Tuesday, June 30

WME Flickr Focus: June 2015

Wimbledon fortnight is upon us (and the mighty Ashes cricket series is just around the corner) as the sporting schedules take shape for the summer. June gave us triumphs and glories to enjoy on the WME Flickr photostream so let's go courtside to our reporter for an update on the action...

Centre Court saw a heavyweight clash of the tennis titans as WME Staffordshire took on WME Birmingham for the monthly crown. Brum unleashed a series of brutal groundstrokes, notably covering Pype Hayes Park, Rotton Park canal junction and The Ring at Perry Common, but Staffordshire's ultimate victory was secured through superior baseline hitting featuring the Spittal Brook pub in Stafford, Bennetts Lane ford in Pattingham and a Six Ashes sequence from right up close to the Shropshire border.

WME Shropshire itself was in action on Court Number One, involved in a close match against WME Walsall. Salop delivered overhead smashes from Shifnal and Shrewsbury stations (including yet another train shot from bay platform six) whereas Walsall countered with topspin lobs from the likes of Rushall (the Parish Church) and Pelsall (the Old House at Home) plus a demolition volley from empty Shakespeare Crescent.

To the lower half of the draw and WME Dudley is securely holding serve with two views of stands at the old Stourbridge bus station - in response, WME Sandwell tries some cheeky drop shots from Rowley Regis Cemetery and the Wheatsheaf at Oakham. There is also an ace apiece from WME Wolverhampton (a snowy look at Sandy Lane allotments in Bushbury) and WME Worcestershire (the church sign for St Michael's in Stoke Prior). Finally WME Coventry avoids elimination by striking a backhand down the line thanks to Tusses Bridge on the Oxford Canal in Aldermans Green. That completes the tale of the tournament so far, and commentary is scheduled to resume sometime around the end of July...

Sunday, June 28

Pottering About...

The Hub Marketing Board's summer spectacular for 2015 was an away day in the World Capital of Ceramics, namely Stoke-on-Trent. What would the Potteries have to offer us in terms of pubs, industrial heritage and film set surprises?

- Grim news at Goodyears -
Friday 26th June and the day is off to a sombre note when Secretary WME pauses outside Wolverhampton's Goodyear works on Bushbury Lane. It was announced this week that the factory is set to close, bringing to an end a lengthy association spanning back to 1927. In its heyday over 6,000 workers were employed here making the tyres for which the company became world famous.

- Wedgwood Statue -
To Stoke then, and an early start in readiness for the 07:50 train is safely negotiated without recourse to compensatory cobs, even though the Chairman has collected a rogue hot chocolate instead of his intended black coffee. Members narrowly avoid waiting on the wrong platform before making it on board so that the D9 mobile can get its first emergency charge (of many) of the day. We alight at Stoke Station to be greeted by the statue of Josiah Wedgwood outside the North Stafford Hotel.

- Cycle Hub Camera Call -
We've not even left the station periphery and we're already into marketing action, Mr D9 dutifully posing beside the Cycle Hub albeit bereft of any actual bicycles. A stroll into Stoke town centre allows a look at the Minster church (dedicated to St Peter ad Vincula) followed by the market halls where a mural depicts a dog cheekily taking a liking to his owner's pint!

- Spode -
Breakfast matters are next on the agenda, Secretary WME being fortified by an extra hash brown but still suffering a minor HP sauce explosion. A glimpse of the Portmeirion works on London Road precedes a visit to Spode where we enjoy a wander around the visitor centre, finding out about the process of making ceramics and the skill that goes into decorating fine china.

- Reversing out of Hanley's new bus station -
The Potteries historically comprised six towns and we would be seeing three of them today. From Stoke we caught the number 3 bus to Burslem, passing through Hanley's new bus station en route so that the bald spot could attempt some nifty synchronised reversing manoeuvres. The 3 in full links Madeley and Crewe via Keele, Newcastle, Tunstall and Kidsgrove.

