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Thursday, 19 October 2017

#233 Gunmakers Arms, Birmingham : 2004 to 2017

We 'discovered' the Gunmakers Arms at lunchtime on Wednesday 1st September 2004. We popped in after lunch and a couple of pints in The Bull (#073).
I remember it as a typical backstreet boozer with a very 'old school' gaffer who wasn't best pleased with my suggestion that £2 for a pint of Blackcurrant & Soda was a bit excessive!

After such a 'warm' welcome we didn't venture back until many years later when the pub had been taken over by Two Towers Brewery. So, our next visit was at lunchtime on Sunday 14th June 2015.
Unfortunately it was closed as refurbishment was still underway. Even more disappointingly, The Bull was also closed which meant that we ended up having lunch in the Gosta Green (#156) via the Sacks of Potatoes (#205).

We were back again this year and the Gunmakers Arms was open!
This was at lunchtime on Tuesday 15th August 2017 and I had mixed feelings about it. It is great to see an old pub resurrected by an up-and-coming new brewery, but when we visited it was obviously still a work in-progress and had the air of being done on a shoestring. I even sampled the local ale which was OK (but as I'm not a connoisseur, that rating should be taken with a pinch of salt!) The pub also hosts numerous arts events and I feel a little guilty that I didn't like it more.

For anyone who wants to form their own opinion (and I recommend that you do) the website is here.

Usually, that would be the end of the story as this was the last canal trip of the year, for me...but no...there's more. With the advent of the 2018 Good Beer Guide, I discovered that there were new entries in Birmingham and one very local to me. I contacted Martin Taylor and offered to join him for a pint (or three) when he next came to Brum.

His visit coincided with a separately organised Birmingham pub crawl arranged by Pub Curmudgeon. What could be better, a Saturday afternoon pub crawl with two of the bloggers who've consistently promoted my meagre blogging attempts on both of their excellent blogs.

Martin met me, lurking outside the Rose Villa Tavern with my camera (11 o'clock opening). We then strolled into town to meet up with the main band of drinkers in the Post Office Vaults (formerly the Royal Mail). We then visited The Wellington (surprisingly quiet for a Saturday lunchtime!). Next stop was The Old Contemptibles, where Martin left us for some more pub ticking and the rest of us had a pleasant lunch.

Then it was on to the Gunmakers Arms for my second visit of the year - Saturday 7th October 2017.
I'm pleased to say that I liked it more second time around, but the interior d├ęcor isn't completely to my taste...a bit modern and arty for me! Externally, the pub has changed little over the years.

This was where I left the crawl as Martin and I headed for his final tick of the day and the rest of the gang continued on to the Old Joint Stock and Craven Arms. I had a very enjoyable time and I hope that the others enjoyed Birmingham enough to want to return for some more great pubs.

Thursday, 5 October 2017

#232 The Woolpack, Weston, Staffordshire : 2002 to 2016

Weston is a small village in Staffordshire that stands on the Trent & Mersey Canal and for many years, whenever we stopped there, we never ventured beyond the Saracen's Head (#039) which is as close to the canal as you can get without being a canalside pub!

I'm not entirely sure what happened on the evening of Monday 16th September 2002, but I do know that we paid our first ever visit to The Woolpack.
I suspect that there was no food on at the Saracen's Head forcing us to further investigate the village. I do recall that The Woolpack was a very pleasant, comfortable village pub that also did food.

We returned a few years later.
This was on the evening of Monday 4th September 2006 and very little appeared to have changed, outside or inside.

Our most recent visit was at lunchtime on Monday 28th March 2016.
Not surprisingly it had undergone a complete external makeover, but inside it was still as pleasant and welcoming as before.

The Woolpack is a Marston's pub and worth a visit if you're passing by for good food and a pleasing pub experience.

Thursday, 21 September 2017

#231 Fox & Hounds, Great Haywood, Staffordshire : 1991 to 2016 (RIP)

Great Haywood is a very good place for a canal stopover (both lunchtimes and evenings). The village is a short walk from the canal and the Clifford Arms (#069) is a proper pub that does very good pub food. There used to be two other pubs in the village, both sadly no longer with us.

Our first visit to the Fox & Hounds was on the evening of Saturday 27th July 1991 after having eaten at the Clifford Arms.
I have no recollection as to what it was like inside, but my feeling is that it was a typical village pub with a bar and a lounge.

It was quite a while before we returned, this time on the evening of Sunday 24th August 2003 when in fact we'd moored at Little Haywood, but ended up walking to Great Haywood in search of food!
The pub had undergone a complete makeover in the intervening 12 years.

It wasn't long before we returned, another evening stopover on Tuesday 6th June 2006.
Another complete transformation.

We returned again on the evening of Tuesday 1st June 2010 and another redecoration! And the beer garden had been fenced off from the road.

It is interesting to note that in the same period, the Clifford Arms has barely changed at all.

Our final visit was on the evening of Friday 5th August 2016 and this is what we found.
Obviously it had been closed for some time and converted into two (i think) houses. It's a shame, but in these modern days, not too surprising that the Fox & Hounds bit the dust. Hopefully, now that the village has consolidated down to one pub, there will be no more pub closures in Great Haywood!

