Wednesday, May 3

Acocks Green with the Chip Foundation

April's last blast of exploration action saw Nick, Stephen and myself bound for the Acocks Green area (plus a side order of Solihull) in an outing otherwise known as number 48 of the Chip Foundation Chronicles...

- Olton Running Board -
Friday 28th April 2017 and our gallant trio descend upon Olton to begin proceedings with a rendezvous scheduled just after 11 o'clock. I rather like Olton Station with its a simple island platform, well-maintained waiting room (complete with geraniums) and artistically-tiled underpass scenes featuring windmills and boating lakes. The interchange information point directly outside the station is guarded by a stainless steel sculpture of a king on horseback while Olton's branch library is just across the road.

- Gongoozling on the Grand Union -
Via Ulverley Green Road we make our way to the Grand Union Canal which runs in a reasonably leafy cutting where the stretch from Acocks Green to Damsonwood is concerned. We initially tackle the towpath from Castle Lane to Woodcock Lane (Vineries Bridge), pausing to admire swooping herons as Stephen ponders the canal's fishing potential. We then momentarily branch off into Yardley for the Journeys End on Clay Lane, a Sizzling pub where Nick is just a little too young to be eligible for the Golden Years menu.

- Former Fire Station -
Back on the canal and the afore-mentioned Vineries Bridge is said to date from 1794, making it something of an original survivor where so many other bridges have been replaced to cope with the demands of modern traffic. We follow the towpath through to Yardley Road before making our way into Acocks Green Village, passing the railway station, the police station and Cottesbrooke School. My favourite find however is an old fire station on Alexander Road, a heritage feature I must admit I'd never spotted before.

- Blackberry Stout? Don't mind if I do! -
Our primary pub target in Acocks Green is the Inn on the Green, a place that is quickly becoming a favourite of mine given that I also called in with D9 a few short weeks ago. The range of real ales here always seems to include something really interesting, Waen's sumptuous Blackberry Stout fitting the bill perfectly this time around. Mr Beardsmore is happy as he has some cricket to watch while a background soundtrack of rock classics seems to fit the pub's personality.

- Warwick Road Chip Choices -
A true Chip Foundation outing always requires for actual chips to be eaten so our lunchtime location turns out to be the Dolphin Fish Bar (the Spread Eagle Wetherspoons being far too busy to tempt us to stay). A bench on the Warwick Road might not be the most scenic of perches but we can contemplate the former Adler's Garage building while munching our respective roes, mini fishes and battered sausages. The Aldi supermarket just behind us was once the site of the Dolphin pub (demolished 1991), a landmark which gave its name to the adjacent lane where there seems to be an outbreak of abandoned sofas lurking among the suburban front gardens.

- Solihull High Street -
Hall Green seems to have less in the way of discarded furniture as we seek out the Bulls Head on Stratford Road, a typical Ember experience on the junction with Fox Hollies Road. A vintage Scotts Cycles shopfront is a further point of interest before a ride on the 6 through congested Shirley brings us safely into Solihull. Stephen is running the risk of a purple beverage overload but gamely braves a final dose of blackcurrantyness as we make the Masons Arms (opposite St Alphege's Church) our closing port of call. Inviting armchairs serve as our setting for some political debate encompassing the forthcoming General Election and a mention or two for President Trump, and with that we wend our way home from Solihull Station - cheers!

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