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Monday, 14 August 2017

#229 The Vaults, Rugeley, Staffs : 1987 to 2016

This will be a short entry for a pub we've only ever been in once, on the rainy evening of Tuesday 14th July 1987...we haven't been back; nor are we likely to!
Back then it was, as I recall, a fairly typical town centre pub called the Cabin Inn. It was a wet, dreary evening that put us off returning to Rugeley for many years!

Over recent years, we've stopped at Rugeley quite a few times, but never returned to the Cabin Inn which is now called The Vaults.
This was taken on the evening of Monday 28th March 2016 as we were passing by and heading for Wetherspoons. Something of a complete change in the intervening 29 years - it is interesting to note that out-of-town pubs have mostly gone down the food/gastro route to survival whereas a good number of town/city pubs have taken the live music route to maintain trade. I'm sure that the people who do go there have a good time and I'm always happy to see pubs surviving...but it isn't my sort of place.

Friday, 4 August 2017

#228 The Broughton Arms, Rode Heath, Cheshire : 1999 to 2016

Rode Heath is a small village by the section of the Trent & Mersey Canal colloquially known as 'Heartbreak Hill'. This is the long rise from Wheelock up to the summit level at Kidsgrove and Stoke, more properly known as the Cheshire Locks - just the 22 to work through.

Needless to say, it isn't a route we often take and, wjth the demise of the Romping Donkey at Hassall Green, The Broughton Arms offers welcome respite from the arduous passage and the first time we stopped there was at lunchtime on Saturday 4th September 1999.
We were heading down the locks and it provided a very pleasant lunch with some cooling Carling (or maybe a Foster's), perfect for a hot day. Inside it is quite a large pub with a large garden; a very popular spot on a summer's day.

Our next stop there was again at lunchtime on Friday 13th September 2002, this time heading up the locks.
The pub was largely unchanged, but several tables had appeared in the car park.

It wasn't long before we returned for another lunchtime session on Sunday 3rd September 2006.
Again largely unchanged and another very pleasant lunchtime stop. (The seating in the car park appeared to have disappeared again!)

We didn't travel this way again until the evening of Tuesday 16th August 2016, this time there were some changes.
Although the exterior had been given a complete makeover, inside it still felt the same as before as it successfully treads the fine line between being a pub and a restaurant. Although we didn't eat there, we did return for a few pints and a win in the quiz (on a tie break!) We did stay on for lunch the next day when the pub was packed again as it was a lovely sunny day.

We will very probably stop by next time we're passing...and the next time...and here's the link if you fancy a stop as well!

Tuesday, 25 July 2017

#227 The Talbot, Market Drayton, Shropshire : 2002 to 2016 (RIP?)

Market Drayton, on the Shropshire Union Canal, is a fantastic stop for pub lovers with many in the town itself. The Talbot stands close to the canal which is a ten minute walk from the town centre. This goes some way to explaining why our first two visits were our last pub stops in each instance.

Our first encounter with The Talbot was on the evening of Tuesday 10th September 2002.
We'd had a session in Market Drayton and popped in to the pub for a 'night cap' (hence the dodgy photo!). As I recall it was a pleasant, friendly place.

We were back again on the evening of Monday 29th August 2005 - again the last stop for the evening!
Difficult to spot any changes, but some attempt to trim the ivy appears to have been made.

Our next stop there was at lunchtime on Tuesday 4th September 2007 on our way back from Llangollen. It was our second visit to Market Drayton on that trip, but on this occasion we only visited The Talbot.
Little, if no change apart from the growth/recession of the ivy over parts of the pub

Our most recent visit was at lunchtime on Monday 8th August 2016 and this is the scene we encountered.
The Talbot was closed and up for sale. But at least much of the ivy had been cut back!

As of writing it is still closed, but there is a petition to get it reopened. It will be a shame if The Talbot disappears, but unless there is a sudden upsurge in pub drinking, I don't think it will survive as a pub.

Wednesday, 12 July 2017

#226 Hare & Hounds, Minworth, West Midlands : 1986 to 2016

Our first visit to the Hare & Hounds at Minworth was on the evening of Wednesday 30th July 1986...the first year that I took a picture of every pub we visited.
As I recall it was a fairly large Ansell's pub split into a Lounge and a Bar - a common enough arrangement in those days.

With our boat, Emma Jane, being moored 'Up North' and the 'Darn Sarf' for a few years, we didn't return to the Hare & Hounds until the evening of Tuesday 5th September 1995 as part of her return journey to the Midlands.
And what a change it had undergone in the passing 9 years - it was now a Mr Q's Pool Lounge! Inside there were a large number of pool tables of varying sizes and shapes! It was still an Ansell's pub.

