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Tuesday, 17 December 2019

#271 The White Bear, Rickmansworth, Hertfordshire : 1993 to 2019

Even when our boat was moored in the area, Rickmansworth was not one of our regular stopping places, but we did manage to visit The White Bear on a couple of occasions.

Our first encounter was on the evening of Friday 25th June 1993 as we moved our boat Emma Jane from Cowley Peachey to Winkwell - just a couple of days by narrowboat.
It was (& still is) a large(ish) pub on a busy road junction quite close to the canal and that's about all I remember of it.

We did return a couple of years later on the evening of Friday 9th June 1995 as we made our way back from a trip that had taken us to Lime House Basin in London.
Not much change, but it was now demonstrably advertising itself as a 'Free House'.

So, fast forward through just the 24 years and we found ourselves moored above Batchworth Lock looking for a pub for lunch. None of us could remember exactly what to expect and this is what we found on Sunday 4th August 2019.
In some respects it is remarkably unchanged, but in others it is radically different. Now run by Greene King and also it is now a desi pub in that it's food offering is entirely Indian Cuisine. So, we had a very pleasant Sunday lunch curry in a pub that is still a proper pub, but with a very extensive menu.

Monday, 9 December 2019

#270 The Wheatsheaf, Weedon, Northants : 1991 to 2019

I'm fairly sure that we'd visited The Wheatsheaf on previous trips, but this is the first pictorial record that I have.
This was on the evening of Thursday 24th September 1992 as we made our way north on the Grand Union Canal. Back then, as it is now, The Wheatsheaf is a standard little boozer which is now becoming an endangered species.

Although we did stop in Weedon the next year it wasn't until lunchtime on Wednesday 31st August 1994 that we revisited the pub.
No apparent change, but some maintenance work being applied to the front door.

We were back again the next year on our last trip from Winkwell.
This was on the evening of Wednesday 30th August 1995 and the pub was still largely unchanged.

Our next stopover in Weedon was on the evening of Monday 27th August 2001 as we headed south on a trip to Aylesbury.
Still no change to the pub, but the Weedon Takeaway (next door) has transformed to Riverside.

Our next visit to Weedon was as part of a short trip to take our boat Emma Jane to Nuneaton for roof repairs/replacement.
This was on the evening of Sunday 29th May 2005 and the pub was again as before...but next door it was now the Lucky House!

So, in 13 years of visits, The Wheatsheaf barely changed one would it be when we finally returned another fourteen years later, on the evening of Friday 19th April 2019?
Externally, a complete makeover, but we didn't actually venture inside as we were headed elsewhere for some food. (The mobility scooter is a bit of a giveaway regarding the inside, though!) The Lucky House, however needs a bit of tlc!

We didn't have long to wait to sample the delights of The Wheatsheaf as we returned on the evening of Friday 9th August 2019 and this time we did go inside!
I can confirm that it is still a basic boozer with a few regulars in when we were there. We were also treated to an impromptu music session as the gaffer's daughter and a couple of her friends performed a number of popular classics for us. Of the chanteuses, two were what you could categorise as enthusiastic, whereas the third was good enough to be a professional!

Monday, 2 December 2019

The Secret Seven in a Shimmy around Shifnal (with Lashings of Proper Beer)

Our tale begins at 11:30am with the assembled members waiting outside the door of the magnificently refurbished (and repurposed) Codsall Station for a pre-shimmy shandy (or maybe something a bit stronger!).

...sorry, I'm getting correspondence in about the title...people (well, my reader!) are querying my arithmetic. Having read newcomer Paul Bailey's excellent account (here), Pub Curmudgeon's consistently superb ruminations (here and here) together with Retired Martin's entertaining ramblings (here, here, here, here and here) they are asserting that I've got my sums wrong!

I can assure you that I am correct. I'm using 'nu-maths' as promulgated by the political parties of our day...allow me to explain. Our group consisted of one Martin, two Peters, two Pauls and two Mudgies...that makes seven!

