Sunday, February 26

Coventry Combinations Continued...

I felt I had a bit of unfinished business following my Coventry outing a couple of Saturdays back, so on Friday 24th February I returned for a second bite of the cherry prior to the forthcoming Network Review...

TILE HILL: A familar setting to get me started. The 8:53 London Midland train from New Street to London Euston drops me off conveniently in Tile Hill where I busy myself with photos of the station, noting a new housing development springing up alongside the Birmingham platform. The Torrington Avenue bus terminus is also a favourite haunt of mine and today we have the 19 on parade, the route set to be replaced by the 18 from Sunday.

- 32 at Tanyard Farm -

32: It's then a short walk from Tile Hill to Tanyard Farm where the turning circle on Goodman Way awaits me. The 32 terminates here at the moment but the 6 and 6A are set to take over duties in this corner of Coventry, hence the existing connections to Potters Green and Bell Green will be replaced by links to Little Heath and Victoria Farm. Today's 32 eventually makes an appearance, and having pounced for a quick photo I hop aboard for the ride along Tile Hill Lane (spotting the Newlands), through Spon End and Coventry City Centre to reach Walsgrave.

WALSGRAVE: I'd passed through the area last time around and it definitely intrigued me so why not take a closer look? The Mount Pleasant is a useful target up by the Asda and I also have a go at some zooms of the Red Lion. The star attraction however has to be St Mary's Church where the churchyard looks so pretty with a carpet of snowdrops and crocuses. Woodway Lane adds to the fun with the prospect of a photo or two of the Craven, a pub I hadn't spotted previously.

- St Mary's, Walgrave -

POTTERS GREEN: Sticking with Woodway Lane, I continue through to Potters Green passing the pebble-grey chapel of the United Reformed Church. I can then renew my acquaintance with the 32's north-eastern terminus by the shops off Ringwood Highway - thankfully I can do the location justice today without running the gauntlet of moody teenagers lurking by the chip shop! With a quick nod to St Philip's Church, I rejoin Woodway Lane and note how the road has been truncated by the M6 motorway. The Jolly Colliers pub probably felt quite rural in years gone by but now it just looks sad, all boarded up and neglected.

OXFORD CANAL: An ominous green footbridge connects the two severed ends of Woodway Lane either side of the motorway, so I shuffle my way across to join the towpath of the Oxford Canal. Bridge 9 is a lovely little structure and suggests I could be in for a real treat as long as I block out the drone of the M6 traffic. I follow the canal towards Hawkesbury, passing over the junction with the Wyken Arm and admiring the views from Bridge 5 out towards Lentons Lane.

- Bridge 5 -

VICTORIA FARM: I leave the canal at Bridge 4 (Tusses Bridge) where I am saddened to note the closure of the Elephant & Castle pub - Rog and I had a quick pint here back in 2009. Alderman's Green offers views of the local post office and a scout hut, then I track down my next bus location at the Victoria Farm turning circle off Anderton Road; the 30A and 30C call here at the moment but from Sunday this will be where the 6A finishes up. A bit of patience is required waiting for a photo opportunity but a couple of 30As eventually oblige either side of a quick shot of the pub sign for the Greyhound.

LONGFORD: Ploughing onwards, Grange Road leads me down into Longford Park where I cross a brook and head over to Windmill Road. The Old Crown is an excellent find, the pub dating from 1914 and having some nice architectural detailing. Something called the Fortress then catches my eye as I join the main Longford Road, but I soon branch off along the Coventry Canal to cover the short distance down to the Royal Hotel and Old Church Road.

- 30A at Victoria Farm -

36: Just as with the 32 and Potters Green earlier, I felt that the 36 and Little Heath were in need of a repeat prescription to ensure that my photographic diagnosis was spot on. Luckily the bus doesn't keep me waiting long and the patient can be administered with the appropriate camera treatment. The route then provides some medicine of its own, allowing me to rest my aching feet as I journey back into Coventry via Stoke Heath and Hillfields.

1: Once back at Pool Meadow, my plan would have been to catch the 11 down to Stonehouse Lane but a combination of a misleading timetable screen and a random detour into a car park meant that the idea fell by the wayside. Instead I link up with the 1, filling in the Toll Bar End section of the route having covered the Chapelfields bit last time around. The bus picks up at The Quadrant (outside the Litten Tree) and then trundles straight down the London Road, passing the Royal Oak at Whitley and the Chace Hotel at Willenhall before terminating just short of the A46 Bypass junction. Under the review, the 3A will be the link to Toll Bar End in future whilst the 7 (extended from Brownshill Green) will provide some peak coverage along London Road.

