Blog Surfer

Monday, 9 January 2017

#207 The Boat, Penkridge, Staffordshire : 1991 to 2016

Our first experience of The Boat was back in 1981 on my second ever narrowboat journey. This turned into an epic trip because the lock flight at Audlem was closed and we had to travel for at least 12 hours per day for three days to get to Birmingham for our scheduled rendezvous. Our normal day would have been 8 hours max.

At lunchtime on Friday 14th August 1981 on this trip we were passing through the lock adjacent to the pub and it was my job to get a pint for each crew member as we didn't have time to actually stop. These were consumed as we passed through the lock and the glasses returned before we were on our way again.

We didn't pass this way again for many years and the location of this event became somewhat of a mystery until the evening of Sunday 28th July 1991 when we once again passed through the lock and moored up at Penkridge.
Sadly not my best photo. I don't really remember much about it inside, probably not unrelated to the fact that it was our last port of call for the evening!

Emma Jane then spent a few years on the Southern Grand Union Canal, but we were back at The Boat at lunchtime on Wednesday 29th May 1996.
I took this picture to give the view from the lock, but it doesn't give any idea of changes that may (or may not) have taken place.

The next visit was on the evening of Monday 25th August 2003 and again, it is a poor picture as it was our last stop of the night having gone into the village first.
The exterior signage had changed over the seven years we'd been away.

We were back again at lunchtime on Tuesday 1st June 2010 and, as you can guess, it was a World Cup year...just before England's dismal failure in South Africa!
It was during this visit that I remember finding the interior somewhat sparse and not particularly welcoming, not helped by the lack of clientele.

We were back again just over a year later on the evening of Sunday 4th September 2011.
Not sure whether we actually went inside, but I made it a point to take the picture before setting off for the village! It looks so much better without the England flags!

Our next foray into Penkridge came on the evening of Wednesday 10th June 2015.
Again we used it as our last port of call, but now I have a digital camera (and more technical proficiency!) so I can manage to get much better night time shots. Enough to be able to see that the exterior signage had again changed.

Finally, our most recent visit to Penkridge was on the afternoon of Saturday 6th August 2016 and we were just passing through so I took this shot as I was working the lock.
It is good to see that The Boat continues to survive. It has the perfect location for warm summer days and must generate enough trade during the rest of the year to keep going. For more details their website is here. 

Thursday, 29 December 2016

#206 The Oak & Ivy, Burton-upon-Trent, Staffordshire : 1997 to 2015

The Oak & Ivy is a back street pub in Burton that breaks my main rule - I've never been inside it!

We occasionally visit Burton and, as the canal is a way from the centre we pass quite a few pubs before we get into town. Before going digital I was quite frugal and, generally, only took pictures of the pubs we went in.
I'm not 100% sure what happened at lunchtime on Monday 1st September 1997, though. I suspect that we were going to go in, but found that they didn't do food and so moved on...after I taken the photo! It was the day after Princess Diana died, so everything that week was strange!

Although we'd been back to Burton in the meantime, my next picture of The Oak & Ivy was taken on the evening of Friday 3rd April 2015 (Good Friday)
On this occasion, we'd moored at Shobnall Basin giving us a different route into the town and quite a few pubs to pass by. Sadly, it's a sign of advancing years that we can't stop off for several beers and still manage to eat afterwards - it is something of an either/or situation with food always winning!

Unsurprisingly, The Oak & Ivy had been completely refurbished externally over the passing 18 years. Back in 1997 it looked to be a typical Marston's pub of that era. Namely, a basic boozer with no frills; I seem to recall that, back then, all Marston's pubs were bog-standard boozers! 

I'm not sure when, but Marston's seemed to have something of a corporate epiphany and, in more recent years, they have tended to go a bit more up market in their refurbishments. 

Tuesday, 20 December 2016

#205 Sacks of Potatoes, Gosta Green, Birmingham : 1986 to 2015

The Sacks of Potatoes is a pub that will be familiar to any student (past & present) of Aston University as it sits in the middle of the campus. It is a pub I've visited on many occasions not involved with canal trips, but the only pictures I take are whilst on holiday (mainly!)

We start our journey at lunchtime on Thursday 31st July 1986.
We'd moored at Aston Junction and were nearing the end of a two week journey that had taken us to Nottingham. In those days the Sacks of Potatoes was a cosy, proper pub that did pub grub.