- Vale Park -
Burslem is known as the 'Mother Town' of the Potteries and is home to Port Vale Football Club. Their Vale Park stadium merits a photo or two, as does Burslem Park where ornamental fountains, terraced gardens and the charming Pavilion are definitely worth a look but alas there wasn't a vintage closet for Mr D9's collection.

- Royal Doulton Remains -
Ale options in Burslem include the Post Office Vaults (a compact little pub on the Market Place) and the Leopard (an old hotel with some impressive interior fittings). Pride of place is the Bulls Head, the tap for the local Titanic brewery where the Chairman and Secretary jump aboard a Lifeboat each. Besides the beer, members make sure to investigate poignant reminders of the ceramic industry with Royal Doulton's former Nile Street works followed by three Acme Marls bottle kilns on Bournes Bank.

- Burslem Baldness -
We had been hoping to sample some oatcakes but unfortunately the regional delicacy eluded us (the shop we had in mind had closed at 1 o'clock). We consoled ourselves with a bald spot photo (the Chairman was distracted by some classic 1960s pub architecture) then caught the 29 into Hanley via Festival Park. Alighting by Albion Square, we made a beeline for the old city bus station site which together with the adjacent Hanley Shopping Centre precinct was being used as a location for filming the post-apocalyptic zombie thriller movie 'She Who Brings Gifts'.

- The Coachmakers Arms -
Top target in Hanley was the Coachmakers Arms, a traditional boozer on Lichfield Street that has been threatened with demolition to make way for city centre redevelopment projects. Thankfully the pub has escaped the bulldozer thus far, meaning members can sample the important historic interior with four small rooms and a drinking corridor. We enjoyed a pint of Stone the Crows (Lymestone Brewery) while chatting in the lounge to some of the regulars; fingers crossed the place survives many more years yet!

- Castle Mona -
A near neighbour of the Potteries but independent from it, Newcastle-under-Lyme is a market town we were very keen to visit. A ride on the 10 does the job, dropping us off just beyond the centre so that we could track down the Castle Mona. This corner local sits amid backstreet terraces and has a cosy bar and a panelled lounge with a crockery collection. The table skittles was tempting but we opted for the darts, WME Whirlwind winning by 5 legs to 1 although Phil 'the Power' Taylor won't be worried just yet!

- Bald Spot at the Bus Station -
Chairman D9 seemed to be confusing his Newcastles by indulging in renditions of 'Fog on the Lyme' accompanied by the occasional "Why-aye Duck". The Bridge Street Ale House is a micropub where we searched for a ferret but found a Noir Porter, while the Old Bulls Head is a Joules establishment proffering Dark Side of the Moose. This Newcastle certainly made a good impression and it was rather reluctantly that the bald spot was deployed to summon our bus back to Stoke. 

- The Glebe Grin -
A final couple of ales make for a fitting finale before we call it a day, so Stoke supplies Plum Porter in the White Star (another Titanic pub) and Slumbering Monk in the Glebe (an elegant Joules place). The train then awaits and we are homeward once more, reflecting on an eventful day of perfect Potteries perlustration. Cheers!

Sunday, June 21

Mini Marketing with Mr D9

Taming tigers, Spinney searches and an encounter with King Arthur are all in an afternoon's work for the Hub Marketing Board during a circuit of Park Hall, Great Barr and Charlemont Farm...

- The Fir Trees Development -
Although the meeting proper isn't scheduled until the afternoon, the Secretary is still out and about with his morning investigations. Chief among his early targets is the Fir Trees development on the Yew Tree estate where new housing is rapidly springing up on the site of a former primary school.

- Keeping the checkouts coming -
Fast forward a few hours and the main marketing event is underway with some Delves darts. The setting is the Tiger on Walstead Road where, armed with some Banks's Mild, WME Whirlwind tames the D9 Destroyer by three legs to one. The Chairman was no doubt distracted by trying to 'Pump up the Bitter' for his silly song selection of the day (or had WME's 'Sing Little Birdie' suggestion beaten him into submission?)