- Route 1 at Toll Bar End -

11: the new 3A route will also be stepping in to cover the 11 service, although I remember when the 11 itself was mooted as a replacement for what was the A1 a few years ago. Anyway, it's definitely the 11 that turns up today, collecting me from Stonehouse Lane and embarking on loops of Willenhall (Yarningale Road) and Cheylesmore (Dillotford Avenue) before dropping me off on the forecourt of Coventry Station just right for catching my 16:27 train home.

With that, the lid to the selection box is closed and it will be a new variety of treats that will await me the next time I catch a bus in Coventry. It has certainly been interesting trying out the routes as they stood, covering familiar places (Tile Hill, Chapelfields, Bell Green) and new discoveries (Finham, Allesley Park, Victoria Farm), adding to my local knowledge all the while. As ever with these Network Reviews, there will be winners and losers so it remains to be seen just how the revised services will ultimately be received, but I am already looking forward to the trip when I get my first chance to explore the new system...

Saturday, February 18

Hub Hunting in East Birmingham and Coleshill

Friday 17th February 2012 was a day with a real air of celebration as Mr D9 and I met up for our latest Hub Marketing adventure. A tour of East Birmingham was in the offing as we marked the birth of Mr D9’s baby daughter, Harmony Grace…

WEST BROMWICH: Given recent events in the Black Country derby, I could have been excused for never wanting to hear the words ‘West Bromwich’ ever again but I did put my allegiances to one side for the sake of opening the day’s photo count. A Metro ride to Trinity Way gets things moving and I must admit I rather enjoyed having a look at Holy Trinity Church. Braving the M5 Junction 1 roundabout, I catch a glance of the West Bromwich Dartmouth cricket ground before my attentions turn to another sporting arena I’d care not to dwell on too much. The Hawthorns is perfectly acceptable as a modern football stadium though so I feel impelled to grudgingly get some shots of it.

BIRMINGHAM: With Mr D9 safely in attendance we head into Brum where our first mission is to wet the baby’s head courtesy of a drink in the Wellington. Of the ales on offer, Totty Pot sounded the most appropriate name and proved to be a rather delicious dark porter, so here’s to Harmony Grace with the best of luck to her proud parents. Apparently Andy just about has more hair than his new daughter but that situation could change before too long!

- Totty Pot in the Wellington -

DIGBETH: a D9 hubcrawl is never complete without a bit of toilet tracking so we wandered down to Banbury Street to see what remained of an old street urinal that was located close to the Gun Barrel Proofing House. Sadly all we could see of the closet were the ghostly traces of repaired brickwork so we consoled ourselves with a swift half of Wychwood’s Dirty Tackle from the historic Old Crown pub on the corner of Heath Mill Lane.

SMALL HEATH: We needed that drink to fortify us for what was to come next, namely an incursion down the Coventry Road into Small Heath. Here we have the very epitomy of multicultural Birmingham, a densely populated inner-city area lying in the shadow of St Andrew’s football ground. You can feel outnumbered in areas like this but I nonetheless find such places fascinating, witnessing other cultures at close quarters. The local park appears to be a haven for pigeons whilst the mix of temples and ethnic supermarkets adds to the interest of the architecture. I really enjoyed sneaking a few photos as we went along, my targets included the old park lodge, the George & Dragon pub and the Brighton Arms where we called in for some M&B Mild.

- Small Heath Park Lodge -

BORDESLEY GREEN: The pub pictures continue aplenty as we proceed along Green Lane, passing in turn the St Andrews Tavern, the Gunmakers Arms and the Gables (the latter now having been loosely converted into some shops). The number 8 Inner Circle route toys with us on Victoria Street, laying over as if to beckon us on board but then driving off after we’d sprinted half-way up the road.

97A and 90: annoying as that 8 was, missing it probably worked in our favour as we could instead enjoy a couple of rides to book-end the briefest of dalliances with Chelmsley Wood (or ‘Chelmsley Chav’ as Andy prefers to call it). The 97s are working in convoy as we board by the Victoria, and our 97A gives a front-row view of Heartlands Hospital, the Meadway and Bosworth Drive, Mr D9 doing the driving honours on the final approach into Chelmsley Wood hub. We interchange instantly onto the 90 for a whirl around Chelmsley’s outer termini before crossing above the M42 out into Warwickshire.

