Blog Surfer

Wednesday, 26 June 2019

Canal Pub Crawling - Part 2

Last time you left us at the Navigation Inn, Lapworth at the end of our second day of boating in our week-long trip around the Midlands.

STRATFORD CANAL - Lapworth (Lock 14) to Kings Norton Junction
WORCS & B'HAM CANAL - Kings Norton Junction to Worcester Bar
BCN MAIN LINE - Worcester Bar to Old Turn Junction
B'HAM & FAZELEY CANAL - Old Turn Junction to Saturday Bridge

 The day started off cloudy and dry, but this soon turned to persistent rain and by the time we'd passed through 13 locks and two lift bridges we were ready for a drink and some sustenance...but not here!
The Wharf Tavern, Hockley Heath B94 6QT is a place we've stopped at on many previous occasions, but it was only 12:05 and we still had a long journey into Brum. So we sailed on by.

The next pub along is also one we've stopped at on many occasions.
The Blue Bell Cider House, Earlswood B94 6BP was perfectly placed as it was now 13:15 and we were a few miles closer to our intended evening destination. Since our last visit the pub had been redecorated and had less of a 'tired' feel and the food was very good - still proper straightforward pub grub.

After the refreshment we were back on the water for the long afternoon's journey to Birmingham which necessitated passing more watering holes! First up was Lady Lane Wharf, Earlswood B94 6AH (at 16:05) which is a place we've never visited.
It gets good reviews for its food and beer (it has been, maybe still is, in the Good Beer Guide) but because of its position (relative to our other regular stopping places) and the lack of nearby moorings we are unlikely to break our duck any time soon.

A bit further on (16:55) is a place that we've stopped at on many occasions, usually when we're heading away from Brum, but not today.
The Drawbridge Inn, Shirley B90 1DD is situated next to an electrically operated lift bridge which is on a very busy cut-through so we tend to encouter quite a few impatient drivers as we operate the bridge. Today it was rush-hour on a Friday, so it was even busier than normal!

Further along towards Birmingham is another pub that we've stopped at on previous occasions, but nowadays there is nowhere to moor up as the banks have become overgrown.
The Horseshoe, Kings Heath B14 5EL is an old school boozer on the Alcester Road, not far from the Maypole (for those who know Brum). It was now 17:50 and it was still a couple more hours before we reached Central Birmingham for a safe place to moor.

Further on we come to Kings Norton Junction where we turn right and head in towards Birmingham on the Worcester & Birmingham Canal. There are no canalside pubs along this stretch as the canal and railway line (Cross City) keep each other company all the way to Five Ways.

Once we hit the city centre there is a 90° turn by The Cube where, somewhat inevitably, we meet one of the party boats heading out of town, but manage to avoid any collision.

As we pass through Gas Street Basin we successfully negotiate the Worcester Bar which leads us onto the BCN Main Line for a short stretch. We pass by the Tap & Spile B1 2JT (not pictured) and the Canal House B1 2JR which was formerly the James Brindley. It is now 20:10 and we're ready for a drink!
But we're still not quite there; we pass through Broad Street Tunnel and turn right at Old Turn Junction to enter the Birmingham & Fazeley Canal where we moor up by Saturday Bridge - it is now 20:20 and we'd passed The Malt House B1 2NX, again without entering!
After mooring up, it was straight out to The Shakespeare B3 1JJ and an Indian meal at the Raj Doot, neither of which can be considered as canalside venues.

Day 4
BIRMINGHAM & FAZELEY CANAL - Saturday Bridge to Curdworth

Saturday started out grey and drizzly as we set off down the Farmer's Bridge flight of locks that head north taking you down and under Birmingham. Before we've even passed through the first lock there's a canalside pub.
It is way too early for a drink (09:50) in The Flapper B1 2NU. I haven't been there for many years and it is likely to have been closed and replaced by flats by the time we pass this way again. When I was a student this was the Flapper & Firkin, but now it is a music venue and feels more like an estate pub. A brief summary of the situation is here.

We pass no more canalside pubs until later in the afternoon following lunch at The Bull B4 6JU and after descending the Aston Lock flight. Towards the edge of the city comes a pub that I've never been in and, when you see the canal frontage, you'll understand why.
I give you...Tyburn House, Castle Vale B35 6AA. From this view, if you didn't know there was a pub there, you'd be none the wiser. It was now 17:15 and we had no plans to stop! Britain Beermat has visited the Tyburn House and put his thoughts on his blog Life After Football.

We still had the three Minworth Locks to negotiate before we passed by a pub that we've visited on numerous occasions, but at 18:10, we still had a bit more travelling to do.
The Boat Inn, Minworth B76 9AE is another lovely little local boozer that also does food and, for us, is more suited to lunchtime stops.

We passed one more (that I failed to photograph, being otherwise engaged) which was the Cuttle Bridge Inn, Minworth B76 9DP. This is a place we've frequented both in it's present guise and in it's previous incarnations as The Kingsley, but our destination of Curdworth was just along the cut, so we didn't stop.

So, two more days into the journey and we've passed by another dozen canalside pubs, but this time we only went into one of them! That is a pretty poor return. If we had stopped, and had a pint in each one, the trip would have taken three times as long.

However you dress it up, these statistics are a definite surprise to me!


