Blog Surfer

Thursday, 29 December 2016

#206 The Oak & Ivy, Burton-upon-Trent, Staffordshire : 1997 to 2015

The Oak & Ivy is a back street pub in Burton that breaks my main rule - I've never been inside it!

We occasionally visit Burton and, as the canal is a way from the centre we pass quite a few pubs before we get into town. Before going digital I was quite frugal and, generally, only took pictures of the pubs we went in.
I'm not 100% sure what happened at lunchtime on Monday 1st September 1997, though. I suspect that we were going to go in, but found that they didn't do food and so moved on...after I taken the photo! It was the day after Princess Diana died, so everything that week was strange!

Although we'd been back to Burton in the meantime, my next picture of The Oak & Ivy was taken on the evening of Friday 3rd April 2015 (Good Friday)
On this occasion, we'd moored at Shobnall Basin giving us a different route into the town and quite a few pubs to pass by. Sadly, it's a sign of advancing years that we can't stop off for several beers and still manage to eat afterwards - it is something of an either/or situation with food always winning!

Unsurprisingly, The Oak & Ivy had been completely refurbished externally over the passing 18 years. Back in 1997 it looked to be a typical Marston's pub of that era. Namely, a basic boozer with no frills; I seem to recall that, back then, all Marston's pubs were bog-standard boozers! 

I'm not sure when, but Marston's seemed to have something of a corporate epiphany and, in more recent years, they have tended to go a bit more up market in their refurbishments. 

Tuesday, 20 December 2016

#205 Sacks of Potatoes, Gosta Green, Birmingham : 1986 to 2015

The Sacks of Potatoes is a pub that will be familiar to any student (past & present) of Aston University as it sits in the middle of the campus. It is a pub I've visited on many occasions not involved with canal trips, but the only pictures I take are whilst on holiday (mainly!)

We start our journey at lunchtime on Thursday 31st July 1986.
We'd moored at Aston Junction and were nearing the end of a two week journey that had taken us to Nottingham. In those days the Sacks of Potatoes was a cosy, proper pub that did pub grub.

We didn't venture back there again until lunchtime on Wednesday 6th September 1995.
The reason for such a long delay was because our boat, Emma Jane, had spent two years up North, then another five years down South and this visit was towards the end of the journey bringing her back to the Midlands. In those few years, the Sacks of Potatoes has been extended quite a bit, much of it at the back. It wasn't quite as cosy as before, but it was still a proper pub!

It wasn't too long before our return at lunchtime on Wednesday 3rd September 1997, again mooring at Aston Junction and again returning from a trip that had taken us to Nottingham.
From this view you can see the considerable sideways extension of the pub compared to the 1986 view.

We were back again for another lunchtime stop on Sunday 29th August 1999, this time at the start of a trip that would take us along the Caldon Canal for the first time.
It had undergone a refurb in the intervening years and it was no longer labelled as an M&B pub, although it still was part of the Mitchell's & Butlers group. It was around this time that I completely lost track of who owned what pub and what beer you might expect to see! Sadly, the picture had disappeared from the side wall!

We were back again almost exactly a year later for lunch on Sunday 27th August 2000.
No real changes to report, the colour difference being caused by bright August Bank Holiday sun in 1999 versus Bank Holiday gloom in 2000!

It was quite a few years before we came back to the Sacks; almost exactly ten years had elapsed, it was another lunch stop on Saturday 28th August 2010.
Externally it had been repainted and there were many more seats (three years since the smoking ban), but other than that the pub was largely unchanged. In fact, most of the significant changes were going on around the pub as Aston University underwent a massive transformation.

The next picture is from Friday 6th June 2014, not related to a canal trip.
I was out by the university taking pictures, so, as we hadn't been there for a few years, I thought I'd get a new picture for the blog. Little had changed, but the hanging baskets now contained real flowers!

Ironically, we were back the next year for a lunchtime stop on Sunday 14th June 2015.
The Sacks of Potatoes wasn't our original destination for this lunch stop, but The Bull (#073) was closed on Sundays, so here we were again!

