Gary and Joanna Thompson have served their local community for the best part of a generation.

When they arrived at the historic General Havelock Inn at Haydon Bridge, back 1999, they could not have envisaged the journey ahead.

For the past two decades have seen the community bounce back from the foot and mouth outbreak of 2001, and devastating flooding in both 2005 and 2015.

Sandwiched in between the lows have been memorable highs, including the eagerly-awaited opening of the Haydon Bridge bypass in 2009.

Yet no experience could have prepared residents in Haydon Bridge and beyond for the coronavirus pandemic.

Like many other businesses, the Havelock has diversified. Due to the ongoing lockdown restrictions, it can’t welcome drinkers and diners at it usually would.

Therefore, the popular takeaway service it is now offering is set to continue for the foreseeable future.

“Some people are still shielding or cautious about coming out of the house,” said Joanna. “We want to make sure that people who need a Sunday lunch can continue to get one.

“This is an awful pandemic but I’ve always thought the people in our village are good at supporting each other. It’s an honest, tight community, and everyone has pulled together.”

Joanna said the couple are proud to be custodians of a pub which dates back to the 18th century.

They arrived shortly before the turn of the Millennium having both worked in the service industry with distinction.

Chef Gary had previously cooked meals for the British Army in Germany, prior to the fall of the Berlin Wall, while Joanna had worked in Canada as a nanny and housekeeper.

After running the Black Bull pub in Coventry, they searched for an idyllic country pub where they could also run a restaurant.

They fell for the Havelock and its rustic charm instantly. They retained its traditional features and promoted a bar where atmosphere was key.

“We didn’t want a jukebox or a pool table,” said Joanne. “In Coventry, our bar was based on conversation and camaraderie, and perhaps a game of dominoes or cards, and we wanted to do the same here.

“But that’s just our style. All of the pubs in the village, and the social club, are great and have their unique features. We all get on well and complement each other. There’s something for everyone.”

Memorabilia on display at the Havelock is the Jack Rumney Cup – a nod to the pub’s past and the work of the Rumney family which were once at the helm.

“We knew this was the right place for us,” said Joanna, who has served as a member of Haydon parish council for several years.

“This is a great community to serve and be part of,” she added. “We both feel that way.”

The General Havelock, which also serves takeaway meals on Friday evenings, is located on Ratcliffe Road, now steeped in Coventry connections. The pub is just yards away from the house where poet Philip Larkin, a native of Coventry, visited his love interest, Monica Jones.