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Tuesday, 17 December 2019

#271 The White Bear, Rickmansworth, Hertfordshire : 1993 to 2019

Even when our boat was moored in the area, Rickmansworth was not one of our regular stopping places, but we did manage to visit The White Bear on a couple of occasions.

Our first encounter was on the evening of Friday 25th June 1993 as we moved our boat Emma Jane from Cowley Peachey to Winkwell - just a couple of days by narrowboat.
It was (& still is) a large(ish) pub on a busy road junction quite close to the canal and that's about all I remember of it.

We did return a couple of years later on the evening of Friday 9th June 1995 as we made our way back from a trip that had taken us to Lime House Basin in London.
Not much change, but it was now demonstrably advertising itself as a 'Free House'.

So, fast forward through just the 24 years and we found ourselves moored above Batchworth Lock looking for a pub for lunch. None of us could remember exactly what to expect and this is what we found on Sunday 4th August 2019.
In some respects it is remarkably unchanged, but in others it is radically different. Now run by Greene King and also it is now a desi pub in that it's food offering is entirely Indian Cuisine. So, we had a very pleasant Sunday lunch curry in a pub that is still a proper pub, but with a very extensive menu.

Monday, 9 December 2019

#270 The Wheatsheaf, Weedon, Northants : 1991 to 2019

I'm fairly sure that we'd visited The Wheatsheaf on previous trips, but this is the first pictorial record that I have.
This was on the evening of Thursday 24th September 1992 as we made our way north on the Grand Union Canal. Back then, as it is now, The Wheatsheaf is a standard little boozer which is now becoming an endangered species.

Although we did stop in Weedon the next year it wasn't until lunchtime on Wednesday 31st August 1994 that we revisited the pub.
No apparent change, but some maintenance work being applied to the front door.

We were back again the next year on our last trip from Winkwell.
This was on the evening of Wednesday 30th August 1995 and the pub was still largely unchanged.

Our next stopover in Weedon was on the evening of Monday 27th August 2001 as we headed south on a trip to Aylesbury.
Still no change to the pub, but the Weedon Takeaway (next door) has transformed to Riverside.

Our next visit to Weedon was as part of a short trip to take our boat Emma Jane to Nuneaton for roof repairs/replacement.
This was on the evening of Sunday 29th May 2005 and the pub was again as before...but next door it was now the Lucky House!

So, in 13 years of visits, The Wheatsheaf barely changed one bit...how would it be when we finally returned another fourteen years later, on the evening of Friday 19th April 2019?
Externally, a complete makeover, but we didn't actually venture inside as we were headed elsewhere for some food. (The mobility scooter is a bit of a giveaway regarding the inside, though!) The Lucky House, however needs a bit of tlc!

We didn't have long to wait to sample the delights of The Wheatsheaf as we returned on the evening of Friday 9th August 2019 and this time we did go inside!
I can confirm that it is still a basic boozer with a few regulars in when we were there. We were also treated to an impromptu music session as the gaffer's daughter and a couple of her friends performed a number of popular classics for us. Of the chanteuses, two were what you could categorise as enthusiastic, whereas the third was good enough to be a professional!

Monday, 2 December 2019

The Secret Seven in a Shimmy around Shifnal (with Lashings of Proper Beer)

Our tale begins at 11:30am with the assembled members waiting outside the door of the magnificently refurbished (and repurposed) Codsall Station for a pre-shimmy shandy (or maybe something a bit stronger!).

...sorry, I'm getting correspondence in about the title...people (well, my reader!) are querying my arithmetic. Having read newcomer Paul Bailey's excellent account (here), Pub Curmudgeon's consistently superb ruminations (here and here) together with Retired Martin's entertaining ramblings (here, here, here, here and here) they are asserting that I've got my sums wrong!

I can assure you that I am correct. I'm using 'nu-maths' as promulgated by the political parties of our day...allow me to explain. Our group consisted of one Martin, two Peters, two Pauls and two Mudgies...that makes seven!

So, where was I? Oh, yes! Codsall Station.
This has been beautifully repurposed by Holdens Brewery and is a divine example of how to create a proper pub in the modern era. Although it is a Holden house, I had a pint of Salopian Oracle and, despite all of our beers being the first pulled of the day, they were all excellent!