This experience put us off returning until the evening of Sunday 14th June 2015 - a gap of almost 20 years!
In all honesty, if The Boat (#180) had done food on a Sunday evening, we wouldn't have needed to leave and visit the Hare & Hounds at all. I'm glad we did because the Hare & Hounds was now a pub restaurant which caters for both drinkers and diners and, most importantly, they were still serving food for us!

It was no longer an Ansell's pub and the Wacky Warehouse is now Fuzzy Ed's Fun House (not that we went to either!)

We returned just 12 months later on the evening of Sunday 12th June 2016.
This time we were even later getting there, but the staff were great and we got food even though they had, technically finished serving. Excellent service, which is all too infrequent as we travel the canals.

As I was doing a bit of research to see who owns the pub, I discovered that it has changed again into a Sizzling Pub & Grill which is one of the brands of Mitchell's & Butler's. Hopefully they will maintain the excellent service levels.

Wednesday, 28 June 2017

#225 The Cheshire Cheese, Middlewich, Cheshire : 1999 to 2016

Although we'd visited Middlewich on previous occasions, our first visit to The Cheshire Cheese was at lunchtime on Sunday 5th September 1999.
Finding The Cheshire Cheese was pure serendipity! Having left Wheelock heading north on the Trent & Mersey Canal our boat, Emma Jane, broke down above Lock 67, just short of Middlewich. It was a Sunday, but a phone call to the Middlewich Narrowboats office was answered and a mechanic came straight out to us. He got us going quite quickly, but asked us to pull into the boatyard once we got to Middlewich to give it a final check over.

Everything was OK and, as I recall, our saviour mechanic refused any payment, so we insisted on buying him a pint, at least, for his efforts. That ended up being two or three pints and a great session in The Cheshire Cheese which is just round the back of the boatyard.

We were next in The Cheshire Cheese on the evening of Thursday 25th August 2005 on a trip that would take us to Chester.
The pub had undergone a complete external transformation with new signage and a low wall to separate the pub patrons from the footpath.

We were back again on the evening of Thursday 31st August 2006.
At first glance it looks to be little changed in a year, but the 'Beer Garden at Rear' sign has been moved, the main hanging sign was now present nad a new sign had also appeared.

Our most recent visit was on the evening of Friday 12th August 2016.
Although we'd moored by the Big Lock, we purposely sought out The Cheshire Cheese to see how it had changed over the passing 10 years. Externally it had undergone another complete makeover, but inside it felt a little tired and not quite as welcoming as on previous visits. However, it was good to see that it had survived and is still thriving as a proper boozer.

Monday, 19 June 2017

#224 Bridge Inn, Brewood, Staffordshire : 1987 to 2016

No article on the village of Brewood should start without the obligatory, "How do you pronounce that?" question. The answer is; Brewood is pronounced 'Brood'.

Brewood is a great village for canal trips. It stands on the Shropshire Union canal and there are lots of mooring places and plenty of pubs, but for us it has proved to be an awkward location, particularly when heading back to Lapworth as the next viable pub stop is about five hours away in Wolverhampton.

Our first visit to Brewood and the Bridge Inn was on the evening of Wednesday 8th July 1987.
As I recall it has always been quite a cosy pub that does proper pub grub. Note, in 1987 it was an Ansell's pub.

Our next visit was a lunchtime stop on Wednesday 4th September 1996 on the way back from our first ever canal trip to Llangollen.
Externally the pub had undergone a full refurb, I assume when it was taken over by Burtonwood. Inside was still as cosy as before. 

For the record, it took us 4 hours 15 minutes to get to Wolverhampton Top Lock!

Our next visit was on the evening of Wednesday 6th September 2000 on our way back from Manchester.
The pub appeared largely unchanged apart from the now hardly noticeable hanging baskets and the main door has gone back to black.

This time the journey to the top of the Wolverhampton flight of locks took 5 hours 10 minutes!

That journey time almost certainly explains why we didn't revisit Brewood until the evening of Wednesday 8th September 2010, again returning from Manchester.

No longer a Burtonwood pub, the Bridge Inn had become a free house with all of the external signage replaced/removed. However, despite the external changes, it maintained it's original character.

Trip to Wolverhampton Top Lock - 5 hrs 10 mins...again!

Our most recent visit was at lunchtime on Sunday 7th August 2016.
Our first non-Wednesday visit because the new boat Peggy Ellen is moored at Kings Bromley and so Brewood again becomes a more attractive stopping off point as there is no need to go through Wolverhampton.

What has now become subtly apparent is that the Bridge Inn is now a Marston's pub as evidenced by the small sign on the chimney breast. We had a very pleasant Sunday lunch in a pub that, although it has changed hands over the 29 years, has maintained it's character. 

