Sunday, October 16

South Birmingham Hub Happenings

The Hub Marketing Board's South Birmingham session has become a firm fixture among our autumnal adventures each year and for 2016 we would be braving Balsall Heath and the Bristol Road...

- Depot Demolition -
The board rulebook states that every full day hub excursion should begin with a ferret so we maintain decorum with a morning mooch around Balsall Heath. Bygone boozers will be our theme, the area having lost a number of watering holes in recent years - to that end we begin on Belle Vue at the site of the Firebird, an M&B roadhouse sandwiched between the Bristol and Pershore Roads that became the scene of a squatters protest prior to its final demolition. Balsall Heath Road offers something of a wild flower meadow near the River Rea cutting, then we home in on Highgate Road where the bald spot can witness the dismantling of the old corporation bus garage. 

- Getting down with the chicks -
Ladypool Road is not a street our erstwhile Secretary can remember encountering before, which seems strange given its apparent multicultural significance. It's certainly quite a melting pot of sari shops and curry houses although a succession of terraced sidestreets offer variety of a Victorian vintage with St Paul's School to the fore. There are plenty of abandoned household artefacts for Chairman D9 to inspect (including a fridge, a fax machine and several grotty armchairs) but it's the urban farm which really captures our imagination thanks to a clucking welcome committee.

- The Brighton -
Looking out for lost pubs, we successively spy the Clifton (now Pepe's Piri Piri), the Railway (on the corner with Malvern Street) and then the Brighton Arms with a distinct air of faded grandeur opposite Balsall Heath Park. The Chairman has lost his touch with the pussy cats but seems to have become a dog magnet instead as we proceed via Taunton Road to Stoney Lane where we flirt with the back end of Sparkhill. The Volvo Parts Centre on the junction with Esme Road is a particularly nice find, a 1970s timewarp shop complete with Bosch window stickers.

- D9 driving at Yardley Wood -
The surroundings become increasingly leafier as we follow Yardley Wood Road through the edges of Moseley, pausing at the Covered Wagon for our opening pint of the day but with Chairman D9 committing the cardinal sin of leaving our darts behind as we made our exit. In fairness to the bald one, he was too busy concentrating on collecting 'Hearty Carty' from his perch in the pocket of the pool table where our chosen character for the day had been watching some cricket highlights. A ride on the number 2 bus is next on our agenda, wending our way to Warstock by passing Moseley Bog Nature Reserve and Yardley Wood Garage.

- Secretary at Solihull Lodge -
Hoping to avoid any risk of wasp-chewing, we alight at Solihull Lodge where the local pub (the Lodge) has received something of a Greene King makeover. Swish sofas and trendy decor mean D9 must wait a little longer to declare his dive of the day, then the Secretary sniffs out more pub heritage at Waterway Court, a spot that served as the location of the Warstock which in its day was a typically large suburban Birmingham boozer. We cobble together what remains of our darts collection for a few legs in the Prince of Wales before availing ourselves of the 49 via Maypole, Pool Farm and Cotteridge.

- Longbridge Cycle Hub -
Secretary WME has been rustling those sleeves of his again and out plops the Kings Oak, a precinct pub on Vardon Way grafted onto the side of the shops. The Chairman is beside himself with excitement just to look at the place, especially with the traditional chainsmoking granny standing guard on the doorstep. Some M&B Mild, a pack of scratchings and various bits of Bluenose banter make this our pub of the day, a treat followed by another 49 blast and a photocall at the Cycle Hub bike shelter next to Longbridge railway station.

- Park Point -
Board members last visited Longbridge three years ago to see what was afoot in terms of Rover redevelopment, so it was useful to update ourselves as regards more recent progress. Phase 2 of the scheme is now complete with a shiny Marks & Spencer store taking centre stage while a multistorey car park and other retail outlets (such as Poundland) have also opened. Austin Park has bedded down nicely as a prime area of public realm open space, meaning the focus of further activity now switches to Phase 3 homebuilding and the provision of additional retail, educational and leisure facilities. 

- Something Spooky -
The outing draws to a close with something of a Rubery rampage, ticking off another trio of taverns amid the outlying estates around Rednal Hill and Leach Green Lane. The Coppice (Edgewood Road) and the New Rose & Crown (New Road) sandwich a memorable call at the Toby Jug on Newman Way, scene of ghoulish goings-on in the lead up to Halloween - rumour has it that the Chairman forcibly attempted to make a skeleton drink half a pint of Worthingtons! We shake off the cobwebs with a Bristol Road ride all the way back into Birmingham, the top deck of the 63 being subjected to some reggae karaoke in an affectionate tribute to Hearty Carty, nanny goats and all. Cheers!

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