Sunday, June 19

A Clent Crackerjack

Saturday 18th June: Most people would agree that coming home after a great holiday can be a little bit depressing as you try to get back into the routine of daily life after a few days escape. Rog and I were in need of a boost after returning from Weymouth, so our antidote to the homeward blues was a local trip exploring some of our old favourites...

Stourbridge: The 256 delivers me to Stourbridge in time to meet Rog at 10am and get a few more photos of the ongoing bus station redevelopment. Virtually all traces of the old interchange have now gone as a fleet of builders prepare the grounds for the new layout. We get chatting to Steve, a driver for Hanson's, and discuss our thoughts about whether the new station will actually be any good.

Hagley: The plan for the morning involves a visit to previous haunts Hagley and Clent, places we somewhat surprisingly haven't been to since 2007. From Stourbridge Junction we catch the train to Hagley and I swoop for a few photos of the station and footbridge. Hagley Village seems busy enough with traffic weaving through amongst lots of parked cars and the Station Inn and Our Plaice chip shop bring back some happy memories.

The walk begins: Western Road leads us out into Worcestershire countryside as we retrace familiar steps out to Holy Cross. We decide to make Belbroughton our next target but whilst walking down Holy Cross Lane we get caught in an almighty shower that prompts one passing elderly chap to pass some unrepeatable (but highly amusing!) comments. I reckon Rog had been doing his Weymouth rain dance again...

Belbroughton: Somewhat soggy and bedraggled we arrive in Belbroughton and seek shelter in the beer garden of the Talbot Inn whilst we wait for the rain to ease. It turns out the pub was already open anyway so we head inside to dry off some more, a silky pint of Boondoggle helping our recovery as I admire some rather fine scatter cushions. Back outside and the sun has come out, meaning Rog can put on his best Worzel Gummidge likeness whilst posing by a Scarecrow Noticeboard - needless to say he doesn't have to try too hard.

- But where's Aunt Sally? -

Clent: We wend our way back up to Holy Cross (no sign of any OAP commentary this time) to try out the Bell and Cross. Rog remembers when the pub had a properly traditional front bar with wooden bench seating but a more recent makeover has given the place a pretentious feel, a vibe that is echoed when we walk up past the church to sample the Vine. Don't get me wrong, both pubs are nice enough but they seem to be chasing the food market (with price tags to match) and consequently have lost some of the authentic soul that I would expect from a quintessential village inn.

- Clent, The Vine -

To Cradley: The pubs might have been a tad disappointing but our walk (rain apart) had been a leisurely treat. We complete the loop back to Hagley Station and catch a return train into the West Midlands, although I momentarily forget we're still outside the Centro boundary by showing the wrong ticket to the guard - I think Roger was hoping I would get hit by a penalty fare but I found the correct ticket just in time. We alight at Cradley Heath to find the toilets closed but remarkably our bladders are holding out well and there's no need for a Mr D9 style crisis.

Netherton: The 124 bus is already in at the bus interchange so we hop aboard for a short ride around Dudley Wood and along Marriott Road into Netherton. Beer mecca beckons courtesy of Ma Pardoe's, this time sampling the Dark Swan Mild which was in excellent condition. Rog gets to see the photographic evidence of Mr Wood's historic D9 calamities before we relax in the little snug and admire the ornate fireplace.

- In the Shrewsbury Arms -

Dudley: A quickfire ride on the 244 brings us swiftly into Dudley where a call into the Shrewsbury Arms reveals a nice period pub interior, dark leather seats and so forth. I'm pleased to get a few bonus photos around the town centre, notably of Stone Street Square, the Saracens Head and the Fountain Arcade.

Brierley Hill and Amblecote: Next up is Brierley Hill so that Rog can do his good deed for the day, delivering a DVD to a damsel of Fenton Street.We briefly go down the rocker route with a look at the Kings Head, then take a languid stroll down Brettell Lane to investigate the Old Dial. The front bar looks tatty but Rog tells me the back lounge has potential, although my mind is probably more closely focused on some Tesco sandwiches I'm eyeing up for a snack.

- Portway Metallica Pose, apparently -

Kingswinford: There's just time to squeeze in a couple more pub experiences as the day winds down. We make our way to Kingswinford to take in the Portway (with a blast of Metallica on the jukebox and another bit of Tizzie Wizzie to whet our palates) and the MHT (a.k.a the Market Hall Tavern) to complete proceedings in customary fashion. All good stuff it has to be said, and perhaps being back home after the holidays isn't so bad after all...

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