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Thursday, 9 July 2020

#277 The Three Horseshoes, Winkwell, Hemel Hempstead : 1992 to 2019

Having no new pubs to report on in 2020 and having exhausted the interesting local watering holes, I thought I'd take a while away from blogging. But now, the pub world is waking up from its long slumber and my fellow bloggers have hit the ground running, so I decided to get back on the horse myself.

What better place to restart than this little gem tucked away on the Grand Union Canal near to Hemel Hempstead?
This was on the evening of Thursday 1st October 1992 towards the end of our first journey up and down the Grand Union in the days when our boat Emma Jane was moored down south. It had been an eventful trip encompassing floods and a fire in the engine room. The pub was very close to the boatyard from where we had begun our journey, but our final destination was another day away at Cowley Peachey.

Back in the early 1990's, The Three Horseshoes was a superb country pub that was both a local and did very good food.

Our next visit was at lunchtime on Saturday 18th September 1993 when we visited before setting off from our new moorings at Winkwell.
Not surprisingly, the pub was completely unchanged.

Another year later and again, prior to picking up the boat we 'retired' to The Three Horseshoes for lunch - it was Saturday 27th August 1994.
Nothing new to report, which is the reason I kept taking pictures from different angles!

The last year that Emma Jane was moored at Winkwell was in 1995 and we made two visits to the pub. First was on the afternoon of Saturday 3rd June 1995 before we set off on a journey that took us to Lime House Basin in London.
 Our final visit was at lunchtime on Saturday 26th August 1995 as we set off from Winkwell for the final time to take Emma Jane to her new moorings at Lapworth.
Still unchanged and one of the best canalside pubs along that stretch of the Grand Union Canal.

Over the next years, our canal adventures didn't take us as far south as Winkwell until 2019, when we undertook a massive journey down the River Thames and back up the Grand Union Canal, starting and finishing at Napton.

This is how The Three Horseshoes looked at lunchtime on Monday 5th August 2019.
Just a few changes in 24 years, but nothing unexpected nor too untoward! As you would expect it is now more of a gastropub. Whilst the cosy, proper pub feel is long gone it still feels like an old establishment and has a selection of real all is not lost.

I'd like to tell you about the pub in more detail, but my stay was fairly short lived. I had to pop into Hemel Hempstead to acquire a new phone as my old one wasn't working since I fell into the canal a couple of days earlier!

I can report, though, that The Three Horseshoes has survived coronavirus and has reopened, according to their Facebook page

Sunday, 31 May 2020

The Harborne Run

As we're still living in the time of coronavirus I thought that I'd combine my (semi) regular exercise with more photography/artistry and put together a virtual pub crawl.

Since the loss of Alan Winfield, there haven't been many tales of epic (or otherwise) pub crawls that I've seen recently. We get write-ups of our Proper Pub Days Out, but these are genteel affairs compared to the mythical pub crawls of yesteryear.

Friends of mine who are native Brummies used to take part in the Harborne Run every Christmas Eve, but that was before I knew them, so I've never taken part in it. I shall attempt a pictorial re-creation of what would still constitue an epic alcoholic journey through Harborne...assuming that all of these pubs re-open after the pandemic.

Personally, I'd start at the 'Top' end of Harborne, but I've read of people starting at the other end. The first two pubs on the old crawl are no longer in existence - the Duke of York and the Kings Arms (see here). Some people may choose to start in The Bell (a lovely pub), but I feel that it is a bit too far off the beaten track. This would be my starting point for the 'New' Harborne Run.

The Vine - May 2020
Not long after the demise of the Duke of York and the Kings Arms, The Vine was boarded up and looked like it was going as well. Fortunately, it got a complete refurb and was expanded. It is now one of M&B's 'Sizzling Pubs'.

Moving swiftly on and just around the corner is The New Inn.
The New Inn - May 2020
This was the subject of my previous post, so there's little more to say about this lovely Marston's pub.

Next on the journey is The Junction which we've accessed from the road to the left (below).
The Junction - May 2020
Over recent years, The Junction has undergone various guises - it was a 'proper' M&B boozer, then an O'Neill's, followed by gastro-ification (is that a word?) and now it is one of M&B's Castle pubs. (A little less gastro; a bit more pub!)