It was soon time to move on to Shifnal itself, just a couple (or three) stops along the line. It was a short walk from Shifnal Station to our next pub, Black Country Ales' The Anvil.
That shot makes it look like it was a very busy day, but we weren't the only group on the day to disembark that train and head straight to the pub! Inside, it was appointed in the usual style of Black Country Ales other pubs. Here I had a pint of Enville White which was very pleasant.

Moving on, it was probably the longest walk of the day (all of 10 minutes!), and we arrived at our chosen lunch stop, The Plough Inn.
This was the first pub of the day that felt properly 'lived-in' and was a bit more ramshackle than the previous two places. The lunch was good and my pint of Oakham Citra was as wonderful as ever.

Next it was on to The White Hart...our northernmost foray into Shinal.
This was a nice cosy two room pub, that didn't quite know how to cope with a group of curious old codgers investigating all the nooks and crannies of another well used pub. Here I slowed down to a half of Enville Ale...also good!

Soon it was time to retrace our steps back towards the centre of town, via The Wheatsheaf.
By now the rain was persistent and dusk was rapidly approaching, all of which made The Wheatsheaf even more welcoming. Another cosy, lived-in pub where I had a half of (Marston's) Wainwright...another good drop!

Moving along quite quickly and we approached what could have been (should have been!) one of the highlights of the day...it was the opposite. From the outside, The Crown Inn looked everything that a pub should be.
Inside, it wasn't. At first it sounded like live music was on, but then we realised that it was an excellent sound system turned up way too loud! This tactic obviously wasn't bringing in the custom as we doubled the attendance when we entered, whereas the rest of the pubs we'd visited had been all ticking over nicely for a Friday afternoon...not The Crown. I have to say, though, that my half of Woods Shropshire Lass was very good.

None of us were too sad when it quickly became time to depart for the Jasper's Arms.
By now it was dark and the Jasper's Arms was fairly busy, but we managed to find seats. It was a cosy, slightly more upmarket place that had a ceiling covered with old pumpclips. I was still on the halves, here it was Three Tuns XXX, which wasn't particularly to my liking. (There was nothing wrong with it, just not to my taste!)

All too soon we were approaching our final (7th) Shifnal pub of the day, the Odfellows.
From the outside I was a bit concerned that it was a converted solicitor's office (or similar), but inside it was a proper, fairly busy pub. Salopian Lemon Dream was on, so I had a pint...very nice!

At this stage, Paul set off back to Kent (a long trek back from 'darkest' Shropshire) and the rest of us supped our ales ready for one last call. This was Martin's hotel for the night so we bade him farewell (safe in the knowledge that he'd probably visit the remaining pubs in the town) and we waited for the train to Wolverhampton. Once there, the three of us (one Paul, two Peters and two Mudgies) decided that we had time for a short diversion to the Great Western.
By the time we got there, it was heaving, but as luck would have it a group were just leaving as we got served. I had my first drop of any of the Black Country beers that had been on offer all day...a pint of Bathams Bitter. Before we went our separate ways, I had time for a swift half of Salopian Lemon Dream.

The perfect end to a great day out! It was good to meet Paul for the first time (all the way up from Kent) and it was good to catch up with Martin, Paul and Peter. The rain didn't dampen our spirits (I often believe that a cool, dull, damp day makes the pubs seem that bit more welcoming!)...and we never mentioned the election once!

Shifnal is a hidden gem with a fine collection of proper pubs all within easy walking distance of each other and with a very varied selection of ales on offer. It isn't as touristy as some places (nor as twee) rather it shows off the best of 'ordinary' England!

Onward to Burton upon Trent in early March for the next installment...unless someone organises one in between times!

Monday, 25 November 2019

#269 Queen's Head, Stoke Pound, Worcestershire : 1987 to 2019

The Queen's Head at Stoke Pound is in the perfect position for weary boaters on the Worcester & Birmingham Canal. If you're heading up from Worcester it is situated in the small gap between the six Stoke Locks and the daunting prospect of the thirty (yes, 30!) Tardebigge Locks so you have a decision to make...should we stay...or should we go on? If you're heading down from Birmingham the decision is much easier...knackered after 30 locks...you stay!