Wednesday, 7 June 2017

#223 The Beehive, Northwich, Cheshire : 2006 to 2016 (RIP)

On our first ever boating trip to Northwich, we discovered this great little town centre pub, The Beehive Inn.
This was on the evening of Saturday 2nd September 2006 and we had something of a pub crawl around Northwich with The Beehive being the most memorable of the hostelries we visited.

We were next in Northwich on the evening of Sunday 5th September 2010. This time we were on the Trent & Mersey Canal on our way home after a trip to Manchester. We were late mooring at the Old Broken Cross (#213), missed the food and so ventured into Northwich in search of sustenance.
This was late on in the evening and it was difficult to tell whether it had been open earlier, or not.

Our most recent visit to Northwich (via the River Weaver) was on the evening of Saturday 13th August 2016 and this is the sad sight that we found.
The Beehive Inn is no more, but at least the estate agents who are now located there have retained (as much as possible) the frontage of the old pub. 

Thursday, 25 May 2017

#222 Pig & Bell, Rugeley, Staffordshire : 1999 to 2016 (RIP)

For reaching 'Double Nelson' you might have expected me to choose a special pub, but no, you get the now defunct Pig & Bell from that underwhelming (from a pub perspective) town of Rugeley.

We first encountered the Pig & Bell at lunchtime on Tuesday 31st August 1999.
As I recall, it was a modern style pub (for those days!) trying to be like a Firkin or Hogshead pub.

Our next encounter was at lunchtime on Tuesday 5th September 2006.
There was no discernible difference inside or out; it may have been repainted during those seven years.

Fast forward to the evening of Sunday 20th March 2016.
I can't say that this was a complete shock to me, but it is always sad to see a pub disappear. We didn't sample the delights of The Rugeley Spice, but no doubt, one day, we will probably be tempted inside!

Thursday, 18 May 2017

#221 The Badger Inn, Church Minshull, Cheshire : 1987 to 2016

The village of Church Minshull is set some way away from the canal and so it is always a bit of a walk to the pub. The stretch of canal in question is the Middlewich Branch of the Shropshire Union Canal that links Middlewich to the Shropshire Union! Over the years we've ventured along this section of canal somewhat infrequently and often been caught by surprise by it's length (11 miles) and the very deep locks.

Our first stop at Church Minshull was at lunchtime on Saturday 11th July 1987.
As I recall The Badger Inn was a very pleasant country pub that did good food.

It was many years later that we returned at lunchtime on Thursday 12th September 2002.
 We'd been planning a trip to Chester, but we'd got as far as Bunbury when we were informed that Beeston Iron Lock had had a gate "blow out" so the canal would be closed for several days. So we turned around and decided to head for Leek on the Caldon Canal instead.

Amazingly, after 15 years, the pub was almost completely unchanged!

We were passing by again at lunchtime on Thursday 31st August 2006 only to find that The Badger Inn was closed. Unfortunately, I didn't take a photo.

By the time we were passing again, I knew that the pub had reopened, and this is what we found at lunchtime on Monday 22nd August 2016.
At first glance it looks as though not too much has changed apart from the replacement windows. I also thought that it was amazing that the old hanging sign had remained, but on closer inspection you can see that they have produced a replica sign, but this time the badgers are headed in opposite directions!

Inside, the pub (or should I say restaurant) was completely modernised and extended, serving very good food. Hopefully it will continue to thrive and, if you're passing by do pop in - The Badger Inn website is here.

Tuesday, 9 May 2017

In the Footsteps of Phyllis...(Part 2)

The Grid Project featuring the photos of Phyllis Nicklin will run until the end of 2017 and if I can contribute half-a-dozen photos each month 'til then, I'll be happy.

This month I decided to venture into Handsworth as, at that stage, no-one else had selected any of the locations. I'm not sure why this was, perhaps none of the volunteers live in that part of town or maybe not many fancy going to a part of town with a 'dodgy' reputation. Nonetheless, I set off and this is what I found.

Although I'm showing this picture first, it was actually the last one I shot.

Phyllis Nicklin (1968) © The University of Birmingham
 This photo was taken on 8th March 1968 just a few weeks before Enoch Powell gave his infamous "Rivers of Blood" speech at the Midland Hotel in Birmingham. Since then, there have been several Handsworth riots at least two of which have centred on the Villa Cross pub at the centre of the picture.

On my first visit to Handsworth to take photos I was unable to park nearby so I decided not to risk having to walk a significant distance with a fairly expensive camera in my hand! Someone taking part in this project has already been robbed of their camera equipment, so security is always of concern. I returned the next day and got a parking spot just a few yards from where I took this photo.
© Peter Allen (2017) for The Birmingham Photographic Grid Project 2017
The scene in 2017 is remarkably little changed, at first glance, from 1968 - more cars, more street lights and fewer shops as the far right hand side buildings are now residential. Along the left hand side a part of the row has obviously been demolished and replaced by a less tall construction. The Villa Cross is no longer a pub!

