Friday 13th July saw the Anti-Hub Marketing Board stage a Shropshire scrutineering special as Mr D9 and myself descended upon Telford & Wrekin Borough for a day of hub-pub investigation...
BREAKFAST: Despite a valiant sprint, Mr D9 was unable to arrive in time for the 09:43 departure to Holyhead (the train cruelly departed just as Andy collapsed onto Wolverhampton Station) so a consolation bacon roll was required in Wolverhampton Wetherspoon's to fortify us instead for the 10:25 service to Oakengates.
- Hadley Shops, but not anymore -
HADLEY: We touched down on Telford territory just before 11am and a quick walk through Oakengates brought us to the bus station - it was intriguing to see the regeneration works occurring down on Market Street. The 55 provided some D9 driving action through Donnington before dropping us in Hadley where I was surprised to find that half of the shopping precinct had been demolished - I wasn't particularly a fan of the old shops but it was still a shock to see they had vanished. The Kings Head was still present and correct though, as were the unsightly pedestrian footbridges spanning the road junctions. Despite a certain ugliness I've always been quite fond of Hadley having called by here back in 2004 so I will be very interested to see what shape the redevelopment of the area takes.
- The Malt Shovel -
LEEGOMERY: From the centre of Hadley we wander along Hadley Park Road, glimpsing the gates of the GKN Sankey factory lurking behind otherwise innocuous residential housing. The Malt Shovel pub offered plenty of traditional elements and a pint of Burton Bitter (very much appreciated too) before we ventured into the newer estates. Again I had to contend with recent changes when I discovered that the Thomas Telford pub had been flattened and a new shopping centre (containing a Spar supermarket and the Big Blue fish bar amongst other things) had sprung up in its stead.
- 65 loads at Wellington -
65: a handy 44 connection (via Princess Royal Hospital) took us from Leegomery to Wellington, whereupon we were able to change seamlessly onto the 65 (not forgetting the customary bladder interlude for Andy). The 65 was some route as it turned out, initially covering Admaston and Shawbirch before opening out into country air and villages such as Longdon-upon-Tern, Rodington and Roden. A truly fascinating ride, careering through deep puddles at regular intervals and with many agricultural fragrances to ensure Mr D9 felt thoroughly countrified by the time we alighted.
- St Michael & All Angels -
HIGH ERCALL: a change of pace with a village outpost to explore, High Ercall being located roughly midway between Shrewsbury and Newport. The Church of St Michael and All Angels has a medieval tower that is particularly impressive whilst further ferreting also reveals a small village shop and the Cleveland Arms pub - we just managed to squeeze in a drop of Marston's Pedigree before mid-afternoon closing. We then have the 65 to ourselves for the ride back into Wellington, Andy curiously refraining from any further driving demonstrations.
- Wellington -
WELLINGTON: I've long been an admirer of Wellington as a proper Shropshire market town so it was great to do it some justice today. Multi-coloured bunting brought the centre to life as we investigated the town's growing real ale reputation. The White Lion has latterly been taken on by Darwin Inns showcasing the ales of the Salopian Brewery, of which we try Lemon Dream, before the High Street introduces us to the mixed delights of the Three Crowns and the Oddfellows.
- Bald Spot amongst the Bushes -
KETLEY: Time for some rootling around in the undergrowth as we take a 44 quick hop into Ketley. Alighting by the Horseshoes, my railway ruins radar eventually kicked in to locate the remains of the old Ketley Station, whereby the brickwork of the old platform could be discerned in amongst the nettles. As sleeve items go I was quite proud of this one, and for good measure I also located the Compasses Inn on Beveley Road, a pub that now seems off the beaten track although historically the route was Watling Street.
- Lord Hill Inn, Ketley Bank -
KETLEY BANK: some real exertion now as we brave the climb up Sunnyside Road into Ketley Bank, an intriguing area of narrow lanes and cottages, at least thats what we saw of it. The Lord Hill made the hike worthwhile, a relaxed friendly setting for a refreshing slurp of Courage Directors. We had an extra bonus when the 23 bus turned up unexpectedly to save our legs from the stroll back down into Oakengates.
- Stone the Crows -
OAKENGATES: The day has gone full circle as we find ourselves back where we started, echoing our Telford Trail from last September with a final blast before the train home. The Alexandra took top honours this time, or rather Mr D9 did when he secured the Discount of the Day award thanks to a happy hour promotion. The beer in the Crown and the Station wasn't as cheap but it was equally as good - Oakengates is a real ale hotspot that I'd happily recommend to anyone.
This deposition to the scrutiny board concludes with the 19:06 train back to Wolverhampton, whereby Mr D9 is then dispatched onto his Metro in readiness for collection somewhere in Sandwell. All observations have been analysed and verified with the final vote from all parties confirming that the outing had been a resounding success.