Wednesday, 19 June 2019

Canal Pub Crawling - Part 1

The idea for this blogpost comes courtesy of Life After Football and Pub Curmudgeon - Life After Football has been attempting to cycle to Alrewas from near to Burton-on-Trent (with mixed success!) and has been visiting pubs that we've passed on our canal journeys, but never visited (for various reasons; usually timing).

Pub Curmudgeon suggested that a purely canal based pub crawl must be feasible, so I decided that for our most recent canal trip, I'd take a picture of every canalside pub that we passed...whether we went in or not. I didn't realise it was going to be this long when I started!

Day 1
GRAND UNION CANAL - Wigrams Turn to Warwick (Kate Boats)

We set off at about 10am on Wednesday 5th June 2019. By 11:25am we'd reached The Boat Inn, Stockton CV23 8HQ, but it was too early to stop.
We have stopped here before, but it was many years ago.

Next was The Blue Lias, Stockton CV47 8LD. It was now 12:25, but having just negotiated the main part of the Stockton flight of locks, it still wasn't time to stop!
As with The Boat, we've stopped here before, but quite a while ago.

We finally decided to stop at a regualr haunt of ours along this section, the Two Boats, Long Itchington CV47 9QZ at 13:00.
Whilst there's nothing wrong with either of the two previous pubs, the Two Boats just wins out as our favoured stopping point.

The village of Long Itchington boasts a good number of pubs including the Cuttle Inn, Long Itchington CV47 9QZ which sits directly opposite the Two Boats on the Grand Union Canal.
It is a place we've occasionally visited, but the Two Boats always wins out.

We left the Two Boats at about 15:00 and planned to get to Warwick for the evening. This meant passing more canalside boozers, the first a classic estate pub that we've never been in; The Fusilier, Leamington Spa CV31 1NJ.
By now it was 18:00, but still too early to stop. On the far side of Leamington are two pubs, on opposite sides of the canal which have been built in the last 20 years. First is The Waterside Inn, Leamington Spa CV31 3JZ which was originally called The Tiller Pin. We've never stopped here.
It was now 18:23 and as we passed under the A452 bridge, it was still 18:23 when I took this picture of The Moorings at Myton, Leamington Spa CV31 3NY.
This is a pub we have visited, once, but not on this occasion. We pressed on to warwick where we moored up at 19:10, spending the evening in various pubs in the town.

Day 2
GRAND UNION CANAL - Warwick (Kate Boats) to Kingswood Junction
STRATFORD CANAL - Kingswood Junction to Lapworth (Lock 14)

We set off again at about 09:30 and were passing by a classic canalside boozer that we, sadly, haven't visited for many years, The Cape of Good Hope, Warwick CV34 5DP 
This view, from the second Cape Lock, was taken at 09:50, so way to early to stop. 

Our next challenge was the Hatton Flight of locks which we completed and moored above the flight by 13:55. This gave us plenty of time to sample the delights of what is now a gastropub and not quite as canalside as it advertises!
It is quite a walk up the hill to the Hatton Arms, Hatton CV35 7JJ (formerly The Waterman), but we persevered for some good food and drink. This is a place we've visited on many occasions because, irrespective of whether you are going up or down the flight, the next pub is three hours away (at least).

After our obligatory (and customary) two-hour pit-stop we were back on the water heading for Lapworth, but there was one more boozer gastropub that we would pass by (although we have visited in the past).
It was 17:15 as we sailed by Tom o' the Wood, Rowington CV35 7DH. It isn't exactly on the canal bank, but a lot closer than the Hatton Arms!

Once we'd moored (at about 18:30) we visited The Boot Inn, Lapworth B96 6JU which isn't quite canalside either, but near enough.
We had one pint in the (very successful) gastropub that is The Boot and moved on to try our luck at a proper canalside pub (although not one that we'd pass by on this trip).
The Navigation, Lapworth B94 6NA is a pub we've visited on many occasions. It still is a proper pub, albeit with a large restaurant area, but it was nowhere near as busy as The Boot had been.

 So, after just two days, we've passed twelve canalside pubs but only went into four of them.

Before I started this entry, I expected that there would be half this number of pubs, but I will continue the journey soon.


Monday, 3 June 2019

#260 Lord Combermere, Audlem, Cheshire : 2007 to 2018

On the Shropshire Union Canal the village of Audlem is well known for its flight of fifteen locks and the two canalside pubs which I've previously reported on (#255) and (#122).

It is a village that we've visited many times, the first being way back in 1981 on only my second ever canal trip. That will also reinforce our sometimes lack of adventure in finding pubs when there are ones so close to the canal. Although, this is quite extreme as it only took us 26 years to venture the 100 metres to the Lord Combermere!

Our first visit was on the evening of Monday 3rd September 2007.
As I remember it was a decent enough pub that didn't really have too much character.

We returned on the evening of Monday 8th August 2016.
It hadn't changed much apart from extra exterior seating, I assume in accommodation of the smoking ban.

Our most recent visit was at lunchtime on Tuesday 4th September 2018.
We'd ventured there as we'd had a terrible lunch experience at the Shroppie Fly a few days earlier and decided to take our custom elsewhere. The pub had had a bit of a makeover and was as pleasant as previously. For a more comprehensive review of the interior of the pub see BRAPA's excellent blog. I can't say that I disagree with his conclusion.