So, where was I? Oh, yes! Codsall Station.
This has been beautifully repurposed by Holdens Brewery and is a divine example of how to create a proper pub in the modern era. Although it is a Holden house, I had a pint of Salopian Oracle and, despite all of our beers being the first pulled of the day, they were all excellent!

It was soon time to move on to Shifnal itself, just a couple (or three) stops along the line. It was a short walk from Shifnal Station to our next pub, Black Country Ales' The Anvil.
That shot makes it look like it was a very busy day, but we weren't the only group on the day to disembark that train and head straight to the pub! Inside, it was appointed in the usual style of Black Country Ales other pubs. Here I had a pint of Enville White which was very pleasant.

Moving on, it was probably the longest walk of the day (all of 10 minutes!), and we arrived at our chosen lunch stop, The Plough Inn.
This was the first pub of the day that felt properly 'lived-in' and was a bit more ramshackle than the previous two places. The lunch was good and my pint of Oakham Citra was as wonderful as ever.

Next it was on to The White Hart...our northernmost foray into Shinal.
This was a nice cosy two room pub, that didn't quite know how to cope with a group of curious old codgers investigating all the nooks and crannies of another well used pub. Here I slowed down to a half of Enville Ale...also good!

Soon it was time to retrace our steps back towards the centre of town, via The Wheatsheaf.
By now the rain was persistent and dusk was rapidly approaching, all of which made The Wheatsheaf even more welcoming. Another cosy, lived-in pub where I had a half of (Marston's) Wainwright...another good drop!

Moving along quite quickly and we approached what could have been (should have been!) one of the highlights of the was the opposite. From the outside, The Crown Inn looked everything that a pub should be.
Inside, it wasn't. At first it sounded like live music was on, but then we realised that it was an excellent sound system turned up way too loud! This tactic obviously wasn't bringing in the custom as we doubled the attendance when we entered, whereas the rest of the pubs we'd visited had been all ticking over nicely for a Friday afternoon...not The Crown. I have to say, though, that my half of Woods Shropshire Lass was very good.

None of us were too sad when it quickly became time to depart for the Jasper's Arms.
By now it was dark and the Jasper's Arms was fairly busy, but we managed to find seats. It was a cosy, slightly more upmarket place that had a ceiling covered with old pumpclips. I was still on the halves, here it was Three Tuns XXX, which wasn't particularly to my liking. (There was nothing wrong with it, just not to my taste!)

All too soon we were approaching our final (7th) Shifnal pub of the day, the Odfellows.
From the outside I was a bit concerned that it was a converted solicitor's office (or similar), but inside it was a proper, fairly busy pub. Salopian Lemon Dream was on, so I had a pint...very nice!

At this stage, Paul set off back to Kent (a long trek back from 'darkest' Shropshire) and the rest of us supped our ales ready for one last call. This was Martin's hotel for the night so we bade him farewell (safe in the knowledge that he'd probably visit the remaining pubs in the town) and we waited for the train to Wolverhampton. Once there, the three of us (one Paul, two Peters and two Mudgies) decided that we had time for a short diversion to the Great Western.
By the time we got there, it was heaving, but as luck would have it a group were just leaving as we got served. I had my first drop of any of the Black Country beers that had been on offer all day...a pint of Bathams Bitter. Before we went our separate ways, I had time for a swift half of Salopian Lemon Dream.

The perfect end to a great day out! It was good to meet Paul for the first time (all the way up from Kent) and it was good to catch up with Martin, Paul and Peter. The rain didn't dampen our spirits (I often believe that a cool, dull, damp day makes the pubs seem that bit more welcoming!)...and we never mentioned the election once!

Shifnal is a hidden gem with a fine collection of proper pubs all within easy walking distance of each other and with a very varied selection of ales on offer. It isn't as touristy as some places (nor as twee) rather it shows off the best of 'ordinary' England!

Onward to Burton upon Trent in early March for the next installment...unless someone organises one in between times!