Blog Surfer

Monday, 27 March 2017

#217 Red Lion, Market Drayton, Shropshire : 2000 to 2016

Although the town centre is quite a stroll from the Shropshire Union Canal, Market Drayton is one of my favourite places to stop as it still boasts a good number of largely unspoilt pubs.

It took us a good few years to actually discover the Red Lion our first visit being on the evening of Tuesday 5th September 2000 on our way back home following our first canal visit to Manchester.
I seem to recall that it was a pleasant, fairly basic pub, worthy of future visits.

Our next stop was on the evening of Monday 29th August 2005 on our way back from a trip to Chester.
The outside had undergone a complete transformation and inside, I seem to remember that it had also been refurbished, but that it now wasn't as cosy as before (but it was a quiet Monday night which never helps with atmosphere!).

We were back again a couple of years later on the evening of Monday 27th August 2007, this time on the way to Llangollen.
No discernible changes in the intervening 2 years.

It was a good few years before we sought out the Red Lion again...and what a transformation!
This was at lunchtime on Monday 8th August 2016 and in the intervening 9 years it had become the brewery tap for the revived Joules Brewery. Inside has also been extended at the back and completely transformed in traditional style. Despite it being lunchtime, I 'forced' myself to have a couple (or three) pints of the local ales...and very nice they were too!

For more details about the Red Lion and Joules follow this link.

In an era when pubs continue to close and disappear from our landscape it it good to be able to report on the revival of a traditional English beer and their commitment to having their own pubs.

I also couldn't resist giving the Red Lion the Photo Digital Art treatment!
© Photo Digital Art 2016

Monday, 20 March 2017

#216 Stanley Arms, Anderton, Cheshire : 1991 to 2016

The stretch of the Trent & Mersey Canal to the north of Middlewich is a section of the waterways that we only rarely traverse. My first ever encounter with the Stanley Arms was in 1981 when we had a brief stop to have a look at the, then defunct, Anderton Boat Lift. We were only stopped for half an hour and I don't recall whether we went in the pub or not.

The next time I was passing was on the journey to move Emma Jane from Wigan to the Southern Grand Union Canal.
This was a lunchtime stop on Tuesday 23rd July 1991. Back in those days it was a Greenall's pub that did good food.

Although we were up that way again in 2000, we didn't stop at the pub until the lunchtime of Friday 1st September 2006, prior to taking Emma Jane on her first trip (and ours) down on the Anderton Boat Lift.
Unfortunately, this view doesn't really show off any changes to the pub. It was no longer a Greenall's pub, but it still did good food!

Our most recent visit was at lunchtime on Monday 15th August 2016 and the changes from 1991 are much more apparent  from this view.
The basic layout of the pub is unchanged, apart from the porch added to the front entrance. Windows have been replaced, one chimney has been reduced in height and a 'smokers hut' has been built in the garden. Inside it was still welcoming and serving good food.

This visit also coincided with trips up and down on the Anderton Boat Lift (first time for the new boat Peggy Ellen) and we popped into the pub whilst waiting for our slot to return from the River Weaver.
Anderton Boat Lift

Monday, 13 March 2017

#215 The Junction, Norbury, Staffordshire : 2002 to 2016

The Shropshire Union is one of my favourite canals, but it does have one serious drawback; there are many long stretches without any pubs! This has been exacerbated in recent years, so a trip along this canal takes some 'serious planning' to avoid dry lunchtimes or evenings.

Norbury Junction is where the now defunct Shrewsbury Canal joined the main line of what is now the Shropshire Union. It is an attractive location with boat hire, all boating facilities and a pub - The Junction.

Having given it the big build up, I was surprised that our first ever visit to The Junction was at lunchtime on Tuesday 19th September 2002 - just the 22 years since my first narrowboat excursion!
The Junction has all the services that we require - food and drink - but it isn't ever going to make my list of favourite pubs. It is set up to sell lots of good, basic pub food, but has never felt like a cosy local.

Our next visit was on the evening of Thursday 4th September 2007.

