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Monday, 20 May 2019

School Trip to Rugby

Another Proper Pub Day Out, this time to the home of 'egg-chasing' and Flashman - a place that I've visited several times via the canal, but obviously failed to find most of the good pubs (as usual!).

Arriving by train, this time, gives a shorter walk to the town centre, but still a bit of an uphill slog for someone as unfit as I am these days! But lo! There was a pub in sight just to keep me going...but it isn't on our list...aaagh!

The magnificent looking Wheeltapper serves as a beacon for those weary walkers from the station...but I resisted and strode on up the road to the right. Onwards to the Seven Stars...and it was well worth it! (and I wasn't the last one to arrive!)
Proudly proclaiming to be the Rugby CAMRA Pub of the Year 2018 and I wouldn't argue against that description. Whilst you will get better internal descriptions from Retired Martin and Beer Leeds and an in depth blow-by-blow account of the beers (and some of my pictures) from Pub Curmudgeon, you'll just get the external shots and whether I liked the place for each pub...Yes in most cases!

As commented elsewhere, I could have stayed here for much longer, but we had a lot of ground to cover (pubwise, if not in terms of distance!). Next was a very short walk away.
I took my photo on departure as the Coors van had moved on by then, but the weather had turned into a re-run of Huddersfield...almost! This was another good pub that, on another occasion, we'd have stayed for more than just one pint.

Our next destination was one of the pubs I'd visited before, but I doubt I could find it again from Martin's 'meandering' route there!
The Merchant's Inn is an interesting place with more pub memorabilia and breweriana than the average ten pubs combined and I've never seen so many pump clips in one place! This was our lunch stop as well. The food was good, so, it's another "Yes" from me!

Then it was the longest walk of the day (almost 10 minutes) away from the town centre to this place.
The Victoria was well worth the walk. We turned left and entered the bar at the pointy end of this classic street corner boozer. My second pint of an Atomic Ales beer - both very pleasant.

It didn't seem long before we were on our feet again and heading for the best pub I'd previously visited in Rugby.
The Squirrel is a very compact pub and, whilst still a very good pub, it wasn't quite as wonderful as I'd remembered it. Possibly because previous visits had been in the dark and The Squirrel was the best pub of the evening, but on this trip we'd already been in three pubs that I'd now rate higher! It's still a "Yes" from me, though!

Now we were headed for micropub territory!
A relatively new addition to the watering holes of Rugby, The Crafty Banker was somewhat better than some other micros I've been in. There seemed to be more space than in many, but with modern décor. As a pub I'd rate it as OK.

Then it was another micro, which had grown out of the bottle shop next door.
The Rugby Tap Room felt more like a pub than the previous micro, but was also more cramped. Again, I'd rate it as OK, but I expect that it gets quite a lot of trade from tourists come to marvel at Rugby School which was just over the road and the Rugby Museum which is next door.

Then it was another stroll to the final pub that we all made it to.
As I'd had a pint in all the previous seven pubs, I have no recollection of how to find the Half Moon. (But Rugby isn't such a big place that it will remain lost to me!) This was quite a lively little boozer (well, it was about 6pm on a Friday!) and it gets the thumbs up from me!

Our final stop was right in the centre of town, but only me and the assorted 'Mudgies' ventured inside.
The Bull (not sure if I've been there before!) was the place which broke my resistance and I had a half of Carling Punk IPA (as I've been reliably informed!). After confirming England's victory in the cricket, me and the Mudgies headed for the station. (What is the collective noun for a group of Mudgies? A Snug of Mudgies?)

It was quite a trudge back to the station...but at least it was downhill. We walked past the Wheeltapper again, which looked even more magnificent through the haze of 8½ pints!
If we'd known then about the train delays that we were about to experience, we may well have popped in for a swift half...but we didn't and had a longer wait on the platform than anticipated. We all got home at a reasonable hour.

It was an excellent day out and, next time we're passing Rugby on the canal I'll know where to go for the best pubs!

Monday, 13 May 2019

#259 Carlsberg Brewery, Northampton : 1982 to 2019

Have you ever had one of those occasions when a memory that you are convinced is true, turns out to be completely mistaken?

In my defence, it was 37 years ago, but on our recent trip to Northampton, via the Northampton Arm of the Grand Union Canal, I was 100% convinced that my 1982 picture of the Carlsberg Brewery had been taken from this viewpoint.

This was taken on the morning of Sunday 21st April 2019 (Easter Sunday) as we headed away from Northampton back up to the main line of the Grand Union Canal.

