubs have disappeared up their own backside. The life and soul of a pub is the people who visit, not the staff. We have no gimmicks.”

Dogs, muddy boots and children are all welcome. A warm wood burning stove burns in the corner of the bar; the local newspaper is available to read; board games and books are provided.

“I want people to feel at home and want to provide a space where they will want to sit for a while.”