Grin and tonic at pop-up pub in Wrexham care home

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Pendine Park... Lesley Griffiths AM visits the Hillbury Pop up pub. Pictured is Lesley Griffiths AM with Anita Moran Hillbury House activities co-ordinator and   resident Cissie Hilton.
Pendine Park… Lesley Griffiths AM visits the Hillbury Pop up pub. Pictured is Lesley Griffiths AM with Anita Moran Hillbury House activities co-ordinator and resident Cissie Hilton.

Residents have raised a glass to a care home’s successful scheme to serve up memories of a cheery night down at the local.

Lesley Griffiths AM, who represents the area in the Welsh Assembly, had heard about the pop-up pub which regularly opens for business at the Pendine Park care organisation’s Hillbury House home in Wrexham, North Wales, and wanted to see it for herself.

So she called in at the “Hillbury Arms” for a quick drink and a chat around the bar with regulars.

And before last orders Ms Griffiths, who is also Welsh Minister for Communities and Tackling Poverty, toasted the hostelry as “another great innovative idea from Pendine Park.”

Landlady of the Hillbury Arms is Pendine Park enrichment co-ordinator Olivia Thomas who said it’s all about stimulating recollections of happy family occasions in the neighbourhood pub for residents.

“We’ve tried to arrange everything so it looks like a good old-fashioned local from the times that lots of residents will recognise and fondly recall,” she explained.

“We’ve gone to quite a bit of trouble to make it as authentic as possible, with a backdrop which looks like a traditional oak panelled pub wall covered in posters advertising the famous beers and spirits of the 1950s.

“At the bar we serve a full range of drinks, both alcoholic and otherwise, such as wine, beer and lager and also orange juice and lemonade.

“We can even make cocktails and mocktails which contain no alcohol. One of the most popular with residents is mango fizz which we mix in a silver shaker using ginger ale, mint and cranberry juice. We can then add any kind of spirit for those who want it.

“Possibly one of the best things about the Hillbury Arms is that the drinks are all free and the residents can order as little or as much as they like.

“But the pub is more than just about drinks because to get that cosy community local feel we also have a dart board and run quizzes and karaoke sessions.

“We’ve always got some period music playing on our jukebox and we also invite along guest entertainers like singers and mobile discos.

“The regulars love to join in with the songs and a few have been known to get up and have a dance.”

Olivia added: “The pub is only part of our enrichment programme for residents because we also have a pop-up ice cream parlour and a hair and beauty salon.

“They all make an appearance at one of our care homes about once every month and that includes Gwern Alyn, Bodlondeb, Cae Bryn, Highfield, Bryn Bella and Penybryn in Wrexham and now our latest £7 million dementia care centre of excellence, Bryn Seiont Newydd, over in Caernarfon.

“We established all the pop-ups because we realise that lots of residents aren’t able to get out to places like the pub like they used to, so to make sure they’re not missing out we bring everything to them where they can enjoy themselves in comfort and safety.

“All the residents really appreciate making a visit to the pub, ice cream parlour or beauty salon because it helps make them feel they’re still part of everyday life.

“When we open up the Hillbury Arms we also like to invite relatives to come along and enjoy an evening with the residents.

“We stay open for a couple of hours and everyone has fun. It may be hard work behind a busy bar and running back and forward to deliver drinks to the tables but I also love being part of the experience.”

Lesley Griffiths AM was highly impressed with her evening in the Hillbury Arms.

She said: “I’ve been hearing about the pop-up pub for some time and wanted to come along and see it for myself.

“I think it’s brilliant and is another innovative idea from the Pendine Park care organisation.

“It’s an amazing recreation of a traditional local which so many of the residents will remember and for them to be able to come along and enjoy the experience with their family is very special.

“It’s a place where they can meet and talk to their friends in a relaxed atmosphere, have a drink and maybe enjoy a sing-along or a game of darts.

“I’ve never seen anything quite like it before and I’m sure it’s an idea that could be used in other care homes.”

One of the pub regulars who chatted with Lesley Griffiths over a drink was 74-year-old Ann Hughes who moved into Hillbury from her home in Wrexham just a few weeks ago.

She said: “As I only came to the home recently this is my first time at the pub and I’m really enjoying my evening.

“It’s given me a chance to meet some of the other residents and get to know them a bit better.

“I love the old music they play which reminds me of some great nights at one of our locals in the town. If I have a few more drinks I might even join in with the songs!”

Equally impressed with the Hillbury Arms was Ann’s son, Dave Hughes, from Acton in Wrexham, who said: “I think it’s brilliant. It provides something a bit different for people like my mum and is a great way of socialising.

“It’s good to know Hillbury is doing something like for the residents and I’ve never seen anything like it before.”

Another satisfied pub customer was 84-year-old Olga Ord who has been at Hillbury for some time and become a regular.

She said: “I only have a lemonade when I come in but you can have a good, old-fashioned night out here without actually going out.

“I like to join in with the sing-alongs and even try to do the quizzes. I’m not very good at them but it’s all about taking part rather than winning.

“I think it’s a great idea, especially in the winter months when it’s not really nice enough to go anywhere.”

And sipping his glass of lager, 73-year-old Geoff Pritchard said: “I’ve been at Hillbury for three years now so I’ve been to the pub quite a few times and really enjoy the atmosphere. It’s a proper change of scene.

“When I was younger I used to get out quite a lot to the pubs in the town and everything they have here, like the bar and the music, helps bring back the good times for me.”