PUB landlords have hit back at campaigners trying to keep the inn open and have told how they ran the place at a loss for years.

Ian and Jane Shaw, who closed the Hatchet pub in Childrey last April, say they were sinking some £4,000 of their own cash into the business each year to keep it afloat.

They have hit back at a 'Don't Hatchet the Hatchet' village campaign, saying if there was any way to run the pub as a viable business they would still be open.

Mr Shaw, a father-of-two, said: "We've had this place for 23 years, but for the past eight years it was not supported the way it should be.

"In order to survive, a pub needs regular customers, and I would say a regular is more than once a week."

The couple, who grew up in Wantage and Grove took on their first pub in 1980 – the Sparrow in Letcombe Regis.

Mr Shaw had been a tiler, but he reminisced: "I always wanted a pub: the thing about working in a pub is you're amongst the atmosphere, and it doesn't cost you anything."

The only reason they left the Sparrow, they said, was because they wanted to own their own place and the brewery would not sell.

Instead, they bought the Hatchet from Morland in 1993 and have been there ever since.

When they first took it on, Mr Shaw said a core of village youngsters kept them in business alongside irregular visitors.

"It was chocka-block," he recalled, "but when the kids grew up they left home and moved away.

"They new people who have moved into the village don't drink at the pub.

"When we started here we had six pumps – when we closed we had three."

The first year the Shaws had to put money into the business was 2012: in September that year they paid £1,000 to cover costs.

After that, they said, they were paying out the same or more four times a year.

In April last year, with takings lower than ever, they finally decided they could not carry on.

They were aware that many people were saddened by the closure, but said they were still shocked to see an article in this paper about the village campaigners holding a 'pop-up pub' in the village hall to rally support.

Looking at the photograph of more than 20 people raising a glass at the event, Mr Shaw said: "If we could have had that amount of people in the pub before it closed, we would have been alright.

"Of course it's nice to have a pub in the village, but some of the comments we've heard about the campaign have been very good – things like 'if you'd used it, you wouldn't have lost it'."

The couple admitted they have not got planning permission to use the pub as a house, and Vale of White Horse District Council said it is looking into the situation to decide what to do.

Mr Shaw added: "If they force me to reopen then I'll open for 12 hours a week – Saturday night and Sunday lunchtime."