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Saturday, 29 December 2012

#096 The Boot & Shoe, Nantwich, Cheshire : 2005 to 2012

Nantwich is a place we'd passed by on the Shropshire Union Canal, but didn't actually stop there until 1996. On our first few visits, we rarely ventured much past The Oddfellows which is the closest pub to the canal. In 2005, though, we decided to venture forth and discover what Nantwich had to offer the visiting imbiber.

We weren't disappointed; there was a fine selection of drinking establishments one of which is The Boot & Shoe.
This was taken on the evening of Sunday 28th August 2005 on our way back from Chester. As I recall (and I think it was our last stop of the evening!) it was a friendly local that had a very welcoming landlady.

We returned the next year on the evening of Wednesday 30th August 2006. This trip was to have taken us to Manchester, but we'd fallen behind schedule and ended up in Northwich having used the Anderton Boat Lift for the first time.
Unsurprisingly, it hadn't changed and was just as welcoming!

We did visit Nantwich again in 2007 (twice), but only visited The Boot & Shoe just once on the evening of Tuesday 28th August 2007 on our way to Llangollen. Again it was unchanged.

Our most recent visit to The Boot & Shoe was on the evening of Thursday 12th April 2012 during our first trip on a hire boat.
From the outside it appears, on first glance, to be completely unchanged, especially the signage. However, on closer inspection the pub as been double glazed in the intervening years. Also, there are no hanging baskets, but it was probably too early in the year. Inside it was just as welcoming as ever - well worth a visit!

Saturday, 22 December 2012

#095 The Shakespeare, Birmingham : 1999 to 2012

This is my 100th entry on this blog, although I've only listed 95 pubs so far! 
I'm not entirely sure when I paid my first visit to The Shakespeare, but the first time we went there on a canal trip was on Saturday 28th August 1999.
Obviously an evening stop, but I don't remember too much about it. At the time it was a fairly unremarkable corner pub, but one that had a nice room at the back.

Our next visit was on the evening of Tuesday 27th August 2003 at the end of a trip that had taken us to Leicester.
From this angle it is difficult to see whether there had been any changes, but if there were any they were only minor.

We were back again the next year, this time a lunchtime stop on Sunday 30th May 2004.
No real changes...and no food at lunchtime in those days, especially as it was a Sunday.

We then visited every year after that until 2008.
 Thursday 1st September 2005.

Saturday 3rd June 2006

Thursday 6th September 2007

 Saturday 24th May 2008

Over these years, the pub essentially changed very little, but was made much more presentable inside. This was probably a direct result of its proximity to the headquarters of Mitchells & Butlers which are next door. At that time it was an unbranded pub.

Our next visit was on Thursday 9th September 2010 and still there were no more changes.

In 2011, we paid two visits to The Shakespeare, which had now been branded as part of M&B's Nicholson's group of pubs.
This was on Thursday 2nd June 2011. The outside decoration was now in the black and gold livery of the Nicholson's brand and the hanging signs had been replaced. Inside, the overall feel and look had changed subtly, but as it was something of a classic inside before, there wasn't much that needed to be done to improve it.

And we were back on Thursday 6th September 2011. The Shakespeare had become a more regular watering hole as it is the nearest pub to the best curry restaurant in Birmingham, the Raj Doot, that had moved across town a few years earlier.

My final photo was taken this year as I was walking through the area to get shots of some of the Birmingham pubs to keep this blog up-to-date.
This was taken on Tuesday 28th August 2012. The Shakespeare is now our regular stopping off point prior to visiting the Raj Doot and I'll be there tonight!

At the start of this post I said that The Shakespeare was somewhat unremarkable, and so it was for 1999 as there were plenty of reasonably well appointed street corner boozers around. Now in 2012, with some refurbishment, The Shakespeare has become a more stand-out establishment in a world where so many other pubs have disappeared.

Monday, 17 December 2012

#094 Cherry Tree, Husbands Bosworth, Leicestershire : 1986 to 2012 (RIP)

This is going to be a relatively short entry. In 1986 I'd been taking canal holidays for six years, but this was the first year that I started taking a picture of each pub we they're not always the best!

