Friday 11th November and the latest round of hub happenings saw Andy and myself undergoing a Walsall workout complete with a minor incursion across into Staffordshire...
TAME BRIDGE: The morning saw me battling railway chaos as a signalling meltdown near Wolverhampton created delays and displacement across the local network. In truth I was probably one of the luckier passengers in that I wasn't in any kind of hurry and the trains didn't fall too badly, eventually delivering me to Tame Bridge Parkway so that I could have a brief walk along the Tame Valley Canal and a mooch into Charlemont Farm. I then enjoyed a blast-from-the-past ride on the 405, a route I hadn't been on in years that gave me food for thought in terms of exploring Yew Tree, Bescot and Palfrey in future.
CALDMORE: Meeting Andy at Bradford Place we decide to start our tour in Caldmore courtesy of a mercifully short ride on the 404 as I try to avoid the D9 power steering. The Crown and Anchor has sadly closed but we can try the White Lion, sitting towards the 'shallow end' of the bar with our halves of Adnam's Southwold Bitter as the 'Hi-Viz Hub' is christened. Further up Sandwell Street is the Dog & Partridge, curiously dark as if trying to save on the leccie bills.
CHUCKERY: The backstreet tour continues down into the Chuckery as we encounter the Duke of York on Lumley Road and a novelty "Gone to Mosque" sign in a barbershop window (makes a change from 'Closed for Lunch'). We pass the old Crabtrees factory site to sample the Spring Cottage on Paddock Lane, a decent find with a bit of character. It's then over to Mr Lunn Esq to direct some arboretum orienteering trying to find old toilet blocks and Bundy clocks - the flagship park is partway through a major restoration programme which should hopefully return the facility to its former glory.
CHASETOWN: Did I mention Staffordshire earlier? A well-placed and packed out 10 is on hand to take us further afield with a trundle up through Shelfield, Brownhills and Ogley Hay. We were half tempted to try Burntwood but didn't quite judge the bus stop correctly, hence ending up further round the terminal loop than originally anticipated. Andy's creaking bladder necessitates some marathon training down Chasetown High Street where his concerns are alleviated by the Crown. Now we're here we might as well make the most of it so the Junction and the Uxbridge Arms are included for good measure; the Uxbridge served a cracking pint of Newark Castle Brown Ale (a not-too-disguised play on words from the Springhead Brewery) but the Junction had the edge for a fascinating military corner with army chests and forces helmets, a highly appropriate setting for Armistice Day.
BROWNHILLS: A quick link back on the 10 returns us to Brownhills where the Swan is high on the agenda, the pub having recently reopened and boasting some Holden's Golden Glow. A wait between buses gives a window of opportunity to squeak in the Shoulder of Mutton, and we finish off the afternoon in Walsall with a final half in the shadow of the new Tesco supermarket.