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Thursday, 30 June 2016

#187 The Round Oak, Wombourne, Staffordshire : 1991 to 2015

The Staffordshire & Worcestershire Canal is one of the prettiest on the system and is always worth the journey. Although it is a canal we visit on a regular basis, our stops at Wombourne are somewhat infrequent.
My first canal visit to Wombourne was at lunchtime on Tuesday 30th July 1991. I'd visited and passed through Wombourne many times by road, but this was my first experience of the Round Oak.

Our next visit was almost ten years later on the evening of Monday 28th May 2001.
I'll leave discussions about the exterior changes until after the final photo.

It was even longer before we ventured back to Wombourne for a stop (although we'd passed by on many other occasions!). Our most recent visit being on the evening of Thursday 11th June 2015.
It is rare for me to get the same angle each time we visit a pub, but the Round Oak lends itself to this as being the best view of the pub.

So, in nearly 25 years, it has gone from being the Round Oak an M&B pub to being The Round Oak, a Marstons establishment with a period in between as a Banks's pub.

The conversion from M&B to Banks's appears to have been quite drastic with the loss of a chimney and a part of the building on the left hand side. (I suspect that this coincided with the canalside extension at the back of the pub which is only partly visible in the later photos.) The windows have all been replaced and a porch added to the front door. The park bench has gone, the hanging sign has been relocated and the burglar alarm moved and yet the TV aerials remain at the same jaunty angle!

The change from Banks's to Marstons is less drastic (they are, in essence, the same company) with a complete repaint, the disappearance of the hanging sign and a straightening of the main TV aerial!

Outside the pub, railings appeared between 1991 and 2001 and, on each occasion, the street light has been changed.

One final observation, that I didn't notice on any of our visits, is what looks like a post box just to the left of the street light! I'll have to check that next time I'm there (in about 10 - 15 years time!!)

Monday, 20 June 2016

New Pubs 2016: or What I Did on My Holidays (Part 1)

I set out on this blogging journey almost five years ago. I had lots of photos of the outside of pubs and I wanted to show how they'd changed (or not) throughout the years. Over the past few weeks, I've noticed a slight weakness in this approach - we still visit new pubs on our canal journeys, but by the time I report on them here (10, 15, 20 or more years in the future) I've generally forgotten what they were like on the inside. So, what better way to address this than to report on each new pub straight after the canal trip.

Our most recent foray on the cut took us into new territory on the Northern BCN and the delights of the Wyrley & Essington (or 'Curley Wyrley' as it is known), Rushall, Walsall and Tame Valley Canals.

But first, we were in Wolverhampton on the evening of Thursday 9th June 2016. After reporting on The Posada (#076), I received a comment from The Pub Curmudgeon that The Great Western was the go-to pub in Wolverhampton. Well, four years later and we finally made it...and he wasn't wrong!
The Great Western, Wolverhampton
Unfortunately it was early evening and the place was very quiet, but I can see that it is a great little pub with typically friendly locals and staff. We will be returning.

After an obligatory visit to The Posada and pleasant plate of pasta we headed for the Dog & Doublet which is a new establishment in the city centre and was recommended by Retired Martin.
Dog & Doublet, Wolverhampton
By this time it was 10:45 and people were queueing to get into Yates's across the street. However, the Dog & Doublet was ticking over nicely with a female singer singing folk style versions of modern(ish) pop songs. It is hard to believe that this is a new pub as it looked and felt like a long established 'proper' pub. As we sat there with our last pint of the evening, the pub actually got considerably busier which was hard to comprehend on a 'school night' until we discovered that it was open till 1 am and that places like The Posada closed at 11. Definitely another pub to return to at a later date.

The next morning, Friday 10th June 2016, our journey took us into the unexplored country that is the Curley Wyrley. Our first mistake (of many!) was not to stop for an early lunch at a pub called the United Kingdom only to find that the next three pubs on our (20 year) old map had all disappeared! Eventually, this place hoved into view.
The Fingerpost, Pelsall

The Fingerpost, Pelsall
Sadly, our timing was awry, arriving in the middle of the two hour period when they weren't serving food!! Inside it was decorated and laid out like many similar pub restaurants...pastel shades and a 'rustic' feel. There were few other customers, so difficult to judge the place, but it filled a need.

