- Stephen tries some seaspotting -
The logical point at which to start is Southport, situated in the Merseyside borough of Sefton and destination for a coach trip with the Low Hill Sons of Rest on Tuesday 25th June. Morning drizzle cannot dampen our enthusiasm even though the Model Railway Village is closed due to a family funeral. A squally stroll along the pier allows us to see rather a lot of sand (the sea itself being just about visible on the horizon when the tide is out) before we peruse a vintage penny arcade populated by antique slot machines and fortune tellers.
- Lord Street -
The weather is predicted to improve as the day goes on and sure enough, after we've paused for a Wetherspoons lunch courtesy of the Sir Henry Seagrave, the sun starts to put in an appearance. Lord Street is widely recognised as one of Southport's finest features due to the elegant Victorian shopfront canopies that run almost continuously along the mile-long parade. We browse along the boulevard, call by at the railway station (somewhat less inspiring architecture here) and keep tabs on the cricket score, England putting their World Cup progression in jeopardy by losing to Australia.
- Funland, part of the Silcock Leisure empire -
The Silcock's name is nigh on unavoidable in Southport as the family business seems to be everywhere, owning several amusement arcades, restaurants and the town pier. We can't complain at the ice cream prices - a princely quid for a cone with a flake - and suddenly it really feels like summer again. A wander around the King's Gardens allows us to admire the marine lake (an abandoned pitch and putt course is considerably less photogenic), and the pier comes into play again for sunkissed views towards Formby or Blackpool. We also check out Baron's Bar within the Scarisbrick Hotel for a quick drink before the coach home, wherein the Cask Tetleys receives the Beardsmore Senior seal of approval.
- A Lego Lookout? -
Flitting forward if I may to Friday 28th June and any festival fun in Bromsgrove is preceded by a bout of Brum-based photography around Old Turn Junction and Gas Street Basin. The regenerated waterways here have attracted my camera on several occasions but this time around the canals get upstaged by the presence of a gangly giraffe that guards the entrance to Legoland. St Vincent Street gives me a little look at Ladywood, noting the Frank Allart factory as makers of door, window and cabinet fittings. I then meet up with Nick in time for the 10:50 train into Worcestershire.
- Bromsgrove Station -
And what should await us at Bromsgrove but the town's new railway station (I say 'new', it actually opened in 2016 although this is our first proper glimpse of it). The facility is a vast improvement on the previous incarnation, boasting a staffed ticket office and four platforms instead of two. One thing that hasn't much changed is the distance from the town centre, estimated to be a 25 minute walk away although Nick and I don't really mind the exercise. New Road therefore leads us past a Salvation Army hall, across the A38 and down by the Ryland Fitness Centre to emerge on High Street opposite Poundland.
- Church of St John the Baptist -
Our aim is to do a bit of sightseeing and try a pub or two prior to tackling the festival. The touristy element doesn't take very long in fairness, despite the undoubted charms of St John's Parish Church, so we swiftly make the acquaintance of the Little Ale House micropub to partake of ale from the Malvern Hills Brewery. Elsewhere, the Golden Cross Wetherspoons is a former coaching inn rebuilt in the 1930s which serves as our lunch stop - it is in the Good Beer Guide albeit we aren't bowled over by the Byatt's Crystal Cookie.
- Daring to drink Decennium -
To the festival we must go, held as usual at Bromsgrove Rugby Football Club on Finstall Road. The main marquee is already abuzz with revellers as a steady stream of campers arrive to pitch on the adjacent field. Our tokens take us through a variety of tastes and styles, including mango infusions and Belgian farmhouses. Stouts and porters are definitely in the mix with Red Moon's Wicked Witch making quite an impression (hints of burnt caramel), although the most memorable beer discovery is undoubtedly Bewdley's Decennium, a 10% abv heavyweight as modelled by Nick - just what you need on a sweltering afternoon. Cheers!