Closet Conundrum: After a breakfast bacon roll courtesy of the Billiard Hall in West Bromwich, we board the Metro to Birmingham Snow Hill to resume our inspection of the city’s former street urinals. We had actually been in the vicinity of Livery Street before but had somehow failed to spot the telltale cast iron detailing peeking out from one of the Lionel Street arches – mark that down as an early success for Mr D9’s sleeves then, an occasion marked by a suitable photograph.
- Lionel Street Urinal -
Brum Walk: A well-timed 16 relocates us to Corporation Street so that we can enjoy a stroll around the City Centre, looking for evidence of subterranean pubs and general chunks of heritage. It was far too early for a drink but we did note the Post Office Vaults, the Craven Arms and the Old Fox as items for a future agenda. The theatrical quarter is also home to the National Trust Back-to-Back houses and a Wetherspoon’s called the Dragon, although Andy ensures me that the latter is entirely unconnected to his beloved Mrs D9.
- The Bald Spot at Bordesley -
Bordesley Closet: The Bull Ring Markets were doing a roaring trade on what was quickly becoming a scorching morning, and having ferreted through to Digbeth we decided to make the most of things by continuing down to Bordesley. Here Mr D9 achieved one of his lifetime’s ambitions by investigating the old station toilets, the remains of which can still be found beneath the Coventry Road railway bridge – we would have explored the station itself but the gates were chained up, a reflection that only one train a week calls here (the 13:37 Saturday afternoon departure to Great Malvern).
- Applying the Horseradish -
Canals: So far we had concentrated on Central Birmingham so things were now well and truly about to head south. Returning through the Bull Ring, we make use of a passing 45 to have a blast down the Pershore Road, alighting just after Stirchley to join the towpath of the Worcester & Birmingham Canal. Here Mr D9 takes extra care to lubricate himself with plenty of ‘horseradish’ (a.k.a suncream) although I strangely declined the opportunity. Passing alongside Lifford Lane recycling plant, we home in on Kings Norton Junction where we can transfer onto the Stratford-upon-Avon Canal for further exercise. The guillotine lock accompanying Bridge 1 is a curiosity that definitely merits a close look but beyond this the canal meandered gently for quite some distance and we weren't entirely sure how far we would end up having to walk. Just as I was beginning to fear another ‘Bromsgrove Station’ situation, we arrived at Brandwood Tunnel where we were able to smoothly track down the bus stop for the number 35.
- Guillotine Lock, Stratford Canal -
Hawkesley: It had been a number of years since I last properly ventured into Hawkesley so a return effort was definitely overdue. Having negotiated Pool Farm, the 35 drops us off on Edgewood Road where I can admire the estate’s new-build community centre (which also contains a small little library). The local shops at Hawkesley Square looked instantly familiar although the adjacent pub can’t seem to decide whether it’s called the Tunnel or the Shannon – either way we decided we wouldn’t try it out this time around. We then slogged it up to Shannon Road turning circle for a game of peekaboo with malevolent route 27.
- Hawkesley Community Centre -
West Heath: it has to be said that we were now quite thirsty so thankfully our opening quencher of the day wasn’t too far away. Having eventually deigned to grace us with its presence, the 27 nips over to West Heath and the Man on the Moon where a refreshing shandy and some televised cricket made for an enjoyable visit.
Kings Norton: after a brief look at the Woodpecker down Turves Green way, we turn-up-and-go with the 47 to see what we would make of Kings Norton. The park looked like an ideal spot to laze away in sticky temperatures, and I rather envied the young art group escaping from class to draw pictures of the Old Grammar School in St Nicholas’s churchyard. The shandy count grew with assistance from both the Bull’s Head and the Navigation – I never realised that the former had a beautiful tiled staircase lurking in its midst, what a discovery that turned out to be!
- Decorated staircase in the Bulls Head -
Northfield: Mr D9’s bald spot is holding up well under its layers of horseradish so we are safe to proceed into Northfield. Readers of this blog will know that I am an admirer of the Great Stone pub down by the church so it was great to pop in there for a quick half of Sunbeam (a crisp Banks’s ale that has citrussy notes of grapefruit). Whilst it was very tempting to take a cooling dip in Northfield Baths, we settled instead for refreshment from the Black Horse so as to see what Wetherspoon’s have done with the famous Bristol Road landmark, mock-Tudor beams and all.
- The Great Stone -
Merritts Brook & Bangham Pit: the Hub Marketing Board constitution dictates that members should always endeavour to include a varied selection of local hostelries, both good and bad, especially when cheap rounds might be in the offing. The Highlander seemed busy and was showing the test match so I was happy enough, whilst Mr D9’s choice of the Woodcock proved nowhere near as grim as it might have been – anywhere selling Barnsley Bitter and Oakwell Dark Mild has to be worth a look. The beer prices were very reasonable so the Chairman was spared the threatened punishment of a dunking in Bartley Green Reservoir.
- Discount in the Woodcock -
Homeward: The talking timetable that is Mr D9’s route knowledge means we are right on cue for catching the 448, whisking us through Weoley Castle, the Queen Elizabeth Hospital complex (looking utterly futuristic having moved on apace since I last saw it), Harborne and Bearwood, and with just a little pit stop in Londonderry we touch down full circle back in West Bromwich. Mr D9 awaits collection whilst I hotfoot it to Tettenhall to make up the numbers on The Bears quiz team, and another in-depth investigation is filed away for posterity.