The travel writer John Hillaby once said that "few things are more pleasant than a village graced with a good church, a good priest and a good pub."
But the Great British pub, which plays such an important role in the life of local communities, is now under threat, with six closing across the country every day. More than 2,000 have shut in the last 12 months, and West Sussex has recently lost pubs in Worthing, Horsham and Crawley.
Only this week I received an e-mail from a local pub landlord highlighting the difficulties facing her business due to the triple whammy of the credit crunch, the smoking ban and higher taxes imposed by the Government.
Last month's Budget was yet another blow for our local hostelries when the Chancellor increased the tax on alcoholic drinks by 2 per cent. The British Beer and Pub Association has warned that this will result in an extra 5p on the average pint of beer and the loss of thousands more pubs and jobs.
While there's a case for increasing duty on high-alcohol products like alcopops which exacerbate problems of teenage binge drinking, clobbering people who are doing no harm by enjoying a quiet pint does not seem fair.
Fortunately it's not all gloom and doom as there are schemes that are helping landlords through these challenging times. Earlier this week I went to Harrogate to meet John Longden, the Campaign Director of 'Pub is the Hub'. This is a fantastic initiative which works with pubs and local communities to help pubs have a future by offering new services such as a creche for local mums or fitness facilities.
‘Pub is the Hub' is keen to work in West Sussex and is currently looking to help projects near Petworth and Haywards Heath.
The organisation was set up at the instigation of the Prince of Wales, who I was privileged to meet a fortnight ago. Once again HRH has shown himself to be a marvellous advocate for rural communities. Save our village pubs!