1) ABBEY RESTORATION
There was good news when it was announced that a major restoration of the south aisle and the nave's twelve arched windows would begin.
This is a major and complex operation aimed at conserving the carved details and moulding profiles that were the signatures of the original masons. Wherever possible they will be re-using the original Devonian sandstone.
We are proud to live in the shadow of one of Wales' major tourist attraction.
2) PRAISE FOR A YOUNG WRITER
I like to think I'm a bit of a writer; but was made green with envy recently by this beautiful piece on Tintern. It was sent to me by Mrs Cullen of Newport and was written by her 12 year old son James for a school project entitled "My Favourite Place". I do hope this young man keeps on writing as he will assuredly bring a lot of people a great deal of pleasure. Here is his piece :
The historic air swirls around you and the magic pumps your heart. It is almost as if Tintern is on its own, surrounded by a force field with only fantasy inside. The hills and trees are merely the skin of Tintern, the Abbey its heart.
The Abbey may be falling down, crumbling like a biscuit, but when I see it, it makes me whole.
Sometimes I can almost imagine and see the Abbey complete, with sparkling gold relics inside, and multi-coloured windows shining bright, white rays into my eyes.
Sometimes I can see the monks walking steadily and slowly outside, heads down, deeply in prayer.
The smell of Tintern cannot be smelt by your nose, only with your heart and mind. When you smell it, it fills you with dreams and ideas that you will always remember.
The walks are awe-inspiring; the trees and foliage cover the sky, like an eagle's wing over its babies, but the sight opens up new thoughts from the back of your mind; even the mud and stones ripple through your feet, like a feather tickling away.
If you walk to Devil's Pulpit, when you get there you are truly taken away. The view of the Abbey and Tintern all below you is truly unique.
The byrock juts out like the branch of a tree. You feel as though if you touch it, it will fall, and take you plummeting below, like a meteorite crashing and cascading down towards a planet. The calls of brightly coloured birds and the squeaks of little furry fun animals mix together, making beautiful, natural music, filling your ears with delight and happiness.
The Abbey Mill is a forest of craft shops. They are full of all sorts of crafts, from brass to wood to glass. The shops have very interesting and intricate crafts in them which really shock you, how well people can make things. The crafts always seem to come alive, yet another magical part of Tintern.
After this a tea cake from the Abbey Mill cafe is just what you need. When you bite into it, the beautiful, baked, buttery flavours swirl and mix around your mouth like the flavours of every part of Tintern, creating one final magic inside you. For one instant all of Tintern is yours to control and imagine, seeing all the hidden histories and magical mysteries, just before you leave the magical, inspiring, enigmatic Tintern.
3) BURNS NIGHT PARTY
A superb Burns night was organised by Alan and Barbara Butt at the Anchor Hotel. They were determined that it should be as authentic as possible and indeed it was. The evening began with the haggis piped in by Chris Howell, formerly of the Black Watch, resplendent in traditional dress and stirring the hearts of everyone, especially ex-pat Scots.
Behind him, bearing the steaming dish, marched Terry Bristow, splendidly attired in Highland dress. Then the staff came in, somewhat reluctantly, wearing "See you Jimmy!" hats with ginger wigs.
The menu showed off Alan at his culinary best. Smoked salmon mousse was followed by a sorbet, in preparation for the main dish of haggis and tatties.
The dessert was Scottish summer fruits followed by Scottish cheese and oatmeal biscuits. At the end of it all, even the most dyed-in-the-wool Sassenach, felt like Braveheart.
The evening was completed by music from Jazz Moods, who played a lovely laid back sophisticated jazz. Those not too full danced the night away.
4) CHERRY'S ALE'N'HEARTY
The improvements at the Cherry Tree pub, that bastion for real ale lovers, are well under way with new landlords, Jill and Steve Pocock.
They moved in to a spectacular start. A new roof was needed and Jill, who is a great believer in "hands-on management" was taking it to the ultimate when she fell off the old roof and broke her leg and ankle.
Undaunted however, they pressed on and are now very much established in the unique and atmospheric local. They now put on a menu of home-made, reasonably priced food beside maintaining the excellent quality of their beer and cider.
The family moved here from Hampshire with daughters Georgina and Elizabeth. Jill confessed that the only thing she missed was sailing on the Solent, causing me to recognise a kindred spirit and sparking off a long enthusiastic discussion. She runs the pub by day, while Steve works elsewhere and then joins her in the evening.
5) MESSAGE TO VISITORS
With concern growing about the lack of tourists because of the foot and mouth crisis, I was able to get a bit of help from Radio Wales recently.
As a regular contributor to Roy Noble's morning programme, I discussed the problem with him at some depth and I was able to say to people that limited access doesn't mean that other things have changed.
The scenery is still fantastic, the Abbey is still open and a fascinating visit, and the pubs and hotels provide excellent hospitality and value for money.
This followed Alan Butt's broadcast the week before on Phil Steele's Big Easy programme on a Sunday morning, so between us we hope we've helped by giving the area a bit of support on Radio Wales.
We both agreed that this is probably as far as we will be able to go, as neither of us feels we have the face for television.
6) TOURISM DRIVE
Following on from the previous piece worried business people from the village recently met a representative of the Welsh tourist board to discuss the problem. All too aware that concern is nation-wide, it was pointed out that few areas are as dependent on walkers and ramblers.
The tourist board has launched a nation-wide campaign to this effect but it was felt that there is an urgent need for more publicity about the specific attractions of the Lower Wye Valley.
The group expects to convene again to examine suggestions and monitor progress.