- A Tigerish Bald Spot -
Still reeling from his darts defeat, Mr D9 fatally let his guard down and one quick camera click later the bald spot had been breached once more. Members then have a brief Bell Bridge sighting of part of the Rushall Locks before proceeding along leafy Lodge Road into the Park Hall estate.

- Gillity Village Precinct -
At the centre of Park Hall we find the Gillity Village shopping precinct on Liskeard Road with various stores including an opticians, a dentist and a wine shop. Just along from the precinct is the King Arthur, a place which is a step up from your average estate box boozer. Here we are tempted into playing Hooky (D9's wallet making a most gracious sacrifice) while getting to grips with the eclectic interior, a mixture of heavily-patterned upholstery and Camelot-styled chairs. It's certainly distinctive!

- Scott Arms Closet -
Back on the main Birmingham Road, members note the Bell (a typical Ember Inns establishment) before catching the X51 in advance of some Great Barr business. A closed closet and the base of a Bundy clock keep us occupied, plus the Chairman delivers his prescription for Lloyds Pharmacy by checking that there aren't any errant buses demolishing the front window today (although a security guard was on the lookout just in case). 

- A new addition to the driving uniform? -
Given its status as a West Midlands landmark, the Scott Arms pub simply had to be sampled hence we made the acquaintance of Hobgoblin Gold and a former bus driver named Bob. Mr D9 has his own driving duties to perform next, hopping aboard the 5 and revealing a new means of covering up his bald spot.

- Horsing about with D9 Dolittle -
Alighting almost straight after we'd got on, Mr D9 insists on checking the water levels in the Tame Valley Canal before we hurdle our way through Hamstead. Ray Hall Lane has the Chairman drooling about motorway sliproads before we engage in some animal magic by feeding the local equine population - all oats were gratefully received as D9 Dolittle did his good deed for the day.

- Charlemont Bowling Club -
A cunning conclusion is planned in Charlemont Farm courtesy of the combined charms of the Spinney and the Charlemont Bowling Club. Secretary WME was especially taken with the latter, and not just because of the £1.80 Dark Mild! The 4 and the Metro mean D9 is soon returned to Bradley Lane and another afternoon of happy hubbing has flown by. Cheers!

Sunday, June 14


The beer festivals are coming thick and fast as attention now switches to Stratford-upon-Avon's offering being held at the town's racecourse. Towpath Turpin has transmogrified into the Bard of Beer as we seek out tracks, tramways and traces of Shakespeare...

- Train at Stratford -
Dorridge is our rendezvous on this occasion, meeting aboard the London Midland train from Birmingham to Stratford via Solihull. This connection is a relatively recent addition to the timetable, supplementing the existing link via Shirley and Henley-in-Arden, and was instigated in 2013 to serve the recently opened Stratford-upon-Avon Parkway at Bishopton. I therefore get my first ever glimpse of the new station, and a couple of minutes later our Class 172 arrives into Stratford's main station where I always enjoy admiring the period GWR features.

- Railway Remains -
Stratford-upon-Avon is a terminus stop these days but for many years was a main line through station on the GWR from Birmingham Snow Hill to Cheltenham. Our first mission today is to explore some remains of the lost line, hence Navigator Nick takes us on a wander via back passages, Summerton Way cycle routes and ultimately The Greenway. Here the old route is retained as a linear walkway towards Milcote and Long Marston. Besides the GWR, Stratford was also formerly served by the Stratford-upon-Avon and Midland Junction Railway and we investigate a little of this courtesy of a path running eastwards towards the River Avon. 

