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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!

Thursday, 2 February 2017

#210 Cheshire Cheese, Wheelock, Cheshire : 1987 to 2016

Our first visit to this classic 'proper' pub was on the evening of Saturday 11th July 1987. Of course, back then it was just considered to be a normal pub, nothing particularly out of the ordinary.
Waiting outside are the fine, upstanding members of the crew of Emma Jane for that two week trip that took in both Worcester and Middlewich. As far as I recall the interior of the pub was pretty much the same as it was on all subsequent visits.

Our next visit was only four years later at lunchtime on Wednesday 24th July 1991 as we moved Emma Jane from her northern mooring at Adlington to her new home on the southern Grand Union Canal.
The outside had been given a thorough makeover, although the signage appears to be unaltered. 'Dusty Bin' has been installed by the local council by the lamp post.

With Emma Jane being "daarn sarf", it took another eight years before we returned to the Cheshire Cheese.
This was on the evening of Saturday 4th September 1999 at the midpoint of our trip that took us along the Caldon Canal for the first time. The Cheshire Cheese had been repainted and was no longer a Tetley's pub, but was now run by Hydes - a fact that almost certainly passed me by at the time!

We were back again three years later on the evening of Thursday 12th September 2002; a stop that hadn't been expected from our original journey plan.
Our plan had been to visit Chester for the first time in a number of years, but a lock failure at Beeston Iron Lock meant that we needed another plan. Wheelock was one stop along the way to revisiting the Caldon Canal. Essentially, the pub was unchanged, but for the first time the adjacent car park had been refurbished with a patch of grass and a sign for the new Italian restaurant.

Another three years passed and we were back at lunchtime on Thursday 25th August 2005.
On this trip we did make it to Chester after passing through Wheelock; the Cheshire Cheese was unchanged.

We returned, again somewhat unexpectedly, a year later for an evening stop on Saturday 2nd September 2006.
Our original journey plan had been to visit Manchester using the reverse route of our 2000 journey, but it soon became apparent that we'd fallen way behind on the schedule and, once again, we needed a new plan! On this occasion we took our first ever trip on the Anderton Boat Lift and Wheelock was a stop-off on the way home.

The Cheshire Cheese was unchanged, but Di Venezia was no more, being replaced by The Old Mill restaurant.

After a spell of three visits in five years, we didn't return to the Cheshire Cheese until the lunchtime of Tuesday 16th August 2016.
This trip was, essentially, a repeat of the 2006 journey, except it was on board the new boat Peggy Ellen and we'd started from Kings Bromley rather than Lapworth. We used the Anderton Boat Lift again and spent a bit more time on the River Weaver before heading back home via the Trent & Mersey Canal.

The Cheshire Cheese had undergone a subtle exterior redecoration and re-signage with the hanging baskets having disappeared. (A Cask Marque sign had also appeared by the entrance.) 'Dusty Bin' is still there, now at a more jaunty angle and The Old Mill is now Barchetta Italian restaurant.

We were pleasantly surprised to find the pub open on a Tuesday lunchtime even though we were the only customers. As the landlord explained (once we got him out of his garden), he might as well be open for any passing trade (like us!) because he can still do other stuff whilst keeping an eye on the bar. Sandwiches for lunch and a couple of pints to fortify us for the afternoon's exertions were just what the doctor ordered...and the pub took in an extra £20 - £30 that it wouldn't have if it had been closed like so many others do!

It is good to see that such a 'proper' pub as the Cheshire Cheese has survived whilst the other two pubs in the village (Nags Head and Commercial Hotel) are now closed. Hopefully it will be there for many years to come. 

Monday, 23 January 2017

Good News & Bad News from Stoke-on-Trent

I know! You get no pubs from me for a couple of weeks, then two come along at once!!

#208 The Bird in Hand, Etruria, Stoke-on-Trent : 1999 to 2016 (RIP)

First, the bad news. This is a pub that I don't think I ever went in, but it is one we've failed to find on several visits!
This picture was taken on the way back to our boat after a bit of a pub crawl around Hanley on Friday 3rd September 1999. It was closed by then...and we probably couldn't have drunk any more. But, we'd be able to visit it next time we were in the area!

Sadly our optimism was unfounded (and our sense of direction let us down, again) so that we didn't pass by until the evening of Saturday 26th March 2016.
The Bird in Hand is no more, now it is an Islamic community centre - a fate suffered by many pubs in inner city areas.

