It was typical that my phone battery would die just as I reached one of the most attractive places on earth, Tintern Abbey. Mrs RM will sort me out once she’s ridiculed me, and made me switch it on and off for a 100th time (that didn’t work).
I could have used my laptop for photos like my mum does, but I seem to end up photographing myself, and even Mrs RM wouldn’t want that in a post.
It really is very gorgeous, and a stream of octogenarians (folk that old tell you their age with pride) couldn’t diminish its appeal. Nothing much changes, there’s still very little in the way of facilities outside the Anchor, and the formal looking hotels.
The biggest change since our first visit is the absence of the tame rabbits that took up the whole of the playing field in the early ’90s. Not the only lost legends of Tintern though.
The Anchor is the Beer Guide entry, but was doing a healthy coffee and cake trade on Friday morning. Historic if not particularly characterful, it’s pretty tastefully decorated in a way that doesn’t actively discourage drinkers.
I still felt I was chancing my luck asking the young lady for an excellent half of Otter at 10.01 though, and indeed she went to ask the manager for confirmation that I was a responsible human being to be selling alcohol to at that hour.
If he remembered my previous trip to the Anchor at the height of Caffreys-mania in 1995 he didn’t let on. As Simon will know, you can’t actually tick a GBG pub until you’ve tried their real ale (NBSS 3.5).
I did have real ale in 1995, in the wonderful Cherry Tree just up the hill. For a while it was my favourite pub, with the Hancocks HB and local banter a potent mix.
The arrival of “incomers” saw a dull extension, Guardian readers demanding menus, and an inevitable closure in 2010.
There was no outward sign of the pub left, so I asked a lovely gentleman about its fate. I think the word he used to describe the last owners was incomers but my Welsh is poor. His sense of loss for a pub that was in the first 25 Good Beer Guides was palpable. He vouched for the quality of the Anchor’s beer though.
Clearly a proper pub lover, he recalled the time pre-gentrification a visitor asked for chicken and chips. A packet of roast chicken crisps and a pickled egg was offered.
On to Chepstow, where rain and Jools Holland are seemingly always just around the corner. Three mobile phone shops, all unable to provide a replacement battery.
A Wetherspoons with slow service and a very dull Baa Beer (NBSS 2) didn’t seem the best option in a pubby looking town (what happened to the Coach and Horses ?)
I sat on a posing table facing the bar and saw no real ale pulled in half an hour. The cask ale lottery. Some very good beer further up the Wye Valley though…