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Wednesday, 22 December 2021

#291 The Navigation, Kilby Bridge, Leicestershire : 1986 to 2021

 Our first ever visit to The Navigation Inn was on the evening of Wednesday 23rd July 1986.

This was our summer vacation and my first time along the Leicester Section of the Grand Union Canal. I remember little about the pub then apart from the fact that it was a pleasant, traditional canalside boozer (the photo is taken from the bridge over the canal).

We didn't return for many years and, when we did, it was a disappointment on the evening of Wednesday 27th August 1998!

The disappointment wasn't that it had become an Ansell's pub; no, it was that it was closed! We'd travelled for 5¼ hours in an afternoon from Foxton only to find that the landlord had, seemingly, done a 'runner'!

Peering through the windows was like looking into the Mary Celeste - there were still empty glasses and crisp packets littering the tables, but no sign of life.

We managed to slake our thirst and assuage our hunger in the not so nearby town/village of Wigston. According to the locals it's just "5 minutes" away...but that was obviously in a fast car as it was a good 20 minute walk (not what you really want after a 5¼ hour afternoon boating session through a dozen wide, heavy locks)!

It was another five years before we were back in Kilby Bridge for a lunchtime stop on Wednesday 20th August 2003.

This time it was open as just The Navigation and a free house as well. I have no recollection that particular visit, but over the years the pub has changed very little. (This time it took us just under 5 hours from Foxton!)
Boating trips that take us to Kilby Bridge inevitably entail a visit to Leicester (and often Nottingham) which are places that are only accessible (for us) on two week holidays. Thus, there is usually a significant gap between visits.
It was another six years before we returned, this time on the evening of Monday 7th September 2009 having had a lunchtime session in Leicester whilst waiting for our third crew member to join us for the rest of the trip.
There appeared to have been little change to the exterior of the pub (apart from a 'token' shelter over the external seating).
It would seem that our routine has changed from a visit every five years to six - we were back again at lunchtime on Friday 28th August 2015.
Again, no discernible change.
Another six years on and we made our most recent visit at lunchtime on Tuesday 10th August 2021.
The exterior is again largely unchanged (ignoring the fading of signs that have been there for at least 18 years!) but the doors and windows have been painted grey and the hanging sign has been replaced.
We sat in the front bar which is a proper old school canal pub bar and had a very pleasant lunchtime pub experience as I reported here.
The Navigation is a little gem of a pub and do I hope that we will be visiting it in the years to come (at 5 - 6 year intervals!)

Thursday, 25 November 2021

#290 Red Lion, Cropredy, Oxfordshire : 1998 to 2021

Our first ever visit to Cropredy was on the evening of Wednesday 2nd September 1998 on our way to Oxford by boat for the first time. On that evening we paid our first visit to the Red Lion (as well as the Brasenose Arms - #286)

We also stopped there on the way back on the evening of Tuesday 8th September 1998.

There are only two things I remember about the pub. Firstly that it was a cosy village local that did good food and, secondly, that there seemed to be no mention of Fairport Convention, nor the annual folk festival...anywhere! (Not quite sure what I did expect, but there were no pictures/posters at all!)

Our next jaunt along the Oxford Canal took us back to Cropredy on the evening of Monday 27th May 2002 as part of a short trip to Banbury and back.

Hardly any changes...even the same flags were hanging outside!

The next time was at lunchtime on Tuesday 24th August 2004 in the early part of our journey that had started out from Oxford.

Again, not much appears to have changed although the flags have gone (and the house that was 'Sold' last time appears to be back up for sale!)

It was a long time before we ventured back down the Oxford Canal, but our next stop at Cropredy was on the evening of Friday 26th July 2019 - the first evening of our journey that would take us down the River Thames.

At least, this time, the hanging sign has changed and the bloke in the picture is wearing different clothes (and there's still a house for sale!)

Our most recent visits were on the evenings of Tuesday 18th May 2021 and Monday 24th May 2021.

The first visit was very fleeting. The pandemic restrictions had only just relaxed to allow for indoor eating and drinking, but as we hadn't booked, there was no room for us to even just have a drink! (We'd intended to eat in the Brasenose Arms, but it was the chef's night off!)

On our return from Oxford, we made the decision to book in advance, so there were no problems this time. I can also report that the Red Lion is still a cosy local village pub that does very good food!