Here is the photo of the Cherry Tree in Husbands Bosworth that I took on the evening of Tuesday 22nd July 1986. We were on a trip that would take us to Leicester and Nottingham.
Not my best picture as you can't even see the name of the pub! I actually had to do some research to find out what it was called as I couldn't remember it at all. What I did find, though, was this piece on the BBC website Domesday Project about Mr & Mrs Cave who were running the Cherry Tree in 1986.

We haven't stopped at Husbands Bosworth since, but I was driving to an Open Day at Foxton Locks (an excellent idea by the Canal & River Trust to show people what is actually involved in maintaining the 200 year-old canal system) and my journey took me through the village.

This is what I found when I got there on Sunday 16th December 2012.
No pub! Fortunately, someone came out of the Post Office and she told me that it had closed years ago and had been replaced with the housing development you can see here! The name of the pub lives on as this is now Cherry Tree Close.

When I got home I did some more research and found this photo of the pub after it had closed, but I'm not sure of the date.
This photo is courtesy of the Husbands Bosworth website. Apparently, as soon as it was closed it was demolished and the housing estate built.

Saturday, 8 December 2012

#093 Albion Inn, Tividale, West Midlands : 2005 to 2012

The canal journey between Wolverhampton and Birmingham is always interesting, but the opportunities to stop and find pubs is somewhat limited. This isn't too surprising as the Birmingham Canal Navigations (BCN) were, until fairly recently, mostly hidden away and closed off to the general public. In their heyday, these canals were like the railways and were extremely busy transporting goods around the Midlands. They were a place of work, not leisure.

Over the years we'd exhausted most of the available stops, usually Tipton and the Black Country Museum, but one day we decided to experiment and we moored up on the BCN Old Main Line near to where it goes over the Netherton Tunnel Branch of the BCN Main Line. We only had our 20-year-old Nicholson's Guide to go on and weren't sure if any of the pubs marked would still be open.

We were in luck and we found three pubs, none of which did food...until a helpful local directed us to the Toby Carvery just up the road. It was only then that I realised where we were as none of the streets we'd walked along were familiar to me.

Today's subject is the Albion Inn which was our last port of call before the Toby Carvery.
This was lunchtime on Thursday 1st September 2005. Although it looks to be an inviting prospect from the outside, inside it is a basic local boozer and there was no food on offer.

Our next visit was on Saturday 25th August 2007, again at lunchtime, but this time it was on the outward trip at the start of our holiday and we were heading for Wolverhampton.
There were no changes of note, but one of the signs still said "Bar Snacks" and there were none!

We haven't stopped there since then, but I was in the environs a few days ago and took this picture.
It was taken on Tuesday 4th December 2012. At first glance, nothing much has changed, but on closer inspection the main signs have been replaced with ones saying "Free House" although the hanging sign is the same as previously. Two satellite dishes have also appeared - a definite sign of the times!

Friday, 30 November 2012

#092 Shady Oak, Tarporley, Cheshire : 1996 to 2012

Our first visit to the Shady Oak was on our way to Chester after our first ever trip to Llangollen. It is situated in the middle of nowhere and is the only pub for several miles along this stretch of the Shropshire Union canal. Because of this isolation we stopped there twice.
Friday 30th August 1996.
Sunday 1st September 1996.

Both of these visits were lunchtime stops and as I recall they were both perfectly satisfactory.

We didn't cruise along this stretch of the Shropshire Union for quite a few years and we again visited twice on the way to and on the way back from Chester.
Friday 26th August 2005
Sunday 28th August 2005

The first stop was on the Friday evening and we only had one pint there as they weren't doing food that evening, so we took a stroll into Tarporley which is over a mile away. We had a pleasant evening in Tarporley and got a lift back courtesy of the good people in the Chinese Restaurant in the village.