7) PHILOSOPHY CIRCLE
Tintern Philosophy Circle has moved to the Beaufort Hotel for the meetings in April, May and June. Writing this stirs my conscience because Ray Billington regularly invites me to attend and I have not yet been able to make it. This is my loss and I will endeavour to redress the situation as soon as possible.
In July the group meets in the gardens of Veddw House, Devauden, a beautiful and inspiring setting for eloquence if ever there was one.
Then in September they reconvene for the winter at the Rose and Crown.
8) DECEPTIVE BOOK STORE
Charles Channing from Chepstow (now there's alliteration for you) is a great quiz man and when he asked my advice recently about how to obtain an out-of-print reference book, I was able to point him in the direction of our village bookshop, Stella Books.
The book that Charles wanted was the third edition of Halliwells Television Companion, published in 1986 but now out of print. He had drawn a blank everywhere.
To his amazement they soon located two copies - a paperback in this country and a hardback edition in America.
Within a week the paperback arrived and Charles is a happy and well-impressed man. His friends, unfortunately, cannot say the same as, with this new-found reference source, he is winning even more arguments.
Chris Tomaszewski, who runs Stella Books and a sister establishment in Hay-on-Wye, told me that they are a leading UK dealer in children's books, particularly Rupert Bear.
Because of its profile on the advanced book exchange (the world's largest internet database of second-hand books) Stella Books also attracts international visitors from every corner of the world. They are often thrilled to arrive at its picturesque setting on the banks of the River Wye.
9) RIVER ADVENTURE
In February the appearance of the 40 foot motor yacht Blue Velvet moored in the river opposite the village was a lovely site and caused much interest.
The crew were en route from Stourport on Severn to Hereford, retracing as it were, the route of the old trows that plied the Severn and the Wye in years gone by.
Passing through Worcester, Tewkesbury and Gloucester, they had looked out onto the tidal Severn and after arriving in Chepstow, waited for the evening tide to come in at Tintern.
It then took a month to wait for suitable river conditions to allow them to continue their journey upstream.
On March 23rd skipper Dennis Parkhill and his crew, which included Tintern's own "man of the river", Jim Simpson, left for the navigable but difficult journey on to Symonds Yat.
The boat has a three foot draft. It doesn't sound a lot but on this river that takes some handling and good boat management.
After an overnight stay at Symonds Yat they continued to Hereford completing what I'm sure was a thoroughly enjoyable trip.
They proved that the Wye is still navigable and well worth the effort, giving a unique view of the beautiful and dramatic scenery.
10) THE MILLER FAMILY
The Anchor Hotel recently hosted a surprise party to say farewell to the Miller family who are returning to Scotland to take over their former hotel, "The Clansman", on the shores of Loch Ness.
Ian and Denise, together with Ian's parents, John and Sandra, ran the Wye Valley Hotel until two years ago and have been taking a well earned rest from the trade recently.
The evening started with one of Alan Butt's "no brakes on this, my 'ansome" curries and continued with a most convivial and well attended gathering. Mike and Jackie Evans put on an impromptu caberet, singing to Mike's classy guitar playing.
11) SOULED OUT ON OPENING NIGHT
To everyone's delight, the Rose and Crown reopened its doors on the 4th of May after their problems with the slipping cliff.
Regular Bristol band "Souled Out" provided the music for the pub's now re-established Friday night spot.
To say that it was well attended would be the understatement of the year with so many people wanting to welcome Dave and Eleanor back. There had been enormous sympathy in the village about this unfortunate incident that had caused a lengthy closure and it was really good to see Dave Stafford's broad smile back behind the bar.
He told me that he has rebooked his bands for this regular weekly spot and many popular acts will be returning. He was grateful to Alan Butt at the Anchor for keeping the evenings going while always emphasising that they would return to the Crown as soon as it reopened.
Needless to say, as always the packed venue provided another fantastic night.
12) NEW LANDLORDS
We have some new licensees in the village who have taken over The Moon and Sixpence. Gareth and Kate Owen haved moved into the pub and are looking forward to a busy summer. It is the couple's first venture into the trade together, although both have previous experience in the industry. Kate told me that they had looked at properties all over the country, but on walking into this one, they had immediately fallen into love with it.
Aware of the unique charm and traditions of "The Moon", they plan to add their own individual touches by increasing its already good name for food with a more varied "Specials Board". Kate also feels that in this country vegetarians are poorly catered for and will be looking to greatly extend the choice offered to them.
Gareth and Kate have both lived around the area for most of their lives so they are very much local people. Music could also be on the menu, with Gareth looking for some artists who will blend in with the pub's natural ambience.
Certainly during the summer they plan to open and serve food all day and are already enjoying the cosmopolitan atmosphere of what is both a tourist attraction and a local's bar.
Together with their son Jonathan, they have rapidly settled in and we wish them well in their new venture.
The couple, as many others have been, were intrigued with the pub name and the way it got it is perhaps worth reiterating here.
As everyone knows the name of the pub comes from the title of a novel by Somerset Maugham. Until the 1940's it was known as "The Mason's Arms". It was then purchased by a young couple who had fallen in love with the place and its location, alongside the river in the beautiful Wye Valley.
They sank every penny they had into it, but in those austere postwar years things were hard. One night they were standing outside in awe of the scenery and the moon rising over the abbey. The lady put her hand, somewhat ruefully, in her pocket and turning to her husband with a wistful smile said, "Well, all we've got left now is the moon and sixpence". The next day they changed the pub's name.
edited somewhat from Grantley James Diary. Thank you Grantley