Now we've reached the main body of the Harborne Run. Next up is the Slug & Lettuce (on the left from the view above).
Slug & Lettuce - May 2020
I haven't been in here for many years, usually because it is heaving whenever we've been passing. This is part of the Stonegate group of pubs and is a typical Slug & Lettuce. I'm fairly sure that this wasn't one of the original destinations on the Harborne Run.

On the other side of the High Street and a litle bit further down the hill is the other Stonegate pub - the Harborne Stores. (This is next door to Harborne's very own micropub, The Paper Duck, which I've decided to leave out of the itinerary for purely selfish reasons!)
Harborne Stores - May 2020
This is an 'old school' boozer and is always packed. It is usually like stepping back in time to how pubs used to be with regard to the atmosphere.

Further down the High Street we take a right before The Schoolyard (aka Harborne Clock Tower) and head a short way up York Street to the White Horse.
The Schoolyard - aka Harborne Clock Tower (not a pub) - May 2020
White Horse - May 2020
This is another Harborne gem of a pub which has it's own on-site brewery (Ostler's Ales). It is a perennial Good Beer Guide entrant, and rightly so (occasionally, they even manage to obtain a barrel of Batham's Bitter!)

Now, the itinerary could go in one of two directions; up York Street to the Hop Garden or back to the High Street (my choice!). Diagonally opposite York Street is where we'll find the Brewer's Social (another pub not on the original Harborne Run).
Brewer's Social - May 2020
In recent history this was a cake shop and café which morphed into a pop-up pub run by Sadler's of Lye in the Black Country. I missed visiting as that incarnation and then it shut. Subsequently, Sadler's were bought out by Halewood and the local brewery closed down, so I didn't expect it to reappear, but here it is. Definitely worth adding to the route of the crawl.

Next, and we've almost got to the bottom of the High Street, it's The Plough.
The Plough - May 2020
I have mixed feelings about The Plough. In the 'good old days' this was a proper pub with a small, intimate bar and service for the 'lounge' (and 'garden') was through a hatch. Almost 20 years ago it closed and after extensive remodelling The Plough reappeared as an upmarket gastro pub, losing all of it's character in the process. Despite my reservations, though, it is a very popular venue and during the current crisis they are serving takeaway coffee and food.

Across the road is the final pub on the High Street; the Green Man.
Green Man - May 2020
I'm sure that this is the pub you've all been waiting for. What tour of suburban Birmingham is complete without a visit to an Ember Inn?

Again, we're faced with a dilemma - nine pubs visited (ten if you've been in The Paper Duck) - and there are two left to go, but in different directions, so it is unlikely that you'd do both.

Closest, and a five minute walk around the back of the Green Man on Metchley Lane is the Hop Garden (formerly The Sportsman).
Hop Garden - May 2020
I haven't been here for so many years that I have no idea what it is like inside, but it seems to have beome another real ale 'paradise' and they are offering takeaway beer sales during the lockdown. Hopefully that will be enough for them to survive into the future.

However, if you don't fancy that, from the Green Man you could take a ten minute walk down Harborne Road to The White Swan.
The White Swan - May 2020
 Back in the day this used to be known colloquially as the Dirty Duck (not to be confused with The Duck on Hagley Road which for many years, in the 70's and 80's, was an oasis of real ale in the Ansell's/M&B desert that Birmingham was in those days!). The main hanging pub sign did, for a while, reflect the dual name of the pub, but it has now been somewhat gentrified and is part of M&B's Premium Country Pubs collection.

So, there you have it, a modern-day Harborne Run fit for the 21st Century and, assuming they all survive, an unrivalled selection of pub diversity, in such a small space, than you could find anywhere else in the country.

For more information on Harborne and it's pub history (including the Harborne Run) you can check out the Wikipedia page!

