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Monday, 30 May 2016

#185 The Roebuck Inn, Burton-upon-Trent, Staffordshire : 1997 to 2015

It was the day after Princess Diana had died and we were heading back from Nottingham when we stopped at Burton-upon-Trent at lunchtime on Monday 1st September 1997.
I don't recall much about the inside, only that it isn't a big pub! The outer signage is interesting in that, then, it was simply 'The Roebuck', but curiously followed by 'Back Home at The Burton Ale House'. (Further research on WhatPub.com reveals that it "was once the Ind Coope Brewery tap, being situated opposite the former brewery. The erstwhile classic Ind Coope Draught Burton Ale was launched here in 1976.")

Burton isn't a town we pass through often and we didn't return to The Roebuck Inn for almost exactly 12 years when we stopped on the evening of Monday 31st August 2009.
This time, the exterior signage is much simpler and the name is now The Roebuck Inn, but it was still also called The Burton Ale House.

Our most recent visit was on the evening of Friday 3rd April 2015 (Good Friday).

The exterior signage is now even more minimalist and all reference to The Burton Ale House has disappeared. It seems to have had a complete repaint (apart from one square, bottom right!), but the large The Roebuck Inn sign looks to be the same. Inside it is still small, but pleasingly busy.

Wednesday, 18 May 2016

#184 The Admiral Codrington, Coventry : 2004 to 2015 (RIP)

My first ever canal trip was in 1980 and we went to Coventry where we moored up in the then quite derelict Canal Basin.

 This was from Thursday 19th April 1980, but we didn't visit The Admiral Codrington on that occasion.

We didn't venture back to Coventry Basin until Tuesday 30th May 2000 to find that a complete transformation of the basin had taken place.
Again, we didn't visit the Admiral Codrington which stood by one of the entrances to the canal basin.

We returned, again, on the evening of Friday 27th August 2004 and, this time, we did pop into The Admiral Codrington for a pint before we ventured into Coventry itself.
It was a typical 'back street' boozer that was common then, but a type that has suffered badly over the subsequent years.

We returned less than a year later for a lunchtime stop on Wednesday 1st June 2005. We were back so soon because we were taking Emma Jane to Nuneaton for roof repairs/replacement and we had a few hours to kill.
Although it was only 10 months, the pub had been completely redecorated on the outside with most of the signage renewed/replaced (even though, at first glance, it looks unchanged!).

My next visit was not by boat, but a special trip to take pictures of Coventry for my, then fledgling, Photo Digital Art project on the afternoon of Sunday 6th May 2012.
This is the sad sight that presented itself!

While in the canal basin I did manage to get a picture that most closely reproduces the shot of Emma Jane from 1980.

Our most recent boating visit to Coventry was on the evening of Tuesday 1st September 2015.
The final demise of The Admiral Codrington; transformation into the rather unimaginatively named, Canal View Court.

Meanwhile, the canal basin looked like this.
Quite a transformation in 35 years from a derelict, windswept canal terminus where we were the only boat to this seemingly thriving canal basin where there was only one mooring spot left. One final thing to note is that after 35 years, the block of flats that stand over the basin has finally got a refurb!

Tuesday, 10 May 2016

#183 The Swan, Fradley Junction, Staffordshire : 1986 to 2016

The Swan at Fradley Junction is a classic canalside pub that really hasn't changed much throughout the years that we've been passing by. Our first stop there was back in 1983 before my cataloguing of our pub visits began.

Our first, recorded, visit was at lunchtime on Tuesday 29th July 1986 returning from a trip to Nottingham.
Fairly quiet, but it was midweek!

We returned a year later, again at lunchtime, on Wednesday 15th July 1987.
More people about this time, probably because it was a sunny day. Back in those days, you could moor up right outside the pub.

After this visit, our boat Emma Jane spent a few years moored near Wigan and then a few more years berthed on the Grand Union Canal near to Hemel Hempstead nd so our next visit to The Swan wasn't until lunchtime on Thursday 30th May 1996.
In the intervening years, the hanging sign had been renewed, the main pub sign had turned 'gold', the porch roof had been re-covered and the upstairs window shutters had disappeared. Apart from that, it was completely unchanged.

