Said to be Worcestershire’s smallest town, Upton-upon-Severn has a quietly majestic Georgian high street that runs down to the wide expanse of the River Severn. Unfortunately the tidal Severn often runs back up the High Street.
It has the distinctive Pepperpot, the cupola being the surviving part of an old church.
And a lovely sandstone church.
There is also a striking 1930s Art Deco influenced garage. In 2013 the Malvern Gazette gave us an insight into first world problems in small town England. The garage needed a lick of paint, prompting local councillors to call it an “eyesore” but the owner, Mr Panes, said he wasn’t “the slightest bit interested in what they or anyone else thinks” and said he would paint it when he was “good and ready”. Which he eventually did.
In the high street there is a reminder of the time when our post was collected three times a day and once on Sundays.
The population of 2,881 can enjoy nine functioning pubs as well as a bar in the marina. It would have been double figures if the Talbot Head hadn’t let the side down.
The Talbot Head was last in the Good Beer Guide in 1981 and is one of six to have found its way in. The Little Upton Muggery, which has the best sign, last featured in 2001.
The White Lion is a coaching inn dating from 1510 and mentioned in Henry Fielding’s novel about an ageing pop star, Tom Jones. There is no micro here yet but maybe there is a potential site.
The riverside area is pub central with the Plough, Swan, King’s Head, Star, Boathouse and my destination, the Anchor. This was my third attempt to visit the Anchor, a pub not glimpsed in the Guide since 1998.* The first time it was closed when a member of staff tested positive for covid (the undisputed winner of Virus of the Year). The second time it wasn’t open when publicised, but this Sunday lunchtime they had posted that they would be open.
The only difficulty was getting there as most of the roads in from Malvern were closed due to flooding. Cromwell’s troops crossed the Severn here on their way to the Battle of Worcester in 1651. Luckily they were equipped with fishermen’s waders and wet suits made from the skins of dried haddock. In contrast the vanquished Charles II’s army were kitted out by the Worcester Clothiers Company but he failed to pay the £453 bill, which was finally settled in 2008 by Prince Charles. One of those two sentences is true.
The King’s Head was closed and the garden on the soggy side.
But, joy, the Anchor was open and serving a top pint of Wye Valley Butty Bach alongside the mandatory baked potato.
The Anchor was built in 1601 and was ticked by Cromwell, but now only occupies part of the building. It used to house the Jolly Roger brewery in a brew house at the back of the pub. I sat in a delightful small snug while other customers sat in the main bar. “That Guinness is all froth”. “Good job I didn’t charge you for it then”. It was immediately changed. The gentle buzz of pub talk that we take (took?) for granted.
The lack of opportunity to be in pubs has made me appreciate beers like Butty Bach all the more. It really was superb. This visit was in the last week of December, just before another lockdown ended it all again. It will come back.
*My thanks to Arsenal Paul who is spending these restrictive times putting every pub that has ever been in the Good Beer Guide – over almost five decades – onto a spreadsheet, a feat of human endeavour greater even than visiting the pubs themselves.