Tuesday, 26 May 2020

#098 New Inn, Harborne, Birmingham : 1998 to 2020 (Revisited)

The New Inn is still a pub that I visit infrequently and, before I chronicle the last eight years, here's what I put in 2012: -

Harborne is a well-to-do suburb of Birmingham, next-door to Edgbaston and close to Birmingham University. Traditionally it has had a good number of pubs and was ideal for student pub crawls (although, sadly, I never partook of the 'Harborne Run'!).

The New Inn is off the High Street and was a lovely little pub with a small bar at the front and a small separate room off the entrance corridor. Through to the rear was a larger lounge and a bowling green out the back. It was always a very popular place. I'm not sure when I first visited and I have no idea exactly when I took this photo except that it was definitely in 1998.
I also don't know when it became a Banks's pub, but I assume it was part of the swap deal that gave Banks's some pubs in Birmingham and M&B some pubs in the Black Country. Here's a link to show what it looked like in 1960.

Over the following years I've been an irregular visitor and witnessed the slow decline of the New Inn. The two rooms at the front stayed pretty much the same, but the lounge was refurbished. In the long term, though, each time we visited there seemed to be fewer and fewer customers. I found this mystifying as, in a place like Harborne, it should have been packed. But it seems the pub trade is changing rapidly and in 2012 the New Inn was reborn.

It is now a Steak and Ale house and is part of the Bitters 'n' Twisted group of bars here in Birmingham. This group has been responsible for the resurrection of the Rose Villa Tavern and also runs two more pubs and a couple of themed bars.
From this picture taken on 16th May 2012 you can see that the outside it has been radically changed and inside it has been completely opened out as it has been transformed from a homely little boozer into a very up market Pub Restaurant. The new New Inn isn't really 'my cup of tea', but it's good to see that it is now successful.

It is interesting how trends and fashions change so quickly. When I went back to the New Inn a few years later, it was still run by Bitters'n'Twisted, but was far less popular than it had been when it was newly refurbished and revamped. This picture is from that time and was taken on 3rd June 2016.
The pub had undergone another external redecoration, but was still relatively unchanged on the inside.

Over the next few years we still popped in now and again, but it always seemed to be fairly quiet each time. Our most recent visit was just before the lockdown. We discovered that it had reverted back to Marston's control (this apparently happened in 2017 after Marston's and Bitters'n'Twisted couldn't agree terms for the rent) and that the new gaffer had plans to get The New Inn thriving again. (It was, again, very quiet for a Saturday evening!). Hopefully, the lockdown will only have delayed the plans, but I suspect it may have destroyed them. Only time will tell.
This is how it looked on the morning of 26th April 2020 as I took my lockdown exercise. It is largely unchanged since the previous redecoration.

Before the pandemic I was concerned for the future of the New Inn and now I suspect that it may be one of the pubs that doesn't reopen. This is a minor tragedy as the New Inn is back to being a proper pub, but because it is away from the main drag it doesn't get the trade that such a pub deserves (and there are plenty of pubgoers that frequent Harborne!). No doubt, all will become clearer in the coming weeks and months.

Tuesday, 5 May 2020

#101 The Patrick Kavanagh, Moseley : 1996 to 2020 (Revisited)

As our restrictions continue, I thought that I'd visit Moseley to catch up on some more relatively local boozers to see how they'd changed in the past eight years. This is what I wrote about The Patrick Kavanagh Bar in 2012 - 

I've known this pub from the days I was a student here in Birmingham. Back then it was The Trafalgar and for a few years my friends lived in the house next door (on Trafalgar Road). It was a lovely, cosy pub with several rooms including a bar, lounge and a small 'snug' room. That was in the early 80's and, as with many things, it gradually went into decline.

Some time later it was refurbished in an attempt to bring it back to life, which was successful in the short term, but it also destroyed the intimate character it previously had. This is the first photo I took of The Trafalgar.
We were on our Spring canal trip and, because of a delay at the Shirley Drawbridge, we'd not made it into Birmingham and so we moored up in King's Heath and caught the bus to Moseley for an evening of nostalgia. This was on Saturday 25th May 1996 and it was still called The Trafalgar.