- The D9 rides into 'Chelmsley Chav'-

COLESHILL: A complete contrast from our earlier surroundings as we find ourselves in a quintessential small English town complete with old parish church (St Peter & St Paul) and a collection of tantalising coaching inns. Tempting as it was, we couldn’t try them all so our eventual pick resulted in encounters with a Mad Goose and a Hooker (the George & Dragon and the Green Man being the obliging hostelries). The River Cole skirts by the northern tip of the High Street, and other features include a pillory and whipping post used to punish local drunks – ah, so that’s why we behaved ourselves!

- The Dog Inn, Water Orton -

WATER ORTON: determined not to risk a whipping, we quickly move on to nearby Water Orton, the 90 doing the honours via Coleshill Parkway Station. Water Orton has its own little railway station, a parish church (also dedicated to St Peter & St Paul), a branch library and a couple of pubs (the Digby and the Dog). It’s the Dog that attracts our custom, the barman serving us our Ruddle’s County and making us feel very much at home with a dose of chat and banter.

WASHWOOD HEATH: Our Warwickshire interlude had been most enjoyable but it was time to return to the Birmingham beat. The 90 is again on hand, taking us through Castle Bromwich and Hodge Hill (via the Clock Garage) to drop us off in Washwood Heath. Here Andy points out the site of the former bus garage, although most traces of the old depot appear to have been obliterated by the construction of a Pak supermarket. We also investigate the Metropolitan-Cammell trainbuilding plant, Andy finding a novel use for the gates off Leigh Road.

- The Ward End Park Closet -

GUN QUARTER: The 94 is our link back into Birmingham City Centre, bashing down through Saltley to Nechells Parkway. The Dog and Partridge looks like a traditional pub on the outside but loses some of the mystique once indoors, and then we finish off with a glimpse of the Gun Quarter. I’ve previously commented on the joys of the Bull, the corner pub on Price Street that resembles granny's parlour, but I wasn’t aware of the Gunmakers Arms with its M&B signs just around the bend on Bath Street. Together those two made for an excellent flourish on which to bid Brum goodbye.

CLOSING: With the BT Tower and the Rotunda receding on the skyline, we pitch up at Soho to get some bearings with the Black Eagle (very popular as ever) and the borderline-derelict Soho Tavern. A Metro from Benson Road completes the job to get us full circle back to West Bromwich where the Billiard Hall enables us to indulge in one final toast to the health of Harmony Grace. So there you have it, a cracking day with much variety that was highly fitting for a special occasion...


Tuesday, February 14

Coventry Combinations

Saturday 11th February 2012: It seems like only five minutes since I was last in Coventry, but the small matter of an impending Network Review meant that a speedy return was required so that I could sample some soon-to-be-amended services...

Coventry: Pitching up off the train at ten past ten, I sprint to the Warwick Road bus stops just in time to see my intended 15 bus go whizzing off into the distance. No matter, I can fill in the time by tracking down the Aardvark and the Broomfield Tavern for my opening pub pictures of the day before catching the next 15 half an hour later.

15: a service that links Coventry City Centre with Finham and a circular loop of Fenside. The ride takes me past War Memorial Park and down the Kenilworth Road before flirting with the Burnt Post pub on Kenpas Highway. It's then into Finham, proceeding down Bathway Road and Green Lane before encountering the local shops on Brentwood Avenue. A quick blast on Stonebridge Highway leads neatly to the Fenside estate and I alight by Charminster Drive.

- Finham Library -

Fenside and Finham: Time for more photography, beginning with the bus as it lingers at the stop on Fenside Avenue. A row of shops has caught my eye and I also find the Festival pub as I make my way back round onto Stonebridge Highway. The Styvechale Harvester is a useful landmark overlooking a prominent A45 roundabout, then I dart round into Finham where I discover a local branch library quietly situated on Finham Green. Emerging onto Green Lane I catch the return 15 up towards Coventry - I believe new service 9 will be covering down here in future.

1: Top Green Park still has a coating of snow to make for some pretty winter shots, then I connect with my next bus on Spencer Road. The 1 is a route I have used before and in full it connects Toll Bar End with Chapelfields, albeit not for much longer. Today the service takes me past Spencer Park and into Earlsdon before skirting Hearsall Common and trundling down to the Chapelfields terminus at the top end of Grayswood Avenue.