Interestingly, WhatPub shows the Fox & Hounds from the days it was still a boarded up pub.

Monday, 11 September 2017

UPDATE : #028 The Canal House (formerly James Brindley), Birmingham : 1986 to 2017

This is a post that I doubted would ever see the light of day - the James Brindley pub, in Gas Street Basin, that had been boarded up for about five years, has now been resurrected as The Canal House.

My original blog post was back in 2011 and can be found here. This is how the James Brindley appeared on Tuesday 6th September 2011.

Boarded up and left to fester until 2016 when plans were announced for a redevelopment...and this is what has appeared.
formerly James Brindley

formerly James Brindley
We visited it on Monday 14th August 2017, just a few days after the grand opening. It was so busy that we couldn't find a seat to only have a drink (too old and knackered to stand these days!). It is now more of a restaurant than a pub, but it was well done out inside and if they can maintain that level of popularity on a dull Monday evening, then The Canal House will be a roaring success. I assume that it will setle down to a more regular pattern of trade, but I am hopeful that it will be with us for a good number of years to come.

If you fancy a visit, the website is here.

Friday, 1 September 2017

UPDATE 4 : #008 The Navigation, Lapworth, Warwickshire : 1986 to 2017

Since our last visit in 2012 we've only had limited opportunities to return to The Navigation as we no longer have our moorings nearby.

We did visit on the evening of Wednesday 1st October 2014.
 I briefly reported on it here and it was a good night in a well refurbished old favourite.

We returned at lunchtime on Sunday 13th August 2017 and I'm pleased to be able to report that it is still as good as ever.
The exterior has been repainted and it is no longer The Navigation "at Lapworth", presumably because it is actually in Rowington. The greenery looks as though it is about to take over, but I'm pleased to report that the streetlight is still unchanged!

Inside, the new owners have maintained the 'pubby' feel in the bar by making it lighter, but also by keeping the uneven floor with the general layout and seating staying the same. The food and service were both excellent and the atmosphere was enlivened by landlord Mark collecting winning bets from his regulars on his beloved Huddersfield Town's first win in the Premier League. (The 'teletext' verion of the top half of the table was the only thing allowed on the telly...presumably until Man United knocked them off the top a few hours later!)

The beer was also up to a high standard, I sampled the Lapworth Gold which was excellent.
I blame Retired Martin for corrupting me as I'm now tryling much more of the real ales on offer than ever before...but I still drink Carling most of the time! The Lapworth Gold is brewed by Byatt's, a small brewery near Coventry (and a new name for me!)

And finally...a man walked into the bar with his son and asked for a half pint of the hand pulled Guinness as he'd heard so much about it and just happened to be driving by. Yes, the only hand pulled Guinness in the UK is alive and well at The Navigation. The verdict? Very good he told me just before getting back into his open top E-type and disappearing into a lovely Warwickshire Sunday afternoon.

Monday, 21 August 2017

#230 Three Horseshoes, Fazeley, Staffordshire : 2006 to 2017

We first visited Fazeley from the canal in 1987, but it wasn't until 2006 that we discovered the Three Horseshoes - a whole 19 years where we didn't look beyond the A5 that passes through the town!

We discovered this gem, lurking behind the Tesco Express on the evening of Wednesday 7th June 2006.
It was, then, a proper boozer and we were amazed that it is only about 50 yards away from where we'd been drinking on previous visits! As I recall, we had one pint and got a taxi into Tamworth as it didn't do food.

We didn't leave it too long before we returned in an attempt to redress the years of neglect. We popped in at lunchtime on Wednesday 6th September 2006.
Amazingly, it hadn't changed!

We returned again at lunchtime on Sunday 30th August 2009.
Still no change...apart from the small barrier to stop the skip from rolling into the road!

It didn't take us long to get back for another visit. It was the evening of Wednesday 2nd June 2010.
I was shocked to see that the sign by the skip had disappeared. The eagle-eyed amongst you will also have noticed the mobility scooter by the front door.

We were back again on the lunchtime of Sunday 29th August 2010.
Remarkably, still unchanged and the mobility scooter is still just visible.

It was a while before we returned, this time on the lunchtime of Monday 15th June 2015.
It is amazing how much can change in five short years - a brand new Bass sign, a new skip and the mobility scooter now has a cover!

We were back on the lunchtime of Monday 13th June 2016.
For some reason, I took the picture from the other side, but it is still enough to know that it hadn't changed.

And now onto our most recent visit, just a few short days ago at lunchtime on Wednesday 16th August 2017.
Still unchanged and inside it is still the same welcoming bar that it has always been and, despite all of the adverse conditions for the pub trade since we first visited in 2006, the place was doing a very brisk trade for a Wednesday lunchtime...in a pub that doesn't serve food!

It still has a proper local pub atmosphere and when I took this picture for Retired Martin, there was a bit of good natured banter, which finished with one of the locals saying, "...and it's the best pint in Fazeley!"
I hope it continues unchanged into the foreseeable future, but who knows what may happen as it would appear that it is up for sale by Fleurets

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.