When Iwan Thomas received the news that he had won a £300,000 grant for the Vale of Aeron, a pub adored by the poet Dylan Thomas when he lived nearby in the 1940s, he was working a shift but had to hold his tongue.
Thomas, the 53-year-old chair of the Menter Tafarn y Vale co-operative group that runs the pub, could not tell any of the regulars until the news embargo lifted. “There was certainly a wry smile, where you know you’ve got something you’re keeping a secret, but it’s a good secret,” he said. “We’re delighted.”
The pub in the village of Ystrad Aeron, in Ceridigion, Wales, is one of 45 “cherished” institutions to be protected by the UK government, with over £12.3m for projects also including a train line that featured in the film adaptation of The Railway Children.
The Community Ownership Fund supports “local people to save local community assets at risk” and has now given £49.3m to 195 projects, including museums, sports clubs and pubs.
The pub, known in Welsh as Tafarn Dyffryn Aeron, was bought by the community in 2021 and is run as a co-operative enterprise, with each shareholder – no matter their stake – having an equal vote in decision-making.
The Vale is popular with tourists and is a stop on the Dylan Thomas trail. The grant will help renovate the building, make it more accessible, install better heating facilities and make the community enterprise sustainable. “It allows us to bring this lovely building into the 21st century,” Thomas told the Guardian.
Another project to receive funding is a Yorkshire railway line between Keighley and Oxenhope. A bridge originally built in 1867 and featured in the 1970 film The Railway Children – adapted from Edith Nesbit’s 1906 novel – will be rebuilt for £1m.
David Pearson, of the Keighley and Worth Valley Railway Preservation Society, said the funding “means everything to our railway, our villages and our people” and would ensure the railway’s survival.
Also included in the grants is £300,000 for an aerospace discovery centre in Kinross, Scotland.
Jacob Young, a minister in the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities, said: “These places – from pubs to historic railway lines – are the golden thread which run through our social fabric, and keeping them going is vital for supporting communities.”
The next round of applications will close on 11 October.