Monday, 15 November 2021

#289 Foxton Locks Inn, Foxton, Leicestershire : 1986 to 2021

 I know, it's been a while since I last posted, but I'm back now with a few more new pubs from my archives!

This time I'll start with a pub that didn't exist! Back in 1986, we descended Foxton Locks (a genuinely thrilling experience...then, as now!), but this was the scene that greeted us at the bottom on the afternoon of Wednesday 23rd July 1986.

From this viewpoint; to the right is the set of ten locks that make up the Foxton Flight; to the left is the 1½ miles of the Market Harborough Branch and behind is the rest of the Leicester Section of the Grand Union Canal leading to Leicester and the Soar Navigation beyond that.

Back in 1986, the building directly ahead was Foxton Boat Services which was a chandlery and boat repairs in the main.

The next time we visited, in 1997, it was still the same set up and I didn't take a photo. However, it was a memorable and potentially disastrous visit at lunchtime on Wednesday 27th August 1997.

This was the day that I nearly blew up our boat Emma Jane! We'd descended the locks without problem and gone for lunch at one of the nearby pubs. After lunch, we needed to buy a new Calor Gas cylinder as the previous one had run out. 

I connected the gas and William paid for the cylinder in the shop. It was my turn to steer for the afternoon, but we were in no rush. So, before starting the engine I stepped back onto the boat where I got a very, very strong smell of burner of the gas cooker was still open and the whole cabin was filled with gas!! I quickly closed the valve, opened the windows and got off the boat (and warned William not to light his cigarette!!)

Fortunately, there was no spark and, after a few nervous minutes, the gas dispersed safely...but it could have been a very serious event!

The next time we were there was on the evening of Tuesday 8th September 2009 and the scene was very different!

A completely different vista to previously and a new pub had been established. This picture was taken before we entered the lock flight and moored above the locks for the evening. The Foxton Locks Inn had become a popular tourist destination and we only had a pint before moving on to one of the other Foxton pubs.

I have no idea when it became a pub, but it certainly has become a popular place. Our next encounter was on the morning of Saturday 29th August 2015, although we were only passing by on the way to Market Harborough for lunch.

In the intervening years the exterior had been repainted and the restaurant had got a more permanent, flat roof.

Our most recent encounter was at lunchtime on Monday 9th August 2021.

Little seemed to have changed in the six years since we were last passing by, but it is certainly a popular spot during the boating season! It was still operating a table service system, but as it is more of a restaurant than proper pub, that wasn't a problem.

This final image is from the same bridge as the first picture back in 1986 to give the perspective of 35 years of change! (And it is nice, for a change, to be able to report on a pub that has been created rather than reporting on one that's been lost!)

Tuesday, 19 October 2021

A Saunter Round Sunny Stockport

After an enforced hiatus of 19 months it was time to get back into the saddle and start saving pubs again (or just visiting some decent boozers in convivial company!)

My participation almost didn't happen as a bout of severe toothache overnight nearly derailed my plans. By morning, the pain had subsided somewhat and with a strict 'diet' of painkillers and alcohol, I was sure that I could survive the day!

My first port of call for a Proper Pub Day Out is usually the same - Bournville Café for a decent breakfast to set me up for the journey.

The eagle-eyed amongst you will have noticed the use of the word 'sunny' in my title and yet this looks decidedly overcast...well, yes, it was a somewhat dull start to the day, but by the time I arrived at Stockport Station the sun was out.

After studying the maps and Google Street View, the walk to our rendezvous pub was shorter and easier than I'd expected!

The Queens Head is a 'larger than it looks from the outside' Sam Smith's establishment. Pub Curmudgeon and Paul Bailey were already there...and have both reported on the day out already (I'm usually last in these matters!). Soon we were joined by Retired Martin, Sheffield Hatter and Leonlen...sadly Paul Mudge was unable to join us owing to a broken foot. Anyway, my pint of Taddy Lager was fine!

Soon it was time to move on to the next pub, but not before a slight detour to see a clock strike noon...except that it didn't...apparently it is still out of commission as the building refurbishment continues!

A stroll through the shopping centre brought us to the Swan with Two Necks.

Our first Robinson's pub of the day...and some of 'the gang' just about to enter. This is another one of those 'bigger on the inside' places with an interesting layout. My Dizzy Blonde was very pleasant.

