Saturday 4th December saw Rog and I braving the 'Big Freeze' with a Birmingham-based West Midlands local outing...
* Meeting in Stourbridge, we were able to check on the progress at the town's old bus station. The site is now closed off behind various hoardings and a raft of health and safety notices. A series of portakabins have moved in and most of the old stands have now been demolished.
* To Brum then, so it's the Parry's People Mover (looking smart in London Midland livery) followed by the Dorridge train from the Junction, changing at Snow Hill.
* Our first port of call is Spring Road Station, always a bit of an eyesore and I think Rog was suitably underwhelmed. I encourage him to get photos of the rusty old ticket shack just so he could prove he'd actually been there, but our main focus is trying to stay on our feet whilst hopefully not looking all constipated as we waddle along.
* A little treat for Rog as we head around the corner to find Acocks Green Bus Garage. We line up shots of the depot frontage but there isn't much visible in terms of vehicles, I guess they were all hiding round the back.
* Risking limb if not life, next we brave a local walk into Hall Green that enables me to photograph the York pub and the local dog track. Cateswell Road brings us to Hall Green Station for more railway shots, then we slide off to catch the Outer Circle.
* A good ride on the 11C at least gives us chance to warm back up again as we reminisce about our Birmingham trips past. Through misted-up windows we encounter Kings Heath, Cotteridge, Harborne and Bearwood before making a dash to alight at City Road for Summerfield Park.
* Our next intrepid mission is to revisit Edgbaston Reservoir, although the icy conditions underfoot are now being accompanied by steady drizzle. Trudging across the park and down Gillott Road, we find the turning for the Midlands Sailing Club and then cross the reservoir dam towards the Tower Ballroom as Rog gets all nostalgic for the Boon TV series.
* Having sampled the Outer loop earlier, our attentions now turn to the Inner Circle and a short ride on the 8C from Monument Road to Hockley via Ladywood Middleway and the Jewellery Quarter.
* We alight near New John Street just handy for tracking down our opening drink of the day. The White House is the only Holden's pub in Brum and is just the type of backstreet boozer I like to seek out - honest and traditional whilst serving good beer, in this case Black Country Bitter.
* Braving the chill once more, it's onwards to Aston where the Barton's Arms awaits us. The traditional tiled interior here is simply stunning and provides an air of extravagance as we tuck into our thai lunches.
* For the afternoon we venture to Digbeth, always a favourite location for a proper pub or two. Today we try out the Spotted Dog on Warwick Street (welcomingly Irish and a matchday favourite with Blues fans it seems) followed by the Lamp Tavern in Highgate. We'd visited the Lamp previously and our return only emphasised how much we like the place, sitting in the cosy bar with some 'Stan the Man' Stanney Bitter for me and a Coke for Rogner.
* Darkness is beginning to fall as news filters through that Wolves have lost 3-0 at Blackburn, a result that suggests a long hard winter is still to come. We make our way to Moor Street and thence to Rowley Regis hoping to complete the day with a Black Country evening.
* Our target in Blackheath is the Bell & Bear when disaster strikes on Gorsty Hill Road. Having managed to stay on my feet all day, I come across one icy patch too many and over I tumble. To make matters worse, I land in a puddle and my jeans end up covered in damp patches that make it look like I've had a different kind of 'accident'. Roger of course finds the whole episode absolutely hilarious, especially when the barmaid in the pub asks me if it's wet outside!
* At least the Bell & Bear gives me chance to dry off as a warming fire and some Adnam's Dutch-style Bokbier help me overcome my embarassment. The pub has a nice cottagey farmstead feel set back from the road as you head towards Coombeswood.
* Being very careful where I tread now, we head down the hill to Old Hill Station and catch the 222 bus into Cradley Heath. Our final target is the Hollybush on Newtown Lane, a pub we hadn't come across before but it made a good impression and seems to host a lot of events. It certainly proved a nice place to finish off the evening before braving the cold once more with the return train to Stourbridge.
* So what's our advice for dealing with the freezing weather? Well, a few photos and a hazardous walk can keep you moving in the morning, then throw in some thai curry, wash that down with a selection of real ale pubs and you've got yourselves a cracking day out. Just remember that comedy falls in Blackheath are an optional extra that I wouldn't necessarily recommend...