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Tuesday, 22 December 2015

#178 Cuttle Bridge Inn (aka The Kingsley), Kingsbury Road, Birmingham : 1998 to 2015

The first time we moored at The Kingsley was on the evening of Tuesday 2nd September 1997, but it was late, dark and the picture I do have isn't very good (taken with my old 35mm camera) so I haven't scanned it for inclusion.

The Kingsley was something of a godsend for us whenever we were using the Birmingham & Fazeley Canal as it was a brand new Beefeater Inn along a stretch of canal where it was a long time to the next guaranteed eating place.

Our next visit was on the evening of Sunday 21st June 1998 after a five hour afternoon journey from the centre of Birmingham.

Back in 1998 we'd not discovered how close Curdworth was to the canal and so a bright, shiny, new Beefeater (with mooring outside) was the perfect stopping point for us.

We were back again the next year in the evening of Sunday 29th August 1999.
There's really not much extra to add as it was a typical Beefeater of its era.

The next time we were there was on the evening of Thursday 31st May 2001.

 On this one week trip we'd miscalculated the timings and left ourselves only one day to get back to Lapworth. Fortunately there was plenty of light and the journey only took us a total of 10 hours 35 minutes the next day!

We were back again on the evening of Wednesday 18th September 2002 (giving us a more leisurely two days to return to our moorings!).
This was the first visit where we noticed that all was not well with The Kingsley. The restaurant was very quiet, the service was not as good as previously and the bar was populated by exclusively young people and not that many of them! (I realise that last sentence makes me sound like an old fart, but Beefeaters were usually frequented by families and you used to get a very mixed clientele, but this looked and felt very different!)

The next time we stopped was on the evening of Tuesday 31st August 2004 and it was no longer a Beefeater!
It hadn't long been under new management and so wasn't too different from the previous visit.

We were there next on Wednesday 6th September 2006, another evening stop, and it had been completely refurbished.
At first this looked extremely promising, but once we were inside it was obvious that despite the money that had been spent on the place it wasn't thriving.

We did moor outside on the evening of Saturday 26th May 2007, but chose to walk into Curdworth for food and drink! I didn't take a picture. Since this time, we've discovered that Curdworth is a more viable stopping place and the two pubs are within easy walking long as there are enough mooring spaces!

This next photo was taken on Sunday 11th May 2014 as I happened to be driving by.
This looked like the end for The Kingsley and it was, in a way, but not quite the ending I'd expected!

As we sailed by on the morning of Monday 15th June 2015, this is the scene we came across.

It had reinvented itself as an hotel called the Cuttle Bridge Inn! With its proximity to the NEC, Birmingham and the M42 it is the ideal location for an hotel which should give it a steady trade that wasn't there for a pub/restaurant that you had to drive to.

It is now on our radar as a place to revisit. They have a website and are part of a small chain of hotels in the Midlands around Birmingham.  

Thursday, 26 November 2015

#177 Fool's Nook, nr Macclesfield, Cheshire : 2000 to 2015 (RIP?)

Until the past year or so the Macclesfield Canal was a rare treat for us, only to be considered if we were doing the mammoth trip to Manchester and back in a fortnight. And so it was for my only ever visit to the Fool's Nook.
Between Congleton and Macclesfield is a long stretch of canal and the only easily accessible pub along the way was the Fool's Nook making it an ideal lunchtime stop on Thursday 31st August 2000. As I recall it was a cosy, welcoming stop after nearly five hours of travelling through the rain including Bosley Locks.

We did pass this way in 2010, but didn't stop here. Our next visit was in 2014 when this had been our planned lunchtime stop on Sunday 22nd June 2014, but unfortunately it was closed!
At this stage we weren't sure if it was terminal or just a temporary closure, but it meant that we'd had a nearly seven hour journey before some respite (for the 'parched and starving' crew) at the Puss in Boots in Macclesfield!

As we were to learn subsequently, things don't look good for the Fool's Nook and this was the view as we were passing by on Thursday 22nd January 2015.
Still closed and from this link, it would appear that it is unlikely to open again. That's a shame, but not too surprising given its location away from any population centre. For us it meant exploring new possibilities and we found some interesting new pubs that may appear here in the coming years!

