Saturday, August 1

Hub Marketing: Pick of the Pubs (The Alternative Chart continued...)

Oh yes, where were we again? Mr D9 was in the process of regaling us with his alternative Pick of the Pubs chart, recounting those establishments we can never forget no matter how hard we might try...

Positions twenty to eleven were revealed in a previous post but for the uninitiated the minor places were filled with the kind of no nonsense stuff our Chairman does cartwheels about - precinct pubs from Kingstanding and Frankley interwoven with back to basics boozers in Brierley Hill as a mere indication. We left you dangling expectantly in Aldridge where the Crown found itself marooned fractionally outside the top ten, so let's see what made the higher reaches of D9's listing.

- The Trident, Shard End -

#10 >>> the guilty party responsible for edging out the aforementioned Crown is none other than the Trident at Shard End, a Brummie box boozer if ever there was one. Patriotic England flags were a precursor to our January 2014 call when M&B Mild was the tipple of choice; later that day, our Domestos-wielding Chairman would disconsolately discover that the Mountfort in Kingshurst had been demolished. 

#9 >>> occupying the number nine berth is a 'splash and dash' (D9's patented terminology) contender from Bloxwich where the Spotted Cow received the briefest of visits in July 2015. Convenient for the Wolverhampton Street bus stops and just a few doors down from the legendary Turf Tavern, our attendance was necessitated by the bald one's misbehaving bladder although a cheeky Worthington's gave us chance to be deafened by the jukebox!

- The British Queen, Oldbury -

#8 >>> to Oldbury we go in order to find our eighth-placed pub, namely the British Queen which judging by the picture above looks about as drab as the nearby M5 motorway. A Desi-style curry and Carling establishment on the corner of Birmingham Road and Popes Lane, we sheltered here during the infamous January 2013 Blizzard outing - the Secretary's hair had frozen solid so we appreciated the chance to thaw out slightly. 

#7 >>> many different criteria have been considered when compiling this chart (Mr D9 takes his duties extremely seriously don't you know) and beer quality or lack of is definitely a key factor. The Devonshire Arms in Hockley probably secures seventh spot on its Guinness alone, such was the indescribable taste that etched itself into hub folklore and left our tastebuds truly traumatised. On the plus side, the pub's Lodge Road location is rather handy for Winson Green Prison...

- The Woodbine, Wolverhampton -

#6 >>> something from the Secretary's former Bushbury doorstep lands itself at number 6 whereby the Woodbine was never a haunt that Mr WME was all that keen to frequent. We took the plunge in February 2014, surviving another example of dubious Guinness and possibly arousing the suspicions of barstaff who thought we were the police. The place shut down completely not long afterwards and has gradually decayed into an absolute eyesore ever since. 

#5 >>> further Oldbury occupation now as the Doll's House sets up at home in the number 5 slot. A double-gabled Banks's number which stood next to a coach depot on Newbury Lane, this was on its last legs when we dropped by in August 2012. Bubblegum machines and cardboard carpeting accompanied a quick Carling in a boozer that would have drawn its clientele mainly from Rounds Green and Lion Farm. Sadly this one has bitten the dust, cleared away to leave a vacant patch of land. 

- The Doll's House, Oldbury -

#4 >>> we're nearing the business end of the chart now and Mr D9 has judged Walsall's Old Bailey to be worthy of fourth position. We happened across this when returning home after the World Cup Great Wyrley trip of July 2018, the Chairman insisting it needed to be done as a matter of urgency. Cue much John Smith's jollity with the regulars in permanent party mood regardless of the footballing situation - England did make the semi-finals to be fair.

#3 >>> the tension mounts as the podium placings await, and what do we find on the lower step but none other than the Coventry Cross. Contraband salmon and crumbling toilet cubicles made for a never-to-be-forgotten encounter back in November 2014, the Chairman procuring himself discounted tins of John West's finest fishy stuff. The dishwater Worthington's was reasonably palatable given that part of the pub resembled a building site. 

- Bar NV, Walsall -

#2 >>> the Chairman informs us that it was the tightest of calls when deciding which pub would walk away with the title. Commiserations therefore go to our noble runner up, Bar NV. A 'highlight' from the Hoot Marketing owlspotting adventure of September 2015, this was a nerve-shredding nightcap destination on Walsall's Bradford Street. The jukebox was in high demand, even eliciting rapturous rounds of applause from one highly enthusiastic chap so it's a good job we didn't unleash any renditions of 'Spanish Eyes'.

