Wednesday, August 3

Keeping Up Acquaintances

Saturday 30th July 2011: The WARP crew are reunited for more television trails, this time taking us across Coventry and Warwickshire way in search of Hyacinth Bucket…

An earlyish start has me on the 8:49 local train from Wolverhampton with Woody and Roger joining me at Smethwick Galton Bridge. At New Street I collect a Wolverhampton Review map (very useful for hitting Rog with but otherwise completely pointless) and then we spy the gleaming bald spot of Mr D9 awaiting us by the ticket barriers. A quick shuffle onto the platforms and we join the 9:30 Euston-bound train for the ride over to Coventry, Messrs Wood and Chance using the seating arrangements as an excuse to get in some early baldness photography.

Alighting at Coventry we find the 27 bus waiting for us so we sit at the back and take in a bit of Bendi action – I didn’t mind the ride myself but Andy seems to have turned green, I don’t think he’s a fan. Pool Meadow has Mr Wood on the prowl for more pictures and then we stroll up Trinity Street for further prey with the Bedworth buses proving particularly good targets.

The 86 was our chosen route to reach our first destination - Hyacinth Bucket’s bungalow from Keeping up Appearances - so we catch the Binley Woods circular down to Heather Road, spotting some future targets like the Roseycombe pub and the village hall, plus there’s a branch library around here somewhere. We alight in anticipation and track down the Bucket residence whilst trying not to look too conspicuous despite us all zooming shots from across the street. We resisted the temptation to see if the lady of the house was at home as we didn’t fancy any candlelit suppers and there was a worry that Mr Wood might get mistaken for son Sheridan.

- 86 at Binley Woods -

It’s but a short 86 hop to take us back up to Binley Morrisons where Andy eagerly makes use of the supermarket facilities whilst the rest of us lookout for the 4. Having safely negotiated Hyacinth’s pad we were now going to see how the other half of her family lived, hence venturing into Stoke Aldermoor in search of Onslow and Daisy. The 4 arrives promptly and provides some intriguing bus exploration all of its own – Princethorpe Way pubs and precincts followed by the Moorfield and Barley Lea.

Judging by the general appearance you can tell you’ve entered a slightly less salubrious neighbourhood, which is probably what attracted the show to the area in the first place. We’re on the lookout for Mitchell Close and with beady eyes we spot the bus stop and troop off. Number 3 was apparently the house used for the Onslow residence and it looks about right although I don’t remember Pinley Gardens being at the end of the road shown on the TV series. Nonetheless its an excellent find and to be fair the setting probably isn’t as bad as anticipated.

Back to the buses then as we wait for the 3A and try to avoid the glare of the bald spot. Whereas the 4 uses Terry Road, the 3A takes a more direct approach into Coventry although both routes emphasise the untapped photo potential still awaiting me in some areas of the city. Stoke Green (villagey open space) and the Humber pub stand out as the main landmarks, then it’s Sky Blue Way to avoid Far Gosford Street.

- Rog's BlackBerry nearly causes a domestic -

We set down at Pool Meadow and it’s time for lunch. This can only mean one thing of course… Wetherspoon’s. Coventry’s offering is The Flying Standard, a tall black and white beamed building up near the top of Trinity Street. The pub is arranged on a few levels with a main downstairs bar, an eating zone and an upstairs gallery area. The drinks are gathered and the food is ordered, gourmet burger as ever for me with some Grainstore Gold (brewed in Rutland) and Bateman’s Pink Wicket to provide the lubrication.

We have some spare moments to pay our respects at Coventry Cathedral, the haunting ruins giving a solemn backdrop to more attempts at a baldness shot. We then wait on Trinity Street for a late-running X18, which arrives in the form of a smart double decker Gemini where we commandeer the upstairs back seat. We leave Coventry via Whitley then slog it down the main road to Leamington before cruising past Leamington Station and through Myton spotting signs of the Warwick Folk Festival at St Nicholas Park. Into Warwick itself we enjoy fine views of the Castle then swoop round into the bus station.

- That's one way to hide the bald spot! -

It’s good to be back at Warwick so quickly, picking up on a bit of the knowledge gained from the Chip Foundation’s visit a few weeks ago. The town seems a lot busier today with a vibrant market taking place on the square and the added trade generated by the festival. We call into the museum to visit Bruce’s Big Brother (Rog seems to be on the hunt for old fossils again!) and then head up Barrack Lane for a look at the old prison cell where ne-er-do-wells might have been incarcerated in days gone by – shame we can’t resurrect the tradition for Roger today.

Knowing Mr Wood’s penchant for a cheap drink I lead the chaps round to The Punchbowl which was unsurprisingly popular on a sunny event weekend. Having sampled the Mild last time I decide to go for the Oakwell Senior, an excellent choice which was also appreciated by Mr D9. Our pints came to £1.95 each, cracking value for great beer although Andy's painful rendition of Delilah was worryingly traumatic.

We wend our way back to the bus station only to find that the G1 can’t call here at the moment because of roadworks in the town. Luckily the X17 arrives instead (with digital blinds for a curious W2 Town Centre route) so we can still make our Leamington connection, leading away towards the Cape then passing the Jolly Miller, Warwick Hospital and the Wild Boar.

- The Jug & Jester, Leamington -

Come Leamington we alight at the Parish Church bus stop and then skip straight over into the second Wetherspoons of the day, The Jug and Jester. I believe this is a fairly recent addition to the JDW portfolio and I rather like it, especially when I beat my fellow WARPs in getting served at the bar. The building as a whole looks very Georgian and elegant (very much in keeping with the Spa town architecture) and I’m pleased to sample a local pint, Darling Buds from the Warwickshire Brewing Company. Rog and I find some lounge chairs to recline in (very comfortable but with ridiculously high backs) whilst Woody gets tickled by one of the artificial plant collection – all good!

Across to the bus stop and we don’t have to wait long for the next X17 to whisk us back off towards Coventry. The route here took us through Kenilworth and enabled me to pick out various landmarks for future reference, including the Wyandotte Inn as recommended by Nick. The bus conveniently drops us off by Old Spon Street just handy for a swift pint in the Old Windmill - I hoped the WARP crew might enjoy the medieval vibe mixed with a bit of biker attitude and they seemed suitably impressed. We sit in the front corner room with the dark panels and the old fireplace and partake in Old Peculiers or Doom Bars.

- Bald spot spotted on the X17 -

Pool Meadow Stand R is where the 82 departs from at 18:16. Woody was hoping for a ride on the Signature fleet but it’s a boring Bus2Work Solo that arrives instead, boo hiss! We enjoy the journey regardless, safely negotiating the Park Hill estate then cruising through Meriden (pheromone memories) and Hampton-in-Arden. I was particularly keen to have another look at Catherine-de-Barnes but it didn’t really entice me that much, the Boat Inn would qualify as a gassy pub in D9 parlance.

- An aerial photo but not much up top -

Our stay at Solihull Station is brief but does allow for some sneaky shots of the 966 on layover and a train view up on the platforms. Then it’s all down to the 19:09 to deliver us homewards, saying goodbye to Andy at the Hawthorns before it’s my own farewell at Galton Bridge. Yet again it had been a fine old adventure and my thanks go to Woody, Roger and Andy for making it such a fun day out.

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