Saturday, June 29

Scarecrows, Sheep and Shove Ha’penny

It has become customary over recent years that one of the summertime adventures of the Hub Marketing Board should be a Shropshire outing, and members were ready and willing to maintain this happy tradition into 2013. Friday 28th June was nominated as the day in question, meaning Shrewsbury and Market Drayton were in our sights as the Chairman hoped to pay tribute to Charles Pemberton-Rowbotham III, the mystical mythical initiator of the Hub Marketing Rule Book several centuries ago…

The day begins with something of a shock in that neither the Chairman nor the Secretary were remotely in danger of incurring any cob penalties. The 09:25 departure from Wolverhampton was safely boarded in readiness for a relaxing journey to Shrewsbury, and then a morning ferret around Frankwell was required for obtaining photos of the Wheatsheaf and Theatre Severn whilst the Chairman paraded his bald spot about on Welsh Bridge.

- The Bald Spot Crosses Welsh Bridge -

Breakfast is secured courtesy of the Shrewsbury Hotel Wetherspoon’s where the bacon baps go down well and we make the acquaintance of a scarecrow who had more hair than poor old Mr D9. 

- Not Quite Worzel Gummidge -

We now feel suitably fortified for the journey out to Market Drayton, availing ourselves of the number 64 bus in the shape of a Council-liveried Optare Solo. The Chairman had to use all his powers of concentration just to try and stay awake as the bus sprinted through Shawbury and Hodnet before negotiating some tight reversing at Tern Hill Barracks. A rare D9 sleeve item is revealed in the form of the Stormy Petrel, a disused pub on the A41.

- The D9 leaves Shrewsbury Bus Station -

With a final sprint past the Muller Dairy, we arrive into Market Drayton in need of a medicinal pint to soothe the Chairman’s sore throat. The Hippodrome Wetherspoon’s is next door to the town’s bus station and serves us up a proper Shropshire ale in the form of Three Tuns Mild. We can then get our bearings around this attractive market town, noting the Buttercross shelter, St Mary’s Church and various references to gingerbread. Given all the fine architecture on display, it was somewhat deflating that the Chairman should get most excited about the brutal 1960’s appearance of the local post office!

- Buttercross at Market Drayton -

It’s then over to the Secretary and his real ale radar helps us to locate the Red Lion, carefully restored as the Joule’s Brewery taphouse (the brewery itself is housed around the back). This was a delightful pub with the Mouse Room being a particularly nice find, an oak-panelled hall with carved mice and a drum kit. Beers such as Joule’s Pale Ale and Slumbering Monk are produced on site drawing waters from the Market Drayton aquifer, and we couldn’t help but notice that Chairman D9 bore a remarkable resemblance to some of the monk portraits displayed in the restaurant. Our Market Drayton business is concluded by following in the footsteps of Charles Pemberton-Rowbotham Esq by investigating the Joiners Arms and Lord Hill on Shropshire Street.

- Drumming up a Storm in the Mouse Room -

And whilst we're on the subject of the Lord Hill, look what got in the way when the Secretary tried to photograph the old clay post bus stop outside the pub...

The 64 was once again on hand for our return ride to Shrewsbury, our driver seeming to be a curious cross between Ronnie Corbett and Nigel Mansell. Our illustrious Chairman felt suitably inspired enough to attempt some driving of his own, and word has it he accomplished the tricky Tern Hill reversing with aplomb, meaning no damage whatsoever was inflicted upon the nearby Community Centre.

- The Tern Hill Turn -

From there we made good progress back towards Shrewsbury, alighting at Harlescott so that the Chairman could indulge in some sheep-straddling outside the local Tesco. Sadly the photographic evidence seems to indicate that he couldn’t quite get his leg over, thus incurring the punishment of a tortuous stroll around the Sundorne Road estates complete with much bladder bother. The Coracle pub provided some relief and a cob to get our teeth into, building our strength for an afternoon ferret.