On our way back from Chester we hadn't intended to revisit the Shady Oak. We stopped at Crow's Nest Bridge (No. 113) only to find that the pub listed in our (20 year old!!) canal guide was shut. So, reluctantly, we headed back to the Shady Oak. As I recall it wasn't such a pleasant experience as the pub seemed to be populated, mainly, by the owner's family who seemed to treat it like their home rather than as a pub. Needless to say the service wasn't great either.

Our most recent visit was on Easter Monday 9th April 2012. The pub is under different ownership and so it was a more pleasant experience than 7 years earlier.
However, I still feel that something is missing, but it's difficult to put my finger on what it is. I suppose, to sum it up, there's a general air of indifference about the place - the food was OK, the service was OK and the d├ęcor was OK. In this day and age, to survive as a pub, I think they need to try harder to make the Shady Oak a place that people want to go back to again and again. The reviews on TripAdvisor make interesting reading, particularly the owner's responses which never take on board the criticisms, but always give some excuse (or just criticise the reviewer!)

Thursday, 22 November 2012

#091 The Fighting Cocks, Moseley, Birmingham : 1996 to 2012

Back in the days when I was a student, The Fighting Cocks was a vibrant pub that was always full and it was often difficult to get a seat. As I recall (and this is going back 30 ish years!) the front bar was split into two, one being self contained and the other half leading to the 'Lounge'. In those days it was an Ansells pub.

Fast forward now, to 1996.
If you're thinking, "I didn't realise Moseley was on the canal", you'd be correct. This picture was taken on the evening of Saturday 25th May 1996 at the start of a week long canal trip around the Midlands. Our aim had been to get into the centre of Birmingham and moor at Gas Street Basin, but the Drawbridge at Shirley had been inoperative when we arrived and the delay, when British Waterways finally fixed it, meant that we could only get as far as The Horsehoe on the outskirts of Kings Heath. So, after a pint there, we headed off to Moseley to revisit the 'dens of iniquity' of our youth!

I don't recall what it was like inside, but it was now called the Fieldmouse & Firkin at The Fighting Cocks.

We returned again in 1998, but I'm not sure of the exact date, however I do know that it was the Easter weekend. We had planned to take our 'traditional' canal trip to Stratford-upon-Avon, but things conspired to prevent us setting off. Firstly, the battery on Emma Jane was flat when we got there (almost certainly because I'd forgotten to charge it!), but this shouldn't have been a problem. We set it to charge and went to the pub for a long lunch. When we got back to the boat it appeared as though it was still charging, so we had a little nap to make sure it became fully charged. A couple of hours later, it was still charging (or so I thought), it was still pouring down outside and we were cold.

We took the decision to 'abandon boat' and went back to my place with a view to setting off the next day. However, when we saw the News at Six, it became obvious that we'd had a lucky escape as there was extensive flooding throughout the Midlands including the places we'd planned on going. So, Plan B came into operation. Spend the weekend at my house and visit some of our old haunts around Birmingham.
 Two years on and the Fighting Cocks was still a Firkin pub and, I think, unchanged inside.

We didn't return again for another four years. This time we'd taken a week to do some painting of the outside of Emma Jane and also visit some parts of the Midlands we'd not been to before. At that time I was presenting quiz nights on Tuesdays and Thursdays, so we couldn't go too far. This picture was taken on Wednesday 14th August 2002.
It was no longer a Firkin pub; it had become the Goose at the Fighting Cocks. Inside it had become one large room and there was no atmosphere. The 'Goose' chain of pubs was M&B's attempt to match what Wetherspoons were doing - basic pubs selling cheap booze, the only discernible difference being that Goose pubs did play music. The Fighting Cocks in 2002 was a perfect example of how to ruin a pub!

I haven't been back inside since then, but I took this photo on Sunday 11th November 2012 as I walked around Moseley to take up-to-date snaps of the pubs.
I was pleased to see that it is now back to being just The Fighting Cocks again and still unchanged outside, apart from the signage. Having looked at their website, it appears as though they've tried to recreate the look of the old front bar, but the whole 'feel' seems to be somewhat upmarket compared to my days as a student. It is still part of M&B, and is one of their Metro Professionals pubs. 

