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Sunday, 31 May 2020

The Harborne Run

As we're still living in the time of coronavirus I thought that I'd combine my (semi) regular exercise with more photography/artistry and put together a virtual pub crawl.

Since the loss of Alan Winfield, there haven't been many tales of epic (or otherwise) pub crawls that I've seen recently. We get write-ups of our Proper Pub Days Out, but these are genteel affairs compared to the mythical pub crawls of yesteryear.

Friends of mine who are native Brummies used to take part in the Harborne Run every Christmas Eve, but that was before I knew them, so I've never taken part in it. I shall attempt a pictorial re-creation of what would still constitue an epic alcoholic journey through Harborne...assuming that all of these pubs re-open after the pandemic.

Personally, I'd start at the 'Top' end of Harborne, but I've read of people starting at the other end. The first two pubs on the old crawl are no longer in existence - the Duke of York and the Kings Arms (see here). Some people may choose to start in The Bell (a lovely pub), but I feel that it is a bit too far off the beaten track. This would be my starting point for the 'New' Harborne Run.

The Vine - May 2020
Not long after the demise of the Duke of York and the Kings Arms, The Vine was boarded up and looked like it was going as well. Fortunately, it got a complete refurb and was expanded. It is now one of M&B's 'Sizzling Pubs'.

Moving swiftly on and just around the corner is The New Inn.
The New Inn - May 2020
This was the subject of my previous post, so there's little more to say about this lovely Marston's pub.

Next on the journey is The Junction which we've accessed from the road to the left (below).
The Junction - May 2020
Over recent years, The Junction has undergone various guises - it was a 'proper' M&B boozer, then an O'Neill's, followed by gastro-ification (is that a word?) and now it is one of M&B's Castle pubs. (A little less gastro; a bit more pub!)

Now we've reached the main body of the Harborne Run. Next up is the Slug & Lettuce (on the left from the view above).
Slug & Lettuce - May 2020
I haven't been in here for many years, usually because it is heaving whenever we've been passing. This is part of the Stonegate group of pubs and is a typical Slug & Lettuce. I'm fairly sure that this wasn't one of the original destinations on the Harborne Run.

On the other side of the High Street and a litle bit further down the hill is the other Stonegate pub - the Harborne Stores. (This is next door to Harborne's very own micropub, The Paper Duck, which I've decided to leave out of the itinerary for purely selfish reasons!)
Harborne Stores - May 2020
This is an 'old school' boozer and is always packed. It is usually like stepping back in time to how pubs used to be with regard to the atmosphere.

Further down the High Street we take a right before The Schoolyard (aka Harborne Clock Tower) and head a short way up York Street to the White Horse.
The Schoolyard - aka Harborne Clock Tower (not a pub) - May 2020
White Horse - May 2020
This is another Harborne gem of a pub which has it's own on-site brewery (Ostler's Ales). It is a perennial Good Beer Guide entrant, and rightly so (occasionally, they even manage to obtain a barrel of Batham's Bitter!)

Now, the itinerary could go in one of two directions; up York Street to the Hop Garden or back to the High Street (my choice!). Diagonally opposite York Street is where we'll find the Brewer's Social (another pub not on the original Harborne Run).
Brewer's Social - May 2020
In recent history this was a cake shop and café which morphed into a pop-up pub run by Sadler's of Lye in the Black Country. I missed visiting as that incarnation and then it shut. Subsequently, Sadler's were bought out by Halewood and the local brewery closed down, so I didn't expect it to reappear, but here it is. Definitely worth adding to the route of the crawl.

Next, and we've almost got to the bottom of the High Street, it's The Plough.
The Plough - May 2020
I have mixed feelings about The Plough. In the 'good old days' this was a proper pub with a small, intimate bar and service for the 'lounge' (and 'garden') was through a hatch. Almost 20 years ago it closed and after extensive remodelling The Plough reappeared as an upmarket gastro pub, losing all of it's character in the process. Despite my reservations, though, it is a very popular venue and during the current crisis they are serving takeaway coffee and food.