However, when I returned home and dug out my earlier picture, this was the viewpoint from the evening of Saturday 28th August 1982.
In reality, that view is probably no longer available with the growth of so many trees and bushes in the decades that have passed. The main building hasn't changed over the years, but there were signs of expansion when we got onto the river.

The view from the centre of the River Nene in Northampton is, superficially, little changed, but how I wished that I'd taken photos of the decaying industrial landscape in 1982 to contrast wth all the residential building that has taken its place. 

Wednesday, 8 May 2019

#258 Cock & Greyhound, Whitchurch, Shropshire : 1996 to 2018 (RIP?)

My first ever canal visit to Whitchurch was back in 1981, long before I started taking pictures of the pubs we visit. I have no memories of which pubs we visited.

My next visit to Whitchurch, via the Llangollen Canal, was on the evening of Wednesday 28th August 1996 and The Greyhound was the first pub we came across as it is quite a walk from the canal to the town centre.
Aside from it being outside the town centre, I have no other recollection of it.

It was quite a few years before we were back in Whitchurch, this time on the evening of Wednesday 29th August 2007.
In the intervening 11 years, the signage had been replaced and it was now a Pubmaster pub.

It was another 11 years before we returned on the lunchtime of Thursday 30th August 2018...and this is the scene we discovered.
formerly The Greyhound
No only was it closed, but the name had changed to the Cock & Greyhound. At the time, it looked pretty terminal, but according to WhatPub it reopened in April 2019. It had been owned by AtWill Pubs, who appear to have gone out of business and it is difficult to work out what the future is (or the present, even!)

Monday, 29 April 2019

#257 White Hart, Ellesmere, Shropshire : 2007 to 2018

This is a pub that I've only been in once as it has always seemed to have 'strange' opening hours...usually closed whenever I was there!

Ellesmere is a very useful stopping off point along the Llangollen Canal having all resources and a good number of pubs. The White Hart is just outside the main town centre and almost always is closed when we're there!

This was a lunchtime stop on Thursday 30th August 2007. I think the pub had closed (after 2pm!) and we didn't even know the name of it as the hanging sign was blank!

We didn't return to Ellesmere for quite a few years, but the White Hart was, seemingly, unchanged.
Except for the new hanging sign (in a different position) with some general paintwork and tidying.This was at lunchtime on Monday 21st April 2014. Definitely not open!

 We finally managed to set foot inside the pub on the evening of Thursday 30th August 2018.
This was our last stop of the evening and it was very pleasant...a proper pub that served proper beer as well as Carling!

Monday, 8 April 2019

Up to 'Uddersfield

I don't know why it has taken me so long to get around to this, but here goes - I'll keep it brief as it has been covered by Pub Curmudgeon here and here (and any repeat of photos in purely uncoincidental [if that's a word!])

Huddersfield is a place that I've never visited before and I thoroughly enjoyed my day out. It was a grey, overcast day which included a period of (not too heavy) rain, meaning that the town looked (externally) as grim and grey as you'd expect in a cliché of industrial Yorkshire. Conversely, this actually increased my appreciation of the pubs. As you walk in from the cold, damp, grey stone-clad exterior the warmth, the colour, the vibrancy and (dare I say it) the sheer glamour of the pub assails you. This is why I love pubs!

There are many theories as to why pubs are in decline (which I won't go into here!), but cast your mind back to the days of black & white TV (sadly, NOT before my time!) before widespread central heating at home, the pub was a place of brightness, warmth and vibrancy at an affordable price with little else to compare. Nowadays, you can get all of that without leaving your armchair and if you do venture out, there are so many other attractions away from the pub.

Anyway, epiphany over, back to Huddersfield.
I arrived by train and on-time, so obviously my first shot was the one that almost every visitor to Huddersfield takes - the station and the statue of Harold Wilson! (Off to the right is the George Hotel where Rugby League was founded in 1895 - I declined the opportunity to take a picture!). It was about a five minute walk to our first meeting place the Commercial Hotel.
This was my first Sam Smith's pub in many a long years - definitely a proper pub and well worth the visit. A good start, even though the Old Brewery Bitter will never be a favourite of mine.

The next stop is another lovely, old-school town centre boozer with a well maintained interior...but no real ale.
The Albert served what's not to like!

Next was our lunch stop...not really a pub, but a very pleasant café that is the taphouse for the locally produced Mallinson's beers.
The food was good, the beer also and the decor was more akin to a nice town centre café. The Corner was Huddersfield CAMRA Pub of the Year for 2018.

Next stop on our trip was another brewery taphouse.

The Magic Rock Brewery is another of the growing trend of microbreweries on an industrial estate having their own in situ taproom. This one is better appointed than some I've been in, but I'm beginning to feel that they're not really my type of place. The beer was very good.

