The Pub is one of the few great cultural icons of Britain. We are currently in a phase where the future of the pub is in doubt. This blog shows how pubs have changed (or not) over the past 10+ years. I first started taking pictures of pubs in 1986 and have amassed quite a collection. Most of these pubs are within easy walking distance of the English Canals and most are based in the Midlands. Apart from a (very) few, I have drunk in every pub pictured (and sometimes been drunk in them!)
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.
To see The Swan from earlier days, follow this link.