Despite the changes all around and the expansion of the pub in the nineties it still feels like a proper pub which is something of a rarity in this day and age! It is now part of the Stonegate Group of pubs (not sure when it transferred from Mitchell's & Butlers!) and the website is here.

Tuesday, 13 December 2016

#204 Crewe & Harpur, Swarkestone, Derbyshire : 1986 to 2015

The stretch of the Trent & Mersey Canal that goes north from Fradley Junction to the River Trent is a part of the system that we don't often travel along.

Our first ever visit to the Crewe & Harpur Arms (as it was called then) was on the evening of Sunday 27th July 1986.
I remember little about the pub from that time apart from the fact that one of our crew was quite taken with one of the barmaids. Nothing came of it, but the name 'Rose of the Crewe & Harpur' has entered the folklore of our boating adventures!

We didn't return until the evening of Sunday 31st August 1997.
Although not particularly stand out, there had been many changes to the signage (and possibly ownership) in the intervening eleven years. The name remained the same, but the sign had changed completely, the Bass signs were gone, replaced by two larger information signs and two black squares had appeared. The bench seats remained, no parking signs appeared, the door had been painted, but the little lamps had gone. Inside, there was no Rose!

It wasn't too long before we returned, this time on the evening of Friday 28th August 2003.
Much the same externally, but with added plant life and a satellite dish! it was on this visit that we realised that it was now a Marston's pub.

Our most recent visit was on the evening of Saturday 4th April 2015.
In the intervening twelve years it was now just the Crewe & Harpur. Gone were the hanging baskets, bench seats and the satellite dish. The main sign had also been moved, yet the burglar alarm remains in the same place! You can also tell from the colour scheme, pastel drab as I would describe it, that it has become a more upmarket eating establishment.

More about the Crewe & Harpur can be found on their website.

Monday, 28 November 2016

#203 The Old Windmill, Coventry, West Midlands : 2000 to 2015

We are occasional visitors to the centre of Coventry by canal as it is a 5 mile stretch of canal from Hawkesbury Junction to Coventry Canal Basin which is the terminus of the Coventry Canal. So, if we have time in the schedule we sometimes make the trip into the city to see how it has changed.

The Old Windmill is situated in Medieval Spon Street which is one of the few parts of the old city to have survived the blitz. It is quite a walk from the canal which is probably why we'd not been there before the evening of Tuesday 30th May 2000.
As I recall it was a proper pub and quite a pleasant experience. From the signage, it was still a Mann's pub back then.

Although we'd been back to Coventry a couple of times after this, we didn't venture to The Old Windmill again until the evening of Monday 6th October 2014.
On this occasion we'd moored at Hawkesbury Junction, but we'd been unable to get any food at The Greyhound (#167) as it was full. This necessitated a taxi ride into Coventry and our driver dropped us off by The Old Windmill so that we could eat at Turmeric Gold on the opposite side of the road (his recommendation!).

The signage had completely changed and it was no longer a Mann's pub, but little else had changed - apart from the tables and chairs outside the front of the pub! (Café society comes to Coventry!) Inside it was still a proper pub.

We returned almost a year later; this time we'd moored at Coventry Canal Basin to re-explore the city on the evening of Tuesday 1st September 2015. Unfortunately, as we were having a pint in the Wetherspoons the heavens opened, thus curtailing any further exploration, but we still got a bit damp on the walk over to Medieval Spon Street!
It was still chucking it down when we left The Old Windmill after a pint before venturing across the road to Turmeric Gold for our evening meal. There were few discernible changes to the pub (new hanging baskets), but what price 'café society' now?! To see more about the 2015 CAMRA Coventry Pub of the Year have a look at their Facebook page
Whilst The Old Windmill dates from the 16th Century and claims to be one of the oldest pubs in Coventry, somehow I don't think that Turmeric Gold has quite such a long history. The food was good on both occasions we visited. 

