HEREFORDSHIRE PUBS OF THE YEAR 2013
PRINCE NO LONGER THE BRIDESMAID
Herefordshire CAMRA has been running its Pub of the Year competition every year now since 1992. In that time, a good number of county pubs have won the coveted prize – in both town and country. The Prince of Wales in Ledbury has so often been the ‘nearly’ pub. Most recently it was named Pub of the Year runner-up and best Town pub for 2010, but the main prize always seemed to slip through its fingers, despite it being in the last cut on so many occasions. Now all that has changed – the Prince of Wales is no longer the bridesmaid, it can proudly take its rightful place as Herefordshire CAMRA Pub of the Year for 2013.
For those who frequent the Prince of Wales it will come as little surprise it has won. In fact, the regulars there could be forgiven for wondering quite why it has taken so long. All that can be said in reply is that it’s better late than never!
The Prince of Wales is undoubtedly the pub in Ledbury for drinkers. Not only does the bar muster a range of seven local cask beers that wouldn’t look out of place at a beer festival, the range of character, strength (along with ever-consistent quality), ensures no visitor to this internally-altered 16th century half-timbered pub is ever disappointed. Furthermore, if that weren’t enough, it offers a range of foreign beers (both in bottles and on draught) that would happily grace any bar in central Brussels. This place is the real deal for the beer connoisseur. The Prince of Wales is so much more than just beer - as great as that is. The food offering is wholesome, unashamedly straightforward, and near-legendary for its value for money – with filling dishes such as cottage pie to the fore. Sunday lunches are so popular you need to book. However, it is a pub that first and foremost is at the heart of its community. Whilst the food is kept to the bar at the rear, the front two bar areas are where conversation, regular live music and a friendly atmosphere are nurtured by the light touch of hosts, Les and Russell Smith. For many people they probably feel as comfortable sat in the bar chatting as they would be at home.
This award comes at a welcome time for father-and-son team Les and Russell. It’s been a tough few years for them. First there was a protracted legal battle to secure the freehold of the premises – that dragged on through the courts. Then in 2013 Des’s wife, Elaine, was seriously injured in an accident in the town. Hopefully, this award now signals only better times ahead for them all, at a pub that is affectionately known in Ledbury as simply ‘The Prince’. A number of subtle improvements have been made since the freehold ownership of the pub was secured, helping it evolve into a real treasure. These include interesting curios in the bars; some upgrading of the facilities, and a new outdoor courtyard for smokers. However, the icing on the cake has to be the restoration of the splendid traditional pub sign that hangs over the picturesque cobbled alleyway to the front of the pub. It really does set the scene for what you find once across the doorstep – a traditional pub of the old school that welcomes all.
The Prince of Wales, Church Lane, Ledbury, HR8 1DL. Telephone: (01531) 632250 Website: www.powledbury.com. Open 11am-11pm (10.30pm Sun), Food served daily 12-2.30pm; 6.30-8pm
BEST IN THE COUNTRYSIDE – YET AGAIN!
When you walk into the Alma Inn you might be surprised by its ordinariness at first, but don’t be fooled by outward appearances at this superb three-bar village pub. The first clue you might find to suggest it is something rather special are the seven CAMRA certificates proudly affixed to the wall. This pub has previously won the lot: Pub of the Year Runner-up, Best Country Pub, Joint Winner and overall winner. Now it is Runner-up and Best Country Pub - it clearly has an exceptional pedigree.
The Alma is a rare beast. It might surprise many rural publicans, let alone customers, that it is a country pub that doesn’t do food – not so much as a ham sandwich, let alone an Hawaiian pizza or soup in the basket. The beer range surprises too by differing to the norm, it nearly always includes Malvern Hills Black Pear, Oakham JHB and Butcombe Bitter.
This is a pub for those who enjoy excellent beer, along with good company and a friendly atmosphere. Longstanding hosts Graham and Lin Webb take pride in their pub being the heartbeat of the small village of Linton. On a typical evening the place comes into its own. On arrival, a customer can expect to find gentle conversation in mid-flow, normally aided (but never dominated), by the presence of one of the pub’s many games teams, or from a gathering of one or more of the numerous local clubs and societies who choose to meet in front of the roaring open fire to conduct their business. On other occasions it will be live acoustic music - a semi-regular feature and guaranteed on the first Thursday of each month.
The highlight of the year at the Alma is the well-established and nationally-recognised Linton Music Festival held around June solstice weekend in the pub’s extensive lawned grounds to the rear. Both the acts (and over 1,000 people each day) come from all over, and there’s a full-blown beer festival to ensure proceedings always go with a swing.
However, what really makes this place tick is undoubtedly the dedication, commitment and enthusiasm of the owners – Graham and Lin. The genuine welcome afforded to all those who cross the threshold is without doubt the reason they enjoy such a loyal local (and not so local) following.
The Alma is just a few hundred yards across the fields from the M50 Motorway, and Junction 3 is only a mile away, yet it feels so much more remote – tucked away down a delightful criss-cross of narrow country lanes. To let finding the Alma dissuade you from visiting this fine example of a genuine and thriving village pub would be to miss out on something special, very special indeed.
Alma Inn, Linton HR9 7RY: (Linton is just off Junction 3 of the M50). Open Mondays to Fridays: 6-11 (not open weekday lunchtimes); Saturdays: 12-3 & 6-11; Sundays: 12-3 & 7-10.30. Facilities include an open coal fire, pool table, gardens and camping nearby. Telephone: (01989) 720355. Website: www.almainnlinton.co.uk