Otteray Scribe set me thinking.....always a dangerous thing to do.....
South Wales is ALMOST home to me. I have been there at every season of the year, for a few hours to several weeks. I should explain that my brother married a girl from South Glamorgan, so everything from Newport to The Mumbles used to be visited on a regular basis, especially the South Glamorgan Coast. I moved south from Derbyshire, to take a job close to Swindon in Wiltshire, which was only about 90 miles away from my brother and sister-in-law, straight along the M4 motorway which stretches from London to Wales. When I can get back to the U.K., I always try to spend some time with the family, and this generally involves some interesting day trips!
When I visit my family in South Wales, one of the venues for a pleasant lunch is this inn, ‘The Blue Anchor’ in the little village of East Aberthaw in the Vale of Glamorgan. East Aberthaw (there is also a West Aberthaw, on the other side of the River Thaw, a fairly insignificant stream) was a port from Roman to Victorian times, one whose fortunes waxed and waned throughout the centuries. It had survived by exporting the local agricultural products (including wool - sheep farming is still important in this area) to ports in near-Continental Europe, and dealing with the coastal trade. It also became a notorious haunt of smugglers, who used the busy trade in the Bristol Channel between England and South Wales as camouflage. By the 18th century, as the fortunes of the little port declined, smuggling grew more important; the port finally ceased to be used by the late 19th century.
The 'Blue Anchor' is a thatched mediaeval building; it first opened its doors as a hostelry in 1380, when East Aberthaw was a much bigger port (bigger than nearby Barry, for example). There is some evidence that it was involved in holding the stock of tobacco brought ashore by the local smugglers. The building is of such sufficient architectural significance as to have been listed as Grade II*.
Since people were, on average, much smaller in the 14th century, you will find doors rather awkwardly placed at times, as they have had to be enlarged/moved. There are also some very low wooden beams in the roof, and one is at considerable risk if you are over 6 feet tall! Also, natural light is at a premium inside the Inn, as you can see by the small windows – another hold-over. Like many old thatched buildings, the Inn has been at considerable risk from fire over the centuries. The last time it suffered major fire damage was in 2004, when 30% of the thatch was lost, and the upper storey was heavily involved. However, you can see from the photograph that it has been successfully restored. By the way, the food here is absolutely splendid, and I really enjoy each visit.
Oh, and the name of the Inn? The local bay, where the trading vessels used to anchor, has a layer of blue marl clay on the bottom, so when a ship hauled anchor to sail away from East Aberthaw, it’s anchor was liberally coated with the stuff! Please note that despite the presence of the BMW convertible in the foreground, the main car park for the Inn is on the opposite side of the road.
Bucket list, ladies and gentlemen!