A UK society that refuses to conform

The Quan River ran parallel to my path, snaking under Pontfan’s entrance bridge, cutting through the fields like a tectonic plate. Another relic of the Ice Age, the river is home to gray wagtails and dippers, and according to author David Barnes in The Companion Guide to Wales, One of the last haunts of Steam. I didn’t see an otter, but a local gentleman said warm hellos and after a brief chat, suggested we go to the Dyffryn Arms, known locally as Bessy’s Pub, to see where many spend their New Year’s “fireworks”. Drinks!”.

Bessie’s, in the same family since 1840, is now run by Bessie Davis, who has been serving beer since her 20s. In fact, the small bar, the front room of his house, has brown and black checkerboard tiles, two church pews, wooden tables, a warming coal fire and visitors’ international banknotes clinging to the walls. It’s not just the pub’s design that is a relic of the past. Without a formal bar, Bessie and her family serve beer through a hatch in the wall, poured straight from the barrel into a pitcher. Apart from some snacks, there is no food here – apart from the hen kalan.

“Families come to the pub [in the evening] Have a few drinks, some food and more [have a] Sing,” said Bessie’s granddaughter Nerys Davies. Ceremonies are not organized formally, and while the rest of Wales continues to work, the Quan people take an unofficial holiday. They end it at Bessie’s. The piece will be… [always] Someone be there with a guitar and a keyboard,” McAllister told me.

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