#1 >>> so where on earth could have eclipsed Bar NV in claiming the most spectacular of triumphs? It turns out we're sticking with Walsall and the coffin-shaped 'classic' that is the New Inn, a beast of a boozer on Blue Lane West near Birchills. Canned Carling and canine calling cards made this instantly unforgettable, so much so that the Chairman insists on a revisit whenever normal Hub Marketing service resumes. In the meantime my thanks go to Mr D9 for treating us to this alternative Pick of the Pubs chart - cheers!

WME Flickr Focus - July 2020

Given that my photostream additions average usually hovers around the 30 mark (what those of a cricketing persuasion might call Joe Denly nosebleed territory), I seem to have hit a purple patch of late. Matching June's century haul was always going to be a struggle but July has nonetheless occupied the crease long enough to accumulate 70 new arrivals...

Proudly perched atop the batting order is the ever-reliable WME Wolverhampton, which takes the shine off the new ball by snaffling some snapshots of the Mander Centre festive grotto. A couple of canal locks, the new market facility and Kingfisher Narrowboats all feature alongside the Parisian cocktail bar and a general view of West Park. If all of that isn't enough, the street sign quota is bolstered by representatives from Zoar Street in Merridale and Lloyd Street in Whitmore Reans.

Wolverhampton's fellow opening batsman is Exploration Extra which has also been rather prolific of late. Welsh input here comes from Aberystwyth (Gray's Inn Road) and Beaumaris (the Bold Arms and the historic castle) whereas Nottinghamshire nudges in with a Hoodwinked robin sculpture (Ay Up Me Duck) and my umpteenth slice of Sneinton Market. Honourable mentions go to Daventry for the Dun Cow and Trimley St Mary for a nice carved village sign.

The middle order big hitters on this occasion are WME Shropshire and WME Staffordshire. Salop rotates the strike courtesy of Much Wenlock and Worfield, the former supplying an Olympian trail, the latter a Dog Inn waymarker. Staffordshire meanwhile aims for the boundary by depositing Upper Bratch Bridge and Wombourne's Waggon & Horses over the rope, although a slightly gentler scoring touch is applied to Holy Cross Parish Church in Bobbington.

Are you ready for some input from our all-rounders? WMEs Worcestershire and Warwickshire have both been in decent form, Worcs busily bothering Bewdley for a clue about an Old Pal's Shelter and Warks parading about with the peacocks at Warwick Castle. Alcester's church clock should not be overlooked and I hear WME Birmingham has biffed some quick runs thanks to the Yenton, a Winson Green general store and a picture postcard scene from the heart of Yardley. 

That just leaves us with July's tail-enders as WME Sandwell and WME Solihull squabble over the remaining scraps. Sandwell slogs up the Yew Tree Youth Club (with a street art depiction of HM The Queen) and Solihull takes on rabbit duties with Ulverley School near Olton. That brings the innings to a close with a cumulative score of 4,600 runs published pictures, and soon it will be over to August to see if it can muster any more. For now, enjoy the photos!

Sunday, July 26

Lost Pubs from the WME Archives: Part 13

The number thirteen might elicit a shudder in those of a superstitious persuasion, but when it comes to the thirteenth episode of the Lost Pubs series I guess the 'unlucky for some' adage doesn't really apply, not when these perished pubs have already bitten the dust anyway. Judge for yourselves whether this latest quintet are likely to suffer from triskaidekaphobia...

- The British Oak -
Go back a few years and you could have had a more than decent pubcrawl heading up the A462 between Willenhall and Short Heath. Although the Whimsey and the Noah's Ark still appear to be trading, there have been a couple of notable casualties in the form of the Brown Jug and the British Oak. The latter was a typical Banks's affair that got turned into a Tesco Express convenience store sometime around 2013; perhaps the influence of 13 proved unlucky after all?

- The Sneyd -
It isn't too far from Short Heath to the edges of Bloxwich which is where we find the Sneyd, a relatively squat watering hole that (until 2016 or thereabouts) served thirsty residents from the nearby Mossley estate - we'll assume the students of the adjacent Sneyd Comprehensive School weren't among the clientele! The modern nature of the building makes me wonder if this was a replacement for an earlier pub, especially as the Sneyd Locks flight on the Wyrley Bank Branch Canal used to be where Vernon Way now stands. 

- The Neachells -
Up next is a place I remember very well even though I never went in it, the Neachells having been a landmark I've passed countless times during family journeys. Prominently situated on the junction of Neachells Lane and the A454 Willenhall Road, this former farmstead was demolished in 2014 after suffering fire damage in an arson attack. There has been talk of building a supermarket on the site but nothing seems to have come to fruition as yet. 

