Sadly a great many of the pubs and cidermakers I visited on that holiday are no longer with us. Most notably the Berkley Hunt, a wonderful unspoilt bargees pub in the village of Purton, now a canalside cottage residence (the equally wonderful Berkley Arms is still open in the village, albeit with limited opening hours). A whole host of cider and perry makers are now gone, including Rodney Summer of Halmore, and local legend Jasper Ely of Framilode. The malty sweetish beers of the Berkeley Brewery are also no more.
Thankfully the Salutation is still there, and thriving to a degree that would have seemed unlikely at the time. Located a short walk from the village of Berkeley and its impressive castle, Ham is the quintessential tiny rural hamlet. What little passing trade there is usually comes on horseback or cycle, so for a pub like the Salutation to still be open and enjoying no small measure of success is a testament to the support it continues to receives from the locals, and the hard work and genuine innovation that licensees Peter & Claire Tiley have brought to the pub since their arrival in 2013.
I can't in all honesty say that I remember too much about the inside of the pub from my last visit. Presumably there have been one or two minor alterations in the intervening years, but it's still basically the same two-room village local it was back then. One thing I am sure of though is that the beer and cider range has improved immeasurably under the new owners. So much so that the Salutation has become a serial award-winner at both local CAMRA branch level and nationally, achieving CAMRA's Cider Pub of the Year award and the ultimate accolade of National Pub of the Year in 2014. The pub even has its own Sally Cider, and the Tiley Brewery is due to launch very soon bringing brewing back to the Berkeley area. Quite a special place then, and one I've been looking forward to returning to for a good while now.
I finally managed a return to Ham and the Salutation in late springtime this year. A little too early in the year for beer garden drinking, but the bar was cosy, and the locals welcoming. The traditional early evening after-work social was in full swing, one of the very best and most sociable pub sessions of all in my view. The stove was lit, and the wide range of Three Counties ciders and perries were going down a treat. As I rattled my way through a few games of Dominoes with my partner, the early post-work shift was gradually replaced by a contingent Sally skittles players.
The Vale of Berkeley gives its name to the local skittles league, and there are several pub and club skittle alleys in Berekely village alone. I've no doubt that with so many pub closures and refurbishments in the area in recent years, the league will have lost a good few venues and teams, so it's great that the Salutation has retained its traditional skittle alley at the rear of the pub, part of the licensees ethos of running a proper village local rather than going all-out for the destination dining market.
Anticipating our visit to the Salutation, I'd already checked the fixture list for the Berkeley & District Skittles League ahead of our visit, and was slightly disappointed to see that we'd missed the last home game of the season. So it came as something of a surprise to see the pub team roll up and commence play. What I'd forgotten was that league fixtures are frequently cancelled during the winter season due to bad weather and other issues, leading to an inevitable backlog at the tail-end of the season. This was one such fixture, a mop-up game that may or may not have had much bearing on league positions. Nevertheless I was grateful that the teams kindly allowed me to take a few action shots during the match.
The commitment to traditional pub games at the Salutation extends to Shove Ha'penny, and the indoor version of Quoits unique to this area of England and Wales, both of which are available for play on request.
So the Salutation was a fine traditional village local back then, and has developed into a truly great one now. In fact it's a real rarity, a great pub that just keeps getting better.