- The Genie of Industry -
The outing commences with something of a hiccup when Nick Turpin catches the Redditch train but leaves me behind in Birmingham. An emergency rendezvous is thus scheduled for Longbridge where Nick is suitably admonished as we catch up with redevelopment progress at the former Rover factory site. More of the new town centre is now in place, the bright blue Bournville College building looking very much at home.
- Train at Redditch -
Somewhat belatedly we can catch a train to Redditch, the southern extremities of the Cross City Line becoming a single track on approach to the town. Mr Turpin had been looking forward to a ride on his Stagecoach but some timetable rejigging meant the Diamond 67 became our best connection option - the route took us to Studley via Greenlands, Woodrow and the Alexandra Hospital.
- A Shakespeare Starter -
The sight of the Victoria Works prompts us to alight in eager anticipation, although it's the Shakespeare that actually becomes our first pub of the day. This is a homely Marston's inn with Ryder Cup golf, tiled lounge fireplaces and a well-kept half of Banks's Botanical as we get the ale underway.
- Studley Sculpture -
A major consideration on any full day adventure is the food requirement, but in Studley this is easily solved by the Barley Mow with an excellent value Crown Carvery. We happily help ourselves to various vegetables to accompany the gammon and turkey, all washed down with some Marston's Pedigree. The Barley Mow occupies a prominent position overlooking the main roundabout in the centre of Studley, the island featuring a helpful artwork in case you forget where you are.
- Bragging in the Bell -
The festival organisers have produced a passport with the idea that you get it stamped at every pub you visit. The Bell becomes the next to be inked on our card as we collect a half each of Doom Bar - I was certainly doomed on the dartboard with Mr Turpin showing he'd lost none of his appetite for highway robbery.
- Larking About -
To the edges of Studley now and a memorable visit to the Little Lark. This used to be a Mad O'Rourkes pub and still features some of the printing presses and curios from that time, complete with Lark newspaper front covers framed upon the walls - it seems the publication wasn't averse to some cheeky headlines back in the day. Robinson's Trooper is our choice of ale here, then we complete our pub passports courtesy of the Railway (Gunners Gold), the Swan (Silhill Dark Star) then finally coming full circle back to the Victoria Works. This is the taphouse for the Weatheroak Brewery and is getting into the festival spirit with a samba band, pig roast and border-style morris dancing (with blackened faces and patterned stockings).
- Alvechurch Station Redevelopment -
Studley had been simply delightful and there was much to joyously reflect on as we caught the 247 Diamond service back to Redditch (via Crabbs Cross). We arrived right on cue to catch the next Cross City train, hence we could afford ourselves a little stopover in Alvechurch. The station here is being improved by the addition of a second platform and presumably a new car park, although our attentions soon turn to the Worcester & Birmingham Canal for a short stroll to Withybed Green where the Crown makes our acquaintance with a Side Pocket for a Toad.
- Atlantic ale in Barnt Green -
We had intended to round off the day with a half in the Weighbridge, a renowned Alvechurch drinking house by the canal marina. However, evening opening there is at 7pm so we were thwarted in our aspirations. Trooping back onto the train, we sought consolation instead in Barnt Green where the Victoria Inn offered up Sharps Atlantic accompanied by the whiffs of salmon fishcakes. There was a restaurant emphasis but we still enjoyed our brief sojourn here, setting the seal on our super Studley story.