It was a couple of years before we returned and the name had been changed to The Patrick Kavanagh Bar.
I'm not sure exactly when this was taken, but I do remember the visit which was some time in 1998. We walked in one early evening to be confronted with this scene - there were no bar staff to be seen, but there were two rather large Alsatians wandering about and a man lying on the floor, unconscious! We turned around and left quite quickly!

We didn't return again until Saturday 29th May 2010. This time we'd moored up at Bournville and after a visit to my local, the Country Girl in Selly Oak, we'd caught a taxi and gone to Moseley for yet another trip down memory lane.
This time it was a much more welcoming experience and the pub was quite lively...a vast improvement over the experience 12 years previously! (Still not as good as 30 years ago...but then again, what is?)

Finally, here is my latest photo, taken on Sunday 11th November 2012 on a stroll around Moseley to catch up on the pubs of my youth!
The Patrick Kavanagh Bar had yet another external coat of paint...and a new satellite dish. If you're in Moseley and on a pub crawl, this is another one to add to the list of potential venues.

The next time I was in Moseley with my camera was on the afternoon of Tuesday 12th April 2016 and there was little change...except that the large satellite dish had gone!

I happened to be passing by again eighteen months later and there had been a complete exterior redecoration.
This was on the afternoon of Tuesday 31st October 2017. As well as the redecoration, the name had changed subtly to just The Patrick Kavanagh (still known colloquially as Pat Kav's) and it was now advertising a beer garden (plus cask ales and craft beers!)

It was a couple of weeks ago that I thought I'd have a stroll around Moseley and take some pictures of the pubs for old times sake. In actual fact, I was on my way home from visiting my dentist. One of my (many) crowns had fallen out the night before and, although my dentist couldn't actually do any work on my mouth, she did provide a prescription for antibiotics should I need it. This was passed through the letterbox to me. So, I took a slight detour through Moseley to get home!

This was on the morning of Friday 17th April 2020. Very little had changed, except that upstairs is now home to the Fat Penguin Comedy Club, which is closed at present.

I deliberately took a slightly wider shot of The Patrick Kavanagh so that you can see the house that my friends lived in when they were doing their PhD's as mentioned in the openeing of my earlier piece. Just to bring everything full circle, on my last craft market of 2019 a woman bought my Photo Digital Art picture of Pat Kav's, purely because her house was in the picture - we had quite a chat about it! 

Tuesday, 28 April 2020

Sunny Selly Oak under Shutdown

Since the 'lockdown' started, I've grasped the opportunity to take pictures during my permitted daily exercise. 

Selly Oak is probably my next nearest suburb with pubs (Bournville is nearer, but publess!). I've also recently updated the previous Selly Oak pub entries on this blog.

So here we go with a wider view of Studentville Selly Oak.
Bristol Road, Selly Oak - April 2020
This is the classic picture postcard view of Selly Oak from the middle of the Bristol Road outside Selly Oak Station. It was about 2pm and you can see how little traffic there was, enabling me to get exactly the view I wanted (without much chance of getting run over!). Sadly, in reality, the bridge is sporting lots of grafitti that I've 'painted over' to give the view as it should be.

As I'm not a regular visitor, pretty much all of what I know about Selly Oak is the pubs, three of which I've reported on earlier.

Bristol Pear, Selly Oak - April 2020
This is the view from under Selly Oak Railway Bridge and shows the last pub I had a pint in before the lockdown. The Bristol Pear is a pub we pop into on the odd occasions when we're having a few drinks in Selly Oak, but it was on our last visit when I noticed this, directly opposite the pub, for the very first time!
Selly Oak Library - April 2020
Selly Oak Library (currently closed) is a replica of Stirchley Library (operational before the lockdown) and was built in 1909 (four years after Stirchley's). It is a Carnegie Library, has it's own Wikipedia entry and is Grade II listed.

Moving further down the Bristol Road towards town, we come across a 'new' pub that we had the chance on our most recent visit of going into for a pint, but we decided against!
The S'oak, Bristol Road - April 2020
Back in the late 70's when I was a student this was a row of shops, one of which was a very good secondhand bookshop. When The S'oak first opened (and I don't remember exactly when that was!) it only really occupied the corner part of the building, but has expanded over the years to occupy the whole ground floor.

