LITTLE has changed at Walterstone’s village pub, the Carpenters Arms, since the landlady’s family took over nearly 100 years ago.

This “gem of a pub” close to the Black Mountains, run by 80-year-old Vera Watkins, has already been listed as one of the nation’s best 50 independent country pubs. Now it has scooped CAMRA’s Pub of the Season in recognition of its timeless charm, and the unstinting devotion of its landlady.

“I have always run it as it should be run,” says Vera, who took over as licensee from her mother, Nelly Greenhow, 35 years ago. “I give customers a warm welcome, I treat everyone the same, and I always sit and talk to them.” However, she takes a firm line with bad behaviour, and has been known to give a “cold shoulder” to those who break the rules.

“I won’t have underage drinking here, or people who use rude language – no-one wants to hear that do they?”

Vera has always followed her mother’s lead. “I remember one night someone was arguing, and my mother said there’s never been a row in this house and told them to go outside to argue,” she says. “I feel the same, this is my home.”

The 300-year-old Carpenters Arms remains a popular haunt under Vera’s stewardship. Holiday-makers and their families, cyclists and walkers return to the pub “time and time again,” she says.

“People stand in the bar who’ve been all over the world, and they say, it’s so nice here,” says Vera. “I like to hear that.”