The stretch between Bishops Castle and Hereford is one of my personal favourites, and it takes in Leintwardine, as unpronounceable now as on my first visit to the Sun.
There’s some gorgeous houses in this little known village, which I sense would be overrun with tourists if it was in South Cambridgeshire. Mind you, folk in Grantchester don’t pick up dead pigeons and stick them in their coat pockets while giving you odd stares, which I presume accounts for the cheaper house prices.
The Sun was one of the famed “parlour” pubs, on a par with Netherton’s Star if not the Dyffryn Arms. Flossie’s death led to changes that ensured the retention of the parlour and the public room, but business seemed to have drifted towards a modern extension on my previous visit.
Beer quality was never its best point under Flossie, but I was a little surprised to see it slip out of this year’s Guide. Herefordshire’s GBG section is missing several other old favourites, including the Olde Tavern in Kington, the Royal George in Lingen and Leominster’s Grape Vaults.
Leominster seems to have fallen furthest in recent years, with the loss of the Black Horse a particular blow. It’s an inconsistent little town, with a few gems.
There’s clearly no room for sentiment in Herefordshire CAMRA, and quite rightly so. With a tiny GBG allocation of 26, and new micropubs coming on line, the branch is spoilt for choice.
Ownership changes as well as inconsistency may be factors, but ultimately it’s the quality of the beer, for example from the two corking pubs in little-known Orleton that ensure there’s new entries each year. The county has some of my highest NBSS scores.
The other new entry in the north of the county is a good example of the restaurant-pub that Simon Everitt so enjoys, with a queue of smart folk waiting to enquire about high chair provision and tabs (no that kind). The ability of people to lack any basic pub etiquette into their dotage is a source of endless bemusement to me.
England’s Gate is a prominent pub labelled on my old Navigator, and actually very easy to enjoy for what it is. An attractive black and white building with flagstone floors, set for dining but keen to look pubby.
Being pubby isn’t necessarily achieved by stools around beer barrels of course, or by a large beer range and the largest number of cider boxes seen anywhere outside Spoons.
A decent Hobson (NBSS 3), but not a place for the casual drinker as the barrel tables may suggest. Recommended though, on the basis of a competent bar maid who provided change from her own purse when the keys for the till failed to turn up. A woman who carries her own cash is a rare treasure.