Saturday, 13 August 2022

Pubs closed as traveller funeral causes gridlock

PUBS closed their doors as more than 1,000 travellers descended on Caversham.

PUBS closed their doors as more than 1,000 travellers descended on Caversham.

There was a heavy police presence throughout Tuesday afternoon as the travellers attended the funerals of two young men killed in a car crash.

The funeral procession caused traffic tailbacks of more than a mile throughout the afternoon and police had to direct traffic.

The cortege was headed by a white pick-up truck playing the Johnny Cash song Ring of Fire.

Extra police officers were on standby outside the Travellers Rest in Henley Road where members of a group of travellers claimed they were refused entry at about 4pm.

One man, who gave his name as John, said: “It’s called the Travellers Rest. Well, we are travellers and wanted a rest but we weren’t allowed in. I just wanted to go in and use the toilets but they wouldn’t let me.”

The pub, which normally opens at 11am, stayed closed until 4.30pm when the travellers had gone.

Manager Joanne Burton said: “The decision to close was just a precaution because in the past we have had a little bit of trouble with travellers.

“The police and the council let us know what was happening but it was our choice whether or not to open.

“Because we are a road away from the crematorium we decided to close. If it had been a small party it wouldn’t have been a problem but with 1,000 of them you never know. In the end there was no trouble as the police were monitoring the road nearby.”

The Flowing Spring in Playhatch also closed amid fears the travellers might look for another pub to visit.

Nick Willson, who owns the pub with his wife Hazel Lucas, said: “The information we got from police and pubs in Caversham was that there would be about 1,000 travellers and it would be advisable to close.

“The police didn’t know what their movements would be following the burial but if most of Caversham was closed they might have come this way.

“We wanted to avoid the chance of anything happening. We have had a few minor incidents with travellers before but nothing big to speak of. It was just to stay extra safe and protect the business.

“We opened again at 5pm and all our locals came piling in. It was the third anniversary of Hazel and I taking over the pub so we were determined to open and had a lovely celebration, which made up for the closure.”

A police officer who was directing traffic in Henley Road said: “There have been two big funerals today and there are thousands of cars on the road. Some motorists have been jumping the lights so we are here to keep the traffic flowing normally.”

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