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Thursday, 30 May 2013

#115 The Wonder, Tividale, West Midlands : 2005 to 2012

When we first discovered Tividale in 2005 I really had no idea where we were in relation to the rest of the West Midlands and it was somewhat of an adventure trying to find pubs and ones that did food at lunchtime.

On our first stop on Thursday 1st September 2005, we came to a T-Junction and turned left. This took us to The Wonder.
A simple two-room Banks's boozer which a few years ago were very common in the Black Country, but are now becoming quite rare. A perfectly adequate pub, but with no food available we moved on to The Plough (#104) and then the Albion Inn (#093), neither of which did food. It was only after being directed up the road to a Toby Inn that I realised just where we were!

I subsequently became much more familiar with Tividale, but that's another story unrelated to pubs and canal trips!

I was back in the area and took this picture as I was passing.
This was on Tuesday 4th December 2012 and I'm pleased to report that it was still thriving. The signage has changed a bit, the windows have been replaced, Sky Sports is available and the most significant change (from my perspective) is that food is available from 12 - 8 pm! Here is the website.

Thursday, 23 May 2013

#114 Ring O' Bells, Christleton, Cheshire : 2005 to 2012

The first time we visited Christleton on the outskirts of Chester we never got beyond the Old Trooper (#090) which is right by the canal. Next time we stopped there was a lunchtime and we decided to investigate the village further. Christleton is a very pretty village and we were pleasantly surprised to find the Ring O'Bells.
This was on Saturday 27th August 2005 and, as I recall, we had a very pleasant lunchtime stop there. In those days it was a fairly upmarket pub that did good food.

We weren't back in the locale for quite a few years and what a transformation!
This was again a lunchtime stop on Wednesday 11th April 2012. Although the picture is from the other side it is very obvious that the Ring O' Bells has been extensively redeveloped. It is now more of a restaurant than a pub, but the food was good and it was reasonably busy for a Wednesday lunchtime.

On the website, this is how they describe it - "In a nutshell Ring O’ Bells is a welcoming Cheshire pub combining high class food with the finest wines and beers". But, to my mind, if you can reserve a table it is no longer a pub!

Thursday, 16 May 2013

#113 Shoulder of Mutton, Foxton, Leicestershire : 1986 to 2012

My first visit to the Shoulder of Mutton at Foxton was a lunchtime stop on Wednesday 23rd July 1986.
We'd travelled from our overnight stop at Husbands Bosworth and negotiated our descent of the magnificent Foxton Staircase Locks, so we were due a cooling pint of lager. The Shoulder of Mutton was a perfect choice, even though it was a Mann's pub (as were most pubs in that area at that time!). As I recall it was a proper English country pub with a large garden at the front.

Our next visit was on the evening of Tuesday 19th August 2003, again after a trip down the Foxton Staircase.
In the intervening years the pub had been extended forwards at the front and it was no longer a Mann's pub. I don't really remember what it was like inside, but I suspect it had become a bit more food oriented.

Our next and most recent canal visit was on the evening of Tuesday 8th September 2009 following a rapid 35 minute transit up the ten locks of the Foxton Staircase. We were the last boat up for the evening. I was steering and with the assistance of the lockkeeper, Will and Andrew were like a well oiled machine as we moved through the flight with barely an error in the operation of the lock gear and gates. I don't know if anyone has done it faster, but I reckon that 35 minutes from closing the bottom gate to closing the top would be hard to beat.
By this time, the Shoulder of Mutton had become a Chinese restaurant with a bar. So we had just the one pint and moved on to the Black Horse just up the road.

My final picture was taken on Sunday 16th December 2012 on a visit to see the repairs being made to the Foxton Staircase.
As far as I can ascertain the Shoulder of Mutton is still a Chinese restaurant with a bar, but it gets good reviews.

Thursday, 9 May 2013

Britain's Best Real Heritage Pubs

As regular readers know, I normally write about the exterior of pubs and how they have/haven't changed over the past 20+ years. However, I'm indebted to The Pub Curmudgeon for pointing me towards a new book - Britain's Best Real Heritage Pubs (Pub Interiors of Outstanding Historic Interest) by Geoff Brandwood.

I bought my copy from Amazon and it arrived yesterday. It is also available through CAMRA. I've only had it for a day and I've probably done what everyone else does on first reading; I've looked for any pub that's listed that I've ever been in. There are around 10 that I've visited and, most surprisingly, my nearest pub, The British Oak in Stirchley, is also listed.
Photo Digital Art
The British Oak was #007 on this blog and I've also covered it in my other blog as part of my Paean to Stirchley. I'm extremely pleased that a pub I think is great has made it onto this listing!