Monday, 21 November 2016

#202 The Navigation, Alrewas, Staffordshire : 1986 to 2015 (RIP)

Our first ever visit to Alrewas saw us go to three of the four pubs that were in the village back then. It was an evening visit on Monday 28th July 1986.
The Navigation was a big Ind Coope pub on the edge of the village and I can recall nothing remarkable about it!

Although we'd visited Alrewas on several occasions, we didn't revisit The Navigation for 17 years on the evening of Saturday 23rd August 2003.
Needless to say, there had been a few changes including the name as it was now called The Old Boat. The only reason we were back here was because our visit to Alrewas coincided with the Wychnor Boat Rally meaning that all of the pubs in the centre of the village were packed and we couldn't get any food! By the time we'd got to The Old Boat, they had stopped serving food. So, it was "Call a Cab" time and we disappeared into Lichfield for the rest of the evening!

As we were approaching Alrewas on our most recent visit there I took this shot of Delhi Divan, the restaurant that now occupies what was The Navigation.
This was taken from the Trent & Mersey Canal in the late morning of Friday 3rd April 2015. From what I can gather, it opened in 2014 and gets very good reviews on TripAdvisor. At least it is still being used for 'entertainment' purposes!  

Friday, 11 November 2016

#201 Angel Ale House, Atherstone, Warwickshire : 1995 to 2015

The Angel Inn, as it was called when we first visited it on the evening of Monday 4th September 1995, is a pub that has hardly changed externally, but has been transformed internally over the years.
I really don't remember too much about the inside, I think it was a fairly standard town centre boozer. (We visited quite a few pubs that evening as Atherstone was something of a revelation for the quantity of drinking options!)

We were next in Atherstone on for a lunchtime stop on Saturday 20th August 2005, but we didn't go into the Angel on that occasion. I do, however, have a shot of the pub from down the street that I've blown up for this entry!
There doesn't look to be too much change, but difficult to tell from this distance!

We didn't return until the evening of Sunday 5th October 2014 and, again, we didn't venture inside.
It had obviously been refurbished and, peering through the window I could see that it was done out in the more modern, open, rustic style that so many places seem to go for.

We were back in Atherstone about a year later on the evening of Wednesday 2nd September 2015.
Yet again, we didn't go inside, but obviously they've managed to make a success of the place judging by the banner hanging over the front of the pub. At least the hanging sign is back outside the pub denoting the change of name to the Angel Ale House. Also, there is the large shelter added onto the side (just visible in the 2014 picture) that no doubt is there to accommodate extra drinkers and smokers.

Thursday, 27 October 2016

#200 The Boathouse, Braunston, Northants : 1986 to 2015

As this is my 200th pub, I thought that I'd treat you to what was once a traditional canalside pub in the village at the centre of the English Canal system on the Grand Union Canal.

My first ever visit to this pub was in April 1980 when it had a different name and I wasn't taking photos of the pubs we visited! On that trip we stopped at Braunston three times and I remember at least once visiting the pub. I recall it as being a fairly large place with different rooms, especially the cosy bar by the canal decked out in traditional canal style.

My first 'documented' visit to The Boatman (as it was known then, previously the Rose & Castle) was on the evening of Sunday 20th July 1986.
Back in those days it was a Mann's pub as so many were in that part of the world. As I recall it hadn't changed much from the previous visit.

We didn't return again until Friday 25th September 1992 for an evening in Braunston.
Very little appeared to have changed. During this period, our boat Emma Jane was moored 'down South' and so Braunston became a regular stopping place for a few years.

So, we were back a year later on Thursday 23rd September 1993 for another evening stopover.
This time you get the land lubbers' view, but the pub was unchanged.

Another year, another visit; this time on Thursday 1st September 1994 at lunchtime, which explains how we managed to get a mooring right outside the pub!
Still little in the way of changes!

In 1995 we moved our boat back to the Midlands and didn't return until the evening of Wednesday 24th June 1998.
It had been taken over, completely refurbished and renamed to the slightly incongruous, The Mill House. Although it had been due for some redecoration and tlc, this renovation had removed any character that had been in the old pub.

