ELMA Dickie could not wait to start work again after lockdown ended.

As manager of The Malt at Harden, she missed interacting with customers visiting the popular pub.

“It is a very social job,” she said. “We see loads of local people and others from across the district and beyond, so it is great to be open again and have a semblance of normality.”

The country pub was open last year from July to November, and then closed under the latest lockdown.

“In lockdown we kept busy with things like cleaning and maintenance,” said Elma, who swapped a corporate career to work in the pub trade. “My husband William is a chef and I rarely saw him, so I made the change five years ago.” Now they work together at The Malt.

The pub is lucky to have a large beer garden, in which a marquee has been erected. “We worked really hard to get things ready. We have seating under the marquee and seating under umbrellas in the garden - it all looks really nice, especially when the sun is shining,” said Elma. “We could not have asked for better weather for reopening.”

The characterful pub is believed to have been built in 1550. It has taken on many uses over the centuries including as a farmhouse, coaching house, court room and prison. It retains many historical features, in particular a cell room including a barred window and a preserved inglenook fireplace dating back to the reign of William and Mary in the 17th century.

Since reopening there has been a flood of bookings and anyone keen to drink or dine there would do well to reserve a table. “We can sometimes accommodate walk-ins, but it’s best to book as people have to be seated,” says Elma.

The varied menu includes traditional pub classics such as steak and ale pie, fish and chips and sausage (with a vegetarian option) and mash as well as curried lamb burger and vegetable burger.

“It is a new menu - we have kept all the favourites,” said Elma.

There is a selection of sandwiches served on white or granary sliced bread or ciabatta, or gluten-free bread.

The hearty fare is cooked by William. “He’s a good cook - that’s why I married him,” she jokes, adding “He is very pleased to be back at work.”

The Wilsden Road pub, which has a staff of 15, uses locally-sourced suppliers, including Ellisons butchers in Cullingworth.

In its a scenic setting, the pub is often frequented by walkers, cyclists and horse riders. There are dog water bowls dotted about and even a hitching rail and trough to keep horses happy.

“It’s great to be able to serve people and see them look at their pint and their food and tell us how much they have been looking forward to it.”

Most popular beers are Theakson Best Bitter, Theakston Old Peculier and Ossett Brewery’s Yorkshire Blonde.

The Malt is one of four Pickles Pubs, a family run business established in 2006, the others being The Glen of Gilstead, The Acorn in Eldwick and The Old White Bear at Cross Hills.

Despite her career swap Elma does not see William that often. “We work in different areas of the pub, and we are always busy, but we sit down and have coffee breaks together which is nice.”

*The Malt, Wilsden Road, Harden, Bingley BD16 1BG email: enquiries@themaltharden.co.uk. It is best to book to be sure of a seat.