- D9 gives it oomph on the 1 -
A 12:30 rendezvous has been agreed in advance but the Chairman throws a curveball by declaring himself available a whole hour ahead of schedule - the lengths some people will go to just to avoid a cob penalty eh? It's therefore still morning as we peruse a Wolverhampton antiques shop in search of vintage ashtrays before catching the Dudley-bound 1; note how the D9 bald spot has been polished up nicely ready for some top deck driving action!
- Sarah Hughes Signage -
Our first destination is Sedgley for yet another visit to that firmest of favourite haunts, the Beacon Hotel. Secretary WME simply loves this place from the William Morris-style wallpaper to the picture rails and stoop-down serving hatches. The Sarah Hughes house ales are on fine form as we partake of Amber and Dark Ruby Mild from the comfort of the front snug, munching a cheese and onion cob each while soaking up the timeless Victorian ambience. The building dates from circa 1850 and is recognised as having a nationally important historic interior.
- Bald spot in the Bulls Head -
Elsewhere in Sedgley, the Clifton Wetherspoon's merits a mention as a former cinema (a 1930s 'Picture Palace' no less) that overlooks the Bull Ring roundabout, then All Saints parish church entices us along Vicar Street but we seem to have missed the number 27 bus. The Chairman quickly recalculates our route and suggests combining the 1 and the 17 for our gateway to Gornal, negotiating the tight turns of the Stickley estate in the process. We alight outside the Bulls Head, an establishment with previous Banks's and Mad O'Rourke's guises that now operates as an Indian Bar & Grill. Here we sample some Sharps Atlantic and D9 gets distracted by his mobile - cue a cheeky bald spot shot!
- Banks's beckons at the Crooked House -
It's good to see the Bulls Head back in business and its Himley Road location means we're handily placed for seeking out a legendary boozer that just happens to be nearby. The Crooked House has achieved a considerable amount of fame thanks to its distinctive sloping appearance, the result of mining subsidence although some hefty buttresses ensure it isn't about to collapse anytime soon. Access is via a grim driveway flanked by a landfill site, hence the whiff of household waste percolating the air. We take our mind off the stench by declaring our silly songs of the day, Benny Bell's 'Shaving Cream' being a cheeky counterfoil to Steve Wright's 'I'm Alright'.
- The Chairman finds his marbles! -
Painted lettering proclaims the Crooked House to be of a Banks's persuasion as we wander into the lounge, eager to test out the optical illusion of marbles rolling uphill. Our eyes are not deceiving us even though the jaunty angles and wonky windows make us feel a bit disorientated. Tilted Tipple is the main ale available, not the greatest pint in truth so the spectacle of the building outshines the beer quality. Nonetheless, our curiosity has been satisfied so we hold our noses and dodge the dumper trucks as we retrace our steps back past the tip.
- Gornal Wood Crematorium Closet -
Our afternoon ferret makes use of Guys Lane and Chase Road to reach Gornal Wood Cemetery and Crematorium. Overseen by Dudley Council, the crematorium opened in 1960 and seems peaceful in the February sunshine; perhaps of most interest to Mr D9 is the fact the crem has public toilet facilities, adding a further closet to his collection. Just up the road is the Forge Inn, a Marston's Two-for-One chain effort next to the Kingswinford Railway Walk (complete with an overgrown footbridge). The sight of the Forge prompts our Chairman to revel in murky tales of secretarial shenanigans albeit we don't witness any illicit assignations on this occasion!
- Pensnett Trading Estate -
Leaving the old railway line at Stallings Lane, we proceed into Kingswinford by passing the remains of the Ibstock Brickworks - the factory closed six or so years ago and the site has been earmarked for leisure, retail and around 200 new houses. We also encounter part of the Pensnett Estate business park before arriving at the British Oak, a wedge-shaped community local just down from the Charterfield Shopping Centre. This pub seems really popular with the early evening crowd so we manage to squeeze in and arm ourselves respectively with Banks's Mild or Boondoggle.
- Victory in the Union -
Kingswinford is well served in terms of its pub quota so we're spoiled for choice for the rest of the outing. Strangely enough, our next port of call is not a pub at all but rather the Kingswinford Snooker Centre, serving up a nice half of Enville Ale while we witness some hotly-contested breakbuilding. Somehow or other we haven't played darts yet, an omission that is corrected in the Union on Water Street - WME Whirlwind triumphs 3-1 helped by a startling 66 first leg checkout. The Bell, the Cottage and the MHT (Market Hall Tavern) keep us entertained with a succession of halves and the final curtain falls courtesy of a chip-fuelled ride on the 16 home to Wolverhampton. Cheers!