- How (not) to mount a Harlescott Sheep -

The former Shrewsbury Canal once terminated at a basin in the vicinity of Castle Foregate, with the Canal Tavern being a helpful clue on New Park Road. A path around the back of the old pub might well have marked out where the line left the basin towards Ditherington, although this would need further investigation. We ventured next into Castlefields, an interesting terraced district of Shrewsbury situated riverside just below the ominous prison walls. We nip along various alleyways as the Secretary’s sleeves come up trumps by finding the Telegraph closely followed by the Dog & Pheasant.

- Shrewsbury Prison -

The Chairman’s sheep-related exertions were starting to catch up with him and a certain tiredness had crept in that meant he had adopted his oft-seen bladder walk despite not actually needing the toilet. Our intended Albrighton addendum was therefore postponed in favour of completing proceedings in Shrewsbury itself, making the most of the county town’s selection of inns and taverns. Impudent imbibing is actioned in the Coach & Horses, Admiral Benbow and the Wheatsheaf before the Secretary gains revenge for his recent spate of darting defeats by proving victorious in the Shove Ha’penny challenge at the Loggerheads. All that remains is a scurry back to the station, and another Shropshire special is written into Hub Marketing folklore – Charles Pemberton-Rowbotham III would surely have approved!

- Giving it a Shove! -

Friday, June 14

Bears on Tour: Guildford

The cricket season is well underway now with Warwickshire aiming to repeat last season's heroics when they won the County Championship. After an indifferent start to the campaign, the next stage in the Bears title defence quest took them to Surrey where Stephen and I tagged along lured by the prospect of the Guildford Cricket Festival...

- Waterloo Underground -
With the game set to commence on the Wednesday morning, we travelled down on the Tuesday afternoon courtesy of the Virgin service from Wolverhampton to London Euston. The transfer to Waterloo on the Underground was surprisingly painless, and we made our Guildford connection with ease.

- Guildford Guild Hall -
Having settled into our accommodation, we then set about getting our bearings around Guildford. As the county town of Surrey, there are some impressive features to admire, such as the Guild Hall with its ornate clock, the cobbled sloping High Street, the River Wey navigations and the historic Abbots Hospital. Spotting the local heritage wasn't a problem but we seemed to have more difficulty in trying to find a chip shop for some supper!

- Guildford Castle -
Wednesday morning and I'm up bright and early to make the most of the sunshine with some pre-match photography. My first target is London Road Station, which serves the north-eastern end of the town centre and was swarming with schoolkids in the morning peak. I also make the acquaintance of Guildford Castle, exploring the narrow streets around the castle grounds.

- The cricket gets underway -
Surrey normally play their home matches at The Oval but once a year they switch to Guildford as part of a weeklong festival of cricket. 2013 was the 75th year of the festival and the weather was set fair ready to mark such an anniversary. We took our place near the back of the Members Stand where we had the added bonus of hearing ball-by-ball radio commentary from Mark Church and Johnny Barran sitting just behind us.

- A Healthy Scoreboard -
Warwickshire made the most of a good batting wicket and the short boundaries by piling on the runs, eventually accumulating 631 for 9 declared with Varun Chopra making 192 and Keith Barker 125. The scoreboard over on the Dapdune Wharf hedge side of the ground was definitely kept busy!

- Guildford Cathedral -
The weather could not have been better for the first two days of the match, but Friday morning was a different matter. Stephen and I had decided to investigate Guildford Cathedral when the rainclouds set in, and by the time we reached the ground it was clear that play wouldn't start on time. We lost all of the morning session and some of the afternoon, although we were still treated to the sight of Ricky Ponting batting for Surrey and Boyd Rankin taking three wickets in a memorably hostile over.

- Ranmore Ale in the Robin Hood -
Our evening entertainment across the week involved sampling some of Guildford's finest pubs, plus finally tracking down the elusive chip shop! Among the inns we visited were the Three Pigeons, the Royal Oak (around the back of Holy Trinity Church), the Kings Head on Stoke Road and the Robin Hood.

- A pitchside perspective -
And so to the final day of the cricket match, with Warwickshire needing to winkle out an unlikely 13 wickets in order to secure victory. In the event they could only bag 7, meaning the game ended in a draw as a certain Mr Ponting ensured there wouldn't be any Surrey collapses second time around. Although we would have liked the win, there was no denying that we'd thoroughly enjoyed our outground experience with the festival having a wonderful atmosphere throughout.