Allesley Park: my terminus trail continues as I navigate my way past the New Spires pub and along Brookside Avenue into Allesley Park. The main centre of the estate focuses on the Westmede Centre shops near the junction of Winsford Avenue and Whitaker Road, plus there's a Bethesda Chapel and a new-looking Neighbourhood Centre to keep me occupied. Winsford Avenue curves round to the upper half of the estate, revealing St Christopher's Church and a more vintage Community Centre before I arrive at the turning circle opposite the Chilterns. The terminus is actually located close to the site of Allesley Hall and you can detect the undulations of the old moat in amongst the nearby trees.

- 23 at Allesley Park -

23: here we have a route that links the Allesley Park estate with Coventry Pool Meadow at 15 minute intervals or thereabouts, although the 2 is set to be extended Cross City from Cheylesmore as a replacement. The journey into Coventry is relatively quick, hurtling back along Winsford Avenue followed by Allesley Old Road. Four Pounds Avenue smoothly connects with the Holyhead Road by a Morrisons supermarket, the Alvis Retail Park and the Holyhead pub.

36: my stay at Pool Meadow is very brief, being just about long enough for me to stock up on new timetables for the revised services coming into force from 26th February. Stand L is the departure point for the half of the 36 that goes to Little Heath, and I'm soon away again with a double decker vantage point from which to see Harnall Lane East (Hillfields), Heath Crescent (Stoke Heath) and Sewall Highway.

Little Heath: Proffitt Avenue marks the end point of the 36 so I alight just before the junction with Old Church Road. I can't resist attempting a bus photo or two but it's the old church itself that really captures my imagination. St Laurence's is the parish church for the Foleshill area and is a very fine landmark with its prominent clock tower.

- St Laurence's Church, Foleshill -

Bell Green and Wood End: I now have the dubious pleasure of sampling a couple of the less-attractive areas of Coventry. I've been quite critical of Bell Green before but I did at least get to see more of it today, albeit the Riley Square precinct is still one of the most offputting shopping centres I've ever come across. Remarkably, things were actually about to get worse as I then ventured across into Wood End, finding a virtually abandoned street where house after house was boarded up and empty. I understand the properties are earmarked for demolition as part of a regeneration project so the sooner this happens the better. It would be unfair to label the place too much as there are efforts being made to improve the estate, a shining example being the Moat House Leisure Centre off Winston Avenue.

Potters Green: Deedmore Road leads me up past St Patrick's Catholic Church as I bear down on my final target, Potters Green. I'm on the lookout for Ringwood Highway but before I wander that way something tells me to continue along Shilton Lane a little - I'm glad I did as I was rewarded with some shots of the Boat Inn, a pub now separated from the canal by the small matter of the M6 motorway. Ringwood Highway brings me to the turning circle currently serving as the north-eastern terminus of the 32, the stop being located by the shops at the junction with Yewdale Crescent. A primary school and St Philip's Church are other notable features here but I don't really have time to investigate them.

- 32 at Potters Green -

32: the current route links Potters Green with Tanyard Farm via Coventry City Centre and Tile Hill, but the changes will see the 6/6A (Tanyard Farm to Little Heath or Victoria Farm) and the 8/8A (Woodway Park and Potters Green to Coventry Station) taking on the split mantle. As for the existing service, I rather enjoy the run down the Hinckley and Ansty Roads passing a few half-familiar Walsgrave landmarks such as St Mary's Church, the Red Lion and the Coventry Oak.

: changing at Pool Meadow once more, I have one final important nugget to squeeze in. If ever there is a route that has been the backbone of my Coventry explorations then it has to be the 27, a service that has greeted me outside the railway station on several occasions to provide a link into the City Centre or beyond towards the Walsgrave Hospital. It therefore seems highly fitting that I should say goodbye with a Bendibus bash back to the railway station and a closing treasured photo on the station forecourt. The 8/8A/9/9A will be the new station links but the 27 will always have a reserved space in my memories.

Entering the station, my luck is in as the 16:22 Virgin Pendolino service is on hand to deliver me directly to Wolverhampton, the serenest of rides as I reflected on the routes I'd investigated and the changes to come. As ever, it will be interesting to see how the new network is received and I look forward to making use of the exploration opportunities it could provide. As for today, my instant return to Coventry had been well worth the effort and I have an inkling I might be back again before too long...

Saturday, February 4

A Titanic Time in Redditch

It's not your average evening that includes some Rock and Roll portering followed by a trip behind the Iron Curtain that ends up with you being Shipwrecked and Overboard, but that's precisely what happened to Nick and myself at the Redditch Winter Ale Festival yesterday...

