Thursday, 27 October 2016
As this is my 200th pub, I thought that I'd treat you to what was once a traditional canalside pub in the village at the centre of the English Canal system on the Grand Union Canal.
My first ever visit to this pub was in April 1980 when it had a different name and I wasn't taking photos of the pubs we visited! On that trip we stopped at Braunston three times and I remember at least once visiting the pub. I recall it as being a fairly large place with different rooms, especially the cosy bar by the canal decked out in traditional canal style.
My first 'documented' visit to The Boatman (as it was known then, previously the Rose & Castle) was on the evening of Sunday 20th July 1986.
Back in those days it was a Mann's pub as so many were in that part of the world. As I recall it hadn't changed much from the previous visit.
We didn't return again until Friday 25th September 1992 for an evening in Braunston.
Very little appeared to have changed. During this period, our boat Emma Jane was moored 'down South' and so Braunston became a regular stopping place for a few years.
So, we were back a year later on Thursday 23rd September 1993 for another evening stopover.
This time you get the land lubbers' view, but the pub was unchanged.
Another year, another visit; this time on Thursday 1st September 1994 at lunchtime, which explains how we managed to get a mooring right outside the pub!
Still little in the way of changes!
In 1995 we moved our boat back to the Midlands and didn't return until the evening of Wednesday 24th June 1998.
It had been taken over, completely refurbished and renamed to the slightly incongruous, The Mill House. Although it had been due for some redecoration and tlc, this renovation had removed any character that had been in the old pub.
Several more years passed and we returned on Saturday 28th May 2005, again in the evening.
This time we popped in and had a meal, but it was something of a disaster! It was Spring Bank Holiday, it had been a nice day so the pub had run out of lots of things, one of which was butter for the bread rolls! It is inconvenient and frustrating when pubs run out of things, but when the staff become surly and downright unpleasant I draw the line.
In those circumstances, if our waitress had said something along the lines of, "We've been very busy today and we've run out of various items. You're welcome to stay and sample what is available, but it may take some time to arrive." Then we can make the choice as to whether we stay or go and, if we choose to stay, we know what we've let ourselves in for!
Needless to say, we didn't return for another few years and, when we did, we only had a pint before moving on to find food.
This was on the evening of Sunday 24th May 2009 - again Spring Bank Holiday. This time we were prepared and, after the pint in The Millhouse, we headed into Braunston for our food. Unfortunately for us, The Old Plough was extremely busy and after an hour with no food appearing (and not very likely too either!) we cut our losses and got a taxi to Daventry to eat!
As you can imagine, Braunston was becoming a bit of a 'no-go' place for us until lunchtime on Sunday 6th November 2011 on our final voyage with Emma Jane.
It had undergone a Martson's refurbishment and renamed, more appropriately, as The Boathouse. We had lunch there and the service was far better than our previous experience!
Our most recent visit was at lunchtime on Monday 31st August 2015 and, despite it being August Bank Holiday they hadn't run out of anything and the service was again good...although maybe the rain helped with this!
For the first time in many years we got a mooring spot right outside the pub!
And here's what a bit of artistic licence can do for a rainy day scene!
Thursday, 20 October 2016
On the occasions that we go to Nottingham on our boating trips we almost always stop at Trent Lock which means that we have two pubs to choose from - the Trent Lock (Formerly the Trent Navigation Inn) which I featured in July (#188) and The Steamboat Inn. (Well, I say 'choose', but we generally go into both!)
Our first visit to The Steamboat Inn was on the evening of Friday 25th July 1986 on our way to Nottingham.
It was a pleasant summer's evening and the pub was very busy. The only other thing I remember is that we won quite a few quid on the Quiz Machine (£10 Jackpot in those days!). The machine did its best to thwart us with the last two (supposedly random) questions being on railway steam engines. Fortunately, our crew member Matt was something of a railway buff and knew both answers!
We didn't return to Trent Lock until Saturday 30th August 1997 for a lunchtime stop.
As you'd expect, the outside had been redecorated in the intervening 11 years.
The next time we popped into The Steamboat Inn was at lunchtime on Thursday 3rd September 2009 on our way up the Erewash Canal for the first time.
Another complete external refurbishment, this time after a 12 year gap.
Our most recent visit was on Sunday 23rd August 2015 at lunchtime.
Just a repainting job on the outside over the previous six years looks to be the extent of the change, the lettering appears to be the same, albeit with a missing 'T'!