All too soon it was time to move on to our lunch stop at the Arden Arms.

Despite being a little out of the town centre, the Arden Arms was doing a brisk trade and it was a good job that Pub Curmudgeon had booked a table for us! The food and drinks arrived promptly...well...apart from my pudding which took a bit longer! My Robinson's Hopnik Citra IPA was superb...even though it looked very much like a lager.
Although it looks somewhat unprepossessing from the outside, the Arden Arms is a gem inside and well worth the visit.
Next up was The Railway.
If I hadn't been with people in the know, I'd have walked past without realising there was a pub there. The fact that it has been under threat of closure and demolition for a number of years explains the lack of investment in fancy new signage. Inside it is still a proper pub serving a range of beers...and we're at the stage, now, where I can't remember what I did have to drink! ("Take notes!!" I hear you cry. Well, I did have three pens with me, but all three were knackered!)
I hope it survives as it's a friendly pub and there seemed to be enough derelict shops nearby that deserve to be demolished first! Then it was time to move on the Boar's Head.
Another magnificent Sam Smith's it was another pint of Taddy Lager for me (I'm not a fan of Old Brewery Bitter)
All too quickly, we were off again heading for The Petersgate Tap which I'd passed, but not noticed, on my way from the station several hours earlier!
Inside, it felt more like a pub than do many micros with a fine range of cask ales, craft beer and gins. No doubt I had something hoppy and citrussy, but I have no recollection as to what it was! This was the place where we got 'the gang' back together after various people had gone in different directions at lunchtime (the usual schism - food versus no food on a pub crawl!).
Then it was time for our saunter to turn into an uphill trek, which would have been more of a problem for me in the recent past, but I only required one major sit down on the way (thanks to my twice weekly gym sessions!). Before we got to our destination, there was a chance for a picture of the iconic Robinson's Unicorn Brewery looking magnificent in the late afternoon sunshine (and with a bit of extra editing from me!)
Our ultimate destination, the Sun & Castle wasn't too much further away!
It is a good number of years since I had a pint of Holt's Bitter (2013 - The Volunteer in Sale!) and it tasted pretty much as I remembered although the price was somewhat higher than back then (understandably!). Another lovely pub.

Then it was time to move on again to The Armoury.
By now, my memories are getting pretty vague and, if I hadn't been carrying a camera, I'd probably have forgotten the visit altogether!
And, finally, it was time to move on to our last pub of the day out - Ye Olde Vic (ignoring sound advice, I took the picture after I left for the station by which time the sun had set!)
I have no recollection as to what I drank here, but I do remember there being a gentle discussion of climate change. I also seem to remember saying that, "I'm right, of course!" which in a more sober state I'd never dream of saying as it's the last thing that will win an argument! Hey ho! All good clean fun!
Pub Curmudgeon's interesting and cunning itinerary meant that the station was only just over the road and easily accessible (if you don't go into the car park next door!) With that, I was soon on a train whizzing back to Brum - change at Stoke; change at New Street and change at Kings Norton (oops!)! The last change was unplanned as I dozed off between Selly Oak and Bournville (2 minutes at most!) and only regained consciousness just as the doors were closing!
It was a magnificent day out, aided by the wonderful autumn weather and a superb selection of proper pubs...not a dud amongst them! Thanks again to Pub Curmudgeon for arranging this little saunter!
Where to next? Sheffield Hatter is planning a trip to Belper on Thursday 18th November (which sounds interesting!). Macclesfield has also been mooted by Retired Martin for (possibly) Friday 5th November which is also of interest as I haven't been there since January 2015 (and I don't think that we've ever done it justice!). Unfortunately, this time of year is my busiest time in the run up to Christmas, so I don't know which (if any) I'll be able to make!

Monday, 27 September 2021

UPDATE - #054 The Fountain Inn, Cheapside, Birmingham

 Contrary to my last post on The Fountain, the pub has been resurrected as The Fountain Inn!

I realise that I'm not the first to bring you this good news, but better late than never. It must be doing some things right, though...note the mobility scooter outside and the 'old boy' getting into the taxi!

Apparently, the refurbishments cost £1 millon and included installing a 1920's car in side the pub - more details here.

For those looking for real ale, it doesn't look promising from the inerior bar shots in the article! Still, it is just great news that a 'lost' pub has returned!

