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Friday, 12 August 2016

#191 The Vine, Rugeley, Staffordshire : 1999 to 2015

Over the years, we've found Rugeley to be a bit of a desert for memorable pubs and so we've tended not to stop there as often as you'd expect. However, with the new boat being moored on the Trent & Mersey Canal just an hour's cruise away, this may change.

We discovered The Vine somewhat by accident at lunchtime on Tuesday 31st August 1999.
I have little recollection of what it was like inside, but I get the impression that it was more pleasant than some Rugeley pubs.

We've been back to Rugeley on several occasions since 1999, but it was only on a recent visit that we rediscovered The Vine.
This was on the evening of Monday 6th April 2015. It was Easter Monday and it had been quite a pleasant day. We'd been to a couple of the pubs in Rugeley and were looking for somewhere slightly different. At the time, I didn't realise that we'd been to The Vine previously.  As would be expected, the exterior is somewhat changed over the 16 years between visits!

It is now a 'community' pub and inside it is furnished in a fairly basic, non-descript style - probably because they didn't have thousands of pounds to lavish on it!

You can find out more about it in the Oficial Pub Guide including a brief history.

Sunday, 31 July 2016

#190 The Bell, Brierley Hill, West Midlands : 1996 to 2015

Today you get a two-for-one bonus! As outlined in the previous entry (#189), we rarely stop at the bottom of Delph Locks and there are two pubs there. So, I thought I'd publish them together!
This was at lunchtime on Monday 27th May 1996 and I believe that we went in and had our lunch here, but I don't really remember much about it. The pub was managed by Holt, Plant & Deakin which meant little to me until I looked it up while researching this entry!

Fast forward to the evening of Friday 12th June 2015.
Now styled as The Bell Inn on the Delph, it had undergone a thorough exterior transformation over the passing 19 years. I have no idea who runs/owns/manages it now. Again, we didn't go inside as we spent the whole evening in the Bull & Bladder.

#189 The Tenth Lock, Brierley Hill, West Midlands : 1996 to 2015

One of the most impressive features of the Dudley No 1 Canal is the flight of eight Delph Locks. There used to be nine locks, but when the flight was rebuilt in 1858, the middle section was reduced from seven down to six locks. hence the now anachronistic name for the pub at the bottom of the flight.

We pass through this part of the canal system every five years or so, but rarely stop at the bottom of the flight as there isn't much mooring room. However, we did moor here at lunctime on Monday 27th May 1996, mainly because the propellor on our boat needed de-weeding.
As I recall it was a fairly standard Banks's estate pub that also did food.

We didn't stop at the bottom of Delph Locks again until the evening of Friday 12th June 2015 after a tortuous journey from Stourbridge in very shallow water!
The Tenth Lock has undergone a complete exterior refurb in the intervening 19 years and, although it doesn't look like it, it is now a Marston's pub.

On this occasion we didn't go inside. We'd planned a bit of a pub crawl down the hill from The Vine at the top, but we never left The Vine, aka the Bull & Bladder, as it was such a fantastic place and the Bathams was wonderful (and I'm a lager drinker normally!)

Friday, 15 July 2016

#188 Trent Lock Inn, Long Eaton, Derbyshire : 1986 to 2015

Trent Lock is where the River Trent meets the River Soar and the Erewash Canal and is where the counties of Derbyshire, Leicestershire and Nottinghamshire meet with the Soar forming the border between Leicestershire and Nottinghamshire, and the Trent that of Derbyshire.

From a boater's point of view it is quite a scary junction, especially when the local sailing club is out in force. Our first visit was on the lunchtime of Sunday 27th July 1986 on the return from Nottingham.

Back in those days it was called the Trent Navigation Inn. This photo is taken from the beer garden which leads down to the jetty on the River Trent where we were moored. An attractive location.

We didn't return until the lunchtime of Sunday 31st August 1997. Again, returning from Nottingham.
Quite an external transformation had taken place in the intervening 11 years...but I still cannot remember what it was like inside!

We stopped again, this time with no trip to Nottingham, at lunchtime on Friday 22nd August 2003.
Another external makeover, but it still retained the name from previous visits.

The next stop was, again, at lunchtime on Wednesday 2nd September 2009. It was an unscheduled visit as we had planned our first trip up the Erewash Canal, but were stymied by a lack of water. Instead, and after lunch, we went to Nottingham first. When we returned the next day, the canal was clear for navigation.
Another six years had passed by and another refurbishment had occurred. It had now become more of a pub/restaurant hybrid with a rustic style interior.

