My newish Rough Guide to Wales is proving it’s usual middle-class self. Lots of nonsense about misericords and 13th Century battlements, nothing about where to see spitting in Ebbw Vale pubs or buy a Chinese takeaway at midnight, which is my definition of Rough.
No mention at all of Cwmbran, an authentic Welsh New Town at the foot of the Valleys. Which is a disgrace, as it’s officially better than lookalike Stevenage, if only on account of winning the Beer Guide count 3-2. Not that Stevenage gets a mention in the English Rough Guide, and that’s the only place HM The Queen has ever opened a pub.
One of Cwmbran’s trio is a bit of a classic, and not just for the views. It’s a proper pub, with something of the atmosphere of Penketh’s Fiddler’s Tavern or Halkyn’s Blue Bell.
It was closed, but at 10am I suspect I need to excuse them that. A possible Top 100 pub when I get chance to reconfirm it’s qualities.
As you can see, this was a spectacular Autumn day, and the country park just beyond the Bush was approaching perfection. It was fairly steep towards the reservoir, which meant I had it to myself, as you generally do in Wales.
In 2014 I walked from the Bush along the canal to Sebastopol, whose wonderful Open Hearth and Page’s fish bar impressed. I was saddened to hear the Hearth is currently closed.
Like Stevenage, Cwmbran was designated a New Town just after the last war. Unlike Stevenage, the large shopping centre is a delight, full of useful shops and happy shoppers. I’ve not seen a busier town centre (at 11am on Monday) since Doncaster.
Or a busier Wetherspoons than the John Fielding, which made up for a boxlike building with the sort of atmosphere that most pub chains can only dream of.
Not many takers for “Craft” Caps, whatever they are, but plenty of boyos on the Abbot, which was also my drink of choice of course (NBSS 3). The exciting cask range stretched beyond Greene King’s finest to Rev James, Doom Bar and Hobgoblin, so clearly some Spoons adapt their range to local realities.
While refilling my coffee a chap came and sat down at my table, looking bemusedly at the OS Map, glasses and
dirty mac poncho on the table. He was mortified, and still apologising 5 minutes after I’d left.
Last week I told you about Stevenage’s famous residents (mainly footballers). Cwmbran at least has a Big Brother winner to boast, beautifully commemorated next to the town clock, alongside Lee Dainton of “Dirty Sanchez” fame.
The big news in Cwmbran is Peter Andre’s gig there on 22 October; Stevenage on the same day can only offer 10cc. No contest.