- The Dingle -
Our fourth offering sees us switching attentions to south-west Birmingham for an ex-Mitchells & Butlers establishment in Northfield. The Dingle overlooked the roundabout where Egghill Lane meets Frankley Beeches Road and was afflicted by something of a dubious reputation, particularly towards the end of its existence. It was already boarded up when I photographed it in October 2009 and would soon be cleared to make way for a Sanctuary care home. 

- The Homestead -
Rounding off this batch of bygone boozers is a slice of suburban Wolverhampton, or Oxley to be more specific. The Homestead stood on Lodge Road, close to the main A449 Stafford Road, and evokes childhood memories of playing in the beer garden and gazing up at the man in the moon. Five houses now occupy the land (two of the residences are accessed from Eccleshall Avenue) while local drinkers have the option of the Gatehouse or the Keg & Comfort for their pints these days - cheers!

Saturday, July 18

Lockdown Log: COSELEY

I suppose technically these aren't lockdown logs anymore, being as we're inching back towards some kind of pre-Covid normality. Things are still rather surreal though as I stage my second short train trip in as many Fridays, this time concentrating very much on Coseley and environs...

- A Mane and A Mask -
It's 17th July 2020 and I repeat last week's opening move by catching the 9:48 stopper from Wolverhampton Station (Platform 5 to be exact). Wearing of facemasks feels instinctively unsettling but at least my glasses aren't getting fogged up so much today, although the above selfie confirms I'm in urgent need of a haircut! Five minutes of train travel brings me into Coseley where I cut through Clayton Park to Old Meeting Road, noting both the Unitarian Chapel (the group originated in 1662) and Coseley Youth Centre (much more recent by comparison).

- Red Cow and Razor Wire -
Finding a further trackside footpath, I reach Bridge Street for a look around Wallbrook. Edge Street is familiar from rides on the old 544 bus route - nowadays served by the number 82 - albeit the sight of the Red Cow surrounded by grim hoardings is hardly uplifting, not helped by the coils of razor wire installed to deter fly tipping. Elsewhere in Wallbrook I spot a couple of convenience stores before Fountain Lane doglegs down towards Princes End.

- School's Out Forever -
My Tipton tour merely seven days ago never stretched as far as Tibbington, an omission I'm belatedly about to rectify by including it today instead. Lost landmarks are my theme here, for while two local chapels are still going (Grace Community Church and Mount Horeb), the Tibbington pub and Princes End Primary School are notably absent. The former was replaced by the Parkside care home whereas the school got demolished several years ago and the houses of Cecil Terrace now occupy the site.

- Site of Coseley Baths -
Bradleys Lane crosses me back into Coseley territory with a whisper of Wallbrook Primary School followed by a sniff of Summerhill Community Centre. Pemberton Road puts me within range of Coseley Cricket Club who were founded in 1870 and are pleased that the recreational game has been given the green light to resume. There's no chance of any action sporting or otherwise further up Peartree Lane however because Coseley Baths closed roughly ten years ago, the land remaining empty with weeds encroaching onto the disused disabled parking bays.

- Daisy Bank Schools -
Backtracking to Summerhill Road, I proceed via Harding Street into Daisy Bank and am saddened to see the White House has been converted into a private residence. A socially distanced queue is forming outside Asda whilst the Daisy Bank Schools complex has been boarded up ever since the branch library and community centre ceased operations. Ash Street then turns rather industrial on the approach to Highfields Road thanks to the presence of C & S Steels, a company that celebrated its 55th anniversary in 2019. 

- Urban Village Construction -
Highfields Road itself has me bearing down upon Ladymoor Pool - plenty of Canada geese but just a solitary angler in situ today - and otherwise provides an update on Bilston Urban Village happenings. The Stonefield Edge development is continuing apace with affordable homes sprouting up on what was previously industrial brownfield land. Ladymoor Garage and the Gills Pork Products factory each merit a mention as I close in on Bilston, stopping by at the remains of Stonefield Schools where the original ceremonial opening tablet from 1905/06 has been retained complete with lists of Edwardian councillors.

- A Jazzy Finale -
There's only one place this trip is going to finish and that's the Trumpet, a legendary Bilston boozer renowned for hosting jazz performances eight times a week. Live music is out of the question for the moment but the Holden's Black Country Bitter is present and correct, quality quaffing with the strains of Nat King Cole in the background - this is precisely the kind of pub experience I'd missed so much during the enforced Covid closures. Fingers crossed the hospitality sector and pubs in particular are now on the road to recovery, although it would be foolish to think there won't be tricky times ahead. Nonetheless it is great to have the Trumpet back and I'll sign off with a most contented cheers!