At first glance the pub looks to be unchanged, but the wooden gazebo has gone and flower trays have appeared on the balcony railing. Despite it being a midweek evening, the pub was pretty full as evidenced by the full car park.

Our most recent stop off at The Junction was on the evening of Sunday 7th August 2016. (Picture taken next morning.)
Again, it looks to be mostly unchanged, but exterior woodwork has appeared with the low fence bordering the outdoor seating and a sort of gazebo for the smokers (I assume). The railings (and flowers) have gone from the roof over the extension. Inside, the pub has hardly changed. We had a good meal and a few pints, so we were happy!

Thursday, 2 March 2017

#214 The Bull's Head, Bishopsgate Street, Birmingham : 1950's to 2017

Breaking one of my own rules we start off with a picture not taken by me and in all probability it was taken before I was born...just!
The photo was taken in the 1950's by Birmingham City Council Public Works Dept and can be found here along with a few other Birmingham pubs then and now.

It is a classic James & Lister Lea pub that in all my years in Birmingham had been known as the City Tavern. Also interesting to note that it was an Ansell's pub back in the 50's.

This is another picture not taken by me - I've purloined it from the Images of England website - it was taken on Saturday 21st August 1999 by Mr Peter Garratt. This was a year after it had been Grade II listed, but was looking in a pretty sorry state. During this closure it was rumoured that the interior fixtures, including the classic bar had been stolen.

Just four years later and I finally make a visit to The City Tavern as part of a canal trip on the evening of Wednesday 27th August 2003. Inside, it was just as I'd hoped, a proper old school Birmingham pub with the bar either replaced with a look-a-like or it maybe hadn't been stolen after all. (I'm sure someone will know the truth of the matter.) From the outside, all of the upstairs windows had been replaced, but the downstairs look like the originals are still in place. Attractive lanterns had also been added. In the intervening four years, the sites either side of the pub had been fully redeveloped.

 I frequently go past the pub for various networking meetings and took this picture on the morning of Tuesday 12th August 2014.
In the passing years the signage has changed with the name Davenports appearing and the downstairs windows having been replaced.

Moving on to the present day and momentous changes have occurred.
I took this photo on the afternoon of Friday 24th February 2017. The name had reverted back to The Bull's Head and it is now, officially, a Davenports pub. Interestingly, the downstairs windows have been changed again and there's a hanging sign on the corner. A full description of the refurbishment and resurrection of the Davenports brewery can be found here on their website.

In the interests of completeness, I actually went inside the pub and had a half of the Davenports Imperial IPA!
I would have sampled the Original Bitter, but it had run out. They also had some Dares beers on offer (details here), but of more interest, to at least one of my friends, is the resurrection of Highgate Old Ale and Dark Mild. The manager explained that Davenports had bought the rights to these beers and were making them to the original recipe.

For those of us who like lager, there was a fine selection with the taps on the back wall of the bar in the tiled area visible in the photo.

The interior of the pub is just as it was all those years ago when I'd last visited and hopefully it will have a great future as a proper pub.

It wouldn't surprise me if the newly revamped Bull's Head found it's way into the Good Beer Guide within the next few years.

© Photo Digital Art 2017
Well, I couldn't resist!

Thursday, 23 February 2017

#213 The Old Broken Cross, Northwich, Cheshire : 2000 to 2016

On my second ever canal trip The Old Broken Cross was our first port of call after leaving Preston Brook on Saturday 8th August 1981 - sadly I don't have any photographic evidence!

It stands on the bank of the Trent & Mersey Canal on the outskirts of Northwich along a stretch of the cut we don't visit very often and, although we'd passed by a couple of times, we didn't actually visit the pub again until lunchtime on Monday 4th September 2000 on our return from Manchester.
This photo gives the perfect illustration as to just how close to the pub a boat can moor. As ever, I recall little about the interior of the pub, but that it was pleasant enough and served food!

