Debbie and I are creatures of habit. We tend to go on the same dog walks, Castle Meadows, Llanfoist canal, Sugar Loaf and we tend to do the same in pubs such as the Bridge for closeness and the Grofield for entertainment.
With this in mind yesterday, on the hottest day of the year so far, we decided to follow the example (somewhat) of Gerald of Wales by walking around Abergavenny exploring those hostelries as yet unvisited and meeting the individuals staffing and quaffing therein!
Also with son number two James having a brief holiday in Glasgow with daughter Emma and Alex on honeymoon still in Rome the only witnesses to this dangerous deed on our return would be Molly and Hamish.
Now the last time I went on what was then called a “pub crawl” was way back in 1979 while a student during “freshers” at Queen Mary College. I remember it was down the Mile End Road and I was tied to two others forming the middle component of a 3 legged walk. All for charity of course and I remember being dressed in a Harris Tweed hat, University of London multicoloured scarf and making the mistake of drinking pints at each stop on the way. I do remember getting strange looks in the Blind Beggar pub made famous by the Kray twins as the three of us staggered into the foyer!
Of course move on 38 years and I was dressed far more sensibly with only my dear wife of 27 years tethered metaphorically to my side. We also only chose half pints or a small glass of wine at each stop in 2017 for our libration…
Bypassing the Bridge and crossing over the Usk we headed straight ahead until we found our first watering hole, Y Cantreff Inn which landlady Lynette had taken over some months before after many years as the office manager of a local from of estate agents. She mentioned that her husband Tom who worked for BT Openreach was a little bemused by her change in direction but apparently it was a lifetime’s ambition so why not?
The pub itself inside had flagstones and one half looked more like a restaurant (and was) although Lynette was trying to hire a new chef to specialise in fish dishes so one to keep and eye on for the future methinks.
We bought a Moretti each and asked to use the beer garden at the rear for a rest. After a brief health and safety discussion due to it being work in progress as part of the refurbishment we sat down in a very nice grassy area on a slope that matched the old pub’s roofline.
Suitably refreshed we said our farewells and then made the foolish decision to carry on to the left of the pub along Brecon Road towards the Lamb and Flag pub had last been visited by a Debbie, then aged 21 years, with her parents and which held happy memories for her.
I remembered its location was some way out of Abergavenny just after the Brecon Beacons marker, which unfortunately was a little further out than either of us remembered, as we’ve only ever taken the car down this way before!
Soldiering on in the extreme heat and being passed at extreme speed on the narrow pavement by what seems like a huge convoy of empty army trucks we did have a number of “discussions” about the wisdom of visiting the Lamb and Flag, but by this time we’d gone over half way and so we decided to plod wearily on…
Like the great explorers of the past, say Shackleton & Scott although perhaps a little more hot and bothered, we finally made our goal and went in wearily to chalk up our next achievement of the day.
After being served a San Miguel we decided to go to an outside table and survey the beautiful scenery of the car park and the Beacons behind…
By this time the sun was really boiling and so reluctantly the two weary explorers trudged the way back into town passing the Y Cantreff Inn and crossed the road a little further on towards the Railway Inn which looked rather forbidding from the outside and Debbie was a little reluctant to go in at first.
After navigating our way past a smoker chatting away on his mobile in the entrance and being hit by the stale smell of tobacco smoke that seemed to linger years after the ban of smoking had long been introduced we were pleasantly surprised by the welcome we received while sat at the bar from Kath the barmaid and the other friendly regulars, one of who took this photo of us in the “nut house”, possibly the oldest pub apart from the King’s Arms by the Post Office.
The pub inside was really small with lots of yellowed photos of drinkers past adorning the walls and after a small Grolsch we headed reluctantly to our next port of call by recording the road and heading a little further into town.
The Station Hotel was named after the old railway station sadly long since demolished that used to serve the Abergavenny – Brynmawr – Merthyr line closed in 1958. It had a small beer garden at the rear but by now it was so hot we elected to stay inside in the relative cool and sample a small glass of dry white wine each.
After the obligatory selfie we got to our feet and crossed the road again into town proper where we spied the Auberge which we’d never set foot into either. After I entered the bar area I noticed Debbie wasn’t with me and fearing a “Captain Oates” moment I headed back outside to huge relief in seeing her talking to Margaret our near neighbour in Llanfoist.
Now two Welsh ladies speaking in the street can be expected to take quite some time so while listening to interesting conversations on subjects such as dogs, Easi-Grass, parking on pavements ensued by right foot started tapping with increased impatience. Eventually after what seemed like hours the two protagonists parted with a smile and a wave and we headed back into the Auberge.
This time we decided that we ought to line our stomachs not just with two small white wines but with a huge slab of coffee cake that we shared . On talking to the sole barman serving I discovered that this was the “in” place for Abergavenny youngsters to come and dance and was really a club in the evening. Although it looked a very busy family restaurant during the day a quick glance in the rear “garden” left me feeling a little unimpressed.
Eventually we finished our time there and heading off to our penultimate stop we passed the old boarded up Britannia pub which to my excitement now displayed a poster announcing its conversion to an Italian restaurant. Mind you that makes four in town now what with Prezzos, La Brasseria Italian and Pizzorante, although that gave me an idea for a future adventure as we’ve only been to the La Brasseria before!
Crossing the road to the left opposite to James’ Blue Cross charity shop we arrived at the Abergavenny Coliseum which was converted from an old cinema finally closing in favour of bingo in 1992. It’s now been since 2001 a Wetherspoon’s pub and given that normally all those look the same we’d never bothered to go inside.
How wrong we were with a beautiful open space upstairs and the original cinema loos downstairs! Being a Friday they had a fish and chip deal on (fish and salad for Debbie) that was a bargain when it included a small drink too and by the time we left we felt very pleased we’d been inside for the first time.
Originally we had planned to go and visit the nearby Greyhound Vaults pub (close to the Legends cafe) but we were both feeling a little tired and emotional and so decided to head off back home with perhaps a celebratory final drink at the Bridge. We cut through town and into the Castle Meadows free car park when we spotted these two sister Golden Retrievers both of who had an uncanny resemblance to Molly.
The owner stooped to talk to us and explained they were “field or working” golden retrievers rather than show dogs. We’d never heard the term before but it made sense when you read this.
After numerous cuddles we then headed back home stopping to take this picture of Debbie in front of the Blorenge, the sight of which two or so years ago made me say to Debbie “I could live here”, before approaching Llanfoist bridge and our crossing of the Usk.
You can see in the photo below a constant stream of traffic going across the old bridge, due to there being only a relatively narrow path on the near side we shall be very glad if the proposed footbridge is given the go-ahead in the next few years.
After crossing the bridge we visited the Bridge Inn and having two small ciders we chatted with neighbour Mark and his teacher wife Ceri about the latest gossip on the Mountain View estate building being finished – possibly within the next two months – as well as the trials and tribulations of leaks in new homes as their’s had a leaky shower tray…
Suitably refreshed we made it home and settled in for the night with Molly and Hamish before the forecast night of thunder and rain. It really felt like we were on holiday while at home!