The Gwaun River ran parallel to my route, flowing under the Pontfaen entrance bridge and cutting through the fields like a tectonic plate. Another remnant of the Ice Age, the river is home to gray wagtails and divers and, according to author David Barnes in The Companion Guide to Wales, one of the last haunts of the otter. Didn’t spot an otter, but a local gentleman offered warm greetings and, after a brief chat, suggested I go to the Dyffryn Arms – known locally as Bessie’s Pub – to see the place where many spend their New Years “for fireworks and drinks!”.
Bessie’s, owned by the same family since 1840, is currently run by Bessie Davies, a nonagenarian who has been serving beer since her twenties. The small bar, which is actually the main room in his house, features brown and black checkerboard tiles, a few pews, wooden tables, a coal fire and international visitor banknotes stuck to the walls . It’s not just the design of the pub that’s a relic of the past. Without a formal bar, Bessie and her family serve beer through a hatch in the wall, pouring directly from a barrel into a jug. Other than a few snacks, there is no food here except on Hen Galan.
“Families come to the pub [in the evening] have a few drinks, eat a little and [have a] singsong,” said Nerys Davies, Bessie’s granddaughter. The festivities are never officially held and, while the rest of Wales continues to work, the people of Gwaun are taking an unofficial day off. They end it at Bessie’s, where “everyone has a party”. piece… There will be [always] to be someone with a guitar and a keyboard,” McAllister told me.