Cities like Birmingham are also full of amazing juxtapositions - if you bear left by the Villa Cross, then take the next left and then a right you will find yourself here...just a five minute walk away.
Phyllis Nicklin (1968) © The University of Birmingham

© Peter Allen (2017) for The Birmingham Photographic Grid Project 2017
Suddenly, you're in a beautiful, leafy suburb which is a world away from the hustle and bustle of Villa Road. The scene is pretty much unchanged from 1968, just a little more overgrown. The original road sign remains, just somewhat obscured, sadly.

Then it was on to Soho Road for the next three photos.
Phyllis Nicklin (1968) © The University of Birmingham

© Peter Allen (2017) for The Birmingham Photographic Grid Project 2017
Back in 1968 this was the Handsworth School Clinic on Soho Hill, but now it seems to be owned by a furnishers. The building seems to be reasonably intact apart from the loss of the feature in the centre of the roof!

Next I headed further out of town along Soho Road, first to the junction with Grove Lane.
Phyllis Nicklin (1968) © The University of Birmingham

© Peter Allen (2017) for The Birmingham Photographic Grid Project 2017
Nearly 40 years later and the scene is remarkably similar; albeit with fewer people crossing the road. The bank is still a bank, but no longer Birmingham Municipal Bank and the buses are a different colour!

When I selected by final Handsworth shot I was convinced, sitting at home, that I knew exactly where to find Handsworth Market. Further research showed up my error - it had closed down in 2003 and burned down around 2008!

As I was taking the picture above, I saw an older woman crossing the road and asked her where the market used to be. She told me that she'd been a regular visitor to it and pointed me in the right direction. It was closer than I'd originally thought.
Phyllis Nicklin (1968) © The University of Birmingham

© Peter Allen (2017) for The Birmingham Photographic Grid Project 2017
Now it has been replaced by a bright, shiny, new health centre but, amazingly, (and I didn't notice this till I was looking at the photos back at home) the black wooden gates to the right are unchanged!

The eagle-eyed amongst you will have spotted only five photos so far. My sixth was a little nearer to home. I chose this one as it is the closest of all Phyllis Nicklin's photos to where I live.

Phyllis Nicklin (1968) © The University of Birmingham

© Peter Allen (2017) for The Birmingham Photographic Grid Project 2017
Back in 1968 the photo must have been taken from what was then Cadbury's wharf which is now a housing estate. I was expecting this to be an easier photo to capture, but I hadn't realised/noticed how many changes there have been to the buildings in Cadbury's factory.

Wednesday, 3 May 2017

#220 Plough & Harrow, Fazeley, Staffordshire : 1996 to 2016

Fazeley sits on the junction of the Coventry Canal with the Birmingham & Fazeley Canal just on the edge of Tamworth. It is a regular stopping place for us as there are several pubs in a small area.

Our first visit to the Plough & Harrow was on the evening of Thursday 30th May 1996.
We were back again, two years later at lunchtime on Monday 22nd June 1998.
This view gives a much better view of the pub, which was unchanged from our previous visit. This is one of those pubs that exhibits the 'reverse TARDIS' effect, being smaller on the inside than you'd expect from the outside! It is a pub that I've never quite warmed to, but it served beer and food so, what's not to like?

We returned a year later at lunchtime on Monday 30th August 1999.
Seemingly, no changes apart from the disappearance of the hanging basket and the three lights from above the wall sign have also gone.

There was a bit of a gap to our next visit, another lunchtime stop on Tuesday 31st August 2004.
A complete makeover had taken place both inside and out - neither had been an improvement! The pub was no longer an M&B house. Despite the changes, food was available so all was well!

We were back again a year later, again at lunchtime, on Sunday 21st August 2005.
No changes from the previous year.

During this period we seemingly couldn't keep away from the Plough & Harrow as we returned for more lunchtime shenanigans on Wednesday 6th September 2006.
  Again it was largely unchanged, but the bench seats outside had disappeared.

We left it for a few years and revisited the Plough & Harrow for a rare evening stop in Fazeley on Wednesday 2nd June 2010.
Another complete makeover with the extra addition of a large outside seating area - partly inspired, I believe, by the smoking ban, but also, I suspect, because the pub is so small inside this was the only way to maximise income.

These changes weren't enough to make us rush back, though, and we didn't return until lunchtime on Monday 15th June 2015.
A five year gap and not only has it undergone another complete transformation, but the name had also changed to simply, The Plough.

We were back again at lunchtime on Monday 13th June 2016.
Quite surprisingly, the doors and window frames had been repainted, but almost everything else was the same as before.
One other thing of note is the change to the building next door to the pub which has added a front door sometime between 2006 and 2010!