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Friday, 30 August 2013

#125 The Dry Dock Inn, Windmill End, West Midlands : 1996 to 2013 (RIP)

The first time I ever visited The Dry Dock Inn was some time in the 1980's. I remember it very well as I'd been given the use of a company car (for a business trip the next day) and so took friends out for a trip to a pub we'd not been to before.

My first visit as part of a canal trip was in 1996.
This was on the evening of Sunday 26th May 1996 and we spent the whole evening there. It had an unusual bar (more below) and did great, simple pub food.

We visited again three years later.
This was the view from our mooring at Windmill End Junction on the evening of Thursday 3rd June 1999. Again we spent the whole evening in the pub. The interior of the pub was dominated by the bar which was made from the bow of a narrowboat.
This was also the evening that I attempted a 'Desperate Dan Cow Pie' - I failed! When it arrived it didn't look to be too much of a challenge, but once I'd broken into the pie case and finished the layer of potatoes, the layer of carrots and the layer of meat I discovered that I was only half way and there were just as many more potatoes, carrots and meat! I still gave it a good shot, but I know when I'm beaten!

We were back at The Dry Dock in a couple of years, this time for a lunchtime stop.
This was on Sunday 27th May 2001 and, apart from the complete redecoration on the outside, inside it was largely unchanged.

Our next visit was five years later.
This was at lunchtime on Sunday 4th June 2006 and, although it looked to be mostly unchanged, they weren't serving food at lunchtime! So we had a pint and moved on finding a little local called the Red Lion where we managed to get a sandwich (which was all we really needed/wanted). The nearest pub is just over the road and is a typical Banks's estate pub that doesn't do food.

We made our final visit on Tuesday 14th May 2013.
Another lunchtime stop (it is just under 3 hours by canal from Birmingham via Netherton Tunnel) and it has certainly changed - it is now five flats! Disaster! Well not really as the Red Lion is nearby. (The Wheatsheaf across the road is still open, but still not doing food.) More disaster! The Red Lion wasn't open either - not fully closed down, just doesn't open on weekday lunchtimes.

The silver lining to our cloud was that we ended up in Ma Pardoe's (The Old Swan) just up the road in Netherton. Plain, simple sandwiches and three pints of Old Swan Ale (not bad as I don't drink at lunchtimes and I'm a lager drinker!!)

Friday, 23 August 2013

#124 The Rising Sun, Stourport-on-Severn, Worcestershire : 1999 to 2013

Stourport-on-Severn is a place we've visited numerous times over the years of our canal travels. It stands on the banks of the River Severn where the Staffordshire & Worcestershire Canal joins. It has many pubs and will be featuring several times over the coming months.

The Rising Sun is a small Banks's pub in the back streets of Stourport well away from the river, but it does back onto the canal.
This was taken on the evening of Tuesday 1st June 1999 at the halfway point on a trip round the Midlands via Birmingham, Stourbridge and Worcester. As I recall, we entered the quiz and finished second.

We visited again four years later on the evening of Tuesday 27th May 2003 as part of a repeat journey from 1999, except for the first time we were travelling down the River Severn to Worcester.
This is taken from the bridge over the canal at the back of the pub. From what I remember, the inside was largely unchanged and as friendly as previously.

Although we've been through Stourport since, we hadn't been back to The Rising Sun until Thursday 16th May 2013.
Apart from the new flower boxes it has hardly changed on the outside and, from memory, it wasn't much different on the inside either! Always nice to find a pub that's 'Unspoilt by Progress' - here is the website.

Wednesday, 14 August 2013

Birmingham Pubs (Back) in the Doghouse (Part 2)

After their trip from Wales and a punishing walk to the Barton's Arms (and back to New Street Station) the intrepid crew from Doghouse - The British Pub Magazine returned to Birmingham for another pub crawl.

This time it was to be around Digbeth, an area rich in proper pubs and a place that I've covered extensively in previous posts. Their first stop was The Bull Ring Tavern - not a place I would've chosen, but it is the site of one of my most memorable pub visits!

