A POPULAR couple are set to celebrate 35 years of serving the community at their award-winning pub.

Landlords Paul and Frankie Hexter have run Wantage’s Royal Oak since September 1983 and are set to mark the occasion with a private party this weekend.

The Newbury Street boozer has won multiple awards, including being a runner-up in the Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA) National Pub of the Year 2009 and winning CAMRA Cider Pub of the Year 2012.

The Hexters - who wedded 21 years ago and had been together another two decades before the marriage - believe theirs is the only pub in the country to be shortlisted in both CAMRA categories.

They have served famous names like Joanna Lumley, Felicity Kendal and Frank Carson, and host three book clubs, a choir, an orchestra, darts teams, crib and occasional quiz nights.

But the real focus is on high quality drinks, with the pub offering about 12 ales and 35 ‘real ciders’.

The pair, who met playing murder ball in Reading - where Paul was born and owned another pub - have also done a significant amount of charity work.

Paul said: “We have raised quite a bit of money over the years doing stupid things.

“We had a marathon exercise bike where all the customers took turns… we had a paddling pool at the bar and a rocking chair by the fire, a 24-hour rowing session… It all made a lot of money for good causes.”

He thinks the pub community has raised more than £60,000 for research into various diseases and local charities.

They have no plans to move on and Paul even admits: “I suspect I will be taken out in a box at some stage.”

Frankie, who was born in Singapore, added: “It has been wonderful. We have got some really great customers that we consider friends. We have had some lovely times - I just can’t believe it has been 35 years.

“I love Wantage, it’s lovely.

“We have seen seen lots of customers grow up, with kids of their own now – its quite spooky but lovely.”

German shepherd Heathcliff is also a favourite with punters, while the pair sadly lost another dog of the same breed, Blossom, after 14 years in the pub.

In the 80s, the pub decided to commemorate a warship of the same name - on which a Wantage sailor lost his life - following a long campaign.

The name previously referenced a tree in which King Charles II hid during England’s civil war.

Ian Winfield, White Horse Chairman of CAMRA hailed Mr Hexter’s ‘marvellous achievements’ during his time in the role and added: “Paul is a nice guy and has served the community for 35 years. The pub is excellent and also good value.”