With the prospect of a holiday (foreign or UK) looking increasingly unlikely Mrs Reggie and I decided we would try and fit in a number of day trips to break the tedium of everyday life. Our first chosen destination was Monmouth, approximately an hour from Reggie Towers.
We took the old Severn Bridge across the Bristol Channel, taking the Chepstow exit, heading north, along the A466 through the Wye Valley, following the path of the River Wye for several miles. A pretty route which passes through several small villages and sights of interest, including Tintern Abbey (it’s been at least 30 years since my last visit there). The weather was warm and sunny and being the height of June, everything was in leaf and flower.
Arriving in Monmouth we parked in the carpark opposite Waitrose, which hinted at the wealth of the town. Next to the carpark was a small market with stalls selling a variety of items. At the fruit and veg stall we bagged some tomatoes, potatoes and some delicious apricots at very reasonable prices (collecting them on our return to the car).
We headed towards the high street, noting the Monnow Bridge to our left (according to Wikipedia it “is the only remaining fortified river bridge in Great Britain with its gate tower standing on the bridge”) and turned right. The high street contains a selection of shops from national chains (Fat Face, Boots etc) but pleasingly there was a good number and selection of independent shops. Most of the car parking spaces along the high street have been cordoned off (presumably for social distancing purposes – I doubt they will ever be put back in use) making the already narrow road even more congested. Near the top of the high street there is a pinch point and this regularly causes traffic jams, according to one shop keeper we spoke to.
Heading up the high street we popped in to several shops (mainly clothes) for a quick nose around. In pre-pandemic times I might easily have bought some of the items on offer but after 18 months of wearing pretty much the same combination of plain T-shirts and jeans or shorts I couldn’t justify any purchases on the basis I already have a wardrobe and several drawers full of unworn clothes. Nonetheless it was good to see some independent stores doing relatively well.
As the high street begins to level out you enter the rather grand sounding Agincourt Square with the imposing Shire Hall to the right. It’s a Grade 1 listed building built in 1724, and was formerly the centre for the Assize Courts and Quarter Sessions for Monmouthshire. In 1839/40, the court was the location of the trial of the Chartist leader John Frost and others for high treason for their part in the Newport Rising. On the day of our visit there were a number of market stalls offering a variety of foods, from Asian to local delicacies. They were pretty popular judging by the queues of people waiting to be served
Further up from the Shire Hall and to the right we headed down Church Street, a pedestrianised narrow street filled with independent shops. We popped in to a couple of arty type places but nothing took our fancy. By far the best place we found was a jewellery shop called Atelier Gilmar (http://www.ateliergilmar.com/index1.html) . The owners of the shop (a husband-and-wife team) design and hand make all types of jewellery and their items on display were simply stunning. The quality and range of designs were fantastic and we could easily have spent a small fortune (well, Mrs Reggie could have……). It’s definitely somewhere we will visit again and they offer a service where you can take old / unwanted jewellery for them to melt down and make into something bespoke and special. Our visit ended on a slightly sad note as the wife explained that her husband (in a wheel chair) had suffered a stroke in February and the day of our visit was the first time they had opened that year. He was busy working away as we were talking to his wife but it was clear his speech and movement had been badly affected.
Heading back down the high street to our car we decided to grab a bite to eat and chose a fish and chip shop we spotted near the Monnow Bridge, which looked like a good place to refuel. I ordered cod, chips and garden peas (I can’t remember what Mrs Reggie had). It was by far the worst example of that dish I’ve ever had the misfortune to eat. The chips were anaemic, the batter soggy and the fish wet and tasteless. The peas were almost see-though (and like the fish) had no taste. Even the mug of tea was lifeless. Mrs Reggie’s meal was no better and we left more than half of it uneaten – something I rarely do. A quick walk back to the carpark and we were on our way.
We shall definitely return to Monmouth – we didn’t visit the castle and there are other parts of Monmouth, away from the high street, that look to be worthy of an inspection.
My next postcard comes from Abergavenny.
© Reggie 2021
The Goodnight Vienna Audio file