#209 Shoulder of Mutton Inn, Shelton, Stoke-on-Trent : 2011 to 2016

This is the good news story. On the evening of Friday 2nd September 2011 we stumbled across this magnificent looking back street pub.
At the time it looked as though the Shoulder of Mutton was gone forever, but no, this is what we found on Saturday 26th March 2016.
It was alive and well and open for business; so we had a quick pint. Inside it is all that you'd expect of an 'old school' back street boozer. The Carling was nice and cold, but there was no real ale (although there was a hand pump!). More information can be found here.  

Monday, 9 January 2017

#207 The Boat, Penkridge, Staffordshire : 1991 to 2016

Our first experience of The Boat was back in 1981 on my second ever narrowboat journey. This turned into an epic trip because the lock flight at Audlem was closed and we had to travel for at least 12 hours per day for three days to get to Birmingham for our scheduled rendezvous. Our normal day would have been 8 hours max.

At lunchtime on Friday 14th August 1981 on this trip we were passing through the lock adjacent to the pub and it was my job to get a pint for each crew member as we didn't have time to actually stop. These were consumed as we passed through the lock and the glasses returned before we were on our way again.

We didn't pass this way again for many years and the location of this event became somewhat of a mystery until the evening of Sunday 28th July 1991 when we once again passed through the lock and moored up at Penkridge.
Sadly not my best photo. I don't really remember much about it inside, probably not unrelated to the fact that it was our last port of call for the evening!

Emma Jane then spent a few years on the Southern Grand Union Canal, but we were back at The Boat at lunchtime on Wednesday 29th May 1996.
I took this picture to give the view from the lock, but it doesn't give any idea of changes that may (or may not) have taken place.

The next visit was on the evening of Monday 25th August 2003 and again, it is a poor picture as it was our last stop of the night having gone into the village first.
The exterior signage had changed over the seven years we'd been away.

We were back again at lunchtime on Tuesday 1st June 2010 and, as you can guess, it was a World Cup year...just before England's dismal failure in South Africa!
It was during this visit that I remember finding the interior somewhat sparse and not particularly welcoming, not helped by the lack of clientele.

We were back again just over a year later on the evening of Sunday 4th September 2011.
Not sure whether we actually went inside, but I made it a point to take the picture before setting off for the village! It looks so much better without the England flags!

Our next foray into Penkridge came on the evening of Wednesday 10th June 2015.
Again we used it as our last port of call, but now I have a digital camera (and more technical proficiency!) so I can manage to get much better night time shots. Enough to be able to see that the exterior signage had again changed.

Finally, our most recent visit to Penkridge was on the afternoon of Saturday 6th August 2016 and we were just passing through so I took this shot as I was working the lock.
It is good to see that The Boat continues to survive. It has the perfect location for warm summer days and must generate enough trade during the rest of the year to keep going. For more details their website is here. 

Thursday, 29 December 2016

#206 The Oak & Ivy, Burton-upon-Trent, Staffordshire : 1997 to 2015

The Oak & Ivy is a back street pub in Burton that breaks my main rule - I've never been inside it!

We occasionally visit Burton and, as the canal is a way from the centre we pass quite a few pubs before we get into town. Before going digital I was quite frugal and, generally, only took pictures of the pubs we went in.
I'm not 100% sure what happened at lunchtime on Monday 1st September 1997, though. I suspect that we were going to go in, but found that they didn't do food and so moved on...after I taken the photo! It was the day after Princess Diana died, so everything that week was strange!

Although we'd been back to Burton in the meantime, my next picture of The Oak & Ivy was taken on the evening of Friday 3rd April 2015 (Good Friday)
On this occasion, we'd moored at Shobnall Basin giving us a different route into the town and quite a few pubs to pass by. Sadly, it's a sign of advancing years that we can't stop off for several beers and still manage to eat afterwards - it is something of an either/or situation with food always winning!

Unsurprisingly, The Oak & Ivy had been completely refurbished externally over the passing 18 years. Back in 1997 it looked to be a typical Marston's pub of that era. Namely, a basic boozer with no frills; I seem to recall that, back then, all Marston's pubs were bog-standard boozers! 

I'm not sure when, but Marston's seemed to have something of a corporate epiphany and, in more recent years, they have tended to go a bit more up market in their refurbishments.