Every army marches on its stomach apparently, so with this in mind we convened a breakfast meeting over a bacon bap at the Billiard Hall, West Bromwich. Mr D9 shocked me by arriving right on time, demonstrating his absolute commitment to all things hub - in fact he'd even brought some banners for us to display throughout the day.
- Fuelled by coffee, the D9 leaves West Bromwich -
The 75 bus was then required to get us down to Handsworth to begin the march, Andy taking the opportunity to explore the old closets by the former New Inns pub and then at Booth Street Metro stop. A quick link to Benson Road meant we could acknowledge the Soho Tavern, an absolute wreck of a pub, before tracking down the Railway further along Park Road.
Next on our route was a loop of Hockley, taking our campaign to the gates of Soho House (the historic home of Matthew Boulton). We added the Roebuck and the Beehive to our list of closed establishments, then Andy pointed out that I had a whole building dedicated just to me - apparently WME is very big in this corner of Birmingham. The dubious sights and smells beneath the Hockley Flyover left a lingering impression (to put it politely) so we thought it best to jump onto the 8 and relocate to the streets of Newtown.
We alight by the Barton's Arms to undertake a sweep round to Aston, passing the Royal Mail depot to have a glance at Miller Street, a holding pen for buses that might soon be sent to the scrapheap. Dartmouth Circus takes us above the Aston Expressway but there weren't any hidden closets for Mr D9 around here. It does feel like a concrete jungle as we make our way to Aston Road to acquaint ourselves with the Albion pub and the former Aston Manor Post Office.
Unsurprisingly, we were now in need of urgent refreshment. Luckily we happened across the Manor Tavern, a pub neither of us really knew about but it turned out to be a gold star find. The pub had a lived-in feel, well worn in places but lots of traditional touches plus Mr D9 had the bonus of meeting Benjy the pub dog who seemed keen on sniffing out the scent of Chihuahuas. Perhaps our new canine chum wanted to demonstrate his own support for the hubs project, but we reculantly prised ourselves away to continue up the Lichfield Road for a quick half in the Swan & Mitre (formerly the Swanpool Tavern).
The beer meant we were fortified for the canal element of our quest, delving into the shadows below Spaghetti Junction to survey Salford Junction. I didn't think there could be a BCN location as grim as the 'Soviet Swimming Pool' at Oldbury but this was certainly a worthy contender - the meeting place of the Tame Valley, Birmingham & Fazeley and Birmingham & Warwick Junction canals would definitely qualify as one for the purist. We resurface at Salford Bridge, blink past the Armada and wait ages for any kind of bus service on Gravelly Hill - the hub quality here was distinctly underwhelming much to Mr D9's disgust.
The 902 eventually took pity on us so that we could gather at Erdington, wandering along the High Street and then past the station to picket the Red Lion. Here we had one of Birmingham's heritage pubs complete with a brooding clock tower and a grand terracotta frontage. It's fairly impressive inside too with large rooms and some period décor - a quick Guinness helps us plan our next course of action as we prepare to move the campaign into Staffordshire surroundings.
From Erdington Station we take the Cross City line to Lichfield to test out the hub reaction amongst the rarefied surroundings of the cathedral. Lichfield has plenty of tempting pubs and coaching inns, notably the Kings Head, the Horse & Jockey, the Swan and the George IV. My two favourites though were the George & Dragon (just down from the Cathedral with some silky smooth Brakspear Special) and the Duke of York on Greenhill where the Joules's Slumbering Monk was top class - I think Mr D9 was suitably impressed by the items dropping out of my sleeves as we marched about town.
With a half or two safely swallowed, we returned to Lichfield City Station to begin our final mission for the day, which involved getting back to base with regular stopovers to hammer home the hub manifesto. Our calling points included Sutton Coldfield, New Oscott, Kingstanding and Lyndon with it seeming fitting that we should respect some of the less-salubrious hostelries that those areas might have to offer. The Mount and the Kingstanding both proved extremely memorable as examples of the basic local and we made good use of the 451's evening frequency, Mr D9 worryingly forgetting about the robustness of his own timetable.
Every march reaches an end point sooner or later with ours being the Churchfield Tavern, handily located close to the Sandwell General Hospital should either of us need medical treatment following our exertions. We covered a lot of ground in the course of our duties but I think the hub ideal was marketed most effectively from canal to cathedral and from backstreet to bleach. Cheers!