AFTER a decade of decline, the thriving local appears to be making a comeback.

Four treasured pubs in southern Oxfordshire are being brought back to life, bucking the trend for closures across the region.

The Hare at West Hendred, the Bell at Faringdon and the Swan at Tetsworth have all reopened in recent weeks, while the Crown at South Moreton is set to reopen next month.

But despite this week's good news, experts have warned still more pubs are facing an uncertain future.

Oxford Mail:

Beer writer and Oxford Campaign for Real Ale spokesman Dave Richardson said: “It’s always good to see pubs coming back to life, especially when in community ownership as free houses meaning they can control their own destinies.

"But the overall trend is still towards closures with CAMRA recording an average of 14 a week in the UK.

"In Oxfordshire county towns and villages it’s still very tough to run a pub, and action on business rates and beer tax would be very welcome.”

Oxford Mail:

Figures from the Office for National Statistics released last year showed South Oxfordshire was the hardest hit area in the county for pub closures since 2010.

The district, which includes Wallingford and Didcot, started the decade with the most pubs with 170 but this dropped to 125 by 2018.

The area lost 20 in 2011 alone, and between five and 10 every year since.

The neighbouring Vale of White Horse, including Abingdon, Wantage and Faringdon, fared marginally better, losing 25 of 115 pubs in the same period.

READ ALSO: New bars opening in Abingdon High Street

Coupled with declines in shops and other facilities, the closures left some villages cut off without any recognisable public meeting space.

But in South Moreton and West Hendred, two long-closed and rundown pubs are gearing up to welcome customers again.

Oxford Mail:

On Friday, Wantage MP Ed Vaizey helped to mark the re-opening of the Extraordinary Hare - formerly The Hare - after a £500,000 refurbishment.

Owners Star Pubs & Bars, and new licensees Kate Hayden and Paul Warriner, are serving pints again for the first time in four years, creating 10 new jobs.

READ ALSO: Oxford pubs spend thousands on revamps

Ms Hayden said: "There’s no shop in West Hendred and the pub has a really prominent position so it's a focal point of the community.

"It was therefore incredibly important to us to get the refurbishment right and ensure the pub was perfect for residents and in keeping with the village.

"We’ve had an amazing amount of support and interest from local people who’ve been desperate for the pub to re-open, and it was exciting to light the fires and open the doors for the first time in four years."

She said she and her partner had been 'overwhelmed' by the positive feedback they had received on the Hare’s new look.

Elsewhere, Oxfordshire's latest community-owned pub, The Crown, is nearing completion after being rescued from developers.

Oxford Mail:

Parish councillor and campaigner Tristram Kendall said: "We are very close to finishing the repairs and are working towards re-opening on April 5.

"We've replaced the roof, the wiring and re-jigged the bar.

"It's been a massive community effort and we've had some real stalwarts mucking in.

"We have no meeting point at all at the moment and we're hoping it will be more than just a pub."

Oxford Mail:

But in neighbouring North Moreton, current landlords Patrick and Lucy Marples have announced they will not be renewing their tenancy of the Bear at Home when it expires at the end of March, according to South Oxfordshire CAMRA.

The search is on to replace the duo whose pub won the branch's Pub of the Year accolade in 2013.

In Faringdon, where the Red Lion and the Volunteer have both shut in the last year, an Oxford duo have taken over at the Bell Hotel, once regarded as one of the finest restaurants in the county.

Oxford Mail:

New landlords Drew Brammer and George Harwood-Dallyn, who already run the Jolly Postboys in Oxford and Red Lion in Eynsham, re-opened the Bell on Friday.

Mr Harwood-Dallyn said it 'broke his heart' to see pubs closing and saw it as his team's mission to save the great British tradition of pub-going.

They have overseen a renovation that has preserved parts of the historic building while adding modern features.

READ AGAIN: Do you remember drinking in these Oxford pubs?

A beloved mural which covered the wall in the left hand bar has been partially retained but parts have been covered up to 'preserve it for the future.'

Mr Harwood-Dallyn said: "The Bell was unloved, unused and didn't really offer anything different.

"We stumbled across it and fell in love with its charms and went ahead and took it over.

"For us, we try to fulfill the role the pub has always played in our communities while adding a bit of creative thinking.

"We are well aware why pubs have failed and we are in the business of saving them."

Oxford Mail:

Capping off a good week, the grand Elizabethan coaching inn The Swan at Tetsworth is also now fully re-open after a fire ravaged the kitchen in 2017.