Wednesday, 14 November 2012

#090 The Old Trooper, Christleton, Cheshire : 1996 to 2012

Our first ever canal trip to Chester was back in 1996 following our first ever visit to Llangollen a few days earlier. We stopped at Christleton on our way out of Chester and moored up right outside The Old Trooper.
This was on the evening of Saturday 31st August 1996. In those days it was a Beefeater which suited us perfectly as we're quite partial to a steak with our evening's lager! As I recall it was a classic Beefeater of that period - inside it was a maze of different levels meaning that, although the place was quite busy, you felt as though you were the only customers there, not being able to see the 'big picture' of the restaurant layout.

On that visit we didn't venture forth into Christleton, an omission we've remedied in subsequent years. We didn't revisit The Old Trooper until 2012. This trip was the first canal venture since we'd sold Emma Jane and was our first experience of hiring a narrowboat. Our starting point was the Anglo Welsh hire base at Bunbury on the Shropshire Union Canal and we visited Christleton, again on the way out of Chester.
This was at lunchtime on Wednesday 11th April 2012. We'd had lunch at the Ring o' Bells in the village, but decided to revisit The Old Trooper for a last pint of the session for old time's sake. And what a transformation! I still find it amazing that some pubs hardly change over the years whilst some have a complete makeover (sometimes more than once)! Outside the building itself is largely unchanged in shape, but the decoration is somewhat different. Inside, it is nothing like it was 16 years ago. Now it is completely open and all on one level (apart from a couple of steps up at the back).

As I recall, Beefeater were owned by Whitbread (still are, Ed) and Harvester are owned by Mitchells & Butlers, so there has obviously been a bit of property dealing in the intervening 16 years since our last visit! It was very difficult to see if it was still called The Old Trooper, but the name is just visible beneath the green Harvester pole sign (on the left of the picture), but on their website the name is much more prominent. 

Tuesday, 6 November 2012

#089 Prince of Wales, Birmingham : 1996 to 2012

For those of you who know the city, this is the Prince of Wales pub in Birmingham city centre on Cambridge Street, behind the Rep and Convention Centre. (I will be reporting on the Prince of Wales in Moseley at a later date.)

My first ever visit to the Prince of Wales was in 1976 when I was a student and went along to a meeting of the Birmingham University Real Ale Society which was in an upstairs room. In those days it was an Ansells pub and was one of the very few places that sold hand pulled beer. However, as I recall I didn't take to the beer on offer and ended the evening drinking Rum & Blacks!

My first canal related visit was at lunchtime on Sunday 29th May 1996.
I don't really recall what it was like, but I also don't think it has changed much inside in the subsequent years. In recent years it has been a good place to visit for lunch as they do good pub food in a proper pub bar environment. Back in 1996 it was still an Ansells pub.

Our next visit was on Saturday 28th August 1999 at the start of a trip to Leek on the Caldon Canal.
In the intervening years it had become a Festival Alehouse and the external signage had changed. Inside it was largely unchanged.

It wasn't until lunchtime on Sunday 30th May 2004 that we revisited the Prince of Wales again.
The outside had been completely redecorated and stayed this way for our subsequent visits.

Thursday 1st September 2005 (Evening).

   Saturday 3rd June 2006 (Evening).

Saturday 26th May 2007 (Lunchtime).

Saturday 24th May 2008 (Evening).

Then we had a few years when we didn't pop into the Prince of Wales.
Tuesday 6th September 2011 (Evening).
This was actually my last visit as a drinker. It is interesting to note that the exterior has not changed even down to the red Biffa skip outside, usually to the right hand side of the pub.

This final photo was taken on Tuesday 28th August 2012.
As I live in Brum and because we didn't visit any repeat pubs on the canal this autumn I thought I'd better get some pictures of local pubs I had visited to keep this blog going! I would guess that the inside hasn't changed much despite the complete external makeover. (...but where's the Biffa skip??)

I can't seem to find a website, but if ever you're in Birmingham city centre, near the convention centre, I'd suggest that a visit to the Prince of Wales is well worth it if you want a proper pub.