As I was searching for details about the history of the pub, I came across this review on Pubs Galore by the late, pubman extraordinaire, Alan Winfield: -

"The S'oak looks like a modern pub that is housed in an old building,this was one of my Sons locals when he was at Birmingham University a few years back.
Once inside there is a very large single room with the bar in the middle area,the floor is bare boarded,the seating is tall tables and chairs and normal tables and chairs,there is a pool table to the rear right,the TVs were showing the FA Cup Final.
There were two real ales on the bar,i had a drink of Daleside G&P which went down well,the other real ale was GK Radio X Amplified.
I thought this was a decent enough pub to have a drink in."

Next door is the third of the 'student' pubs on the main drag of the Bristol Road.
Goose at the OVT, Selly Oak - April 2020
In the years that I've known this pub it has had four names (Bournbrook Hotel, Farce & Firkin, Old Varsity Tavern, Goose at the OVT) and been transformed, from a quite rambling multiroom pub, into something of a 'beer barn', originally, as M&B's answer to Wetherspoon's.

There is just one more pub on the Bristol Road and it is in the other direction. The Bear & Staff has an interesting back story!
Bear & Staff, Selly Oak - April 2020
Back in the day, near the junction of Bristol Road and Oak Tree Lane stood The Oak pub which was demolished in 1983 to make way for road widening. It was replaced by the Great Oak in 1985. A shiny new pub which I visited on the opening night. Less than 10 years later it was demolished to make way for Sainsbury's to expand their carpark in 1994! (see details here on this and the rest of Selly Oak's lost pubs!)

This was when the Bear & Staff came into existence, about 100 yards from where the Great Oak stood. It wasn't a new build. Much to our frustration this was, apparently, one of the best Italian restaurants in Birmingham (according to a taxi driver we met who regularly ferried people from BBC Pebble Mill to the restaurant!). Right on our doorstep and we never knew!

It is now a fairly bog-standard Marston's pub which was recently refurbished.

Finally, we come to the one Selly Oak entry not on the Bristol Road...and no prizes for guessing which pub it is...I give you the Country Girl!
Country Girl, Raddlebarn Road - April 2020
I've written plenty about what is, essentially, my local. So, I'll leave you with an image of it on a bright, sunny, early Spring day during the lockdown of 2020.  

Friday, 24 April 2020

#003 Goose at the OVT, Selly Oak : 1996 to 2020 (Revisited)

The lockdown continues and you find me, still in Selly Oak, with another pub that has changed it's name, several times, over the years. This is what I wrote in 2011: -

This is a strange one! When I first visited this pub as a student in the late 70's it was called The Bournbrook Hotel. It was usually full of students (no surprise) and was made up of several different rooms. It was a long time ago and I don't remember it too clearly!

Some years later it was refurbished (keeping many of the interior features) and renamed the Old Varsity Tavern. It was still popular with students and usually quite busy. Then (and I don't know when) it became the Farce & Firkin at the same time as quite a few other Birmingham pubs were rebranded as Firkin pubs. This picture is from 1996 as we did a pub crawl of Selly Oak on one of our canal trips!
At some stage it became the Farce & Firkin at the OVT, but this isn't shown on the pub in this picture.

As I live not too far away, I occasionally enter this establishment, but I can't say it is one of my favourite venues. Sometime later (again, I don't know when) it was refurbished and rebranded as the Goose at the OVT which is Mitchells & Butlers attempt to match Wetherspoon's. The pub is now a 'beer barn' selling cheap beer to any and all who can't afford to pay the inflated prices in other pubs!
This is how it looks now. Like many, it looks pretty much the same as ever on the outside, but inside its very different from 'the good old days'! I don't think they make use of the two upper floors (which is a waste) and notice the buddleia growing in the upstairs window. Still, I shouldn't complain too much at least it has survived the 'cull' of Selly Oak pubs which has taken away The Brook, Dog & Partridge, Great Oak and others that I never really knew!
(Since 2011, The Gunbarrels has also bitten the dust!)