We set sail again into what soon became a torrential downpour and ended up mooring outside a pub in Rushall, with another just 100 yards away! Bliss...except neither did food!
The Boathouse, Rushall
This is the pub we moored outside and whist they'd stopped serving meals there were some cling-film covered rolls so we didn't starve!! The pub is an open, family friendly place with a unique seating arrangement of a 'narrowboat' shaped seating area in the middle of the large lounge!

We then made the long journey (100 yds max) to the historic, and unusual, Manor Arms.
The Manor Arms, Rushall
From the outside it looks just like a typical back-street Banks's pub, but inside it becomes something a whole lot different - a pub with no bar! When I'd read about this, just before we moored, I couldn't quite work out how this would work.

As you walk in the door, there are two small rooms to the right, with service through a hatch - so far, fairly familiar territory, A couple of steps further on there's a doorway (no door) into the bar on the left. At first I hesitated because I was walking into the area where the barmaid was pulling a pint, but then I saw that there were several people at tables drinking and chatting (as you do in a pub bar!). After getting served, we sat down and had a great evening chatting with the very friendly locals in what I'm fairly sure will be my Pub of 2016. For those who can't visualise what a pub with no bar looks like, here's the picture.
The Manor Arms, Rushall
 The next morning, Saturday 11th June 2016, we moved off and travelled along the Rushall Canal followed by the Tame Valley Canal where we again fell victim to the disappearing pub phenomenon. We eventually ended up for a lunchtime stop in Ocker Hill and, after a walk through a housing estate we found the Waggon & Horses.
Waggon & Horses, Ocker Hill
A fairly basic pub, not serving food, but with rolls behind the bar so all was not lost. It is also home to the Toll End Brewery.

We decided to take a stroll to see whether we could find anything better. After a 10 minute walk we discovered this place.
The Dew Drop Inn, Ocker Hill
This is a real 'dumpy, old man's pub' that I thought had been driven to extinction by the smoking ban and sundry financial crises over the past few years. But no, The Dew Drop Inn continues with its glorious ordinariness that was once so commonplace but is now an endangered species.

Back on Peggy Ellen and we made our way along the Walsall Canal to the centre of Walsall itself. There's a shiny new development that includes such delights as a Hungry Horse and a Chef & Brewer which we decided to eschew in favour of more traditional pubs. The first of these, The Oak Inn, is a typical just out of town centre boozer.
The Oak Inn, Walsall
It's difficult to make a judgement on this pub as England were playing Russia and there were less than 20 people in the place. We moved on at half time.

Not knowing where we were going, we wandered for about 15 minutes until we found The Pretty Bricks.
The Pretty Bricks, Walsall
This is a Black Country Ales pub and was formerly known as the Tap & Spile and also the New Inn. Inside it was a cosy, well decorated little pub, but despite it being Saturday evening there were only a few people in there (and no football!). I imagine that, on a busy night, it would be a great place to spend a few hours. It was also the pub where Walsall CAMRA was founded in 1972.

That's the last of the new pubs from this trip, most of which I'd be happy to visit again (with one or two notable exceptions!) 

Tuesday, 7 June 2016

#186 Keg & Grill, Birmingham : 2004 to 2015

Having lived here for over 30 years, whenever our canal trips have brought us into the centre of Birmingham, I have always tried to find new and different pubs for my crewmates to sample within easy walking distance of the canal. I'm also keen to find pubs I've not visited before.

This happened on the evening of Wednesday 1st September 2004 when we discovered the Gough Arms.
It was a pub that I didn't know existed and we only popped in for one pint. As I recall it was a fairly standard back-street boozer.

We didn't return, although on at least one occasion we went by and it was closed. It did seem that it was a terminal situation, but happily as I was in the area one afternoon I saw that it was open and completely rebranded.
This was on the afternoon of Wednesday 24th June 2015. It had undergone a complete transformation and, hopefully, with The Cube and The Mailbox nearby it may be a successful transformation.

To visit as it is now, here is the pub's website. Also, to see what the Gough Arms looked like in the 1950's you can see it here.