Tuesday, 10 November 2015

#176 Rose & Crown, Warwick : 1998 to 2014

There are lots of pubs in Warwick and, on a short stop, we don't manage to get to all of them. However, in the summer of 1998 our boat Emma Jane broke down (on August Bank Holiday) so we had the opportunity to explore the town more fully. One of the beneficiaries of our misfortune was the Rose & Crown which is just off the Market Square.
 This picture is from the evening of Sunday 30th August 1998. As I recall it was a busy pub that was a bit more upmarket than just a town boozer, but essentially it was a proper pub!

In the intervening years we visited Warwick on many occasions, but never went back to the Rose & Crown, and we still haven't been back inside!

On the evening of Saturday 27th September 2014 we again found ourselves in the centre of Warwick and, for the first time in ages, we ventured into the Market Square with the intention of going back to the Rose & Crown, but this is what we found.
The pub had obviously undergone something of a transformation since our previous visit in 1998. Unfortunately for us, the transformation was still going on and it was closed for further refurbishment. Nevertheless, we still managed to have a good time sitting outside the Tilted Wig (#166) in the unseasonably warm evening weather.

Having done some subsequent research, the Rose & Crown is part of the Peach Pubs Group and is now more of a gastropub than the proper pub it was before. If that means that it will survive for many years to come, then I'm all for it!

Thursday, 22 October 2015

#175 Sun Inn, Llangollen, Denbighshire : 2007 to 2014

As previously mentioned, we don't get to Llangollen very often, so we do like to have a look around.
Our first visit was on the evening of Friday 31st August 2007 and we only popped in for a pint. As I recall it was a typical local boozer which are all too rare these days - then it was only a couple of months after the Smoking Ban had come in!

We were back in Llangollen on the evening of Saturday 19th April 2014 and we decided to retrace our steps along the A5 to see what pubs were still there.
We didn't go in this time because the music was a bit loud (and we're becoming old gits who don't like music that's too noisy!!) and they don't do food. I was, however, pleased to see that it had survived, almost completely unchanged in seven years.

It seems to be thriving as a music venue - here's a link for more information.

Monday, 5 October 2015

#174 Hatton Arms (aka The Waterman), Hatton, Warks : 1998 to 2014

As any regular narrowboater will know the lock flight at Hatton on the Grand Union Canal is a daunting, but magnificent challenge. At the top of the hill overlooking the flight sits the Hatton Arms (for many years called The Waterman) which is a welcome sight after several hours hard work coming up the locks or a last chance for refreshment before the arduous journey down the hill!
As far as I can determine this was my first ever visit to The Waterman although we'd passed through Hatton Locks several times in the previous 18 years of canal travelling. This was at lunchtime on Friday 26th June 1998. As usual I don't really recall the visit, but I do remember that it has always been a bit of a more upmarket pub that has always served food.

We paid another visit that year at lunchtime on Friday 11th September 1998, but I don't have a photo for that visit!

Our next visit was at lunchtime on Friday 31st May 2002. The only photo I have is a view from the canal looking up the hill to the pub which you will see below.

We were next at The Waterman at lunchtime on Saturday 16th August 2003.
You may have noted that, so far we'd always stopped here on a Friday. This is because the top of Hatton Locks is about half a day's boating away from our moorings at that time, in Lapworth, making The Waterman, potentially, our last stop on the way home and the first stop on the way out (if we started early enough!) On this occasion it was at the start of a journey that took us to Leicester.

Our next visit was on Friday 1st June 2007, again a lunchtime 'pit stop'!
The Waterman had undergone somewhat of a makeover since our last visit and was one of the first pubs I recall having the pastel exterior that is so common these days. Although the hanging sign still shows a kingfisher! (I also find the 'Canalside Pub' description somewhat amusing as you will see from the later pictures!)

Inside it had gone more upmarket, so much so that you couldn't buy a simple ham sandwich, even though they possessed all of the ingredients and you could order a ham ploughman's!

We were back again, twice, two years later.
This was at lunchtime on Saturday 23rd May 2009 at the start of a short trip around the Midlands. Not much had changed, but the kingfisher was no more!

