Labour of love: Family and friends buy historic pub to celebrate life of much-loved villager

A BELOVED village pub has undergone significant redevelopment and will open its doors again in the coming weeks.

The purchase of the freehold and refurbishment of The Cross Keys in Llanfynydd is bittersweet. 

A story that started as one of family loss, soon became one of gain; a life legacy to give back to the people and the community that meant so much to Mark Steene, a popular character in the picturesque Flintshire village.

In 2015, Mark had a cycling accident which left him paralysed. Sadly, he passed away six years later aged just 54.

A keen cyclist and businessman, he would spend many a happy time at The Cross Keys with friends, creating memories and sharing good times. 

His sister Mandy said: “Mark made me his beneficiary and I pondered how to best deal with that inheritance. My heart wanted him, not his money.

“After a long time just sleeping on it, my head decided I wanted to do something lovely for him and his special place, Llanfynydd. 

“So, we collaborated with Mark’s close friends Andrew and Gwenan Roberts and came up with a dream plan to buy the village pub together and do our best to bring life and lustre back into the charming building for all of Mark’s community and friends to enjoy.  

“I feel I can put Mark to rest peacefully now this is becoming a reality. It’s all been made possible by the best team of people I could ever imagine.”

Andrew, director of Mold-based MPH Construction, which is carrying out the renovation, is proud to bring the pub back to life and thanked villagers for their support over past months. 

“We are so pleased to take on the freehold and give The Cross Keys a new lease of life, it has been at the heart of Llanfynydd for centuries and has a special place in all our hearts,” he said.

“There has been a full root and branch renovation, whilst being sensitive to its roots and history.” 

Gwenan added: “It’s important that we capture the spirit and authenticity of the pub’s 17th century history, so we are delighted with the beautiful mix of old and new, with many restored features with close links to our local environment. 

“For example, the window ledges are made from an old oak tree that was struck by lightning twice in a nearby field, and train tracks that ran alongside the pub more than 70 years ago have been exposed in the roof in the bar. 

“The last passenger train to ever pass through the village was in 1950 and my auntie was onboard, so there are many connections, this place is teeming with history.” 

Friend and hospitality adviser, Jo Meakin, who has more than 25 years’ experience in the world of quality pubs, says the venue will employ up to 20 full and part-time staff, and their vision is “to be a great pub, doing simple things exceptionally well, with pride, passion and setting the highest of standards throughout”. 

The bar will be the hub as you walk in with a good selection of cask ales, lagers, and wines, while the ‘Old Smithy’ has reclaimed parquet flooring and a log burning stove leading into a cosy snug with church pew seating. 

Other features include an extension to the kitchen complete with new equipment, and outside, the terrace has also been extended to take in the wonderful rolling views of Offa’s Dyke and the Welsh hills beyond. The menu will be fresh and seasonal, using local produce and supporting local businesses wherever possible.  

Gwenan said: “Recruitment has gone off with a bang, we’ve been overwhelmed with the response. 

“Our head chef, sous chef and assistant managers are already on board, and we are delighted to have offered the landlord position to Patryk Kapelinski, who has a wealth of experience in the industry.

“The last six months have been a real labour of love, we are pedalling hard to get the doors open before Christmas and still have a few opportunities to join our team, so please head to our website and social channels to find out more and to keep up to speed with progress.”

Patryk added: “Being a part of this adventure from the off is a dream come true. I cannot wait to open our doors and look forward to being a part of this thriving, happy community and getting to know everyone. I just know it’s going to be very special.”

For more information, visit the website www.cross-keys.co.uk and follow The Cross Keys on social media at @TheCrossKeysLlanfynydd. Alternatively, call 01978 760333 or email info@cross-keys.co.uk 

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