Our first visit was a lunchtime stop on Sunday 5th July 1987 as we headed down the canal towards Worcester. According to the log, it had taken us 4 hours 10 minutes to get from The Crown at Alvechurch to the Queen's Head...a pretty decent time to do the thirty locks with a crew of four.

I don't remember a great deal about the pub other that it was a 'gastropub' even before the term became official in 1991 (according to Wikipedia). It was the definite place to go to for Sunday lunch in that part of Worcestershire!

Our trips along that part of the canal system are quite sporadic and we didn't return, heading towards Worcester, until the evening of Sunday 25th May 1997. (Picture taken next am)

This photo shows what a superb location it is and it was still a very popular place for food and drink.

We returned at lunchtime on Monday 12th August 2002.

We were taking a boat painting trip so we'd interchange travelling with some boat painting as and when the weather allowed. The previous night we had been moored below the Stoke Locks, so after turning, we made the short journey to the Queen's Head for lunch before tackling some more painting and the thirty Tardebigge Locks...again!

Our next visit was on the evening of Wednesday 28th May 2008 on our way up from Worcester.

Again, there had been further external redecoration and refurbishment, most notably the addition of an awning, presumably to shelter the smokers as this was less that a year since the smoking ban had been implemented in England.

It was another five years before we were back on the evening of Sunday 12th May 2013...and this is what we found!

Disaster! Pub very definitely closed, but was this a permanent situation? A closer inspection revealed that it was undergoing a major refubishment following a change of ownership. Long term, that was good news, but in the more immediate short term we had to call a cab and dine in Bromsgrove!

We haven't managed to return to that stretch of the Worcester & Birmingham Canal since 2013, but I took the opportunity earlier this year to pop along and take a couple of photos to update the situation.


This was on the afternoon of Tuesday April 30th 2019. I must assume that most of the refurbishment was on the inside as the exterior looks to be largely unaltered. (I didn't go inside, but I'm guessing that it is still a gastropub!)

It is now run by the Lovely Pubs group which also operates The Boot in Lapworth (#004) and a few other gastropubs around South Warwickshire.

Sunday, 17 November 2019

#268 Plume of Feathers, Weedon Bec, Northamptonshire : 2001 to 2019

Back in 2001 we visited Weedon Bec twice on our journey to Aylesbury and back. On the second visit we ventured into the lower half of the village where we made our first visit to the Plume of Feathers.
This was on the evening of Tuesday 4th September 2001 and I don't recall much about the pub.

With Peggy Ellen being moved to Napton our first opportunity to revisit Weedon Bec came on our Easter outing to Northampton and back. Again, it was on the return journey that we decided to venture into Lower Weedon and we popped into the Plume of Feathers.
This was on the evening of Sunday 21st April 2019. The pub is a standard village local style boozer, with most people being in the garden as the weather at Easter was remarkably warm.

In the intervening 18 years the exterior decoration had changed markedly, but the building itself is remarkably unmodified. It was good to see that it was still there and doing a reasonable trade.

Friday, 8 November 2019

#267 The Bull/Roman Way Tavern, Fenny Stratford, Buckinghamshire : 1992 to 2019 RIP

Back in the early 1990's when our annual boating trips took us up and down the Grand Union Canal, Fenny Stratford was a regular stopping point because of the number of pubs in close proximity to the canal.
 The nearest was The Bridge Hotel, but across the road was The Bull and our first visit was at lunchtime on Monday 28th September 1992. As I recall it was a fairly standard two room pub - nothing particularly special, but as the sign by the front door says, "Snooker. Pool. Quality Lagers" were available...what's not to like?

We were back again a year later and, although the main pub sign had changed, I don't recall that the inside had changed much.
We stopped here twice the next year at lunchtime on Tuesday 21st September 1993 (above) and again on the evening of Tuesday 28th September 1993 (no picture as it was our last port of call for the evening and a bit dark!).
Although we visited Fenny Stratford in both 1994 and 1995, we didn't go back to The Bull. After this, the boat was moored in the Midlands and we didn't return to Fenny Stratford for a number of years.
 