Monday, 29 October 2012

#088 The Devonshire Inn, Skipton : ca.1973 to 2012

When I started this blog last year I expected to have enough pub pictures that I could carry on with it for at least two years. However, that was before we sold our boat Emma Jane and took the decision to hire boats allowing us to visit canals we'd not been on before.

This means that, this year, I've only visited a handful of pubs that I've been to before; although I've now got 54 new pubs along the Leeds & Liverpool Canal that could become part of this blog in future years.

Before we embarked on our 2012 canal trip I came across this blog posting by my favourite author, Christopher Priest. It contained this photo of the Devonshire from the 1970's.
I have guessed the year to be 1973. The pub was the setting for the opening of his 1976 novel "The Space Machine", so I'm assuming he did the research a few years earlier. The details are in his blog entry and make a very interesting read.

Having read this, I made sure that we paid a visit to the 2012 incarnation The Devonshire Inn which is now a Wetherspoon's.
This slightly blurry photo was taken on the evening of Saturday 6th October 2012. Inside it is very much a Wetherspoon's style establishment making maximum use of the available space. I imagine it was very different in the 70's when it was a Tetley's pub. Externally it looks pretty much the same apart from the signage.

I still have quite a few pubs to report on, several of which are here in Birmingham, but others are further afield.

Tuesday, 23 October 2012

#087 Beehive, Curdworth, Warks : 2006 to 2011

I'd been aware of the Beehive in Curdworth for a long while and I'd visited for a business lunch many years earlier, but our first canal visit was on Wednesday 6th September 2006.
Usually, when our boating trips took us along the Birmingham & Fazeley Canal, we would stop just outside Curdworth at The Kingsley. This was a Beefeater and had very good moorings, but the pub had been going downhill for some years and was closed when we moored up for the night. So, we took the 20 minute walk back to Curdworth and headed straight for the Beehive.

Inside it is a pub of 'two halves'. As you enter the door from the car park you step into a proper pub and a proper bar populated by locals. Walk through to the back and you're now in the restaurant, which is where we headed after a couple of pints in the bar. The food was good pub grub and we had an enjoyable evening - so good, in fact, that we returned the very next year.

This was on Saturday 26th May 2007 and, unsurprisingly, the place hadn't changed a bit.

Our next visit was on Saturday 28th August 2010.
The Beehive was unchanged on the inside, but on the outside there was the added smoking area just to the right of the front door (and a satellite dish above the toilets).

Our last visit was on Wednesday 1st June 2011 near the end of a one week circuit around the Midlands.
Again the pub was unchanged.

To see how the Beehive has changed over the years follow these links to see what it looked like in the 1900's and 1930's

Sunday, 14 October 2012

#086 Craven Arms, Birmingham : 2004 to 2011

As a long term resident of Birmingham, my regular challenge, whenever we visited the city on our canal trips, was to find pubs that we'd not entered before. Over the years this has become almost impossible, but back in 2004 we found this gem. The Craven Arms has been tastefully refurbished and, when we first found it, I was surprised to find such a pub just by The Mailbox.
This photo was taken on the evening of Wednesday 1st September 2004 at the start of a pub crawl that took us into previously unvisited parts of Birmingham near the city centre. It is a small back street pub and is the only building still standing on the corner. When we visited it had only recently reopened and was still shiny and new inside.

Our next visit was on the evening of Thursday 8th June 2006 and, as I recall there were no changes.

We didn't go back for a number of years until Friday 26th August 2011 at the start of our trip that would take us along the Caldon Canal.
At first glance the pub hasn't changed very much at all, but it is no longer a Banks's establishment and the England flags have been replaced by flowers in hanging baskets. Inside it was unchanged, but I'm constantly surprised that pubs as small inside as the Craven Arms can survive in this day and age. The other major change is in the background where the 2004 crane has been replaced by Birmingham's newest architectural masterpiece, The Cube.

There's little more to say about the Craven Arms, but if you are visiting Birmingham and you are in the vicinity of The Mailbox, you'd do a lot worse than this place!