The Tintern Village Website



Grantley's Diaries

Autumn 1999

1) FOLK GATHERING AT THE ANCHOR
The Anchor Hotel played host to what has become an annual gathering of folk musicians. The gathering was organised by Robbie McGregor who for the last few years has used it to celebrate his birthday (he forgets precisely which one). The party camps overnight and contains an enormous spread of age groups bound together by their love of music.
The playing and singing lasts through the day and well into the evening with the traditionalists in the party refreshing themselves from battered old tankards while singing of social and political disasters seemingly beloved by followers of this type of music. To be fair, it was interspersed with a great deal of humour and repartee.
This must be the fifth or sixth year they have come so they obviously enjoy themselves and we hope they will continue the tradition.

2) A PRINCESS RETURNS
A party from the village went to the river bank at Chepstow to help celebrate the coming home of the old Beachley-Aust ferry, the Severn Princess, which has been brought back from Ireland by a group of enthusiasts hoping to restore her.
For those of us who remember travelling on her, and her sister ships, it was a wonderful evening of reminiscence.
Undoubtedly the greatest common denominator of memories was the incredible waiting time in queues that could stretch from Beachley to Tutshill and take you three or four hours, only to arrive at the side of the pier to be told, "Sorry, the tide's gone out now".
If you missed it you were faced with an 80 mile trip around Gloucester, which in the 50s was quite an exercise in itself.
Getting on the boat was not a job for the inexperienced driver. You drove down the steep and often muddy slipway, negotiated a narrow wooden ramp on to the dock and then parked on a wooden turntable to be pulled round manually until you could drive into your allotted space. Vehicles were packed on so tightly that rubber tyres were wedged between them to avoid damage and often the driver was obliged to remain in the vehicle during the crossing because he couldn't get out.
Having safely reached the other side-a minor miracle in itself, you needed good acceleration to run up the equally steep and muddy slope lest you rolled gracefully back into the Severn.
I remember on one occasion a car being driven by an extremely large coloured American gentleman missing the ferry by a good ten feet. Nothing however fazed the man who, as he climbed from the murky depths, addressed the assembled crowd with the words, "Man, them brakes, they sure do disappoint me."
A jazz band and barbecue added to the ambience of a very pleasant evening. Congratulations to the Severn Princess restoration group who organised it all.

3) ROBIN'S NEW BAND
I seem to be getting more and more nostalgic in these pieces - a sad trait of my age! So having previously written about the dinner dances at the Beaufort it was good to hear from Glyn Dumfy, another dance band man from these times, who told me he has recently seen Robin Reece playing with his new band in Devon. Robin, Glyn assures me, is playing better than ever.

4) GARDEN AWARD
The gardens at the Beaufort Hotel have won them a prestigious award as part of the Best Kept Village competition.
Presentations for the Gwent Region were held at County hall, Cymbran. Managers Mr and Mrs Howard Sheils were there to accept a beautiful cut glass rosebowl and certificate from Mike Owen of Calor Gas.
The location of the hotel, overlooking the Abbey, lends itself to floral displays and the award is a great compliment to the skills of Roy Weston who has the responsibility for the gardens.
In fine weather they are a beautiful place to sit and enjoy the hospitality of the hotel, which was originally an old coaching inn, whose landlord was also the custodian of the Abbey.

5) FLYING THE DRAGON
As the Millenium approaches and the village gives thought to enjoying the year 2000, it is perhaps worth reflecting that Wales will be the only country to start the new Millenium under the same flag with which it started this one.
The Red Dragon was originally brought here by Rowan Cohorts as a military standard and has remained with the Celts ever since.
Saxon King Offa used the symbol of the white dragon against the red in his struggle to push the Welsh across his dyke. In later times the now familiar white and green background, the standard of the Tudors, became the basis of the flag.
I once heard an American visitor to Tintern enquire if the locals were really aware of the massive history in the area in which they lived, to be met with the reply, "Go and knock on Dai Jones door boyo, and ask him which side of Offa's Dyke he's living on!"

6) MAGAZINE FAME
I was thrilled to have an article published in the magazine "Cambria", talking about the delights of the village and reflecting on its myths and magic.
Cambria is a prestigious, glossy bi-monthly, very Welsh in its content and editorial, supplementing wonderful articles about Welsh history and traditions with superb photography. To have the village featured was a real bonus, not for any self aggrandisement but for us to be considered interesting enough to be part of its content.

7) PERCY'S BACK
There was great delight at the return of Percy the resident peacock at the Anchor. He disappeared about six weeks before and most feared the worst. Percy is a great character and regularly visits the tea room for his mid-morning scone. He will tap at the hotel kitchen door when in need of something more substantial.
In common with the other birds at the Anchor, Percy roams free and is welcome to come and go as he pleases, so it's great to see him once more adding to the charms of the place.

8) UNFORGETABLE MOMENT
Like the rest of the country, Tintern was split about what it thought of the eclipse - a piece of history or a big anti-climax?
However, knowing that I'd be unlikely to see another and aware of its spiritual and emotional significance, I decided to watch it alongside the Abbey.
Those of us there witnessed the clouds part briefly and the sight of the crescent shaped sun appearing. The silence of the birds as semi-darkness descended was made more eerie by the lack of traffic. It seemed nearly everyone had stopped to watch.
If you live here the scenery can become old hat but, as I watched this phenomenon with the Abbey and its backdrop of the river and wooded hills, I have to say I was extremely moved.
Brief it may have been but for me it was a real moment to remember.

9) BEAUTIFUL BOOK
Writer Christine Day, who has moved to the Wye valley from California, has brought with her a work she calls Belle Books.
Belle is her daughter and she and photographer Jane Bowler have put together a book of beautiful illustrations following Belle's childhood.
The illustrations are all black and white photographs of a little girl's idyllic childhood in the country with a simple text that's bound to appeal to young children.
This innocent charming book, beautifully produced is a real artistic creation. Having just been involved in a great deal of so-called modern art it was a real treat to my tired old-fashioned eyes.

10) WE'RE ON THE WEB
The village is now well and truly on the web. Thanks to the sterling efforts of John Bathgate, the Tintern Village Web Site has been operational since June. The number of visitors to the site is rising rapidly.
UK Plus is one of the search engines through which the web operates and it has given a generous description "Tintern Village - splendid guide to the small village in Monmouthshire, Wales, containing info about attractions, churches, village life, events, ruins etc - interesting to tourists and residents alike"
A noticeboard has been added for short-term information and photographs.
The site can, of course be visited by anyone in the world who has access to the Internet and John has received a tremendous response from ex-villagers, literally all over the world expressing their appreciation.
John welcomes information and can be contacted at 6 Parva Springs, Tintern (689328). You can see the Tintern Web Site at www.tintern41.freeserve.co.uk


Edited somewhat from the Grantley James Diary. Thank you Grantley