Tuesday, 21 September 2021

Boozin' and Cruisin' through the East Midlands (Part 6)

 Day 11 - Tuesday

We're on the final leg of our little tour of the Midlands and now moving away from the hub of Life After Football country!

The journey from Atherstone takes us through Hartshill (nice pub, the Anchor, but I haven't been for several years...bad timing!) and through Nuneaton heading for our lunchtime destination of The Greyhound at Hawkesbury Junction.

The gazebo/tent for outdoor service has gone and the pub is almost back to normal...except that it was table service via an app (which actually worked well!). This meant that for today's Bass porn you don't get to see the hand pump...just an 'interracial' threesome on a bar room table!
I've already played this game on Twitter - guess which is my pint!

Following a very pleasant lunchtime session we set off for a rare trip into Coventry - UK City of Culture 2021. The final 5-mile stretch of the Coventry Canal has become increasingly more pleasant over the past few years as decaying industry and derelict factories get turned into residential complexes. The canal basin at the terminus is still a lovely little haven, although mooring was at a premium as certain places had to be booked in advance because of Coventry's new-found status. We just managed to squeeze Peggy Ellen into a (semi) legal mooring spot.

And so, into Coventry we ventured! In the past we've struggled to find decent pubs in the city, but with the help of Retired Martin we headed for this gem!

Without Martin's excellent blog (and Google Maps) we would never have discovered this lovely pub...the Town Wall Tavern...a proper local in the city centre!

After a couple of pints we moved on in search of food - a lovely Italian - through the rain which always seems to accompany our jaunts into Coventry city centre (whether forecast or not!). Then it was onward to our final pub of the evening.

Yes, The Flying Standard is a Wetherspoon's, but it was now after 10pm and not much else was open! The rain finally eased and, after a couple of pints, we strolled back to Coventry Canal Basin and our slightly dodgy mooring!

Day 12 - Wednesday
In the morning we retraced our route out of Coventry to Hawkesbury Junction where we joined the (North) Oxford Canal. It was way too early to stop at The Greyhound again, so we pushed on to Ansty.
It is a good many years since I've been to the Rose & Castle and it has undergone a complete external transformation (#035 UPDATE). Inside, however, was pretty much as I remembered it. In reality the Rose & Castle is no longer a pub (and hasn't been for many years), but it was almost full on this Wednesday lunchtime so you can't really argue with their model! The food was good, the beer satisfied, so what's not to like!

The afternoon's cruising took us to Rugby with a brief stop for a pump-out at Rose Narrowboats. It was my intention to take my shipmates to some of the fine pubs we visited on our Proper Day Out to Rugby in 2019. As our mooring was well over a mile away from the town centre, we called a cab, first stop The Seven Stars.
My travelling companions were as impressed as I'd hoped, but we had to go after one pint as there were other pubs to see! Next stop the Alexandra Arms...except it only opens on Thursdays to Sundays (and it is now the Alexandra Tavern!)
So, it was back to an old favourite - The Squirrel.
Unfortunatey, for us, it was 'Open Mic' night so the place was packed, but we managed to get seats...without a table! It obviously works well for the pub, but not really our thing. We scurried out after a pint, had a Chinese meal across the road and finished off in The Rupert Brooke.
Yes, I know it's the town Wetherspoon's (two nights running!), but both the Victoria Inn and Merchant's Stores were in the wrong direction for us!
Day 13 - Thursday
Next morning gave us a pleasant session of Hillmorton Locks which can, sometimes, take ages to get through, but with the help of the Canal & River Trust volunteers, we traversed the three locks without delay. This meant a relatively early lunch stop at a pub that I'd visited on my first ever canal trip in 1980 (and moored in the exact same spot!).
formerly The Old Royal Oak
Back then it was a proper country pub called The Old Royal Oak, now it is a Greene King Pub & Carvery called The Waterside.
formerly The Old Royal Oak
Despite the fact it was Thursday lunchtime, carvery was the only menu choice (or hot roast baps!). Not ideal, but we usual!
Our afternoon was taken up with the relatively short stretch to Braunston where our first pub of the trip became our last pub as well.
Our final evening of the trip, back in The Boat House, which was as pleasant and satisfying as ever.
Day 14 - Friday
This just left us the 90 - 110 minute journey back to Wigrams Turn Marina. We'd agreed on a breakfast free, early start, but a mis-communication between the Captain and his crew saw us get underway at the ungodly remarkably early time of 7:10 am! The crew had been expecting an 8:00 am start (after the Captain's morning walk, which never happened!) and were somewhat startled as the engine started up just after 7 am! 
Our Captain (and proprietor) was under the impression that this was normal procedure for the final morning trip back to the marina, but I do believe that he had mistaken us for a different crew that he also journeys along the waterways with! No real hardship and we were back at the marina and on the road home by about 10:00 am at the end of another thoroughly enjoyable trip aboard Peggy Ellen!

