September 18, 2013 by Kay Byrne
With this year’s annual branch beer festival having taken place earlier than usual in April, Swansea Camra members found themselves at a loose end on the August bank holiday weekend, writes Sara Morgan.
A party of members therefore spent the Bank Holiday Saturday afternoon and evening on a walkabout around the pubs in the Mumbles area. This proved a popular and pleasant alternative to working on the Festival, helped by the fine weather.
A good start was made at the Woodman in Blackpill, which offered a choice of ales to enjoy in the beer garden in the sunshine while a suitable route was discussed. The party then split, with one of those who had come along by bike heading to the West Cross Inn and White Rose, while the rest boarded the service bus to Newton where Rob, also on his bike, was waiting for us in the seating area outside the Newton Inn, having beaten the bus up the hill.
Both pubs on the square (Rock & Fountain opposite), have recently come under new management, so it was pleasing to see them open for business and offering real ales.
A break from refreshments led us by foot down the hill to the White Rose, where we were joined by an early evening enthusiast in the beer garden at the back of the pub. After a break following the arduous downhill climb, and with three more hostelries to visit, sense prevailed(!) and the party split once more to share a visit to the Park Inn and Victoria.
Our final destination was the Pilot at the far end of the village, via the chip shop, where a full range of its micro-brewed ales were available and where three late arrivals joined the party to round off a good day out.
All now feeling a tad weary and a bit worse for wear, we headed home on the service bus, buoyed by the knowledge that there remains a healthy selection of pubs, serving real ale, in that area of the City.
Our second event took us further afield by train to the Bridgend area. The early September weather was not very promising, with wind and gales forecast for the Sunday, but the sun shone once again, which proved a good omen for the day.
Setting off at midday from the railway station, the gang boarded a full train to Bridgend. Ensuring that everyone had disembarked and not headed to Manchester, within minutes our next train took us to Pontyclun and a short walk to the Boar’s Head, Vale of Glamorgan’s worthy Pub of the Year.
We settled ourselves in to the front lounge and sampled the comprehensive range of beers and cider on offer, soon accompanied by baskets of chips, generously provided by the landlord. But with an itinerary to follow to coincide with suitable trains, we reluctantly said our goodbyes and headed back to the station for our next destination.
We boarded the train to Garth, near Maesteg, managing to confuse the ticket collector with our assortment of tickets. Having been convinced (or given up!) that the route fell within the tickets to hand, he relaxed and was keen to know why so many people were travelling to this rather quiet station stop. He waved us off on the train, happy in the knowledge that his shift would be over by the time we boarded for the return journey.
A short walk up the hill from the station led us to The Cross, home of the Cerddin Brewery, and Mid Glamorgan’s Pub of the Year. A good range of their own ales were on offer, together with Wye Valley Butty Bach, a favourite of a certain member of the party. We took over the bar area of this two-room pub and enjoyed a pleasant couple of hours putting the world to rights/talking nonsense, and some revealing their sporting colours as the football results flowed in.
Time to move on and back down to the station, enjoying some welcome sustenance on the way in the form of nibbles provided by our caterer Vanessa. With onion bhajees and wasabi nuts in hand, we boarded the train for our final pub on the trail in Bridgend. By this time we were keen to share our picnic, not only with the good humoured guard, but also the few other lucky/unfortunate passengers who shared our carriage on the short trip down the line.
A longer walk than had been promised eventually led us to the Coach, a popular pub, serving a good range of ales and ciders. We commandeered the corner of the bar and once more reflected on the pressing subjects of the day, like how will the Swans fare against Liverpool on Monday and will there be time for a curry when we get back.
Enough was enough, and we eventually headed back to the station (a seemingly much shorter distance on the return for some reason) and boarded our final train back home. With all five train journeys running to time, a very satisfying day all round.