It was certainly an eventful evening, but first a bash at some Bradley exploration. Catching the Metro to Loxdale, I mosied down the Bradley Canal Arm to see the housing developments springing up by Glasshouse Bridge. It was interesting to locate St Martin's Church on Slater Street, the former schoolhouse having been converted into a place of worship when the original church succumbed to dry rot. The Crown and Cushion pub on Bank Street appears to have become the latest casualty of closure, then Highfields Road leads me past the frozen waters of Ladymoor Pool, the Canada geese looking a little bemused skating around on the solid surface.

- St Martin's Church -

Meeting Nick at Woodcross, we catch the 229 down to Coseley Station for our connection to Birmingham. It's simple enough to join the Cross City Line but our initial link only gets us as far as Longbridge, where we endure a particularly bracing wait as the temperatures begin to plummet. The 17:36 train rides to our rescue, cruising through Barnt Green and Alvechurch in the dark to then set us down at Redditch at about 6pm.

We were hoping to call upon Nick's previous experiences of visiting the festival as a means of guiding us to the venue, but somehow we couldn't quite get our bearings. Our intended walk along Mount Pleasant instead became a wander along the Bromsgrove Road into Batchley, and it was only thanks to some chap in a corner shop that we were put on the right course. Even when we found ourselves in Headless Cross we still felt lost, and it was definitely more by luck than judgement that we happened to spot the festival sign just when we were about to go in another random direction.

- Stottidge Stout -

The festival was being held at the Rocklands Social Club off Birchfield Road and some fellow alefans are on hand to guide us through the entrance foyer. The club itself looked very popular with some interesting ales on, but the main festival hall was located in the back function room and seems to have attracted quite an audience. Redditch and Bromsgrove CAMRA had adopted a Titanic theme for the event, hence the festival glass had a smart ship motif and many of the volunteers were sporting t-shirts sponsored by the Titanic Brewery. We collect our tokens and programme then have a scout around the room, spotting the tombola stall, a CAMRA membership stand and the food hatch.

Our comical detour on the way here meant we were definitely now ready for a drink. The ales are arranged in the far left corner and our first choice sees us immediately aiming for something black with the Flowerpots Brewery's Stottidge Stout fitting the bill perfectly. I followed this with a couple of paler beers, Sadlers' Honey Fuggle and Upham's Nectar, a third of a pint being just a nice amount to allow you to taste a variety of brews. Nick meanwhile was exploring his Lithuanian dark side - he's definitely got his eye on some Imperial Russian Stout...

Now for the stronger stuff. The Rock and Roll Brewery from Shirley wasn't a place I'd heard of before so it was intriguing to try some of their Black Dog Porter. A couple of pasties from the hatch keep hunger at bay and then it's my turn to venture behind the Iron Curtain, Titanic's Russian Stout proving powerful stuff with a strong hint of coffeee fragrance - Nick was so taken with the drink that he had two goes at it. My other favourite from the festival was Kinver's Shipwrecked and Overboard, fitting the Titanic theme to a tee - I always like beers with slightly silly names so this was a highly appropriate choice to finish on.

- The Gate Hangs Well -

With final tipples in hand we made our way to the tombola stall where my heart was set on winning a cuddly Bagpuss. No such luck I'm afraid, although I did come away with an origami set and some chocolate truffle seashells. In scenes reminiscent of Stafford last year, Nick's turn sees him waltz away with one of the star prizes - not a monkey this time but a Woods Brewery jacket, so not only has he got Shipwrecked and Overboard but he also got Fleeced as well! On that note, the room is really filling up now so it's time for us to head off - we thoroughly enjoyed attending the festival and our thanks go to all of the organisers and volunteers for making it such a friendly event to visit.

Our evening wasn't quite over though as we still had time to sample a couple of Redditch's Good Beer Guide contingent. We stumbled across the Gate Hangs Well almost by accident, the pub being on Evesham Road literally just around the corner from the festival. The place was very busy but we squeezed in by the dartboard for a half of Hooky Bitter, a silky smooth drink in cosy surroundings. We were still a little uncertain about our intended route back into the town centre but thankfully we guessed right this time and were rewarded with a closing half in the Woodland Cottage - Springhead's Fallen Angel doing the business in another lively little local. With that we head straight down to Redditch Station (it was that simple all along!) with Nick being so grateful for his new fleece (extra layers in the cold temperatures) that he even does a spot of modelling on the train home. Pretty much a perfect evening!