Our next visit was at lunchtime on Saturday 2nd September 2006.
It was on this trip that we realised just how close to the centre of Northwich the pub is, having visited the town from the River Weaver the evening before. It's difficult to tell what changes, if any, there were in the intervening years as I chose to take the picture from the road bridge. This time we moored even closer to the pub!

Our next visit to The Old Broken Cross was an evening stop on our way back from Manchester on Sunday 5th September 2010.
The outside had undergone a refurbishment, but little else had changed. However, our recently discovered knowledge of local geography stood us in good stead when it became apparent that there was no food on offer on this Sunday evening, so we ventured into Northwich for sustenance.

This was the view of the pub (and our mooring) the next morning.

Our most recent visit to The Old Broken Cross was at lunchtime on Saturday 13th August 2016.
The pub had undergone another refurb and inside it was pleasant and served food, so we were happy!
This is the view from the other side, again to show just how close we'd moored!

Friday, 17 February 2017

#212 Prince of Wales, Moseley, Birmingham : 2002 to 2017

As a long time resident of Birmingham and previously a student here, my first ever visit to the Prince of Wales in Moseley would have been in the late 1970's. Back in those days it was a small, vibrant proper pub with three rooms and a corridor (seating was always at a premium!).

Over subsequent years I've been an infrequent visitor and my first ever canal related visit was on the evening of Wednesday 14th August 2002. We'd taken the boat out for a week to do some painting so we didn't stray too far from Birmingham allowing us to revisit some old haunts.
The outside had changed somewhat, but inside it was still as we remembered it, albeit with a bit of redecoration!

Our next canal related visit was on the evening of Saturday 29th May 2010. We'd planned on being in the centre of Birmingham for the evening, but only got as far as Bournville and so decided on another walk down 'memory lane' with a trip to Moseley.
A complete redecoration of the exterior and inside it still maintained the same three room format, but now with an added large beer garden which we didn't investigate. Fortunately, the rather ugly office/retail block next door had been demolished and the site acquired for redevelopment.

The subsequent pictures are from non-drinking visits to the Prince of Wales, but I have been back inside as well since 2010.

Taken on the afternoon of Sunday 11th November 2012. Pub largely unchanged, but a new sign next door with the appearance that developments might be imminent.

No change in this photo from Friday 5th July 2013.

The old building next door was demolished some time prior to 2010, but planning permission to build 46 flats on that land were only approved in 2016. The owners of the Prince of Wales are concerned that once these residential spaces are occupied they will receive noise pollution complaints from their new neighbours. A flavour of this potential problem can be found here.

I did visit the Prince of Wales in 2016 and finally ventured into the (massive) beer garden/cocktail lounge/cigar bar which must accommodate twice as many people as can get into the traditional part of the pub!

Meanwhile, this is what it looked like on the afternoon of Thursday 16th February 2017.
Next door, construction work has commenced and new street art decorates the surrounding boards including the final Facebook post of Alex Keogh who worked in the Prince of Wales and sadly died over the Christmas period in 2016. More details here. Also depictions of Muhammad Ali, Donald Trump and a tribute to murdered MP Jo Cox (not in photo) have appeared.

And Photo Digital Art interpretation of the scene above.

Thursday, 9 February 2017

#211 Bull & Stirrup Hotel, Chester : 1996 to 2016

The Bull & Stirrup Hotel is a magnificent building, but it is a pub we've never actually been in. I took this photo on our first ever canal visit to Chester on the afternoon of Saturday 31st August 1996.
On that visit we had two sessions in Chester and I took the photo in anticipation that we would find our way into the Bull & Stirrup at some stage. Sadly, we never did!

Although we've been back to Chester a couple more times in the intervening years we still didn't make it into the Bull & Stirrup. On our most recent visit, this is the vista that presented itself on the evening of Wednesday 10th August 2016.
So, it looked like we'd never get to sample the delights of the Bull & Stirrup after all.

However, my subsequent research has shown that it is due to reopen on 28th February 2017 having been bought by Wetherspoon's - link. So, we may still have the chance to get there one day!