- Shakespeare's Resting Place -
The Old Town district of Stratford is next on our agenda, the area being home to Holy Trinity Church where the revered playwright William Shakespeare is buried alongside members of his family. The church can be a tourist hotspot so we were lucky to call in at a quieter time in order to visit the great man's grave - there were some wonderful stained glass windows and carved wooden misericords to admire too. Old Town is also where we find the New Bulls Head, a welcoming backstreet pub that also incorporates a community shop. Here Nick continues his recent predilection for blondes by way of Cameron's Galactico, an ale I was happy to join him in sampling.

- Stratford Racecourse -
More nifty navigation via Old Town Mews then brings us neatly to Stratford Racecourse, our festival venue for the afternoon. A public right of way stretches across the racetrack although you do have to limbo under some of the white plastic rails that mark out the route taken by the horses. There are views of the grandstand and some neighbouring flats as we make our way to the turnstiles and enter the festival. £10 gets you programme, glass and tokens as we find a perch in an upstairs room where there are boxes upon boxes of pumpclips to peruse. 

- Dazed and Confused -
As you might expect, there are plenty of interesting ales to pick from. I personally begin with a Paddington (hints of honey and marmalade) before proceeding via Fuller's 1845 (festive hints of nutmeg and fruit) to a Lancaster Black and a Leyden's Crowning Glory. Nick's dalliance with the blondes appears to be over however as his ale selections here confirm a return to the dark side. He embraces the chance of being Comfortably Stout, battles through a Bramble Stout and ends up totally Dazed and Confused!

- A Costume Change at the RSC -
With our tokens all spent it is time for more Stratford sightseeing with a riverside walk leading us to the renowned theatre of the Royal Shakespeare Company. A browse inside reveals costume displays and an exhibition of banknote boats, not to mention a regal suit of armour. Nearby we have further transport heritage to explore too, crossing the former tramway bridge where a horse-drawn service once operated to Moreton-in-Marsh. The Bear at the Swans Nest is a respected real ale free house where the Bear Bitter does nicely for a half in the hotel lobby catching up with the cricket scores.

- A Falstaff Finish -
The old tramway lend its name to one of the other local pubs as we pass a butterfly farm and pause for some Cumberland Ale. Back on the town side of the Avon, we make the acquaintance of Falstaff at Bancroft Basin Gardens then include a Henley Street homage to Shakespeare's birthplace (from grave to cradle in a few short hours). Last but definitely not least is the Stratford Alehouse, a micropub on Greenhill Street that keeps things simple with great beer and fine conversation as our closing port of call before the 19:05 train home. Cheers!

Saturday, June 13

Swanning about with Towpath Turpin

What better way is there to spend a warm summer's day than to go for a country walk, stop off at a couple of pubs and finish up at a beer festival? That certainly sounds rather perfect to me, and that's exactly what 'Towpath Turpin' and I enjoyed during a visit to Brewood and Wheaton Aston on Thursday 11th June...

- St Mary's Catholic Church, Brewood -
Leaving the Stagecoaches behind in Warwickshire, Nick joins me in Wolverhampton ready for a ride on Arriva's 76 Stafford bus which will take us to Brewood. The route now calls at the i54 development on the Wolverhampton/South Staffordshire border, providing handy connections to Jaguar Land Rover and Moog. Coven is also encountered before we arrive into Brewood, alighting at the Swan Hotel and immediately investigating landmarks such as Speedwell Castle and St Mary's Catholic Church.

- Sighting Swans at Belvide -
Our chosen walk encompasses lanes, fields and waterways with Nick being retitled 'Towpath Turpin' in reference to our intended investigations of the Shropshire Union Canal. Setting out from High Green Bridge, we soon reach the mobile homes of Shutt Green and branch off towards Belvide Reservoir noting the West Midlands Bird Club car park. There is momentary debate about the relative definitions of houses and cottages as we negotiate woodland and wheat paddocks, emerging onto a farm drive with views of the reservoir. Belvide was originally constructed in the 1830s to service what was then the Birmingham & Liverpool Junction Canal, and these days serves as a nature reserve noted for rare species of bird; access is via permit or club membership only.