Across the road is the final pub on the High Street; the Green Man.
Green Man - May 2020
I'm sure that this is the pub you've all been waiting for. What tour of suburban Birmingham is complete without a visit to an Ember Inn?

Again, we're faced with a dilemma - nine pubs visited (ten if you've been in The Paper Duck) - and there are two left to go, but in different directions, so it is unlikely that you'd do both.

Closest, and a five minute walk around the back of the Green Man on Metchley Lane is the Hop Garden (formerly The Sportsman).
Hop Garden - May 2020
I haven't been here for so many years that I have no idea what it is like inside, but it seems to have beome another real ale 'paradise' and they are offering takeaway beer sales during the lockdown. Hopefully that will be enough for them to survive into the future.

However, if you don't fancy that, from the Green Man you could take a ten minute walk down Harborne Road to The White Swan.
The White Swan - May 2020
 Back in the day this used to be known colloquially as the Dirty Duck (not to be confused with The Duck on Hagley Road which for many years, in the 70's and 80's, was an oasis of real ale in the Ansell's/M&B desert that Birmingham was in those days!). The main hanging pub sign did, for a while, reflect the dual name of the pub, but it has now been somewhat gentrified and is part of M&B's Premium Country Pubs collection.

So, there you have it, a modern-day Harborne Run fit for the 21st Century and, assuming they all survive, an unrivalled selection of pub diversity, in such a small space, than you could find anywhere else in the country.

For more information on Harborne and it's pub history (including the Harborne Run) you can check out the Wikipedia page!

Tuesday, 26 May 2020

#098 New Inn, Harborne, Birmingham : 1998 to 2020 (Revisited)

The New Inn is still a pub that I visit infrequently and, before I chronicle the last eight years, here's what I put in 2012: -

Harborne is a well-to-do suburb of Birmingham, next-door to Edgbaston and close to Birmingham University. Traditionally it has had a good number of pubs and was ideal for student pub crawls (although, sadly, I never partook of the 'Harborne Run'!).

The New Inn is off the High Street and was a lovely little pub with a small bar at the front and a small separate room off the entrance corridor. Through to the rear was a larger lounge and a bowling green out the back. It was always a very popular place. I'm not sure when I first visited and I have no idea exactly when I took this photo except that it was definitely in 1998.
I also don't know when it became a Banks's pub, but I assume it was part of the swap deal that gave Banks's some pubs in Birmingham and M&B some pubs in the Black Country. Here's a link to show what it looked like in 1960.

Over the following years I've been an irregular visitor and witnessed the slow decline of the New Inn. The two rooms at the front stayed pretty much the same, but the lounge was refurbished. In the long term, though, each time we visited there seemed to be fewer and fewer customers. I found this mystifying as, in a place like Harborne, it should have been packed. But it seems the pub trade is changing rapidly and in 2012 the New Inn was reborn.

It is now a Steak and Ale house and is part of the Bitters 'n' Twisted group of bars here in Birmingham. This group has been responsible for the resurrection of the Rose Villa Tavern and also runs two more pubs and a couple of themed bars.
From this picture taken on 16th May 2012 you can see that the outside it has been radically changed and inside it has been completely opened out as it has been transformed from a homely little boozer into a very up market Pub Restaurant. The new New Inn isn't really 'my cup of tea', but it's good to see that it is now successful.

It is interesting how trends and fashions change so quickly. When I went back to the New Inn a few years later, it was still run by Bitters'n'Twisted, but was far less popular than it had been when it was newly refurbished and revamped. This picture is from that time and was taken on 3rd June 2016.
The pub had undergone another external redecoration, but was still relatively unchanged on the inside.

Over the next few years we still popped in now and again, but it always seemed to be fairly quiet each time. Our most recent visit was just before the lockdown. We discovered that it had reverted back to Marston's control (this apparently happened in 2017 after Marston's and Bitters'n'Twisted couldn't agree terms for the rent) and that the new gaffer had plans to get The New Inn thriving again. (It was, again, very quiet for a Saturday evening!). Hopefully, the lockdown will only have delayed the plans, but I suspect it may have destroyed them. Only time will tell.
This is how it looked on the morning of 26th April 2020 as I took my lockdown exercise. It is largely unchanged since the previous redecoration.