The Goose at the OVT still isn't a place we visit very often, but here is how it looked in June 2014.
In the intervening years it had undergone a subtle exterior refurbishment, probably the first as a Stonegate pub (part of a deal that saw 333 pubs sold by Mitchells & Butlers in 2010). This has revealed the original embossed stonework saying 'Holt Brewery Co Ltd' and 'BOURNBROOK HOTEL' over the entrance.

And so we move on to my recent stroll up and down the Bristol Road in Selly Oak (April 2020).
It has undergone another exterior redecoration in one of the typical (for this current era) pastel shades, which I prefer to the previous scheme. For the first time in a while I was accosted whilst taking the photo by a man who crossed the road to ask what I was taking pictures of and why! It was the pub gaffer, who just happened to be returning home, and he was happy when I explained what I do.

It is a magnificent building and I do hope it survives as a pub for many years to come.

Sunday, 19 April 2020

#005 Bristol Pear, Selly Oak : 1996 to 2020 (Revisited)

I don't visit the Bristol Pear frequently, but this hostelry has the dubious honour of being the last pub I drank in before the current lockdown!

I have made occasional visits over the past few years, but this is what I wrote in 2011: -

I first visited The Station in the late 70's when I was a student. My vague recollection is that it was a pub for locals and full of 'old' people (at a guess, about the age I am now!) so I wasn't a frequent visitor.

As I lived in the area, over the years I visited a few more times and it was completely refurbished some years later. During this period, The Station was a regular stop off for a pint whilst our Chinese takeaway was being prepared on a Saturday evening. During this phase of its existence it was reasonably welcoming and catered for all ages. 

The picture below is from 1996 when I was visiting close to the end of our canal trip to Llangollen and Chester on the evening of Thursday 5th September 1996.

Not many years after this the pub was completely revamped into an 'It's a Scream' pub and renamed the Bristol Pear. This was Mitchells & Butlers way of making student friendly pubs, which seemed to work. On the odd occasions we visited it was full and loud, but strangely the layout was the same as before! The picture below is from the evening of Thursday 3rd June 2004 at the end of a short trip exploring some of the hidden canals in Birmingham.

Finally we come to the afternoon of Thursday 21st July 2011. I'm still an infrequent visitor, but it survives by being apparently what the students want, so who am I to argue?

It's a funny thing; when I was young this pub was full of old people, but now I'm 'old' it's full of young people so it has never been one of my favourite pubs...oh for a time machine.

I'm not sure if The Station was one of The Pub Curmudgeon's haunts when he too was a student in Brum, but I would like to take this opportunity to thank him for his help and encouragement with this blog and I'll finish with a story that will not help his blood pressure!

The last time I was in the Bristol Pear was on a Saturday evening and we were served our lager in plastic pints. We were told that this rule had come in after some trouble (unspecified at that time) and plastics must be used for beer after 7pm in all pubs in Selly Oak! The next pub we went to was The S'oak (a new establishment) where again we were served our pints in plastics. This time we found out the cause - in separate incidents someone had been glassed and someone had been badly cut after falling onto a broken glass. So maybe the precautions were warranted...except...the person had been glassed with a Coke glass and the person who'd fallen fell onto a wine glass. Neither of these types of glass had been banned!
I don't know if these restrictions are still in place as I've no real desire to go back and drink out of plastic!

I can confirm that the practice of drinking out of 'plastics' was a thankfully, short-lived phenomenon!

The next time I took photos was on the afternoon of Friday 6th June 2014.

As it happens, very little had changed in the passing three years.

Moving on to the time of Covid-19 and the first lockdown, I took these photos on my permitted exercise on the afternoon of Wednesday 8th April 2020.
 That is quite a refurbishment! The 'Scream!' pubs were bought by Stonegate (from Mitchells & Butlers) in 2010, but they ran them in a similar fashion for several years. The Bristol Pear is now part of the 'Common Room' brand within Stonegate (other brands include Slug & Lettuce, Walkabout, Yates to name a few). I do like the new look, but to my mind, you can't beat the classic décor from 1996 when it was still The Station!