- Bridge 18, Shropshire Union Canal -
Crossing the busy A5, we make our way through a working farmyard with inquisitive cows watching our every move. A sequence of bridle gates then bring us to the Monks Walk, an ancient path that prompts Nick to imagine himself as part of a historic monastic order. The track is said to have been part of a route that connected the priory at Lapley with White Ladies at Bishops Wood; today it links us to Bridge 17 of the Shropshire Union for our final approach into Wheaton Aston.

- Look at what you could have won! -
Bridge 17 is swiftly followed by numbers 18 and 19 as we reach Long Street where the Hartley Arms stands opposite the atmospheric village garage, a place that continues to provide diesel supplies for passing narrowboats. A farm, a chicken coop and the local pharmacy all feature as we head further into the village, pausing at the Coach & Horses for a refreshing half of Banks's Bitter and a chance meeting with 'Bully' from  Bullseye. Nick was admittedly somewhat bemused by this experience but I always say "you can't beat a bit of Bully" and at least we didn't end up winning a speedboat!

- A Stop at Stretton -
It would have been remiss to do one pub and not the other so we had a half in the Hartley Arms as well, Towpath Turpin eagerly grappling with a Cocky Blonde as we sat outside munching scratchings and peanuts while looking out over the moored boats below. We were now suitably refreshed for the stroll back to Brewood, this time going directly along the canal with Stretton Aqueduct proving a particularly notable feature. The structure was designed by Thomas Telford to carry the cut above Watling Street.

- Supping in The Swan -
It is definitely a day for doing things at a leisurely pace as by and by we arrive back in Brewood. The Bridge pub is positioned next to Bridge 14 as we account for respective halves of New World IPA and Jennings Dark Mild. We then decamp to the Swan Hotel, an atmospheric old coaching inn where I have to mind not to bash my head on the low beams. Theakstons Black Bull Bitter trades with Three Tuns XXX to set us up nicely for the return ride on the 76 as we ponder puzzling text messages about an unknown 'Judy'.

- Anyone for Ale? -
Our evening appointment is at the Wulfrun Hall as it plays host to the 40th Wolverhampton Beer Festival. Ken joins us there as we sample the wares including Holden's Park Ale (a recipe resurrected as part of the brewery's centenary celebrations), Kinver's Bob (brewed in tribute to the sadly-departed Bob Jones) and Morton's Life Begins (brewed especially for the festival as part of the 40th anniversary theme). Ken in turn rides Kinver's Light Railway and uncovers some Shropshire Gold, whereas Nick succumbs to a Blonde Obsession - need I say more? A cracking day out with an excellent event to finish!

Tuesday, June 9

Yew Tree and Barr Beacon

What have we here then? Another 'Monday Mission' by the looks of it, as 8th June 2015 is the stage for the tenth in my growing series of adventures. Admittedly there wasn't any sign of a self-destructing note, but the challenge to explore the Yew Tree estate, Great Barr and Barr Beacon was wholeheartedly accepted all the same...

- Yew Tree Youth Club -
I'm off and underway with some pictures of the Yew Tree estate, pitching straight into Sandwell although the adjacent Delves area comes under Walsall. Many of the roads here are named after species of tree (maple, laurel, walnut and so forth) as I find the local primary school on Birchfield Way before strolling round to the youth club, colourfully adorned with a caricature artwork of Her Majesty The Queen.

- Redwood Road Shops -
Redwood Road serves as the centre of the estate as many of the amenities and facilities are concentrated here. Shops include Yew Tree Pharmacy, Dave's Discount and Bobby's Fish Bar while the Yew Tree & Tame Bridge Community Centre is also close at hand. Add in a doctors surgery and the Church of the Annunciation plus the mobile library van and there's plenty for me to photograph.

- Former Social Club Site -
The Hub Marketing Board have visited Yew Tree previously so I now had the chance to see again some former haunts. The Archers pub is instantly familiar on Thorncroft Way but the Yew Tree Sports & Social Club has passed into history, the site now occupied by new houses along Broom Road. The club was a place Mr D9 had much affection for so I'm glad we got those final photos of it back in 2012.