We returned on the evening of Friday 11th September 2009 after an epic 6 hour afternoon journey from the Two Boats at Long Itchington. That's just the 33 locks, including the 21 at Hatton which we did in 1 hour 55 minutes. This must be a record for a 3-man crew! (I was steering, so I did all the difficult bits!!)

Our next visit marked the end of an era, it was on the evening of Friday 4th November 2011 at the start of what turned out to be our last journey on Emma Jane.
It was also the end of another era as this was our last visit before the name changed.

In the era after Emma Jane, we hired boats around the country which enabled us to visit parts of the canal system we'd never been able to visit previously. However, we were back again at lunchtime on Sunday 28th September 2014.
And what a transformation! Now called the Hatton Arms it had become the full gastropub and was largely unrecognisable compared to the days as The Waterman. However, despite my misgivings, it turned out to be much better than the previously average service offered by The Waterman in its later years!

Earlier, I promised you the view of this 'Canalside' pub, from the canal - here it is over the years.
May 2002

June 2007

May 2009

September 2014
It isn't a particularly long walk up the hill to the pub, but is it close enough to call it 'canalside' - I'm not so sure.

Tuesday, 22 September 2015

#173 The Vaults, Knowle, West Midlands : 1999 to 2014

This is going to be a short post about a pub that I've only been into once...and I don't remember what it was like inside!

We don't visit Knowle very often on the canal and when we do go there we end up in any/all of the other pubs. Our first (and so far, only) visit was on the evening of Sunday 4th April 1999. It was Easter Sunday and we'd finished our regular Easter trip to Stratford and back. So, rather than drink locally in Lapworth we caught a taxi to Knowle to see what the village had to offer.

Although it has a High Street address, the entrance is on one of the side streets (next door to Loch Fyne restaurant). We must have had a pint in there because in those days I didn't take pictures if we didn't go in, but I have no recollection.

We were once again in Knowle on the evening of Sunday 28th September 2014 and, as we were strolling along the High Street, I took this picture.
To be honest, I wasn't sure if it would still be there, but it appears to have gone from strength to strength. (I discovered, whilst researching this entry, that it has been the Solihull CAMRA Pub of the Year nine times since 1992, most recently in 2013!)

The Vaults now advertises itself as a 'Real Ale Bar' that seems to have filled a niche in the area. Despite the major changes to the outside it is interesting to see that the hanging sign is still the same...even if it has been turned around in the intervening 15 years!

Monday, 7 September 2015

#172 The Market Hotel, Ellesmere, Shropshire : 1996 to 2014

A trip along the Llangollen Canal is a rare treat and so we've only visited Ellesmere on a few occasions, the first being on the evening of Sunday 25th August 1996.
As I recall it was a fairly bog standard town centre boozer -relatively commonplace 19 years ago!

We did visit Ellesmere again in 2007, but didn't visit The Market Hotel. Our next visit was at lunchtime on Monday 21st April 2014 (Easter Monday).
Not surprisingly, the outside decoration has changed quite a lot in the intervening 18 years, but inside it is still a town boozer having survived (so far) the economic downturn and the smoking ban. A good description of the pub can be found here.

Wednesday, 19 August 2015

#171 Red Lion Hotel, Atherstone, Warwickshire : 1995 to 2014

Atherstone sits on the Coventry Canal and boasts a pretty, but maddeningly frustrating, flight of locks (they are very slow to fill, but empty quite quickly, thus leading to queues of boats even in not-so-busy times!).

Although our visits to Atherstone are quite sporadic, there are many pubs to choose from, although some have, sadly, disappeared over the last few years!

Our first visit to the Red Lion Hotel was on the evening of Monday 4th September 1995.
On this occasion we'd moored above the locks and the Red Lion was our second port of call for the evening. I don't remember too much about the inside and I suspect we had one pint and moved on!

We visited Atherstone several times in the following years, but didn't go back to the Red Lion until the evening of Tuesday 26th May 2009.
Although the outside appears to be superficially unchanged, there are several subtle alterations - a new hanging sign, flag poles with flags, outside seating and canopy. Also there is a new bench seat and the litter bin has had a makeover - not a great deal of change in 14 years! Inside? Still no recollection!