It was back in the days before the smoking ban and we walked in one Saturday lunchtime. Inside it was like stepping back in time into something akin to a scene from a Hogarth painting. The atmosphere was so thick with smoke that after one pint it was too much even for my 20+ a day companion - even his eyes were watering! The clientèle seemed oblivious to the smoke they were creating...and what a selection of folk it was...there were people of all shapes, sizes, ages, sexes and races having a great time...and the most diverse range of facial features I've ever seen in one place! 

We went back after the smoking ban and it was 'dead' - the magic had gone! That's how it still is.

The Doghouse team then moved on to the White Swan on Bradford Street.This is a pub I've covered previously (#064)
 The write up in Doghouse captures The White Swan and the state of lunchtime drinking today perfectly.

They then moved up the road a bit to The Anchor (#025) - another fine example of the red brick and terracotta pubs built by James & Lister Lea in the late 1800's/early 1900's.
The Anchor is a pub I've only ever visited occasionally, but it is a great example of how pubs used to be.

Next, they moved on to The Fountain (#054). Not the most obvious of choices, but a good one. It is a place I've been in a couple of times and it is a lovely, proper pub. Doghouse put it better than I ever could -

"Your average Joe would probably stalk past The Fountain every day of their life, glancing through door and window merely to reinforce their own conceited prejudice about the place. But to those who understand, a session in this pub would be an experience worth travelling for"

Then it was on to The Old Crown (#016), possibly Birmingham's oldest pub. Outside it looks inviting, but inside it doesn't live up to the promise!
And, finally on this leg of the Doghouse pub crawl (sorry, I mean survey!), they popped into the Craven Arms (#086), which isn't in Digbeth, but is always worth a visit. Over the past few years it has been renovated and is now run by Black Country Ales
That was the end of the second leg of the Birmingham visit, but there was a third, shorter, instalment when Doghouse went to the Jewellery Quarter to sample a couple more of Birmingham's finest pubs.

First was a visit to the Rose Villa Tavern which has been wonderfully restored by the Bitters 'n' Twisted group. My first visit was before the regeneration when it was in quite a sad state, but the potential was definitely there to make a great pub.
My only visit after the changes was on a Saturday night when a disco was in full swing, so I probably didn't get the full appreciation of the new Rose Villa Tavern...but I was impressed with what I did see.

The next pub is one that I hadn't set foot inside until very recently, but I'd admired from the outside.
The Jewellers Arms has a magnificent sign and I always wanted to see what it was like inside. Again on a Saturday night I ventured into the Jewellery Quarter to sample the delights of some more pubs. At first, the Jewellers Arms looked to be closed, but it turned out that the lounge was open and we went in. Having left a very busy Lord Clifden it was sad to see that the Jewellers Arms was almost empty. This is a double shame because it was like stepping back in time to how cosy and comfortable pubs used to be 30+ years ago.

The Doghouse team then sampled two more pubs that I've never visited - the Black Eagle in Hockley and The Villa Tavern in Nechells.

I'm glad that I found Doghouse and that they came to Brum because it made me (re)appreciate just how many good pubs there are in this fair city - an observation that needs to have a much wider audience!    

Wednesday, 7 August 2013

Birmingham Pubs in the Doghouse (Part One)

Doghouse - The British Pub Magazine is a relatively new publication and Issue #5 dropped through my letterbox a few days ago and what an enjoyable read it was. (I'm indebted to The Pub Curmudgeon for bringing it to my attention)

Let me start out, though, with a criticism, albeit a minor one, unless you live in or near HARBORNE. Throughout the magazine the Birmingham suburb comes with an added 'u' which is unwelcome and extremely irritating to pedants like me!

That said, I could find no other fault with an excellent publication. This issue of Doghouse visited many Birmingham pubs, several of which I am familiar with.

