Monday, January 31

A Stoke Prior Appointment

Many of you may recall the calamity of that Christmas outing down to Worcestershire where Woody, Rog, Andy and myself very nearly became snowbound in Bromsgrove. Never ones to be defeated by the weather, we were soon planning a return visit with Saturday 29th January 2011 proving to be the designated date. This time around the elements were much kinder and the day was memorable for all the right reasons...

* A combination of local trains from Wolverhampton and Smethwick delivers me safely to Stourbridge Junction where I meet up with Rog and Woody, but no sign of Andy as yet. We debate whether Mr Lunn will indeed make an appearance as Mr Wood tries to get himself a perm using the heater in the Junction waiting room - as ever his hair is set solid using his industrial supply of Brylcreem.

* 9:19 and the train down to Kidderminster. Still no Andy but no white stuff either so it seems safe to proceed with caution. We alight at Kiddy and I just have time for some shots of the Railway Bell before the X3 collects us for the journey to Redditch. The bus is noticably fuller than our last attempt so the omens are good, especially as we can actually see the road today!

* The passage to Bromsgrove gives Woody the chance to test out his D9 driving skills (and Roger's dodgy foot), making serene progress down to the bus station where Andy announces his arrival with a sharp tap on the window - rumour has it that Woody's hair actually moved with the shock. With Mr Lunn on board we have a full complement and the banter continues unabated.

- Heading for Redditch on the X3 -

* Redditch then, alighting amongst various Red Diamond vehicles much to Woody's chagrin. The Golden Cross gets the WME photo treatment then we call into Wetherspoon's The Royal Enfield for our first group pint of 2011. A welcome Guinness always provides some sustenance for the day ahead as Andy teases me with talk of modal shifting to thick blue lines on the Wolverhampton bus network. We decide to see if the Golden Cross is open yet - it isn't, but Andy did make sure by shouting through the window just in case - and so a further pint in the Royal Enfield is required as we prepare for departure. Rog even has time to relive a previous Redditch bladder nightmare when he finds the Kingfisher toilet is occupied once more, I must admit that episode was quite amusing...

* Our exit from Redditch comes courtesy of the X3 back to Bromsgrove, a quick little run back past the Foxlydiate Arms. We alight handily for access to the Golden Cross Wetherspoon's where bladders are becalmed and luncheon is served. As ever for me its a gourmet burger meal deal, this time washed down with some very moreish Titanic Stout, a hearty winter tipple.

* The main business of the day concerned our much anticipated visit to Stoke Prior. With food digested we make our way onto the Red Diamond 141 Droitwich service, taking us down past Aston Fields (with all it's traumatic 'Bromsgrove' Station memories) and then on an extended tour of a Morrisons supermarket car park. We alight by Stoke Prior Church where we christen the new Worcestershire hub and then engage in some D9 racing as Andy and Rog battle each other with a kamikaze sprint down Hanbury Road.

- Stoke Prior, The Navigation Inn -

* We arrive somewhat breathlessly at The Navigation and head inside for a recovery pint, in my case Fuller's London Pride, and a pool tournament. First up it's Roger vs Mr Wood (or was it Freddie Boswell vs Stephen Fry) with Roger's wild hair securing victory, then it's over to Andy and myself whereby Mr Lunn progressed to an easy triumph by modelling himself (apparently) on Hurricane Higgins. The final pits Rog against Andy but a bit of black ball skulduggery left the title undecided, the only wonder was that neither of them noticed the missing ball earlier.

* Next stop is the Boat and Railway, via a walk along the Worcester & Birmingham Canal where the towpath was marginally less treacherous than last year. The pub lives up to expectations with a warming fire and the chance for a Cheers photo where Roger does his best to block me out of the shot with that infernal coat of his!

* It's now just after 3pm so we track down the return bus to Bromsgrove, where more bladder concerns necessitate an emergency visit to the Red Lion for a swift half (of cola I might add). From here our final X3 run connects us back to Kidderminster, where even more bladder concerns result in a limbo dash into the Tesco supermarket, it must be the cold weather!

* Time for a bit of driving nostalgia as Mr Wood relives his previous existence courtesy of the Whittles 125 service to Stourbridge. Memories abound as we recall his days at Stourbridge Garage thrashing the D9s and S16s past the Broadwaters and the Park Gate then down the Stourbridge Road to Iverley - Andy is on hand of course to bring the whole experience to life with his own brand of heavy duty steering.

- Back at the Bell -

* We arrive back in the West Midlands and indulge in a little Stourbridge crawl to while away the evening. Rog and Woody reminisce about their days working in the Bell, telling tales of various misadventures and seeming quite at home despite the pub having had various refits since. The Talbot is another former Rog workplace, then the Chequers Wetherspoons delivers another round of decent pub grub. With Andy then Woody bidding us farewell, it's over to Rog and myself to complete proceedings with a half in both the Mitre (with Ken Dodd bizarrely on the jukebox) and the Duke William (some Duke's house ale as we accepted a late nomination for barmaid of the day). 8pm and Roger heads off home, and before too long a 256 and a bag of scratchings ensure I have a safe return to Wolverhampton. First group trip of the year done, more of the same and we'll be in for a cracking 2011.

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