At first glance I'm surprised that two pubs, in what is an out-of-the-way place (by road), have survived through to the current day. But, on further reflection, both The Steamboat and the Trent Lock are very different in character - the Trent Lock always being like a proper 'country pub' with the Steamboat being a bit more 'brash' and having the feel of a seaside pub. When the sun is out, both do a roaring trade and I hope that they both make enough on the good days to survive through the bad ones.
One final observation: in the first picture there is a large tree behind the right hand chimney of the pub. Eleven years later it looks to still be there, but leafless, even thogh it is August. In 2009 the tree has gone. I'm assuming that these pictures have captured the death of an Elm tree caused by Dutch Elm Disease.
Tuesday, 11 October 2016
Wolseley Bridge is just outside Rugeley and sits alongside the River Trent on a stretch where the Trent & Mersey Canal runs side-by-side with it for several miles. Although we'd frequently used this stretch of canal over our many years of boating, we had never stopped here until lunchtime on Tuesday 17th September 2002!
The reason for this was a phenomenon that has become all too familiar over the past 10 - 15 years. Our initial plan had been to stop at Little Haywood for lunch as there were a couple of nice little pubs in the village. We moored up, walked into the village (5 - 10 mins) and both pubs were closed at lunchtime! This was the first time we'd really fallen foul of this emerging trend. So, we moved on and discovered the Wolseley Arms which, even then, was one of M&B's Vintage Inns. This actually worked well for us as it was after 3pm by the time we got there and they serve food all day!
The next time was at lunchtime on Monday 22nd August 2005 as we headed north to, ultimately, Chester.
Essentially it was unchanged which is why I took this shot from the other angle.
Our next stop off there was at lunchtime (as always!) on Monday 30th August 2010 this time as we headed north to Manchester.
The décor both inside and out now reflected the updating that all Vintage Inns had undergone through that period.
It was another five years before we returned on the lunchtime of Wednesday 10th June 2015.
Another makeover had occurred, but not quite as drastic as the last one! As the new moorings (for the new boat) are now on the Trent & Mersey Canal the Wolseley Arms has become a more frequent stopping off place and we managed two visits in 2016.
The first on Friday 25th March 2016 (pictured above) and the second on Wednesday 8th June 2016. Little or no changes had occurred!
Having never seen it as a pub I tried to find some old pictures of when it was a 'proper' pub, but this is all I could find.
This is taken from the Wolseley Arms Facebook page, but I have no idea of the date. This is a similar view to my last shot; the road to the right leads over the River Trent and the canal; the road to the left takes you to Shugborough Hall.
Consulting my "Nicholson's Guide to the Waterways" (7th Edition; 1995) the Wolseley Arms is described thus, "Comfortable pub which has Bass real ales. Bar meals lunchtimes and evenings, vegetarians catered for, restaurant open Thu - Sun evenings and Sun lunchtime." Sounds like a typical (for then) posh country pub!
Sunday, 2 October 2016
This post is going to be slightly different in structure as a one-off. We've only ever stopped at Willington twice on our canal journeys with a gap of almost 30 years between visits.
Our first stop was a damp lunchtime on Monday 28th July 1986 and we discovered three pubs in the village, all extremely close to each other!
It's not very often that you can get three pubs in one picture, but that's the case in the first shot - the Green Dragon, the Rising Sun and the Green Man on the right. Each pub representing the three main brewers in Burton at that time - Ind Coope, Marston's and Bass respectively.
The second picture shows the other view from the Green Man and you can just make out the intrepid crew heading back to the boat after a 45 minute stop with no lunch! We moved on to Burton-upon-Trent to find food!
So, the question is now, how many of the three pubs survived to 2015? After not stopping there for 29 years, we made two stops in 2015! Both lunchtime stops, first on Saturday 4th April 2015 and the second on Saturday 28th August 2015.
#195 Green Dragon (now The Dragon)
The Dragon, as it is now called, is very much still there and can be accessed from the canal and from the road, but not the same entrance as 1986! It is now a more food led establishment that does very good trade when the sun is out! A brief history of the pub can be found on their website.
#196 The Rising Sun
Quite an impressive sight, but we didn't venture inside on either visit! Nonetheless, it is good to see it still there.
And so, we move on to pub number three - open or closed?
#197 Green Man
Still there as well!!
Almost unbelievably, all three pubs have survived and appear to be thriving! Back in 1986 the Green Man was a Bass pub, but now it is run by Punch Taverns. Although it provides an extensive menu, the Green Man still feels like a proper pub. More information is on their website.
So there you have it; Willington is an oasis of pub survivability in an age of decimation!