First stop was the Bell Inn in Harborne. This is a pub I haven't been to for quite a few years, but from the description in Doghouse, it hasn't changed much...thankfully. It is one of the few pubs in Brum that feels like a proper village pub, and long may that continue.
Here's a picture I took earlier this year in the snow.

The next stop on their pub crawl was a pub that I have eulogised about in previous posts - The British Oak in Stirchley - and this is what they thought:

"I must say I was slightly underwhelmed by it all at first, though on reflection I must admit it's a remarkable establishment - above and beyond its period design and fixtures; and mostly to do with the fact that this roadside monster is still standing."

I can't disagree with any of that. I'm glad that it has survived largely intact and is thriving, but I don't go as often as I did 25 - 30 years ago and its not quite the same as it was!
Here it is from earlier this year.

Next on the list was the Prince of Wales in Moseley. This is another pub that I haven't been to for a few years, but frequented a lot about 30 years ago. It certainly didn't have a 'cocktail lounge' in those days, but the write up does make me want to go back and see what it is like now!

Then it was into town for a couple of the lauded city centre pubs. First, the Old Joint Stock, which I visited only a few days ago! It has an impressive interior and considering it is only 16 years old it is a fine addition to Birmingham's collection of pubs. Next was The Wellington, Birmingham's first (I think, in the 'modern' era) pub dedicated to Real Ale. Now as a lager drinker, I'm a bit biased, but as a lover of pubs I've never been impressed with the place - and neither was Doghouse, who put it much more eloquently than I ever could:

"- with the building's lack of character and a weird air of transience that doesn't quite weld you to your seat for longevity. It is perhaps a great beer ticking venue, but much else has to be found elsewhere."

The Doghouse pub crawl then moved on to The Old Contemptibles, another fine example of how tasteful refurbishment can produce a great pub. I also learned from the article that it was originally called The Adelphi Wine Vaults and then the Albion Hotel. I always wondered how it came by its current name and Doghouse didn't disappoint.

They then walked to the Barton's Arms which is a feat in itself as it is quite a stroll from The Old Contemptibles! I've only ever driven past the Barton's Arms and it is a magnificent building that I intend to photograph in the near future.

That was the end of Day One of the Birmingham pub crawl and I'll review the other entries soon. However, I'll just finish with a pub that wasn't visited, but is only just around the corner from The Old Contemptibles and is a place I'm quite fond of.
The Old Royal is one of the most photogenic pubs I know and inside it is still a proper pub. It hasn't been extensively refurbished and does feel like stepping back a few years to how pubs used to be (with added wide-screen TV's!). Hopefully, when the Doghouse team are back in Brum, they can pass their eye over the Old Royal. 

Friday, 2 August 2013

#123 White Lion, North Kilworth, Leicestershire : 1997 to 2012

North Kilworth is a village on the Leicester Section of the Grand Union Canal. It's not a place we've visited often and the details of our previous itineraries can be found here; #102 - The Swan.
This was on the evening of Tuesday 26th August 1997. In those days this was a fairly bog standard village pub and a perfectly acceptable place to spend an evening...and we did!

It was another six years before we stopped at North Kilworth again, this time a lunchtime visit.
 This was on Tuesday 19th August 2003 and what a change. The outside had been given a much needed redecoration with completely new signage. This was during the phase when Marston's were upgrading their estate of pubs and so inside it had also been renewed. (Notice, also, the original four wires have been replaced by just one!)

We haven't been back to the village since 2003, but last year I was passing through so I took the opportunity to take a photo to see how the White Lion has changed in another nine years.
This was on Sunday 16th December 2012. On the face of it there haven't been any obvious changes, but on closer inspection there are some subtle alterations. The hanging sign has changed and the bus stop has disappeared. Also, the paint on the outside of the left hand building (not sure if it is now part of the pub!) is peeling in a similar way to the 1997 picture!

Subsequent research shows that the White Lion had been closed and not long reopened as a wet led pub...but I think that it now has a Chinese restaurant (inc. takeaway) associated with it. It is always good to see a pub that is surviving through difficult times...let's hope it can continue to exist.