On this occasion, the pub let us down, from memory they'd stopped serving food at 2pm leaving us without lunch while we got our leaking shower tray fixed. Fortunately, we managed to acquire provisions from the shop next door.

Our next visit was an evening stop on Monday 30th August 1999.
Little seemed to have changed.

Next visit was on the evening of Tuesday 17th September 2002 on our way back from a trip that should've taken us to Chester but instead took us to Leek on the Caldon Canal.
No real changes but the hanging sign was starting to show signs of severe fading.

We returned the next year at lunchtime on Sunday 24th August 2003.
It was a Bank Holiday weekend that coincides with the Wychnor Boat Rally which led to the locks being very busy and progress was slow. Allied to it also being a hot day meant that we weren't best pleased to be told that the food was Sunday lunch only - NO sandwiches available! Once again we had to avail ourselves of the provisions available in the shop next door; the first, and so far only, time I've had Turkey Ham! Notice also that the hanging sign is missing, but hanging baskets have appeared below the upstairs windows.

It was another couple of years before we ventured back, this time on the evening of Sunday 21st August 2005.
Again no changes and the hanging sign was still missing!

We were back again at lunchtime on Wednesday 7th June 2006.
It looks like the hanging sign had returned and parasols adorned the outdoor tables.

Our next stop was on the evening of Sunday 30th August 2009 at the start of a two week trip that would take us up the Erewash Canal for the first time.

We returned almost exactly a year later on the evening of Sunday 29th August 2010, this time at the start of a journey that took us through Manchester.
The baskets below the upper windows had gone.

Again, almost exactly a year later we passed by on Sunday 28th August 2011, the last year of Emma Jane.

In the following years we hired boats that took us to parts of the canal system that we'd never visited before and it wasn't until 2015 that we returned. William's new boat, Peggy Ellen, is moored at nearby Kings Bromley so we've been visiting The Swan somewhat more frequently.
This was on the evening of Monday 25th May 2015 and, despite it being a Bank Holiday they didn't seem to have run out of anything. We were also treated to some unexpected entertainment when a man walked in with a parrot on his shoulder!

We were there again on Monday 15th June 2015 in the evening.

And again on the evening of Friday 3rd September 2015.
Since 2011, the main pub sign on the front wall had gone back to black lettering, but everything else was as on previous occasions.

All of our visits during 2015 were charcterised by excellent service and very good food, often served under quite stressful conditions as The Swan gets very busy and has a small bar for serving. Sometimes in the past it wasn't always so good as certain owners/managers/landlords didn't try too hard, essentially, because they didn't have to. The Swan is in such a good location that when the sun comes out people flock there and certain managers had realised that they didn't need to put in as much effort.

On the day before our most recent visit I'd learnt that The Swan was under new management, which I hoped was a good sign as we were making a very special trip. Our friend Mike was coming over from Canada (first time we'd seen him since 1995) and another friend Matt was coming up from near Oxford for a reunion of former crewmates of Emma Jane. (Mike's last trip was in 1981 and Matt's 1987!)

So, we boarded Peggy Ellen for the 90 minute journey to Fradley Junction. We negotiated the three locks with ease, found a mooring and went to the pub.
This was on Friday 6th May 2016. Mike and Matt are at the front; Andrew is steering and smoothly turning Peggy Ellen.

Lunch, however, did not go quite so smoothly. There have been some, so far minor, alterations to the inside of the pub and hopefully there will be some more to better utilise some of the space. 

Firstly, it took an age to get a round of drinks (the pub was quite busy and obviously the new staff aren't up to the speed required here) and there was no soda water on stream for my Blackcurrant & Soda. A minor irritation; I had tap water instead.

Then, on to the food. Our order was 3 x Cottage Pies, 1 x Cumberland Sausage and 1 x Ploughman's Lunch (for me). Except they didn't have any Ploughman's left! OK, another irritation, I chose Fish & Chips. Half an hour later I was told by the server that they'd run out of Fish & Chips as well! After ascertaining that they had some, I chose Cottage Pie.

We were finally served our food about an hour after we'd placed the original order. My Cottage Pie was alright, but it had an Italian ambience to it, and the accompanying vegetables were derisory; hardly more than a garnish!

I do hope the new management get a grip on things because if they don't it will be a disaster for them and the pub.

ADDENDUM

To see The Swan from earlier days, follow this link.