NEW YEAR'S EVE AT THE OLD HOUSE, LLANGYNWYD
We had a leisurely breakfast at Pask Farm, and checked the young nanny who now seemed much better, and I set off for a visit to the Vale of Glamorgan in South Wales to see an old custom which takes place each New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day.
Stict Lady had her instructions (her Chinese counterpart is out of favour at present) and to be fair would have taken me straight there, but the entrance to the lane at the bottom of the steep hill on which the village of Llangynwyd stands was so forbidding that I thought she must be wrong again. It was not so much that the lane was narrow, which it was, but all the Christmas visitors cars parked on one side, and the overhanging bushy trees and leaning lamposts on the other convinced me she must be wrong.
Switching on the hazard warning lights I gingerly reversed back out onto the main road, and found somewhere to park up and phone the pub. The young landlord there was courtesy itself, even though I was phoning at lunchtime on what must have been a very busy day for him. He gave me directions, which I unfortunately misunderstood and headed off in completely the wrong direction. After a short (or rather not so short) tour round the narrow and busy streets of the town we arrived back at the original turning, and again I chickened out and again phoned the pub. Richard answered once more and patiently explained that - yes - I would be fine coming up that road, and that the brewery drays used it when delivering. Having assured myself that they were the full sized ones I thought there must be room for Thebus and off we went, though it was very tight against the trees, and I have probably added a few more scratches to the paintwork.
Once past the houses and cars the route was fine and we were soon at the top of the hill, with only the narrow lane beside the church to cope with and the manoeuvre round the War Memorial, which involved our having to go on the wrong side of it, but the entrance to the carpark was wide and there was load of room for us once we had arrived.
It is a beautiful old pub, reputed to be one of the oldest, if not the oldest pub in Wales. and may date from as early as 1147. It was originally connected with a nearby monastery and served pilgrims on their way to St. David’s. It is said that two pilgrimages to St. David’s were equal to a pilgrimage to Rome. Part of the building is thatched and the thatch was renewed fairly recently. The family who own it have been there for three generations, each one of them a Richard, so the current landlord is Richard the Third, or as his father calls him Little Richard, though he looked about as little as Little John. He was telling me that the thatcher who came to do the work was in his seventies, he had first thatched it for Richard's grandfather, then his father, and now probably for the last time for the current Richard.
The lovely old church opposite The Old House Inn is most unusual in that the large square tower has been has a whitened spire, thought to date from the fourteenth century, and the first I have ever seen like that. Speaking to someone from the museum of buildings at nearby St. Fagan's they told me that the whitewash had deteriorated, and nearly fallen away, all the local did not want it renewed, but the damp ingress as a result was so severe that it had to be done, and apparently there are other churches along the valley similar. The graveyard there is huge - positive forest of gravestones, and though it is now completely full and closed to burials it is still well loved and the graves tended, many having fresh Christmas flowers and wreaths on them. On one I saw a bird feeder with seeds, nuts and a fat ball, and thought what a lovely idea as a memorial for a bird lover.
The village is only small with originally a dozen or less houses so the size of the graveyard is quite remarkable. Of course at the foot of the hill is quite a sizeable community which grew up to serve the seven mines of the area, five of which were still running just before the mass closure of mines in the Thatcher years. Speaking to one of the locals this tore the heart out of the community and those who want to work mostly have to drive to find jobs.
And speaking of the locals what a welcoming group they are, from the ever patient and cheerful young landlord, plus his father who still helps out, all the serving staff and the many customers who welcomed me into their celebration, and lives, even if just for the short time I was there.
The food at The Old House Inn was all home cooked and freshly made. The massive buffet on New Years Eve included cold meats salmon, salads of every description, quiches, and that was just the cold table. There was a huge selection of hot food with a choice of potatoes, chips or rice, then puddings after, and nothing was stinted, you could help yourself to as much as you could eat.
At eleven there was a commotion from outside and knocking at the door, then in burst the Mari Lwyd, led by Gwyn ‘Y Post’ - she is the skull of horse, this one decorated with tinsel and ribbons, carried by a sheeted man. The Mari is led round the room snapping its teeth and shaking its head. Having done its tour the party then took it off to parade round the other pubs in the larger part of the village at the bottom of the hill. Returning, tired but well-fortified (apart from the nominated driver for the evening, who I think was the horse) for a final refreshing and seeing in of the New Year with a rousing chorus of Auld Lang Syne and much hugging and kissing.
Staying on next day for the second Mari Lwyd I ate in the restaurant behind the bar, and once again all the food was freshly cooked and home made. Full marks for running such a traditional pub with real good home cooked food. The portions were huge, and though I had whitebait as a starter it would have been served as a main course portion elsewhere.
Gwyn Y Post came back to see the second Mari, which called on New Year's Day, and I took a photo of him under the photos of his father and grandfather with Y Fari Lwyd in years gone by.
I can highly recommend a visit to this lovely old pub with its friendly locals, and in the summer the views of the surrounding countryside from the terrace and garden would be wonderful, apparently there are views to the sea from the ridge opposite, and I would guess there are many wonderful walks with far reaching views for those able.
I AM STARTING A NEW 'BLOG' FOR THE NEW YEAR,
I WILL TRY TO SET IT UP SO YOU CLICK A LINK IF YOU WANT TO READ IT AS A STORY RATHER THAN IN REVERSE ORDER, BUT AS I HAVE NEVER RUN A BLOG PLEASE BEAR WITH ME WHILST I LEARN
(which has to be done in between travelling)