The most famous Cwm Gwaun valley resident
Meet Bessie Davies
The Cwm Gwaun valley is long and winding, bordered by woodland on each side and in the middle a silver river burbles away.
A handful of houses cling to the steep sides, and down a small unsuspecting road, the Dyffryn Arms rests. A pub on the outside, but inside, the home of Bessie- the wonderful landlady. She has been serving the best bass beer in Pembrokeshire since she was 20 from a hatch in her front room. Famous with visitors and locals alike, the pub has been in her family since 1840.
When we arrive, the room is full of cheer, it is the day after Hen Galan, New Year’s day celebrated here on the 13th of January according to the Julian Calendar still followed in this particular valley.
Oh it’s like Christmas, we have a bit of food and a drink and sing song!
Well into her eighties, she’s still lighting the fire, interested in what everyone is doing. When we get up to ask for a drink, her son in law serves us from the hatch, from a jug collected from the single barrel. She says, ‘I’ve got lovely beer here, proper beer. Not these other pubs- those drinks are 60 per cent fizz.’
It’s like amber, not ice-cold like we are used to, but refreshing with little or no bubbles. Sweet and bitter in equal measure and absolutely lovely.
‘Bessie’s going to make us Cawl tomorrow’ one of the locals laughs ’I’ve just brought her some swedes and he’s bought her some leeks!’ He grins through his pint of lukewarm beer.
It must be a tradition to show our appreciation for Bessie and the way things used to, because even we bought some wood for her little fire, and my parents used to bring her fresh strawberries from the farm when they visited about 20 years ago. Even the walls of the room are peppered with notes from all around the world- donations from her devoted visitors from far and wide.
‘Wyt ti’n siarad Cymraeg?’ she asks. Do you speak Welsh?
‘Wrth gwrs’. Of course. I say and she smiles to hear her language spoken.
The Dyffryn Arms might not be everyone’s cup of tea, the wallpaper hasn’t changed in living memory, and the glasses are hand-washed and dried not put through a dishwasher, but the welcome has also stayed the same. The fire is always stoked. You’ll always find a story at hand or about to unfold, and it truly is the best beer this side of the Severn bridge.