Finally, we move on to our most recent visit - another evening stop this time on Sunday 5th October 2014.
Again we'd moored part way up the lock flight and the Red Lion wasn't our first port of call. Some more subtle changes in the intervening 5 years - the outside seating has transformed into standing room only and the hotel has added an Italian restaurant to its offerings.

Indeed, it was this latter addition that attracted us there. As it was a Sunday evening we were struggling to find anywhere to eat and an Italian meal sounded like a good option - if only we'd known! The place was quite empty, but the staff were very helpful so we decided to have a meal. It is safe to say that it was the worst Italian meal I've ever had and one of the worst of any cuisine I've had anywhere! I ordered a pasta dish which had a cream sauce (might have been carbonara, but I've blocked the details from my mind!) It had no taste of Italy and apart from the overall complete blandness of it, there was an underlying, slightly rancid taste to it. I regret not sending it back, but the other dishes served to our table were no better!! (If only we'd seen the Trip Advisor reviews!)

Next time we're in Atherstone, we won't be going into the Red Lion Hotel!

Wednesday, 29 July 2015

#170 Prince of Wales, Llangollen, Denbighshire : 2007 to 2014

Llangollen is a place we don't visit very often and on our first trip there in 1996 we didn't venture much beyond the town centre. On our next visit we decided to explore a bit more and one of the pubs we found was the Prince of Wales.
This was on the evening of Friday 31st August 2007. As I recall it was a fairly standard back street boozer.

The next time we returned was in a boat hired from nearby Chirk Marina, just a day's trip away from Llangollen. Again, we strode out looking for the pubs we'd seen on our last visit.
This was on the evening of Saturday 19th April 2014. Seemingly very little had changed, apart from the For Sale sign and the fact that it was closed! Another victim of the Smoking Ban?

Apparently it reopened in May 2014 and is run by the Llangollen Brewery, which, if true, is excellent news.

Tuesday, 14 July 2015

#169 The Red Lion, Knowle, West Midlands : 1996 to 2014

Although Knowle is only a few miles from Lapworth where our boat was moored for many years, we very rarely visit the village by boat. This is mainly because it is on a different canal (Grand Union) and the journey from there into Birmingham is far less attractive than the North Stratford Canal route.

In the days before I took a picture of every pub we visited we'd been to the Red Lion, but the first occasion I have a picture was from the evening of Sunday 7th April 1996.
Back then it had been renamed Felons & Firkin, but you can just make out that the red lion hanging sign is still there. This visit to Knowle came at the end of our first Easter trip to Stratford-upon-Avon as we had some time to kill on the way back to our moorings.

Our next visit was on the evening of Friday 31st May 2002 as the last stop on our one week trip to Banbury and back.
By this time it had reverted back to its original name and was now part of the Ember Inns chain of M&B.

It was quite a long while before we returned, this time on the evening of Sunday 28th September 2014.
This time it was at the start of a journey that started at Napton Junction and we visited Knowle before heading off to Stratford-upon-Avon. It is still part of the Ember Inns chain, but with an added 'The' to its name.

From the outside, very little has changed and I'm pleased to say that it has retained the quite magnificent hanging sign which I took a picture of a few days ago.
Inside, well that's a different matter. Back in 1996 it was a typical Firkin pub, then in 2002 it was a typical Ember Inn of that era - a cross between a pub and a wine bar - and in 2014 it was still typically an Ember Inn, but now a hybrid of a pub and a restaurant. 

Wednesday, 24 June 2015

#168 Ring o' Bells, Marple, Cheshire : 2000 to 2014

My first ever visit to the Ring o' Bells in Marple was during an epic canal trip from Lapworth (south of Birmingham) to Manchester and back, in a fortnight. This wasn't the first time that our narrowboat Emma Jane had been to Marple; that was back in 1989 when the boat was being moved up north. At that time I was living in Australia so was unable to partake of the delights of the Ring o' Bells.
This picture was taken on a lunchtime stop on Friday 1st September 2000. I don't remember too much about the interior apart from the fact that it was full of canal memorabilia and served good food.