- I've been Fleeced! -

Thursday, February 2

Ales Around Amblecote

The first day of February sees the Chip Foundation returning to action with our opening outing for 2012. It's Wednesday afternoon, the weather is bright but chilly as we look forward to a few hours spent in the company of Stourbridge, Wordsley and Amblecote, picking up on some prized pubs that I was first introduced to by Roger...

DUKE WILLIAM: A favourite for starters. Stephen and I time our arrival off the 256 just perfectly to meet Nick from the Parry's People Mover at Stourbridge Town Station, then a little walk down Stourbridge High Street brings us to the welcoming warmth of the Duke William. Having been voted local CAMRA Pub of the Year in 2011, the place is really going from strength to strength, and the same could also be said of the Craddock's Brewery based at the pub - Nick and I sample a selection of the home brews including Capra, Troll and Crest, whilst a Sadler's Hippo also made an appearance. The lounge is very cosy festooned with hops as we try not to talk about England's capitulation to Pakistan in the latest test match.

- Dutiful poses in the Duke William -

MAVERICK: After that excellent opener, we proceed to Amblecote courtesy of the 257, alighting by the Old Dial and crossing over to the Maverick. Here we have a distinctly different pub experience as the place has its own Wild West theme, complete with pictures of Native Americans and signs for wolf-shooting bounty hunters. Walking in is more akin to entering a saloon bar as opposed to a Black Country boozer, but there's no doubting its considerable popularity. Stephen tops himself up with blackcurrant and lemonade whilst Nick and I take flight with some Sopwith Camel from the Cottage Brewery in Somerset - yee-haw!

ROBIN HOOD: We weren't quite sure how Nickolenko's Lithuanian tendencies would react from exposure to Country & Western music so we hot-footed it up Collis Street, collecting some tasty chips from the Amblecote Fish Bar on the way. The Robin Hood would be our next port of call, perched on the slope and bedecked with pretty white fairy lights. Inside the pub is very homely and comes with the added bonus of some Enville Old Porter, nicely dark just the way Nick likes it.

- The Starving Rascal -

STARVING RASCAL: The pubs around Amblecote are packed closely together so we only had to walk to the top of the road to reach our next target. The Starving Rascal takes its name from a local legend where a former licensee of the then Dudley Arms turned away a starving beggar. No such problems for us this evening as we are warmly greeted and provided with appropriate refreshments - Castle Rock Harvest Pale for me and Malvern Hills Black Pear for Nick. There is a much-appreciated real fire on the go to help us stave off the chills, and we admire more hop decorations as well as ceramic jugs and a whiskey menu board.

SWAN: I said the pubs were close, well the next one is literally nine doors (I counted them personally!) further down Brettell Lane. In a first for Stephen, we actually find ourselves waiting outside for the pub to open, then at 7pm the landlord pulls the door ajar and in we troop. Rog and I have enjoyed a few drinks in the lounge here so it seemed appropriate to continue that tradition, settling in with a half of Abbeydale's Transformation all the way from Sheffield. The display of pumpclips catches my eye, and whilst we can't see anything cricket-related for Stephen, the landlord invites us to have a look at a further array adorning the canopy in the bar - the Swan always scores highly for Black Country hospitality.

BIRD IN HAND: Having ambled our way around Amblecote it was time to weave a trail into Wordsley. The Red House Glass Cone was lit up on the skyline, acting as a guiding angel pulling us towards our next inn. The Bird in Hand is a backstreet corner local on John Street situated right in the shadow of the cone, and the lounge here provides a most relaxed setting where a half of Bumblehole is accompanied by soft lighting and candles.

- A Motley Bunch in the New Inn -

NEW INN: We have one final stop in order to complete matters, so we set off into the cold once more and haul ourselves up Wordsley Hill. At the top end of the High Street the New Inn awaits us, a no-nonsense place where the Bitter is the main attraction - it's hard to beat a bit of Bathams! Stephen gamely takes care of another lemonade and blackcurrant, and we time our exit just right to catch the 20:29 256 directly back to Wolverhampton.

What a gem of an outing that turned out to be! I've always had a high regard for the pubs we visited, and my thanks go to Rog for acquainting me with them in the first place. Beer wise we did a proper tour of local breweries with Craddocks, Sadlers, Enville, Olde Swan and Bathams all represented, and each of the pubs had their own individuality to make for an evening full of interest. Add in the chips and the chat, and all in all it was top notch stuff.