Friday, September 9, 2011

The Magical Forest (of Dean)

We decided to make the most of a day off, and headed for Puzzlewood before noon. The rain held off, and there was barely another soul in the wood, making for a magical afternoon. It's easy to see how Tolkien was inspired; the range of vegetation and colour is truly surreal.

Having worked up an appetite, it was time for the second half of our plan: high tea at Aunt Martha's Victorian Tea Rooms in Drybrook. Tea had it on good authority that they offered an authentic Victorian experience -- and were a hoot to boot. Well, they're that and more. Nadine and "Old Ned" were so hospitable and entertaining: four hours simply flew by; we didn't even realise (and they certainly never hinted at) how long passed closing we'd kept them, chatting and touring their gardens.

But, for me, it was the sentiments echoed by a previous celiac customer -- relayed by Nadine, as we sampled tasty scones and "just tea" -- that stick with me now: I felt normal, eating there. Nadine herself has suffered from gluten and lactose intolerance in the past, and decided early on that she wanted to be able to enjoy all the treats on offer in her tea room. Both Mom and Tea raved about these savoury and sweet treats, and eventually I shed my trepidation, then diving in with gusto. It was a bit like a dream, to be honest, such was this sense of coming home, eating food I hadn't had much of, or enjoyed with such carefree abandon, since childhood.

We got chatting to some caravanners there who recommended Symonds Yat Rock and its impressive vistas, and so decided to push our luck with the grey clouds and waning daylight. That view of the River Wye really is amazing, and we spent a good hour gazing about, hoping to catch a glimpse of the peregrines that nest nearby. We did hear a number of birds of prey, and saw what I believe was a buzzard fly very close by; pretty good, considering the peregrine hunting season is finished now.

As the wind picked up, we decided a pub was in order. Tea's CAMRA Good Beer Guide application had a number of suggestions off the drive home. At random, we picked the Red Hart Inn in Blaisdon, and, oh my goodness, what a find! They do have a nice selection on the handpumps, but it's the atmosphere and the food that really set this place apart: the staff are uncommonly friendly, from the owner right down to the folks bussing the tables. Mom has to stick to a fairly strict diet, which they accommodated with ease. Tea and I had the pork belly, which had been slow roasting all afternoon; simply amazing. And they served it with blood pudding -- the first time I'd had it outside breakfast -- which was some of the best I've had, truth be told.

If you're getting the impression that it was a stellar day, my job is done. It really did exceed all expectations, and now sets the bar very high for days out in Gloucestershire.

No comments:

Post a Comment