- Guildford Station -
Sunday arrives all too quickly and its time to head home. The Woodbridge Cafe offers up a closing breakfast by way of goodbye, and we troop off to the station for my last few photos prior to boarding the Waterloo-bound train. A memorable week and a relaxing break was over, but we could console ourselves with the thought that we still have a game at Headingley to look forward to in August.

Monday, June 3

Milking the Round Oak Run

The Hub Marketing Board first began investigating the areas influenced by the former Round Oak steelworks back in January by exploring the Woodside and Brockmoor localities. Now on Friday 31st May it was time to put Brierley Hill itself firmly under the microscope, whereby our redoubtable Chairman and Secretary had a new squeezable bovine accomplice on hand to assist with documenting the area...

- Priory Hall -
With the Chairman delayed and bracing himself to receive his most severe cob penalty yet, the Secretary has some spare time with which to obtain some opening photos of Priory Park in Dudley. The park is currently undergoing a major restoration thanks to a project partly funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund, and the Priory Ruins should be even more accessible in future. Meanwhile Priory Hall stands stately overseeing all the works whilst children and adults alike enjoy the half-term sunshine over by the play area and tennis courts.

- Hub Marketing on the 205 -
The buses of Walsall could not detain the Chairman forever and he arrives apologetically ready to commence the main business of the day. A ride on the 205 gives him chance to get to know the Board's latest arrival who took a close interest in the customary driving demonstrations as we proceeded down towards the Russells Hall estate.

- A new way to hide the bald spot -
The first item on our agenda today was Pensnett, an area where we suspect a number of Round Oak workers would have lived during the heyday of the plant. A taste of Batham's in the Fox & Grapes is just the ticket as our new uddered friend gives the bald spot its seal of approval.

- Horsing Around -
Pensnett is a traditional Black Country community with a number of social clubs and independent family businesses. Making our way along Commonside, we can enjoy views looking out over the Fens Pools and the Chairman even steals a stroke from another animal acquaintance.

- Derelict pub at Round Oak -
Arriving at the roundabout where Stourbridge Road meets John Street and Brierley Hill High Street, it is hard to imagine how the site now occupied by the Waterfront was once alive with the manufacture of steel. A relic of a pub provides a remnant from the past but is gradually becoming increasingly derelict, a far cry from the days when it would have been frequented by thirsty workers.

- Another victory for the D9 Destroyer -
One of the pubs that is still trading in the vicinity is the Dog and Lamppost, a place that becomes the scene for our latest round of darting derring-do. Sadly, despite a noble improvement in his scoring, the Secretary just cannot match the finishing prowess of the 'D9 Destroyer' and thus it is the Chairman who sweeps up the honours and holds aloft the prized cow.

- Gazing in Wonder at the Waterloo -
Venturing deep into the heart of Brierley Hill, we brace ourselves for the near-knuckle double header of the Dog & Partridge followed by the Waterloo. Horse racing proves very popular in the former (accompanied by some local language) whilst the latter gives the Chairman chance to re-enact the awe felt by one of his passengers from the days when he used to drive the 210 route.

- A Moo and a Mild -
The Secretary might struggle with the dartboard but when it comes to sleeves he is quite formidable, and the Chairman is floored by the sight of the Bulls Head, a Black Country Ales pub on Bull Street. Having sampled the Puddlers, its then attention to Amblecote where Brettell Lane offers up the Harris & Pearson works closely followed by the New Wellington.

- Is it a ghost? No, just a bald spot -
Our Amblecote allocation is completed by a sweep of the Robin Hood (Collis Street), the Red Lion and the Starving Rascal (both on Brettell Lane). The latter was apparently named after a local legend when a previous landlord turned away a famished beggar who was later found dead from starvation. Thankfully the only famine in sight today is the Chairman's scalp being starved of hair. With that, the 246 beckons for a return ride to Dudley and although another Round Oak round-up is completed, we still feel there is more to come seeking out further steel snippets in future.