Then we moved on to a pub that didn't open until 4pm which is becoming all too common these days for pubs that don't do food.
The Slubbers Arms is another proper old-school boozer and was our 'Pub of the Day'. I experienced my first pint of Timothy Taylor's Landlord and, whilst it was served in perfect condition, it isn't really to my taste. (You live and learn!)

From now onwards, my memory starts to fade (possibly caused by the drink...possibly not!). I do remember a stroll via Magic Rock (to retrieve a misplaced rucksack) and my back playing me up (and slowing us down!), but we did make it to The Sportsman (which we'd passed a couple of hours earlier!)
Another proper pub on the inside, but I have no recollection as to my drink of choice!

We then moved on to the next pub on our list.
From a distance, as we approached The Grove, I though we were going to a converted Job Centre! Fear not, it is another proper pub with a fairly wide range of beers.

It was getting a bit late so we decided to abandon one pub on the itinerary (The Star) as it was further away from the station. We headed for my last pub of the day, the Rat & Ratchet.
It is owned by Ossett Brewery and has it's own brewery on site (Rat Brewery). I have no idea what I drank, but I do remember that it was quite busy (it was almost 7pm on a Friday when I left!). I staggered back to the station (not leaving enough time to sample the recommended station bar!) and caught my train home.

It was an excellent day out visiting some great pubs with a group of good people making for the perfect occasion! (and extra thanks to Luke for organising the itinerary!)

Tuesday, 2 April 2019

Bottega Prosecco Bar & Restaurant, Arena Birmingham

I'm breaking two 'rules' today that will possibly see me exiled from the PUB (Pub Union of Bloggers)!

Firstly, I'm going to write about an establishment that won't be officially open until 8th April 2019 (my first trip into the 'future' after just 293 forays into the past and present!)

Secondly, well the title gives that away!

I imagine it to be the go to venue for Mrs RM as she waits patiently for Retired Martin to dash around Brum and gather in the final few ticks of micropubs with obscure opening hours!

If you tire of the excellent range of Proseccos (all direct from Bottega who have been producing wine since the 17th Century) and after you have worked your way through the extensive gin and other spirits/liqueurs there is an excellent range of craft beers on draught - Peroni and Meantime Anytime IPA.

One of the reasons for writing this (and risking my PUB status!) was that I was there when the first ever half of the IPA was poured...and I got to drink it!
The First Beer Poured
It is a hoppy IPA, very refreshing with a traditionally bitter taste and served chilled. I didn't sample the Peroni as I was working. (I was there as the photographer for the Press Launch of the establishment and I'm a friend of the new owner!)

It is situated next to the Box Office of the Barclaycard Arena and is perfectly located for a pre-show (or post-show) drink and meal. It overlooks the junction of the Birmingham Main Line and Birmingham & Fazeley Canals (Old Turn Junction), so it definitely qualifies as a canalside establishment!

This will be the first Bottega Prosecco Bar to also be a restaurant anywhere in the world and so will provide a top quality dining and drinking experience - a welcome addition to Birmingham's buzzing hospitality offerings.

Saturday, 23 March 2019

#256 The Poacher's Pocket, Gledrid, Shropshire : 1996 to 2018

Our first boating trip all the way up the Llangollen Canal was in 1996, although we'd gone as far as Whitchurch in 1981. Our first visit to The Poacher's Pocket was at lunchtime on Monday 26th August 1996.
This was the view from the canal side entrance to the pub. As I recall it was a pleasant pub and the first we'd come across in quite a few miles resulting in a very late lunch (we moored up at 2:25 pm!).

On our next trip along the Llangollen Canal, The Poacher's Pocket provided the ideal spot to rendezvous with our third crew member Andrew.
This was on the evening of Thursday 30th August 2007 and the pub was, remarkably, unchanged.

Our next visit was an Easter trip when we'd hired a boat from Chirk Marina and this was our final stop before handing the boat back in the morning.
This was on the evening of Monday 21st April 2014 and, for some reason, I'd decided to take a photo of the more attractive front of the pub (rather than provide a consistent view through the years!). Despite the change of perspective, there's no hiding the wholesale redevelopment and expansion of the pub into a substantial Marston's pub/restaurant. Even the name has been changed! After eating and a couple of pints we chose to leave and finish the session in the Bridge Inn, just a short(ish) stroll away.

Our most recent visit was a lunchtime stop on Friday 31st August 2018 on our way to Llangollen.

Pretty much unchanged from the previous visit, but this time I did take a shot from the canal side entrance which properly shows just how much the pub has been expanded.