Blog Surfer

Monday, 25 November 2019

#269 Queen's Head, Stoke Pound, Worcestershire : 1987 to 2019

The Queen's Head at Stoke Pound is in the perfect position for weary boaters on the Worcester & Birmingham Canal. If you're heading up from Worcester it is situated in the small gap between the six Stoke Locks and the daunting prospect of the thirty (yes, 30!) Tardebigge Locks so you have a decision to make...should we stay...or should we go on? If you're heading down from Birmingham the decision is much easier...knackered after 30 stay!

Our first visit was a lunchtime stop on Sunday 5th July 1987 as we headed down the canal towards Worcester. According to the log, it had taken us 4 hours 10 minutes to get from The Crown at Alvechurch to the Queen's Head...a pretty decent time to do the thirty locks with a crew of four.

I don't remember a great deal about the pub other that it was a 'gastropub' even before the term became official in 1991 (according to Wikipedia). It was the definite place to go to for Sunday lunch in that part of Worcestershire!

Our trips along that part of the canal system are quite sporadic and we didn't return, heading towards Worcester, until the evening of Sunday 25th May 1997. (Picture taken next am)

This photo shows what a superb location it is and it was still a very popular place for food and drink.

We returned at lunchtime on Monday 12th August 2002.

We were taking a boat painting trip so we'd interchange travelling with some boat painting as and when the weather allowed. The previous night we had been moored below the Stoke Locks, so after turning, we made the short journey to the Queen's Head for lunch before tackling some more painting and the thirty Tardebigge Locks...again!

Our next visit was on the evening of Wednesday 28th May 2008 on our way up from Worcester.

Again, there had been further external redecoration and refurbishment, most notably the addition of an awning, presumably to shelter the smokers as this was less that a year since the smoking ban had been implemented in England.

It was another five years before we were back on the evening of Sunday 12th May 2013...and this is what we found!

Disaster! Pub very definitely closed, but was this a permanent situation? A closer inspection revealed that it was undergoing a major refubishment following a change of ownership. Long term, that was good news, but in the more immediate short term we had to call a cab and dine in Bromsgrove!

We haven't managed to return to that stretch of the Worcester & Birmingham Canal since 2013, but I took the opportunity earlier this year to pop along and take a couple of photos to update the situation.

This was on the afternoon of Tuesday April 30th 2019. I must assume that most of the refurbishment was on the inside as the exterior looks to be largely unaltered. (I didn't go inside, but I'm guessing that it is still a gastropub!)

It is now run by the Lovely Pubs group which also operates The Boot in Lapworth (#004) and a few other gastropubs around South Warwickshire.

Sunday, 17 November 2019

#268 Plume of Feathers, Weedon Bec, Northamptonshire : 2001 to 2019

Back in 2001 we visited Weedon Bec twice on our journey to Aylesbury and back. On the second visit we ventured into the lower half of the village where we made our first visit to the Plume of Feathers.
This was on the evening of Tuesday 4th September 2001 and I don't recall much about the pub.

With Peggy Ellen being moved to Napton our first opportunity to revisit Weedon Bec came on our Easter outing to Northampton and back. Again, it was on the return journey that we decided to venture into Lower Weedon and we popped into the Plume of Feathers.
This was on the evening of Sunday 21st April 2019. The pub is a standard village local style boozer, with most people being in the garden as the weather at Easter was remarkably warm.

In the intervening 18 years the exterior decoration had changed markedly, but the building itself is remarkably unmodified. It was good to see that it was still there and doing a reasonable trade.

Friday, 8 November 2019

#267 The Bull/Roman Way Tavern, Fenny Stratford, Buckinghamshire : 1992 to 2019 RIP

Back in the early 1990's when our annual boating trips took us up and down the Grand Union Canal, Fenny Stratford was a regular stopping point because of the number of pubs in close proximity to the canal.
 The nearest was The Bridge Hotel, but across the road was The Bull and our first visit was at lunchtime on Monday 28th September 1992. As I recall it was a fairly standard two room pub - nothing particularly special, but as the sign by the front door says, "Snooker. Pool. Quality Lagers" were available...what's not to like?

We were back again a year later and, although the main pub sign had changed, I don't recall that the inside had changed much.
We stopped here twice the next year at lunchtime on Tuesday 21st September 1993 (above) and again on the evening of Tuesday 28th September 1993 (no picture as it was our last port of call for the evening and a bit dark!).
Although we visited Fenny Stratford in both 1994 and 1995, we didn't go back to The Bull. After this, the boat was moored in the Midlands and we didn't return to Fenny Stratford for a number of years.
We decided that a trip to Aylesbury and back was a good idea, allowing to revisit some of our 'old haunts' along the Grand Union. This was the scene in Fenny Stratford on the evening of Wednesday 29th August 2001.
A complete change of name in just eight years and it was now offering food - not really the full 'gastropub' conversion, just a slight gentrification!

We were back in Fenny Stratford a few days later at lunchtime on Monday 3rd September 2001.
I'm assuming the name change was prompted by the fact that the pub stands on Watling Street.

That was the last time we visited Fenny Stratford until this year. This was the scene that greeted us at lunchtime on Wednesday 7th August 2019.
No more pub; in fact it looked like all of the shops along that stretch were closed, just waiting for a redevelopment.

I don't know when it closed, but looking at Google StreetView, it was closed in 2009 when the name had changed to The Entertainers! This link shows the view in 2009.

Fortunately for us, there were other pubs open in Fenny Stratford, but none of them were doing food at the time of our visit! No doubt I'll report on these at a later date.