We didn't venture back there again until lunchtime on Wednesday 6th September 1995.
The reason for such a long delay was because our boat, Emma Jane, had spent two years up North, then another five years down South and this visit was towards the end of the journey bringing her back to the Midlands. In those few years, the Sacks of Potatoes has been extended quite a bit, much of it at the back. It wasn't quite as cosy as before, but it was still a proper pub!

It wasn't too long before our return at lunchtime on Wednesday 3rd September 1997, again mooring at Aston Junction and again returning from a trip that had taken us to Nottingham.
From this view you can see the considerable sideways extension of the pub compared to the 1986 view.

We were back again for another lunchtime stop on Sunday 29th August 1999, this time at the start of a trip that would take us along the Caldon Canal for the first time.
It had undergone a refurb in the intervening years and it was no longer labelled as an M&B pub, although it still was part of the Mitchell's & Butlers group. It was around this time that I completely lost track of who owned what pub and what beer you might expect to see! Sadly, the picture had disappeared from the side wall!

We were back again almost exactly a year later for lunch on Sunday 27th August 2000.
No real changes to report, the colour difference being caused by bright August Bank Holiday sun in 1999 versus Bank Holiday gloom in 2000!

It was quite a few years before we came back to the Sacks; almost exactly ten years had elapsed, it was another lunch stop on Saturday 28th August 2010.
Externally it had been repainted and there were many more seats (three years since the smoking ban), but other than that the pub was largely unchanged. In fact, most of the significant changes were going on around the pub as Aston University underwent a massive transformation.

The next picture is from Friday 6th June 2014, not related to a canal trip.
I was out by the university taking pictures, so, as we hadn't been there for a few years, I thought I'd get a new picture for the blog. Little had changed, but the hanging baskets now contained real flowers!

Ironically, we were back the next year for a lunchtime stop on Sunday 14th June 2015.
The Sacks of Potatoes wasn't our original destination for this lunch stop, but The Bull (#073) was closed on Sundays, so here we were again!

Despite the changes all around and the expansion of the pub in the nineties it still feels like a proper pub which is something of a rarity in this day and age! It is now part of the Stonegate Group of pubs (not sure when it transferred from Mitchell's & Butlers!) and the website is here.
 

Tuesday, 13 December 2016

#204 Crewe & Harpur, Swarkestone, Derbyshire : 1986 to 2015

The stretch of the Trent & Mersey Canal that goes north from Fradley Junction to the River Trent is a part of the system that we don't often travel along.

Our first ever visit to the Crewe & Harpur Arms (as it was called then) was on the evening of Sunday 27th July 1986.
I remember little about the pub from that time apart from the fact that one of our crew was quite taken with one of the barmaids. Nothing came of it, but the name 'Rose of the Crewe & Harpur' has entered the folklore of our boating adventures!

We didn't return until the evening of Sunday 31st August 1997.
Although not particularly stand out, there had been many changes to the signage (and possibly ownership) in the intervening eleven years. The name remained the same, but the sign had changed completely, the Bass signs were gone, replaced by two larger information signs and two black squares had appeared. The bench seats remained, no parking signs appeared, the door had been painted, but the little lamps had gone. Inside, there was no Rose!

It wasn't too long before we returned, this time on the evening of Friday 28th August 2003.
Much the same externally, but with added plant life and a satellite dish! it was on this visit that we realised that it was now a Marston's pub.

Our most recent visit was on the evening of Saturday 4th April 2015.
In the intervening twelve years it was now just the Crewe & Harpur. Gone were the hanging baskets, bench seats and the satellite dish. The main sign had also been moved, yet the burglar alarm remains in the same place! You can also tell from the colour scheme, pastel drab as I would describe it, that it has become a more upmarket eating establishment.

More about the Crewe & Harpur can be found on their website.

Monday, 28 November 2016

#203 The Old Windmill, Coventry, West Midlands : 2000 to 2015

We are occasional visitors to the centre of Coventry by canal as it is a 5 mile stretch of canal from Hawkesbury Junction to Coventry Canal Basin which is the terminus of the Coventry Canal. So, if we have time in the schedule we sometimes make the trip into the city to see how it has changed.