We decided that a trip to Aylesbury and back was a good idea, allowing to revisit some of our 'old haunts' along the Grand Union. This was the scene in Fenny Stratford on the evening of Wednesday 29th August 2001.
A complete change of name in just eight years and it was now offering food - not really the full 'gastropub' conversion, just a slight gentrification!

We were back in Fenny Stratford a few days later at lunchtime on Monday 3rd September 2001.
I'm assuming the name change was prompted by the fact that the pub stands on Watling Street.

That was the last time we visited Fenny Stratford until this year. This was the scene that greeted us at lunchtime on Wednesday 7th August 2019.
No more pub; in fact it looked like all of the shops along that stretch were closed, just waiting for a redevelopment.

I don't know when it closed, but looking at Google StreetView, it was closed in 2009 when the name had changed to The Entertainers! This link shows the view in 2009.

Fortunately for us, there were other pubs open in Fenny Stratford, but none of them were doing food at the time of our visit! No doubt I'll report on these at a later date.

Thursday, 31 October 2019

#266 The Globe Hotel, Weedon Bec, Northamptonshire : 1992 to 2019 RIP

Weedon Bec (usually just referred to as Weedon) is one of those villages on the canal that for part of my boating life has been a regular stopping off point, then it wasn't on the itinerary for a while...but now it is back!

In it's heyday there were many more pubs in Weedon, but considering it's modest size, five is still quite a good number in this modern era!

My first visit to Weedon was on my very first canal boating trip back in 1980 when Emma Jane was moored at Woodford on the River Nene. This made Weedon a regular stop and we were back there in 1982 and 1984, all before I started taking photos of every pub we visited.

For the first half of the 1990's, Emma Jane was moored on the Southern Grand Union Canal at Cowley Peachey and then Winkwell. So, our summer/autumn jaunts would take us up the Grand Union to Braunston and beyond...and then return the same way (hopefully stopping at different pubs on the way down!)

I can't say that the Globe was our 'go-to' pub, but it was a pleasant enough place to visit and this first time was on the evening of Thursday 24th September 1992.

We were there again on the evening of Wednesday 22nd September 1993, but it was so late that the photo isn't great!

We were back again at lunchtime on Wednesday 31st August 1994.
Largely unchanged, although the Rooms Available sign has been replaced by a hanging basket.

We returned a year later in what would be our last visit for a few years as Emma Jane was returning to her 'old' moorings at Lapworth.
This was on the evening of Wednesday 30th August 1995. Although the signage had changed, I think that everything else was pretty much as before.

For the next few years our boating trips didn't take us through Weedon until we decided to revisit the Grand Union on a trip to Aylesbury and back. This time we stopped at Weedon twice and visited the Globe on both occasions.
Evening of Monday 27th August 2001.
Evening of Tuesday 4th September 2001. Little change, again, but the hanging baskets had bitten the dust!

A few years later, we had a little bit more time than we'd anticipated, so we added Weedon onto our itinerary.
This was on the evening of Sunday 29th May 2005 and still the signage hadn't changed...apart from the missing 'O'.

With the new boat, Peggy Ellen, now being moored at Napton returned on the evening of Friday 19th April 2019 (Good Friday) to be greeted with this scene.
It is a scene that is repeated up and down the land as large pubs/hotels become less viable and are turned into Tesco Express (or Sainsbury's or Co-op or Morrison's...etc). Sad, but inevitable in the modern age.

Looking through the historic pictures on Google Street View, the Globe was largely unchanged in 2009 (earliest picture), boarded up by 2012 (with a new main sign!) and was a Tesco Express by August 2014.
 

Monday, 14 October 2019

Strolling Through Scouseland

It was time for another Beer & Pubs Forum Proper Day Out and it was one I'd been looking forward to as I'd never been drinking in the centre of Liverpool.

The 'official' report by Pub Curmudgeon can be found here and here. This is my more pictorial essay...but this time I did make a note of every beer that I drank!

