Metro Meet: Our rendezvous is 0930 hours at West Bromwich Central Metro Stop, Mr Lunn emerging from the hub right on time. We work out a few ideas for the day and decide to take the tram towards Birmingham whilst I report back on Mr Wood’s now-legendary £10.20 round at Portland.
Jewellery Quarter: alighting at the joint tram/train station I grab a few Metro shots and then we head onto Vyse Street so that Andy can sample his first treat of the day, a Victorian urinal just outside the station entrance. The obligatory picture was taken and the theme for the day is well and truly set. We then delve deeper into this historic corner of Birmingham to appreciate the landmark clock before locating pubs such as the tempting Queens Arms on Newhall Street and the almost derelict George & Dragon.
St Paul’s & Summer Lane: Our tour of the city centre fringes proceeds with a look at St Paul’s Church then heading out under the railway to sample Summer Lane where Centro House, the Barrel and the Stags Head provide some interest.
Livery Street: a fascinating streetscape flanks the railway lines out of Snow Hill where a series of atmospheric arches are waiting to reveal their secrets. The bricks and crevices probably have a few tales to tell of nightclub shenanigans, concealed storerooms and old industrial workshops. The motley assemblage is completed by a newsagents and a Lithuanian deli, not forgetting the newly-opened second entrance into Snow Hill which reminds me very much of some station entries found on the tube in London.
The Wellington: arriving into the City Centre we take time out to relax in one of my trusty favourite pubs. Pump 15 is selected meaning today’s tipple of choice is Paxton’s Peculiar from the Peerless Brewery in Birkenhead - whether the beer itself is peerless is open to debate but it was certainly a decent drink.
6 to Digbeth: we like the idea of a Digbeth tour for the early afternoon so the 6 is well-placed for a ride up Bradford Street. The Adam & Eve (in shades of pink and purple), the Moseley Arms and the Spotted Dog all provide some useful photos although my attempted shot of the Deritend Fish Bar (with it’s old Pepsi logos) is rudely interrupted by a rogue bald spot!
Wagon & Horses: Adderley Street leads us towards Bordesley as we explore the area around Birmingham Central Garage. The Wagon and Horses is on hand to serve the local industries (perhaps including some bus drivers after their shifts) and the pub was surprisingly nice to visit. A quick half of M&B Brew XI goes down well when accompanied by a bit of Wimbledon on the telly.
TUAG from the Closet: Andy’s nose for all things bladder-related then sniffs out another cast iron gem on the corner of Great Barr Street and Liverpool Street opposite the Forge Tavern. We follow this by testing out the TUAG (‘Turn up and Go’) credentials of the 97 route with impressive results. The bus is already coming so a little dash gets us on board, and Andy can’t resist a quick D9 demonstration - note how he gives the urinal a lingering look on the way past!
Bordesley: Having negotiated the kamikaze hullabaloo of Garrison Circus, the 97 takes us a few stops up Garrison Lane as I pick out Bordesley landmarks that I hadn’t previously encountered. There are quite a few pubs, notably the Victoria and the Sportsman, whilst we also have a glance at Bordesley Garage and some Travel offices.
St Andrews & Coventry Rd Garage: I brace myself to enter enemy territory as we negotiate Cattell Road and the spectre of St Andrews, home to Birmingham City FC. I sneak a handful of stadium photos but then avert my eyes in favour of concentrating on the old Coventry Road bus garage, bits of which are now in use as offices and storage space.
The Garrison: We quietly tiptoe past the Tilton End to go undercover in the Garrison, a hardcore Bluenose pub with various club pictures on the wall and a sign in the toilet promoting the house menu as deep fried dogs, cats and rats - I think I’ll give that a miss!
Grand Union Canal: Time for a bit of waterways, joining the line at Garrison Lane Bridge (No 103) so that I can introduce Andy to the graffiti-daubed delight that is Bordesley Junction. Making our way to Warwick Bar we speculate that some of the ‘artwork’ must have required either a ladder or a boat, or both! We resurface in Digbeth on the trail of more urinals - Andy thinks he remembers one somewhere under the railway arches and sure enough we find it, although that roving bald spot crept into view once more as I lined up the photo.
Anchor & Lamp Tavern: Next up is a quickfire taste of more favourite Paul boozers. The Anchor offers some Kitty Brewster from Northumberland as we sit in the Midland Red Bar - we reckon Mr Wood probably got up to a few misdemeanours in here back in the day. The Lamp seems quiet but we still enjoy our halves of ‘Stan the Man’ Stanway Bitter and some more tennis.
The 16: Another trial by TUAG, or is it TUAR being as we have to keep running to make sure we catch our buses today. The upper deck is virtually empty so you can guess what came next; yes indeed, another masterful performance from Mr D9 as he manoeuvres out of the Bull Ring and up to Moor Street.
- D9 on the Birmingham beat -Hockley: we alight on Great Hampton Street for a brace of Good Beer Guide entrants. The Church Inn does us nicely for some lunch (complete with hand cut chips) and Timothy Taylor’s Golden Best, whilst the Lord Clifden has a more cosmopolitan vibe to accompany half of Abberydale’s Surreal Ales. Andy then rummages up his short sleeves to pick out a photo opportunity surveying the old shops on Lodge Road, an excellent suggestion there.
Jewellery Quarter: Having come virtually full circle back to where we started this morning there are further pubs to sample. The Rose Villa Tavern is undergoing refurbishment but that still meant we had the Brown Lion and the Jewellers Arms to more than satisfy our curiosity. The former has recently been transformed into the tap house for the Two Towers Brewery and showcases their full range of beers including Chamberlain Pale Ale and Jewellery Porter - I would happily recommend the Livery Street Mild. The latter was a bustling place where we partook of a swift half of Hobson’s Best Bitter.
101: Mr Lunn has one final trick up those sleeves of his so we sprint to catch the 101 by the Chamberlain Clock. After some wriggling along Hingeston Street and Pitsford Street, we pass All Saints School and the Devonshire Arms before setting down on Lodge Road by the prison.
London Works: Andy’s plan had been to visit the Queens Head, a pub with a nice old-fashioned frontage but sadly no signs of life. Our old friend the London Works Tavern was just up the road though so no harm done, and it was actually good to be back here, especially if compulsory purchase orders will soon necessitate demolition to make way for a new superhospital. We sup up and then head our separate ways with Rolfe Street beckoning for my train home.
I have really been spoilt for fantastic explorations recently but this was right up there to maintain those lofty standards. The D9 was on top form, the pubs were fascinating and there were segments of places I’d never covered before, Bordesley especially. All in a days work I guess, but what a day it was!