The Old Windmill is situated in Medieval Spon Street which is one of the few parts of the old city to have survived the blitz. It is quite a walk from the canal which is probably why we'd not been there before the evening of Tuesday 30th May 2000.
As I recall it was a proper pub and quite a pleasant experience. From the signage, it was still a Mann's pub back then.

Although we'd been back to Coventry a couple of times after this, we didn't venture to The Old Windmill again until the evening of Monday 6th October 2014.
On this occasion we'd moored at Hawkesbury Junction, but we'd been unable to get any food at The Greyhound (#167) as it was full. This necessitated a taxi ride into Coventry and our driver dropped us off by The Old Windmill so that we could eat at Turmeric Gold on the opposite side of the road (his recommendation!).

The signage had completely changed and it was no longer a Mann's pub, but little else had changed - apart from the tables and chairs outside the front of the pub! (Café society comes to Coventry!) Inside it was still a proper pub.

We returned almost a year later; this time we'd moored at Coventry Canal Basin to re-explore the city on the evening of Tuesday 1st September 2015. Unfortunately, as we were having a pint in the Wetherspoons the heavens opened, thus curtailing any further exploration, but we still got a bit damp on the walk over to Medieval Spon Street!
It was still chucking it down when we left The Old Windmill after a pint before venturing across the road to Turmeric Gold for our evening meal. There were few discernible changes to the pub (new hanging baskets), but what price 'café society' now?! To see more about the 2015 CAMRA Coventry Pub of the Year have a look at their Facebook page
Whilst The Old Windmill dates from the 16th Century and claims to be one of the oldest pubs in Coventry, somehow I don't think that Turmeric Gold has quite such a long history. The food was good on both occasions we visited. 

Monday, 21 November 2016

#202 The Navigation, Alrewas, Staffordshire : 1986 to 2015 (RIP)

Our first ever visit to Alrewas saw us go to three of the four pubs that were in the village back then. It was an evening visit on Monday 28th July 1986.
The Navigation was a big Ind Coope pub on the edge of the village and I can recall nothing remarkable about it!

Although we'd visited Alrewas on several occasions, we didn't revisit The Navigation for 17 years on the evening of Saturday 23rd August 2003.
Needless to say, there had been a few changes including the name as it was now called The Old Boat. The only reason we were back here was because our visit to Alrewas coincided with the Wychnor Boat Rally meaning that all of the pubs in the centre of the village were packed and we couldn't get any food! By the time we'd got to The Old Boat, they had stopped serving food. So, it was "Call a Cab" time and we disappeared into Lichfield for the rest of the evening!

As we were approaching Alrewas on our most recent visit there I took this shot of Delhi Divan, the restaurant that now occupies what was The Navigation.
This was taken from the Trent & Mersey Canal in the late morning of Friday 3rd April 2015. From what I can gather, it opened in 2014 and gets very good reviews on TripAdvisor. At least it is still being used for 'entertainment' purposes!  

Friday, 11 November 2016

#201 Angel Ale House, Atherstone, Warwickshire : 1995 to 2015

The Angel Inn, as it was called when we first visited it on the evening of Monday 4th September 1995, is a pub that has hardly changed externally, but has been transformed internally over the years.
I really don't remember too much about the inside, I think it was a fairly standard town centre boozer. (We visited quite a few pubs that evening as Atherstone was something of a revelation for the quantity of drinking options!)

We were next in Atherstone on for a lunchtime stop on Saturday 20th August 2005, but we didn't go into the Angel on that occasion. I do, however, have a shot of the pub from down the street that I've blown up for this entry!
There doesn't look to be too much change, but difficult to tell from this distance!

We didn't return until the evening of Sunday 5th October 2014 and, again, we didn't venture inside.
It had obviously been refurbished and, peering through the window I could see that it was done out in the more modern, open, rustic style that so many places seem to go for.

We were back in Atherstone about a year later on the evening of Wednesday 2nd September 2015.
Yet again, we didn't go inside, but obviously they've managed to make a success of the place judging by the banner hanging over the front of the pub. At least the hanging sign is back outside the pub denoting the change of name to the Angel Ale House. Also, there is the large shelter added onto the side (just visible in the 2014 picture) that no doubt is there to accommodate extra drinkers and smokers.