It is with a huge sense of sadness that I have to write about the very sudden and tragic death of Nick Brabner, who died of a stroke on Wednesday 6th July at only 72.
It was Nick’s parents who started Gliffaes in 1948 and from then on Gliffaes was home for him. After 15 years in the steel industry Nick and Peta took over the running of Gliffaes in 1973 and Nick, pretty much single handedly, added bathrooms to every bedroom and took the hotel up several gears. He and Peta carried on running the hotel until Susie (his daughter) and I took over in 1997. He was a great hotelier and ran the hotel with a wonderfully light touch and it is to his credit that we are still flourishing 63 years on.
Although we took over the running of the hotel, Nick was still very much in charge of the gardens and the river and it is thanks to him that our grounds are so spectacular. He had a great knowledge of plants, and trees especially, and liked nothing better than an afternoon with a chainsaw, his dogs never far away.He loved to stop and chat to guests as he cut the lawns on the mower, happy to be considered as ‘just the gardner’. If anything in the hotel broke, leaked, dripped, caught fire, got bent, Nick would know exactly what to do and under which floor board was some hidden valve or switch. His work shop is full of strange rusty tools which he always stopped me from throwing away as they all have their uses, even if it was only once in a blue moon.
Nick loved fishing and shooting and he did not just take part, he gave an enormous amount back in time and effort, especially to fishing. He was a tireless campaigner for improving the lot of the river Usk and Wye. As chairman of the United Usk Fishermen’s Association for over 25 years he defeated the proposed building of the Usk barrage in 1996 and later became a trustee of the Wye and Usk Foundation and was heavily involved in all their campaigns. He believed passionately in the long term rejuvenation of the rivers and their tributaries and had little time for short term quick fixes like stocking the rivers.
Above all Nick was great fun, he had a wonderful, irreverent sense of humour and he will be missed by all of us at Gliffaes, but his legacy will live on and is plain to see as you enter the gates to Gliffaes and just look around.
Thank you to everyone who has called or written in sympathy. Peta, Susie, Alexandra, Olivia and I appreciate your kind thoughts greatly. There will be a service of thanksgiving at 2.30pm on Monday 8th August at St Edmunds church in Crickhowell and afterwards at Gliffaes.