Saturday, April 1

Hub Marketing 2017: Small Heath, Meriden and Olton

March has become the Hub Marketing Board's preferred month for all things East Birmingham, especially if we can do an outing sometime around St Patrick's Day. For 2017 we didn't quite land a trip on the 17th itself so Monday 27th March proved an able deputy, even if we ended up spending much of the afternoon across the border in Solihull territory...

- Gearing up for the Coventry Road -
A morning Metro meeting gets us safely into Birmingham for ten o'clock or thereabouts with the Chairman then able to flex his driving muscles on a Kingshurst-bound 59. There's something about Digbeth and the Coventry Road that gets Mr D9 all excited - perhaps its the old garage or the inner city history that does it, along with the concentration of vintage closets beneath the railway arches of course. 

- Bald spot at Bordesley -
Anyway, on this occasion we alight just past St Andrews to begin our morning ferret in Bordesley. An immediate landmark is the former Free Library building (now a mosque) on the fork of Green Lane and Little Green Lane, the bald spot taking a close interest in the clock tower. Two intriguing pubs are close at hand, the Cricketers Arms and the Roost presumably being matchday haunts for Blues fans. Wright Street takes us past Small Heath School to Muntz Street where we find hints of heritage thanks to a painted tobacco advertising sign and the remains of the Malt Shovel pub (complete with adjacent gents conveniences, long since closed).

- Small Heath Park (watch out for pigeons) -
Small Heath is a fascinating place to wander around as you never quite know what you might spot. Golden Hillock Road leads down to the local park where a large flock of pigeons gorges themselves on leftover chapatis. I remember investigating the 28 bus terminus here over ten years ago but D9's memories go further back to the days of the Gary Owen Club on Wordsworth Road - what lurid tales might the Chairman tell of eventful evenings there? Charles Road has us on the trail of a vintage Washeteria with 1970s-style mosaic frontage, then we weave through the terraced sidestreets around Somerville Road for another look at the Monica, a one-time pub that has been re-purposed as a community hall.

- Help yourself in Hay Mills -
After having a chat with some friendly locals, our thoughts turn firmly to food matters and a luncheon appointment at Bedders. This independent chip shop is a Coventry Road institution which opens Monday to Saturday lunchtimes (11:30 - 2) plus Friday evenings. £6.50 obtains us fish, chips and mushy peas with a generous spoonful (or several in D9's case) of the all-important onions, lovely! We walk off our indulgences by exploring a little of Hay Mills where the Chairman's nose for a closet unearths a miniature pink toilet from a pile of junk.

- Meriden Green -
And now for a complete change of scenery as we swap the terraced backstreets of Small Heath for the leafier environs of Meriden. The X1 bus is our steed, National Express West Midlands having given the old 900 route a new number as part of a 'Platinum' upgrade. The service roads around Birmingham Airport don't detain us for too long and we can alight without incident at Meriden Green. Immediate photo targets here include Arden Cottage branch library, a memorial obelisk dedicated to wartime cyclist casualties, and a sandstone cross said to represent the very centre of England (although that 'fact' is subject to some geographical conjecture).

- Meriden Village Hall -
Meriden also boasts a healthy selection of pubs with the Queens Head top of our list for a visit. Tucked away in an Old Road dip, this is a place that featured in the 2016 Good Beer Guide so we avail ourselves of Draught Bass and a game of darts - shock horror, the D9 Destroyer actually won for a change! His prize/punishment is a drink in the Strawberry Bank, a rather posh establishment where a Magnum IPA pumpclip with a Tom Selleck-style bristly moustache proves fatal to the Chairman's wallet. In between times, the village hall and a pretty duckpond add to the picture count before another X1 comes into play for the ride back towards Brum.

- The Harvester, Tanhouse Farm Road -
Wells Green is our next alighting point and we soon leave the busy Coventry Road behind in favour of the quieter residential estates approaching Olton. There are a clutch of local shops arranged around the junction of Old Lode Lane and Hatchford Brook Road, one of which contains the Pup & Duckling micropub. That doesn't open on Mondays though but we do have the Harvester on hand just around the corner for some Lancaster Blonde amidst a Birmingham City FC team gallery.

- Cheers from the Highwood -
A trio of taverns in the Hobs Moat vicinity see us through the early evening. The Hobs Meadow on Ulleries Road has recently been refurbished by Greene King so we partake of Abbot Ale and ponder the architectural merits of more local shops (the Ice Rink Fish Bar being especially prominent). The Olton Tavern is an Ember Inns example where we try some Brakspear Bitter, and finally there's the Highwood with its flat-roofed features for additional Greene King hospitality. With that a not very express X2 conveys us into the city centre and it's job done for another trip - cheers!

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