Our most recent visit was yet another lunchtime stop on Sunday 23rd August 2015.
Six more years had passed and now the pub was part of M&B's Vintage Inns brand and had been renamed The Trent Lock!

So, over a period of 29 years this pub/restaurant has had four complete makeovers together with a name change, but yet the TV aerial is still the same! I'd also hazard a guess that the roof has also been untouched over that period.

Thursday, 30 June 2016

#187 The Round Oak, Wombourne, Staffordshire : 1991 to 2015

The Staffordshire & Worcestershire Canal is one of the prettiest on the system and is always worth the journey. Although it is a canal we visit on a regular basis, our stops at Wombourne are somewhat infrequent.
My first canal visit to Wombourne was at lunchtime on Tuesday 30th July 1991. I'd visited and passed through Wombourne many times by road, but this was my first experience of the Round Oak.

Our next visit was almost ten years later on the evening of Monday 28th May 2001.
I'll leave discussions about the exterior changes until after the final photo.

It was even longer before we ventured back to Wombourne for a stop (although we'd passed by on many other occasions!). Our most recent visit being on the evening of Thursday 11th June 2015.
It is rare for me to get the same angle each time we visit a pub, but the Round Oak lends itself to this as being the best view of the pub.

So, in nearly 25 years, it has gone from being the Round Oak an M&B pub to being The Round Oak, a Marstons establishment with a period in between as a Banks's pub.

The conversion from M&B to Banks's appears to have been quite drastic with the loss of a chimney and a part of the building on the left hand side. (I suspect that this coincided with the canalside extension at the back of the pub which is only partly visible in the later photos.) The windows have all been replaced and a porch added to the front door. The park bench has gone, the hanging sign has been relocated and the burglar alarm moved and yet the TV aerials remain at the same jaunty angle!

The change from Banks's to Marstons is less drastic (they are, in essence, the same company) with a complete repaint, the disappearance of the hanging sign and a straightening of the main TV aerial!

Outside the pub, railings appeared between 1991 and 2001 and, on each occasion, the street light has been changed.

One final observation, that I didn't notice on any of our visits, is what looks like a post box just to the left of the street light! I'll have to check that next time I'm there (in about 10 - 15 years time!!)

Monday, 20 June 2016

New Pubs 2016: or What I Did on My Holidays (Part 1)

I set out on this blogging journey almost five years ago. I had lots of photos of the outside of pubs and I wanted to show how they'd changed (or not) throughout the years. Over the past few weeks, I've noticed a slight weakness in this approach - we still visit new pubs on our canal journeys, but by the time I report on them here (10, 15, 20 or more years in the future) I've generally forgotten what they were like on the inside. So, what better way to address this than to report on each new pub straight after the canal trip.

Our most recent foray on the cut took us into new territory on the Northern BCN and the delights of the Wyrley & Essington (or 'Curley Wyrley' as it is known), Rushall, Walsall and Tame Valley Canals.

But first, we were in Wolverhampton on the evening of Thursday 9th June 2016. After reporting on The Posada (#076), I received a comment from The Pub Curmudgeon that The Great Western was the go-to pub in Wolverhampton. Well, four years later and we finally made it...and he wasn't wrong!
The Great Western, Wolverhampton
Unfortunately it was early evening and the place was very quiet, but I can see that it is a great little pub with typically friendly locals and staff. We will be returning.

After an obligatory visit to The Posada and pleasant plate of pasta we headed for the Dog & Doublet which is a new establishment in the city centre and was recommended by Retired Martin.
Dog & Doublet, Wolverhampton
By this time it was 10:45 and people were queueing to get into Yates's across the street. However, the Dog & Doublet was ticking over nicely with a female singer singing folk style versions of modern(ish) pop songs. It is hard to believe that this is a new pub as it looked and felt like a long established 'proper' pub. As we sat there with our last pint of the evening, the pub actually got considerably busier which was hard to comprehend on a 'school night' until we discovered that it was open till 1 am and that places like The Posada closed at 11. Definitely another pub to return to at a later date.