- Q3 Academy -
A path now leads me over the Rushall Canal at Hill Farm Bridge and on as a cycle route to Wilderness Lane. Here I pause by the Q3 Academy (formerly Dartmouth High School) where layover stops for school bus services are positioned outside the main entrance. Given its name, Wilderness Lane doesn't feel at all bleak or remote and soon has me emerging onto the A34 Birmingham Road by Great Barr Memorial Hall and the Beacon Harvester pub-restaurant.

- Merrions Wood -
I have very much enjoyed exploring Walsall's collection of local nature reserves over the years and today I would be taking a first look at another example of these open spaces. Merrions Wood is a patch of ancient woodland, notable for bluebells at certain times of year. From the attractive lodge beside the Birmingham Road I can follow the main track through to Chapel Lane, enjoying the dappled shade of the trees.

- St Margaret's Church -
When I think of Great Barr I usually conjure up thoughts of the busy Scott Arms crossroads or the M6 motorway junction, but there is an altogether more charming side to the area that I'd never seen until today. Taking centre stage is St Margaret's Parish Church, situated just off Chapel Lane opposite the entrance into Great Barr Golf Course. A church has been located here since the 13th century and the building as we see it today is certainly very impressive, dedicated to the 4th century Christian martyr Saint Margaret of Antioch.

- Barr Beacon Memorial -
Chapel Lane continues as a leafy country lane among fields and farms towards Barr Beacon. Bronze Cricket Club is a surprise find, very much unheralded as if in the middle of nowhere, before Old Hall Lane surfaces by Barr Beacon School as I flirt momentarily with the Pheasey estate. It's now lunchtime, and what better place to enjoy a bite to eat than on Barr Beacon itself, admiring the lovely views from on high. Last time I came here (February 2013) the famous war memorial was being restored so it's only now that I can see it in all its glory complete with Portland stone columns and a zinc dome. It truly is one of the West Midlands' most iconic landmarks.

- Bridle Lane -
On with my walk and Bridle Lane is next, stretching away between hedges so I need to keep my eye out for oncoming traffic. Aldridge Road is then home to Farmer Johns, a modern Marston's corporate pub, followed by a curious green tin tabernacle that now seems to be used as a printing studio.

- The Queslett -
The end is almost in sight as I dodge the Hundred Acre estate and arrive by the Queslett, an Ember Inns pub that has merited inclusion in the 2015 Good Beer Guide. Bakers Lane gives me a bite of Birmingham as I conclude my picture haul with King George's Playing Fields and the Toby Carvery (Parson & Clerk) on Sutton Oak Road. The ever faithful 77 bus is on hand yet again for a ride back towards Walsall, meaning that its another Monday Mission accomplished.

Tuesday, June 2

Bears on Tour: Lords

As a cricket enthusiast there's one ground above all others that I've been particularly keen to visit - Lords. Recognised the world over as the home of cricket, the timeless base of Marylebone Cricket Club was set to host the County Championship fixture between Middlesex and Warwickshire so Stephen and I made our way to St John's Wood for a couple of days...

- Aylesbury Vale Parkway -
Travelling down to London on Sunday 31st May proved to be an adventure. Engineering works were affecting Chiltern services on the line between Birmingham Moor Street and Marylebone, hence we had a virtually empty replacement bus service instead from Dorridge to Aylesbury Vale Parkway (a station I must admit I'd never heard of before). A connecting train here completes the job, meaning we arrived at Marylebone just before quarter to midday. 

- Cricket Corner -
We hadn't missed any cricket though, a damp morning in the capital bringing about a delayed start so we could take our time getting to the ground. Lisson Grove leads us almost directly to the Grace Gates, erected in honour of the legendary W.G., then we continued along St John's Wood Road and Wellington Road towards the North Gate, pausing for an ideal photo opportunity.

