The Hunter's Column
July 2013

As A Newent

For one reason or another recently, I keep finding myself in Newent. I don't mean exclusively in the spiritual sense, more geographical, but there's something, well several things, that I like about this unhurried, little, market town that hovers over the Forest of Dean, just to the north of May Hill. It's on the Welsh side of the Severn (if I dare mention it) and still has some of that old Banks's Brewery ethos about it, like places on 'the other side' often do i.e. Unspoilt By Progress. I'm sure there's many a local that would say the opposite but it seems that way to me.

Newent first came to my attention when I discovered that Joe Meek was born there. Joe Meek is a music industry legend, who went on the extreme rollercoaster ride to fame and then infamy; dying in a bizarre murder/suicide incident on February 3rd 1967, the 18th anniversary of Buddy Holly's death, which Joe had predicted. Joe Meek is up there with the best record producers of his era - George Martin (Beatles) and Phil Spector (Nutter!). His biggest hit, The Tornados' 'Telstar', which he both wrote and produced, became no. 1 in the UK and the USA in 1962. His name is kept alive today by a company that sells a wide range of top recording gear, whilst Joe lies in a modest grave, amongst family members, with no reference at all to the stellar career that he had forged out for himself. Bryncelyn Brewery, near Neath in Wales, has a range of ales celebrating Buddy Holly - Oh Boy, Peggy's Brew, May B Baby and, I like this one, That'll Be The Sleigh! With no apparent reference to Joe, Salisbury brewer Plain Ales produce an excellent Mild not Meek (5.1%), but it could be time for a local brewery to pay tribute to Newent's most famous son, with some dedicated ales.

I called in to find Joe's grave, after I had celebrated my first May Day sunrise, on May Hill; a major effort and worth every minute (of lost sleep), as we were blessed with the clearest conditions for years. In the company of the Morris Men from the Forest of Dean and Lassington Oak, plus a real life bard, we saw in the May Day morn and tripped the light fantastic (some of us sort of limped) around the crown of trees, on the summit. The Morris teams or 'sets' were heartily supported and fortified by May Hill Brewery, with their bottle conditioned ales, Summit and Well Good, which summed it all up really.

There's another new and excellent reason to visit Newent. Cobblers, Gloucestershire's first micro-pub has opened up at 7 Church Street (check opening hours), near to the GBG listed George Hotel and just around the corner from Joe's birthplace. With no music; no TV; no fruit machines and no kids; "It's a Firkin Small Pub" that sells 6 real ales, straight from the cask; real ciders and wines. It's a downsized pub with all of the attractions and none of the distractions. Cobblers, an old cobblers shop would you believe, is a new venture for Ian Jones, who has run other pubs in the town and also has a paper shop nearby. I had a mate once who had a paper shop, but it blew away. (Sorry, couldn't resist it!) As a 'Man of Kent', Ian was well familiar with the concept; the UK's first micro-pub was The Butcher's Arms in Herne, Kent. It's all about getting back to basics and, I must admit, I'm a fan. In fact, I look forward to the day when it's all a load of old Cobblers.

Bill Hunt