The next morning, Friday 10th June 2016, our journey took us into the unexplored country that is the Curley Wyrley. Our first mistake (of many!) was not to stop for an early lunch at a pub called the United Kingdom only to find that the next three pubs on our (20 year) old map had all disappeared! Eventually, this place hoved into view.
The Fingerpost, Pelsall

The Fingerpost, Pelsall
Sadly, our timing was awry, arriving in the middle of the two hour period when they weren't serving food!! Inside it was decorated and laid out like many similar pub restaurants...pastel shades and a 'rustic' feel. There were few other customers, so difficult to judge the place, but it filled a need.

We set sail again into what soon became a torrential downpour and ended up mooring outside a pub in Rushall, with another just 100 yards away! Bliss...except neither did food!
The Boathouse, Rushall
This is the pub we moored outside and whist they'd stopped serving meals there were some cling-film covered rolls so we didn't starve!! The pub is an open, family friendly place with a unique seating arrangement of a 'narrowboat' shaped seating area in the middle of the large lounge!

We then made the long journey (100 yds max) to the historic, and unusual, Manor Arms.
The Manor Arms, Rushall
From the outside it looks just like a typical back-street Banks's pub, but inside it becomes something a whole lot different - a pub with no bar! When I'd read about this, just before we moored, I couldn't quite work out how this would work.

As you walk in the door, there are two small rooms to the right, with service through a hatch - so far, fairly familiar territory, A couple of steps further on there's a doorway (no door) into the bar on the left. At first I hesitated because I was walking into the area where the barmaid was pulling a pint, but then I saw that there were several people at tables drinking and chatting (as you do in a pub bar!). After getting served, we sat down and had a great evening chatting with the very friendly locals in what I'm fairly sure will be my Pub of 2016. For those who can't visualise what a pub with no bar looks like, here's the picture.
The Manor Arms, Rushall
 The next morning, Saturday 11th June 2016, we moved off and travelled along the Rushall Canal followed by the Tame Valley Canal where we again fell victim to the disappearing pub phenomenon. We eventually ended up for a lunchtime stop in Ocker Hill and, after a walk through a housing estate we found the Waggon & Horses.
Waggon & Horses, Ocker Hill
A fairly basic pub, not serving food, but with rolls behind the bar so all was not lost. It is also home to the Toll End Brewery.

We decided to take a stroll to see whether we could find anything better. After a 10 minute walk we discovered this place.
The Dew Drop Inn, Ocker Hill
This is a real 'dumpy, old man's pub' that I thought had been driven to extinction by the smoking ban and sundry financial crises over the past few years. But no, The Dew Drop Inn continues with its glorious ordinariness that was once so commonplace but is now an endangered species.

Back on Peggy Ellen and we made our way along the Walsall Canal to the centre of Walsall itself. There's a shiny new development that includes such delights as a Hungry Horse and a Chef & Brewer which we decided to eschew in favour of more traditional pubs. The first of these, The Oak Inn, is a typical just out of town centre boozer.
The Oak Inn, Walsall
It's difficult to make a judgement on this pub as England were playing Russia and there were less than 20 people in the place. We moved on at half time.

Not knowing where we were going, we wandered for about 15 minutes until we found The Pretty Bricks.
The Pretty Bricks, Walsall
This is a Black Country Ales pub and was formerly known as the Tap & Spile and also the New Inn. Inside it was a cosy, well decorated little pub, but despite it being Saturday evening there were only a few people in there (and no football!). I imagine that, on a busy night, it would be a great place to spend a few hours. It was also the pub where Walsall CAMRA was founded in 1972.

That's the last of the new pubs from this trip, most of which I'd be happy to visit again (with one or two notable exceptions!) 

Tuesday, 7 June 2016

#186 Keg & Grill, Birmingham : 2004 to 2015

Having lived here for over 30 years, whenever our canal trips have brought us into the centre of Birmingham, I have always tried to find new and different pubs for my crewmates to sample within easy walking distance of the canal. I'm also keen to find pubs I've not visited before.

This happened on the evening of Wednesday 1st September 2004 when we discovered the Gough Arms.
It was a pub that I didn't know existed and we only popped in for one pint. As I recall it was a fairly standard back-street boozer.

We didn't return, although on at least one occasion we went by and it was closed. It did seem that it was a terminal situation, but happily as I was in the area one afternoon I saw that it was open and completely rebranded.
This was on the afternoon of Wednesday 24th June 2015. It had undergone a complete transformation and, hopefully, with The Cube and The Mailbox nearby it may be a successful transformation.

To visit as it is now, here is the pub's website. Also, to see what the Gough Arms looked like in the 1950's you can see it here.