Blog Surfer

Monday, 27 March 2017

#217 Red Lion, Market Drayton, Shropshire : 2000 to 2016

Although the town centre is quite a stroll from the Shropshire Union Canal, Market Drayton is one of my favourite places to stop as it still boasts a good number of largely unspoilt pubs.

It took us a good few years to actually discover the Red Lion our first visit being on the evening of Tuesday 5th September 2000 on our way back home following our first canal visit to Manchester.
I seem to recall that it was a pleasant, fairly basic pub, worthy of future visits.

Our next stop was on the evening of Monday 29th August 2005 on our way back from a trip to Chester.
The outside had undergone a complete transformation and inside, I seem to remember that it had also been refurbished, but that it now wasn't as cosy as before (but it was a quiet Monday night which never helps with atmosphere!).

We were back again a couple of years later on the evening of Monday 27th August 2007, this time on the way to Llangollen.
No discernible changes in the intervening 2 years.

It was a good few years before we sought out the Red Lion again...and what a transformation!
This was at lunchtime on Monday 8th August 2016 and in the intervening 9 years it had become the brewery tap for the revived Joules Brewery. Inside has also been extended at the back and completely transformed in traditional style. Despite it being lunchtime, I 'forced' myself to have a couple (or three) pints of the local ales...and very nice they were too!

For more details about the Red Lion and Joules follow this link.

In an era when pubs continue to close and disappear from our landscape it it good to be able to report on the revival of a traditional English beer and their commitment to having their own pubs.

I also couldn't resist giving the Red Lion the Photo Digital Art treatment!
© Photo Digital Art 2016

Monday, 20 March 2017

#216 Stanley Arms, Anderton, Cheshire : 1991 to 2016

The stretch of the Trent & Mersey Canal to the north of Middlewich is a section of the waterways that we only rarely traverse. My first ever encounter with the Stanley Arms was in 1981 when we had a brief stop to have a look at the, then defunct, Anderton Boat Lift. We were only stopped for half an hour and I don't recall whether we went in the pub or not.

The next time I was passing was on the journey to move Emma Jane from Wigan to the Southern Grand Union Canal.
This was a lunchtime stop on Tuesday 23rd July 1991. Back in those days it was a Greenall's pub that did good food.

Although we were up that way again in 2000, we didn't stop at the pub until the lunchtime of Friday 1st September 2006, prior to taking Emma Jane on her first trip (and ours) down on the Anderton Boat Lift.
Unfortunately, this view doesn't really show off any changes to the pub. It was no longer a Greenall's pub, but it still did good food!

Our most recent visit was at lunchtime on Monday 15th August 2016 and the changes from 1991 are much more apparent  from this view.
The basic layout of the pub is unchanged, apart from the porch added to the front entrance. Windows have been replaced, one chimney has been reduced in height and a 'smokers hut' has been built in the garden. Inside it was still welcoming and serving good food.

This visit also coincided with trips up and down on the Anderton Boat Lift (first time for the new boat Peggy Ellen) and we popped into the pub whilst waiting for our slot to return from the River Weaver.
Anderton Boat Lift

Monday, 13 March 2017

#215 The Junction, Norbury, Staffordshire : 2002 to 2016

The Shropshire Union is one of my favourite canals, but it does have one serious drawback; there are many long stretches without any pubs! This has been exacerbated in recent years, so a trip along this canal takes some 'serious planning' to avoid dry lunchtimes or evenings.

Norbury Junction is where the now defunct Shrewsbury Canal joined the main line of what is now the Shropshire Union. It is an attractive location with boat hire, all boating facilities and a pub - The Junction.

Having given it the big build up, I was surprised that our first ever visit to The Junction was at lunchtime on Tuesday 19th September 2002 - just the 22 years since my first narrowboat excursion!
The Junction has all the services that we require - food and drink - but it isn't ever going to make my list of favourite pubs. It is set up to sell lots of good, basic pub food, but has never felt like a cosy local.

Our next visit was on the evening of Thursday 4th September 2007.

At first glance the pub looks to be unchanged, but the wooden gazebo has gone and flower trays have appeared on the balcony railing. Despite it being a midweek evening, the pub was pretty full as evidenced by the full car park.

Our most recent stop off at The Junction was on the evening of Sunday 7th August 2016. (Picture taken next morning.)
Again, it looks to be mostly unchanged, but exterior woodwork has appeared with the low fence bordering the outdoor seating and a sort of gazebo for the smokers (I assume). The railings (and flowers) have gone from the roof over the extension. Inside, the pub has hardly changed. We had a good meal and a few pints, so we were happy!

Thursday, 2 March 2017

#214 The Bull's Head, Bishopsgate Street, Birmingham : 1950's to 2017

Breaking one of my own rules we start off with a picture not taken by me and in all probability it was taken before I was born...just!
The photo was taken in the 1950's by Birmingham City Council Public Works Dept and can be found here along with a few other Birmingham pubs then and now.

It is a classic James & Lister Lea pub that in all my years in Birmingham had been known as the City Tavern. Also interesting to note that it was an Ansell's pub back in the 50's.

This is another picture not taken by me - I've purloined it from the Images of England website - it was taken on Saturday 21st August 1999 by Mr Peter Garratt. This was a year after it had been Grade II listed, but was looking in a pretty sorry state. During this closure it was rumoured that the interior fixtures, including the classic bar had been stolen.

Just four years later and I finally make a visit to The City Tavern as part of a canal trip on the evening of Wednesday 27th August 2003. Inside, it was just as I'd hoped, a proper old school Birmingham pub with the bar either replaced with a look-a-like or it maybe hadn't been stolen after all. (I'm sure someone will know the truth of the matter.) From the outside, all of the upstairs windows had been replaced, but the downstairs look like the originals are still in place. Attractive lanterns had also been added. In the intervening four years, the sites either side of the pub had been fully redeveloped.

 I frequently go past the pub for various networking meetings and took this picture on the morning of Tuesday 12th August 2014.
In the passing years the signage has changed with the name Davenports appearing and the downstairs windows having been replaced.

Moving on to the present day and momentous changes have occurred.
I took this photo on the afternoon of Friday 24th February 2017. The name had reverted back to The Bull's Head and it is now, officially, a Davenports pub. Interestingly, the downstairs windows have been changed again and there's a hanging sign on the corner. A full description of the refurbishment and resurrection of the Davenports brewery can be found here on their website.

In the interests of completeness, I actually went inside the pub and had a half of the Davenports Imperial IPA!
I would have sampled the Original Bitter, but it had run out. They also had some Dares beers on offer (details here), but of more interest, to at least one of my friends, is the resurrection of Highgate Old Ale and Dark Mild. The manager explained that Davenports had bought the rights to these beers and were making them to the original recipe.

For those of us who like lager, there was a fine selection with the taps on the back wall of the bar in the tiled area visible in the photo.

The interior of the pub is just as it was all those years ago when I'd last visited and hopefully it will have a great future as a proper pub.

It wouldn't surprise me if the newly revamped Bull's Head found it's way into the Good Beer Guide within the next few years.

© Photo Digital Art 2017
Well, I couldn't resist!