Before the pandemic I was concerned for the future of the New Inn and now I suspect that it may be one of the pubs that doesn't reopen. This is a minor tragedy as the New Inn is back to being a proper pub, but because it is away from the main drag it doesn't get the trade that such a pub deserves (and there are plenty of pubgoers that frequent Harborne!). No doubt, all will become clearer in the coming weeks and months.

Tuesday, 5 May 2020

#101 The Patrick Kavanagh, Moseley : 1996 to 2020 (Revisited)

As our restrictions continue, I thought that I'd visit Moseley to catch up on some more relatively local boozers to see how they'd changed in the past eight years. This is what I wrote about The Patrick Kavanagh Bar in 2012 - 

I've known this pub from the days I was a student here in Birmingham. Back then it was The Trafalgar and for a few years my friends lived in the house next door (on Trafalgar Road). It was a lovely, cosy pub with several rooms including a bar, lounge and a small 'snug' room. That was in the early 80's and, as with many things, it gradually went into decline.

Some time later it was refurbished in an attempt to bring it back to life, which was successful in the short term, but it also destroyed the intimate character it previously had. This is the first photo I took of The Trafalgar.
We were on our Spring canal trip and, because of a delay at the Shirley Drawbridge, we'd not made it into Birmingham and so we moored up in King's Heath and caught the bus to Moseley for an evening of nostalgia. This was on Saturday 25th May 1996 and it was still called The Trafalgar.

It was a couple of years before we returned and the name had been changed to The Patrick Kavanagh Bar.
I'm not sure exactly when this was taken, but I do remember the visit which was some time in 1998. We walked in one early evening to be confronted with this scene - there were no bar staff to be seen, but there were two rather large Alsatians wandering about and a man lying on the floor, unconscious! We turned around and left quite quickly!

We didn't return again until Saturday 29th May 2010. This time we'd moored up at Bournville and after a visit to my local, the Country Girl in Selly Oak, we'd caught a taxi and gone to Moseley for yet another trip down memory lane.
This time it was a much more welcoming experience and the pub was quite lively...a vast improvement over the experience 12 years previously! (Still not as good as 30 years ago...but then again, what is?)

Finally, here is my latest photo, taken on Sunday 11th November 2012 on a stroll around Moseley to catch up on the pubs of my youth!
The Patrick Kavanagh Bar had yet another external coat of paint...and a new satellite dish. If you're in Moseley and on a pub crawl, this is another one to add to the list of potential venues.

The next time I was in Moseley with my camera was on the afternoon of Tuesday 12th April 2016 and there was little change...except that the large satellite dish had gone!

I happened to be passing by again eighteen months later and there had been a complete exterior redecoration.
This was on the afternoon of Tuesday 31st October 2017. As well as the redecoration, the name had changed subtly to just The Patrick Kavanagh (still known colloquially as Pat Kav's) and it was now advertising a beer garden (plus cask ales and craft beers!)

It was a couple of weeks ago that I thought I'd have a stroll around Moseley and take some pictures of the pubs for old times sake. In actual fact, I was on my way home from visiting my dentist. One of my (many) crowns had fallen out the night before and, although my dentist couldn't actually do any work on my mouth, she did provide a prescription for antibiotics should I need it. This was passed through the letterbox to me. So, I took a slight detour through Moseley to get home!

This was on the morning of Friday 17th April 2020. Very little had changed, except that upstairs is now home to the Fat Penguin Comedy Club, which is closed at present.

I deliberately took a slightly wider shot of The Patrick Kavanagh so that you can see the house that my friends lived in when they were doing their PhD's as mentioned in the openeing of my earlier piece. Just to bring everything full circle, on my last craft market of 2019 a woman bought my Photo Digital Art picture of Pat Kav's, purely because her house was in the picture - we had quite a chat about it!