The day started off drizzly and overcast as so many of these days out seem to. Arriving at Lime Street Station I tried to get my bearings on the local maps and on Google maps, thinking it might be complicated (first time in a new city, etc!) So, after five minutes wasted, I stepped out of the station...and there was The Crown Hotel!
The Crown Hotel, Liverpool
Inside I met up with Peter and Paul (aka the two 'Mudgies') which was to be our full complement for the bulk of the day. My first pint of the day was Hop for Heroes from the Rudgate Brewery, which I enjoyed (don't expect any NBSS scoring from me!). It was here that Paul got a message from Sheffield Hatter saying that he'd be joining us at some stage during our tour.

So, next on the itinerary was the Ship & Mitre. I was happy to follow Peter and Paul as I really had no idea where I was going for most of the day!
Ship & Mitre, Liverpool
It is an impressive, solid building that is pleasantly cosy and welcoming inside. I chose a pint of Lupa which is brewed by their own Flagship Brewery. Again, a pleasant pint.

Moving on to another impressive building, The Railway.
The Railway, Liverpool
This was our designated lunch stop and it served its purpose very well. It was nicely busy (we managed to find a table and seats!) and was appointed in a slightly more contemporary style...plenty of cushions! Anyway, the Scouse was very good and my pint of Dizzy Blonde from Robinson's was also good.

Almost next door was our post lunch venue, The Lion Tavern.
The Lion Tavern, Liverpool
The pub is named after a steam locomotive that now resides in the Museum of Liverpool. Inside it was cosy, characterful and an 'old school' city pub. I had a pint of Salopian Lemon Dream which wasn't as lemony as I remembered, but still good.
The Lion Tavern, Liverpool
This was the view looking up!

Moving on (no rest for the Pubmen on a day out!) and our next stop was Ye Hole in Ye Wall.
Ye Hole in Ye Wall, Liverpool
This was another 'old skool' boozer largely unspoilt with the passage of time. I had a half of Noble Pilsner from the Lancaster Brewery. I was glad to only have a half as this experiment, to make a cask ale that tastes like a lager, didn't work for me!

Moving just around the corner (and passing two other pubs) we came to Thomas Rigby's.
Thomas Rigby's, Liverpool
Housed in another impressive building this was another proper pub where I had a pint of Red Star Formby IPA which was pleasant. I was amazed that this one street corner housed four pubs and one bar/nightclub which is more than some small towns have in total!

After the luxury of (twice) almost walking next door for the next pub, we now had a long stroll to our next destination, the Baltic Fleet.
Baltic Fleet, Liverpool
By now the rain was long gone and the sun had come out giving a rather pleasant afternoon stroll along the docks of Liverpool. The Baltic Fleet is an impressive building. Designed to resemble the prow of a ship it has chimneys and masts on the roof to give an even more nautical ambience.

Inside, I was less impressed as the d├ęcor was much more contemporary with pastel shades and bare brick walls. My pint of Wooden Ships from Neptune Brewery was good.
Baltic Fleet, Liverpool                                                                            © Photo Digital Art 2019
Then it was the long(ish) stroll back to the centre via Liverpool One where, remarkably, we didn't get lost. (I take no credit for this as I didn't really know where we were going for most of the day!)

We arrived at the White Star to find it packed and with live music on!
White Star, Liverpool
With the live guitarist bashing out Beatles and Oasis songs and there being little room to sit down I didn't expect us to stay too long. So, I decided that what I needed was a half of Carling from Molson Coors to refresh my palate. It was cool and refreshing as always and the Draught Bass wouldn't have achieved the same effect! Although we found some plastic temporary seating, we didn't stay too long...but it is a lovely pub and well worth a visit outside of prime time!

Our next, and final pub wasn't too far away.
Globe Hotel, Liverpool
The Globe is another great little city centre boozer, largely unspoilt by progress and not quite as busy as the White Star had been (but there wasn't much free seating). Here I had a pint of Wainwright from Marston's which was also pleasant.

As we were now quite close to the station, Peter and I had time for one more in The Crown whilst Paul's train was due and he left us (to be fair, he'd done the other 10 or so Liverpool heritage pubs the day before, so we understood!)
The Crown Hotel, Liverpool                                                              © Photo Digital Art 2019
Now it was early evening the place was heaving, but we managed to find seats in the back room. I finished with a pint of Gritchie Lore which was a nice way to end an excellent day's stroll around Scouseland.

Good beer, great company and some magnificent boozers - all-in-all a superb day out!