Several more years passed and we returned on Saturday 28th May 2005, again in the evening.
This time we popped in and had a meal, but it was something of a disaster! It was Spring Bank Holiday, it had been a nice day so the pub had run out of lots of things, one of which was butter for the bread rolls! It is inconvenient and frustrating when pubs run out of things, but when the staff become surly and downright unpleasant I draw the line. 

In those circumstances, if our waitress had said something along the lines of, "We've been very busy today and we've run out of various items. You're welcome to stay and sample what is available, but it may take some time to arrive." Then we can make the choice as to whether we stay or go and, if we choose to stay, we know what we've let ourselves in for!

Needless to say, we didn't return for another few years and, when we did, we only had a pint before moving on to find food.
This was on the evening of Sunday 24th May 2009 - again Spring Bank Holiday. This time we were prepared and, after the pint in The Millhouse, we headed into Braunston for our food. Unfortunately for us, The Old Plough was extremely busy and after an hour with no food appearing (and not very likely too either!) we cut our losses and got a taxi to Daventry to eat!

As you can imagine, Braunston was becoming a bit of a 'no-go' place for us until lunchtime on Sunday 6th November 2011 on our final voyage with Emma Jane.

It had undergone a Martson's refurbishment and renamed, more appropriately, as The Boathouse. We had lunch there and the service was far better than our previous experience!

Our most recent visit was at lunchtime on Monday 31st August 2015 and, despite it being August Bank Holiday they hadn't run out of anything and the service was again good...although maybe the rain helped with this!
For the first time in many years we got a mooring spot right outside the pub!
And here's what a bit of artistic licence can do for a rainy day scene!

Thursday, 20 October 2016

#199 The Steamboat Inn, Trent Lock, Long Eaton, Notts : 1986 to 2015

On the occasions that we go to Nottingham on our boating trips we almost always stop at Trent Lock which means that we have two pubs to choose from - the Trent Lock (Formerly the Trent Navigation Inn) which I featured in July (#188) and The Steamboat Inn. (Well, I say 'choose', but we generally go into both!)

Our first visit to The Steamboat Inn was on the evening of Friday 25th July 1986 on our way to Nottingham.
It was a pleasant summer's evening and the pub was very busy. The only other thing I remember is that we won quite a few quid on the Quiz Machine (£10 Jackpot in those days!). The machine did its best to thwart us with the last two (supposedly random) questions being on railway steam engines. Fortunately, our crew member Matt was something of a railway buff and knew both answers!

We didn't return to Trent Lock until Saturday 30th August 1997 for a lunchtime stop.
As you'd expect, the outside had been redecorated in the intervening 11 years.

The next time we popped into The Steamboat Inn was at lunchtime on Thursday 3rd September 2009 on our way up the Erewash Canal for the first time.
Another complete external refurbishment, this time after a 12 year gap.

Our most recent visit was on Sunday 23rd August 2015 at lunchtime.
Just a repainting job on the outside over the previous six years looks to be the extent of the change, the lettering appears to be the same, albeit with a missing 'T'!

At first glance I'm surprised that two pubs, in what is an out-of-the-way place (by road), have survived through to the current day. But, on further reflection, both The Steamboat and the Trent Lock are very different in character - the Trent Lock always being like a proper 'country pub' with the Steamboat being a bit more 'brash' and having the feel of a seaside pub. When the sun is out, both do a roaring trade and I hope that they both make enough on the good days to survive through the bad ones.

One final observation: in the first picture there is a large tree behind the right hand chimney of the pub. Eleven years later it looks to still be there, but leafless, even thogh it is August. In 2009 the tree has gone. I'm assuming that these pictures have captured the death of an Elm tree caused by Dutch Elm Disease.