- St John's Wood Underground -
With play still not imminent, a general look at the surrounding St John's Wood area sounded appropriate. The church gardens are a nice feature, flanked by a curious green hut on Wellington Place that I later discovered was a preserved cabbies shelter. St John's Wood High Street was a rather fashionable location with a selection of boutique stores plus the Duke of York perched on a far corner, while the local library, Barclays Bank and the underground station all caught my eye for bonus pictures.

- First glimpse of the Pavilion -
The weather had been drying up quite nicely up until this point, but another prolonged shower combined with gusting winds soon set in. A fellow Bear in need of directions joins us as we scamper back to the ground, then its £17 entry and a seat in the Edrich Stand with fingers firmly crossed that the rain relents. Even in the miserable drizzle the iconic Lords Pavilion is a sight to behold (even if the pitch covers were less of a thrill).

- The Media Centre -
Our wish is granted as conditions do gradually improve, and I was truly impressed by the drainage systems in place here that meant large puddles on the outfield literally disappeared before our eyes. While the groundsmen set to work, we have a stroll around the stands and I get a glimpse of the modern face of Lords; I'm not entirely convinced about the architectural merits of the Media Centre but I can't deny it is a striking feature at the Nursery end of the ground.

- Play underway -
3 pm and we have cricket! Middlesex won the toss and asked Warwickshire to bat, the home team presumably keen to try and make the most of some favourable bowling conditions. Progress is of the steady but unspectacular variety - Chopra, Javid and Webb all departed relatively cheaply but Jonathan Trott and Laurie Evans saw the Bears to the close on 148 for 3 with 50 overs completed. For me an ambition has been achieved - I can now say I've watched live cricket at Lords!

- Chiswick Bitter in Paddington -
The sun has typically come out just in time for the cricket to finish, but at least it shines down as we brave the busy Edgware Road (no relaxing Sunday evening walk here, it was more like the Monday morning West Midlands rush hour). We locate our digs in Paddington, grab a bite to eat and then round off the day with a couple of pubs. The Monkey Puzzle was handily located on Sussex Gardens near our hotel but my favourite was undoubtedly the Victoria on Strathearn Place, a Fullers establishment where some Chiswick Bitter is accompanied by opulent detail and a wonderful friendly sense of community.

- Regents Canal at Lisson Grove -
Monday 1st June and it's encouragingly dry as we head to Lords in anticipation of the second day's play. On the way we briefly investigate a short stretch of the Regents Canal where it passes beneath Lisson Grove via Eyre's Tunnel. The canal in full links the Paddington Arm of the Grand Union with the River Thames at Limehouse, passing through Regents Park (with views of London Zoo), Camden Lock and Kings Cross.

- Bears on duty -
We settle in on the upper tier of the Edrich stand as Warwickshire continue their innings, eventually battling their way to a useful 342 all out on a testing surface. Laurie Evans made 98, narrowly missing out on what would have been a memorable century, and there were entertaining contributions from Barker and Patel who both made 37 with a smattering of sixes. We keep up to date with events in the test match at Headingley, where New Zealand seem increasingly in the ascendancy, and catch up with Nick and Ken who are here for the day. Nick is eager to enjoy his first Lords experience and has come dressed very smartly with a dapper jacket and tie combination ready to grace the inner recesses of the Pavilion.

- A damp end -
The Middlesex innings began straight after tea but only 12 or so overs are possible before rain once more intervenes. Chris Wright did at least manage a Bears breakthrough, claiming the wicket of Burns lbw for 4 as the close of play score proved to be 39 for 1. One last lingering look at the famous Pavilion and then it was time to head home, the 19:15 departure from Marylebone doing the honours. Despite the weather's best efforts, the magic of Lords still shone through and I can understand why cricketers across the planet aspire to play here. It truly is a special place steeped in sporting history and tradition, and I hope these last two days will just be the start of many visits to come.