Saturday, 18 September 2021

Boozin' and Cruisin' through the East Midlands (Part 5)

 Day 9 - Sunday

This is the view from the canal as you leave Burton, heading south on the Trent & Mersey Canal.

Next stop Alrewas...passing through several locks along the way. This stretch of the Trent & Mersey is quite pleasant, but there is the constant presence of the A38 that's never far away.

There are three pubs in Alrewas, but it is a few years since we stopped there. This time, we tied up at the first avaialble mooring and headed into the village. The first pub we came across was the William IV, a place we haven't visited for many, many years.

It's a comfortable village pub that was almost full when we arrived. We were informed that there was no space for us to eat Sunday lunch, but we could sit down and drink in the small area reserved for drinkers. However, the landlord did his best to retain us as his customers by suggesting that, if we waited about 45 minutes, he was sure that at least one table would become available...and he was right. One couple left after their meal giving us the opportunity to have the best value Sunday lunch you'll find anywhere (which explained exactly why the pub was so popular!)

This wasn't a carvery, but a plated full Sunday roast was a mere £5.99p, delivered to the table...I almost told him that he should charge a couple of quid more (and it would still be good value!), but decided against it! Certainly one of the best customer service experiences of the holiday!

Then it was back to Peggy Ellen for a somewhat drizzly afternoon trip to Fradley Junction (not the right time for the Swan Inn) and along the Coventry Canal to Hopwas and the Tame Otter.

We chose the Tame Otter because we knew that they served food till 8pm on a Sunday (it's a Vintage Inn) and it's always reasonable.

Day 10 - Monday

Since it was fully opened in 1789, the Coventry Canal has always been a busy route as it links the Trent & Mersey to the Birmingham & Fazeley Canal and the Oxford Canal giving a link to the Grand Union Canal to London. In the modern era it is still a busy waterway!

Since leaving the River Trent, the traffic had steadily gotten busier and the Coventry Canal was as busy as we could remember it ever being. It is a canal of few locks, but the two at Glascote can add hours to a day's journey. This time we were fourth in the queue, but at the head of that queue was a pair of traditional boats which were being hauled through the locks by a husband and wife team and their two young children. A magnificent sight, but an extra hour (plus) on our journey.

So, rather than pushing on to Polesworth, we stopped at the Gate Inn in Amington.
A pleasant boozer with a perfect location for us boaters as we moored up right outside the pub. It was very quiet (Monday lunchtime!), but both the beer/lager and food were very welcome.

Atherstone was to be our evening stop, but we didn't know at this stage whether we'd have to stop after six locks of the Atherstone flight, or whether we could make it through all eleven before darkness fell.

We were in luck - all of the boats we'd been following most of the afternoon either stopped or turned around...and the traditional pair from earlier had also moored up for the night. Once we'd entered the flight there was a fairly steady stream of boats coming down meaning less work and a quicker passage for us.

Mooring above the top lock at Atherstone was quite competitive, but we found a spot about ¼ mile from the bridge. So, we headed into town for the Market Square.

Considering it was a Monday evening, The Angel was doing a very nice trade and we struggled to find a seat...but the Citra was very nice! After a couple of pints we went in search of food. I think it's fair to say that Atherstone isn't a place for gourmet dining (we've had previous bad experiences!), but we managed to find an Indian restaurant which was perfectly adequate!

Then we moved on to the next pub we came across - the Black Horse (and a bit more Bass porn for the afficionados!)

Bass porn

A cosy little pub that we've been unable to get in previously, but it wasn't very busy on a Monday evening (despite/because of having hand pulled Bass available!!)

...and there I must leave you again! Our journey is nearing it's conclusion, but I didn't think it would occupy this many posts!

(To be continued)