There are a few others that I've mentioned in this blog. First I'll catalogue the ones that I've visited, but that haven't featured here. I'll start in Manchester with Peveril of the Peak (2010) and the Circus Tavern (2013) which I've only visited once each. However, in my view, the best pub in Manchester that I've been to is The Briton's Protection. I was first introduced to it in 2006 by a colleague when I was in Manchester for an exhibition and revisited again in 2010 and 2013.
Quite simply, this is one of the best pubs in Britain and fully justifies its inclusion in the book. However, there look to be many more gems to seek out for future visits.

Others I've visited, in no particular order, are; the Holly Bush, Bollington (2000) which I have no recollection of, but I took a photo so I must have been there!

I'm sure I've been to Ye Olde Trip to Jerusalem in Nottingham on more than one occasion, but the last time was in 2009.
In 1997, we were in Nottingham on our narrowboat and failed to find 'The Trip', but we did manage to visit six others in the attempt!

The Anchor Inn at High Offley is a pub I've visited on several occasions through the years. It is on the Shropshire Union Canal and is probably the last example of a traditional canal side pub. We were last there in 2010 and the landlady explained that the grandfather clock in the right hand room dates from when the pub was built!
Those are the only ones outside the West Midlands that I've visited, but now I have this book I can search out many more gems.

Of the Birmingham pubs listed, both The Anchor (#025) and White Swan (#064) have been covered in this blog.

The Old Swan (Ma Pardoe's) in Netherton is a place I've been a couple of times over the years. The last time was back in 2004.
Of the other Birmingham pubs, I haven't been to the Black Horse in Northfield for over 30 years when I was a student and it was still a Davenports pub! I also haven't been to the Bartons Arms in Newtown for many years.

I first visited the Rose Villa Tavern in 2006 when it was in decline. I could tell what a magnificent place it had been, but feared for its future. However, it was acquired by the Bitters'n'Twisted group and has been completely renewed inside whilst keeping the main features. I revisited in 2012 and was pleased to see what a great job they've done.
Photo Digital Art
Just to finish off, here are a couple of near misses listed in the book. First, The Berkeley in Scunthorpe - I was born in this town and over the years I've driven past it on countless occasions, yet I've never set foot inside!

Second, and perhaps even more galling is the Waggon & Horses in Oldbury. In 2010 we stopped in Oldbury for the first time on our canal journeys with the intent to visit new pubs. It was a Sunday lunchtime and there are four pubs in the town centre. We went in three of them and rejected the Waggon & Horses because they didn't do food on a Sunday! I'm sure there will be other chances to sample this fine pub.

Britain's Best Real Heritage Pubs is an excellent book for those of us love pubs and I'll be actively seeking out those I've not visited before whenever I'm in the neighbourhood.

Thursday, 2 May 2013

#112 The Horseshoe, Kings Heath, Birmingham : 1987 to 2012

I'm not sure whether I'd visited The Horseshoe before, but this is the first picture I took.
This was on the lunchtime of Saturday 4th July 1987 at the start of a two-week trip that took us down to Worcester, up to Middlewich and included my first trip through Harecastle Tunnel.

We didn't return for another nine years, largely because Emma Jane was moored 'oop north' and then 'darn sarf' for the intervening years!
This was on the evening of Saturday 25th May 1996 and it wasn't our intended destination for the night, but because of a delay at the Shirley Drawbridge, we couldn't make it all the way into Birmingham before nightfall. We only had one pint here before going into Moseley for a pub crawl. In those days The Horseshoe was a small friendly local with two rooms. They did good lunchtime food, but it was never an ideal overnight stop.

Next year and we were there TWICE!
Friday 30th May 1997 (Lunchtime)

Thursday 4th September 1997 (Lunchtime)

Both of these visits were the final lunchtime stops of our holiday, leaving us a four hour journey back to our moorings.

We were back again a couple of years later and there were more changes to the exterior of the pub.
Another lunchtime stop at the end of another canal trip, this time to Leek on the Caldon Canal - Thursday 9th September 1999. The Horseshoe had been extensively refurbished and was now no longer a Bass pub.

Our final canal visit was a year later at the end of a trip that had taken us to Manchester.
This was on Friday 8th September 2000. In subsequent years, we stopped visiting The Horseshoe for a couple of reasons. The first is that the moorings became increasingly difficult as the bank became more and more overgrown. The second reason was that we were getting there too early and The Drawbridge at Shirley became our final lunchtime stop of choice.

Although we didn't stop there again, I've got a couple of photos taken in passing.
This is the view from the canal and was taken on Friday 25th May 2009. At this time The Horseshoe looked to be closed.

However, when I was driving by last year, I found that The Horseshoe is alive and well!
This was on the afternoon of Monday 3rd December 2012 as I was testing out my new camera. It appears that The Horseshoe has been refurbished again, but I've not set foot inside since 2000 so I can't comment on the interior!