Although we repeated this journey in 2010, we didn't stop in Marple so it wasn't until lunchtime on Tuesday 24th June 2014 that we next stopped in Marple.
It's amazing what tricks the mind will play on you, especially after 14 years. We moored our hire boat by Marple Junction and expected to see the Ring o' Bells just by the bridge there...but there was no pub! At somewhat of a loss to understand why such a good pub would have disappeared we wandered into the centre of Marple, had lunch and a bit of a pub crawl and headed back to the canal only to find the Ring o' Bells where it had always been - by the bridge 200 yards BEFORE the junction - doh!

On this occasion we didn't venture inside, but we rectified that situation a few months later when we popped in and had a very good meal in what is still a lovely canal themed, old style pub!

Unsurprisingly, over the 14 years the pub has been completely redecorated on the outside, now in Robinson's Grey. (Is that a shade you can get from Dulux?)

If ever you are passing through Marple, the Ring o' Bells is a pub well worth a visit for its traditional feel and good food. The website is here.

Monday, 8 June 2015

#167 The Greyhound, Sutton Stop, Coventry : 1995 to 2014

My first ever visit to The Greyhound was on my first canal trip back in 1980, long before I started taking photos of every pub we visited. It has a superb location being at Hawkesbury Junction where the Coventry and Oxford Canals meet. Although we passed it by on many occasions since then, it wasn't until 1995 that we stopped there again.

This was on the evening of Friday 1st September 1995 and was about halfway through our journey to bring Emma Jane back to the Midlands from her sojourn down South.

The Greyhound is such a traditional canalside pub that this entry will focus more on the changes around the pub rather than the pub itself which has remained almost immutable through the years. Back in 1995 it was possible to moor outside the pub. Also note the amount of hanging baskets and the, somewhat dilapidated, fence around the outdoor drinking area.

We returned again three years later.
This was another evening visit on Tuesday 23rd June 1998 and as you can see we managed to moor Emma Jane right outside the pub. (Not allowed these days!) Since our last visit, The Greyhound had been branded as a Banks's pub, but was unchanged inside.

It was quite a while before we stopped there again; mainly because it is a very popular spot and moorings can be difficult to find!
This was on the evening of Tuesday 31st May 2005 as we were taking Emma Jane to Nuneaton to get the roof replaced. Still a Banks's pub, but no upper level hanging baskets/window boxes and the fence around the patio area has gone.

This next picture was taken on the morning of Tuesday 26th May 2009 as we made a stop to get rid of our waste and rubbish at the British Waterways facilities nearby.
We weren't there at opening time, so we moved on.

Next time we were passing, again we didn't stop, but I still too a picture!
This was taken on the afternoon of Tuesday 31st May 2011 and the exterior was being redecorated (which explains the lack of hanging baskets!).

Our most recent visit was in 2014 and we actually went into the pub this time (twice!).
This picture was taken on the evening of Monday 6th October 2014 and, although we did go in the pub, we left after one pint. It was so busy we couldn't get a seat meaning that we couldn't eat in. So, that evening we ended up in Coventry for a curry! However, we did return a couple of days later and, although it was still busy, we did manage to get a very good lunch there.

The Greyhound has ostensibly stayed the same throughout the years, but has subtly kept pace with the times - note the smoking shelter, first visible in the 2009 picture. It continues to be a popular pub and, unlike many establishments in prime locations, the service is good and it is always a pleasure to visit (if you can get a seat!). If you're in the area it is well worth a visit - 

Tuesday, 19 May 2015

#166 Tilted Wig, Warwick : 1998 to 2014

As previously reported, back in 1998 our boat broke down and we spent two days exploring the hostelries of Warwick at our leisure. It is quite surprising how memory plays tricks on the mind, I hadn't remembered our 1998 visit to the Tilted Wig until I opened my picture album! (which is the reason I started taking these pictures so many years ago!)
This was on the evening of Sunday 30th August 1998 and I have no recollection of the visit! The pub is situated in the Market Square.

Although we've been back to Warwick many times since 1998, we didn't venture back to the Tilted Wig until the evening of Saturday 27th September 2014.
In the intervening 16 years, the Market Square in Warwick has become a completely pedestrian area meaning that the pub has extended the outdoor area. Obviously there have been substantial changes over the years.

What is also remarkable is that this was taken at almost 11pm and we were sitting outside the pub in short sleeves!