Tuesday, 11 October 2016

#198 Wolseley Arms, Wolseley Bridge, Staffordshire : 2002 to 2016

Wolseley Bridge is just outside Rugeley and sits alongside the River Trent on a stretch where the Trent & Mersey Canal runs side-by-side with it for several miles. Although we'd frequently used this stretch of canal over our many years of boating, we had never stopped here until lunchtime on Tuesday 17th September 2002!
The reason for this was a phenomenon that has become all too familiar over the past 10 - 15 years. Our initial plan had been to stop at Little Haywood for lunch as there were a couple of nice little pubs in the village. We moored up, walked into the village (5 - 10 mins) and both pubs were closed at lunchtime! This was the first time we'd really fallen foul of this emerging trend. So, we moved on and discovered the Wolseley Arms which, even then, was one of M&B's Vintage Inns. This actually worked well for us as it was after 3pm by the time we got there and they serve food all day!

The next time was  at lunchtime on Monday 22nd August 2005 as we headed north to, ultimately, Chester.
Essentially it was unchanged which is why I took this shot from the other angle.

Our next stop off there was at lunchtime (as always!) on Monday 30th August 2010 this time as we headed north to Manchester.
The décor both inside and out now reflected the updating that all Vintage Inns had undergone through that period.

It was another five years before we returned on the lunchtime of Wednesday 10th June 2015.
Another makeover had occurred, but not quite as drastic as the last one! As the new moorings (for the new boat) are now on the Trent & Mersey Canal the Wolseley Arms has become a more frequent stopping off place and we managed two visits in 2016.
The first on Friday 25th March 2016 (pictured above) and the second on Wednesday 8th June 2016. Little or no changes had occurred!

Having never seen it as a pub I tried to find some old pictures of when it was a 'proper' pub, but this is all I could find.
This is taken from the Wolseley Arms Facebook page, but I have no idea of the date. This is a similar view to my last shot; the road to the right leads over the River Trent and the canal; the road to the left takes you to Shugborough Hall.

Consulting my "Nicholson's Guide to the Waterways" (7th Edition; 1995) the Wolseley Arms is described thus, "Comfortable pub which has Bass real ales. Bar meals lunchtimes and evenings, vegetarians catered for, restaurant open Thu - Sun evenings and Sun lunchtime." Sounds like a typical (for then) posh country pub!

Sunday, 2 October 2016

Willington, Derbyshire : 1986 to 2015

This post is going to be slightly different in structure as a one-off. We've only ever stopped at Willington twice on our canal journeys with a gap of almost 30 years between visits.

Our first stop was a damp lunchtime on Monday 28th July 1986 and we discovered three pubs in the village, all extremely close to each other!
Green Dragon, Rising Sun, Green Man

It's not very often that you can get three pubs in one picture, but that's the case in the first shot - the Green Dragon, the Rising Sun and the Green Man on the right. Each pub representing the three main brewers in Burton at that time - Ind Coope, Marston's and Bass respectively.

The second picture shows the other view from the Green Man and you can just make out the intrepid crew heading back to the boat after a 45 minute stop with no lunch! We moved on to Burton-upon-Trent to find food!

So, the question is now, how many of the three pubs survived to 2015? After not stopping there for 29 years, we made two stops in 2015! Both lunchtime stops, first on Saturday 4th April 2015 and the second on Saturday 28th August 2015.

#195 Green Dragon (now The Dragon)

formerly The Green Gragon

The Dragon, as it is now called, is very much still there and can be accessed from the canal and from the road, but not the same entrance as 1986! It is now a more food led establishment that does very good trade when the sun is out! A brief history of the pub can be found on their website.

#196 The Rising Sun

Quite an impressive sight, but we didn't venture inside on either visit! Nonetheless, it is good to see it still there.

And so, we move on to pub number three - open or closed?

#197 Green Man

Still there as well!!
Almost unbelievably, all three pubs have survived and appear to be thriving! Back in 1986 the Green Man was a Bass pub, but now it is run by Punch Taverns. Although it provides an extensive menu, the Green Man still feels like a proper pub. More information is on their website.

So there you have it; Willington is an oasis of pub survivability in an age of decimation!