Saturday, 28 April 2018

28/04/18 - Birmingham Canal Walk and Good Beer Guide Ticking

Distance - 6 Miles
Geocaches - 1
Pubs - 3
Walk Inspiration - Discovery Walks in BRM and the Black Country - Walk 2

I've failed at not mentioning in this blog the cliche that Birmingham has more miles of canals than Venice.  This may be a fact but I've been to both and Venice's are nicer.

Birmingham Canals
Nope it's a matter of fact
Not that this little urban safari is not without its grim aesthetic pleasures.

Birmingham Canals
Birmingham Canal's in its glory
It won't surprise you to know that I am here on a pub ticking mission.  Slowly, the 2nd City entries are getting filled up.  I'm here chiefly for the Barton Arms which opens at 12pm.  At 11pm, I am less than a mile away so pop into the Two Towers, Gunmakers Arms for a revisit and to talk to the early boozing Villa Fans making their way to the last regular home game of the season. 

I leave them at 11:45 and have a frankly terrifying walk up through Newtown.  I'm dressed as a full on rambler.  The gangs are dressed in regulation hoodies and are surely far too old to be "playing" street football.   It's times like these when looking an oddball has its benefits.  I am left alone.

And into the safety of the Barton Arms.  By god it doesn't disappoint.

Barton Arms
So So from the Outside
This is in the CAMRA Heritage pubs guide as an outstanding example of Fin-de-Siecle architecture.  What does this mean to my blogfans?  More than the normal amount of photos.

Barton Arms
The Opulent Staircase
Barton Arms
The Palace of Varieties
Barton Arms
The 1901 Stained Glass Window - surviving 117 Years in Newtown 
Barton Arms
Snob Screens not seen outside of London

A living, breathing museum that when you check in on Facebook, nominates itself as Birmingham's best kept secret.

It seems almost churlish to walk about their wares but it's an Oakham tied house that on this weekend had a beer festival offering 20+ gravity fed beers from a racking system.  I stuck to the hand pulled JHB.

The Thai menu looked amazing.   Simply no chance that I won't be returning - but next time, it will be by taxi and not on foot.

So, how you going to top that Architectural gem in Aston then Mappiman?  All I can bring you is a photo of the house where Ozzy Osbourne grew up and a look at Brum's skyline.

Ozzy Osbournes House
He has moved up in the world
Birmingham City Syline
Birmingham Skyline and the reassuring presence of a Police Helicopter

The walk back town is back along a different canal, picked up at Rocky Lane, Aston.  Emerge from a long tunnel to find another new pub tick, the Eagle and Ball.

More Canals
Not been (or indeed heard of) the Eagle and Ball.  Its from the 1840s, grade II listed, sympathetically incorporated into the Univeristy Buildings and suffers from pub tickers curse by being closed at 1:30pm on a Saturday afternoon.

Maybe the Students don't get up that early.

Eagle and Ball
Not sure what language this is in?  Belgian?

Eagle and Ball
I may return.  There was an offer on Pizza.

So this leaves the Woodman.  A pub in a neglected part of town that is surely going to see its fortunes change massively when HS2 rolls into Curzon Street opposite.

Invest now.

The Woodman
Another Victorian classic in the Heritage Guide for pub interiors.

I originally thought it was a golfer etched on the light fitting
No Carling, Darling

Lovely pub but on today's visit, I have to pronounce that the food was much better than the beer.  The New York Burger for a bargain £6.50 easily top trumped my pedestrian Castle Rock Harvest Pale.

Friday, 27 April 2018

27/04/18 - Heart of England Way - Stage 13 - Meriden

Distance - 6 Miles
Geocaches - 3
Previous Stages - Stage 1Stage 2Stage 3Stage 4Stage 5Stage 6Stage 7Stage 8Stage 9Stage 10Stage 11, Stage 12

The Heart of England Way reaches the Heart of England.  Meriden, to be precise, England's Centre.

Centre of England
England's Centre

Rather enjoyed today's ramble.  Like all good walks, it starts at a pub for post walk refreshment.  I tackle the route anti clockwise through Meriden Shafts Woods up to the nothing there hamlet of Kinwalsey and back down through typical Warwickshire agricultural landscapes.   The reason its so enjoyable - duckboards through the worst of the mud and a riot of colour.  Bluebells in the Woodland and Rapeseed in the fields.

Easy Walking
1st Bluebells of the Spring
Rape Seed
Rapeseed Fields

No time at all and I am cleaning myself up to visit the Queens Head.

Good Beer Guide 2016
Going to need a bit of TLC to get back in the Bible

Queens Head, Meriden
Bold Advertising on the Roof

Queens Head, Meriden
Bolder Advertising on the Walls
It's located on a superfluous road that's been superceded by the B4102.  It even has the grace to call itself the "Old Road".  I initially feared that it may have befallen a similar fate to those American towns that get lost when the new highways are built but its packed solid.

The reason?   Toasties for less than £3 and hand-pull Bass.

Toastie Waiting

Thursday, 26 April 2018

25/04/18 - Guernsey - The Good Beer Guide Pubs of St Peter Port

Distance - 2.5 Miles
Days/Nights - 2
Pubs Visited - 6

I find myself in Guernsey for a couple of nights and set myself a mission to find the best pint in St Peter Port. 

Preparation means that I have the CAMRA Good Beer Guide Pubs from 2017 and 2018 for St Peter Port programmed into Google Maps.

The quest is not as easy as you think for a place that has 6 entries over the last couple of editions of the bible.

The Red Lion, furthest out, is tackled first.  But nobody minds walking along a seafront under clear blue skies.

Sea Front
The Red Lion, Les Banques, Spitfire

I get an impressive view of this sea front boozer from the top of a gun emplacement.

Red Lion
The Red Lion from the top of a bunker
Central bar covers the two rooms, with back room bar and a front room lounge, where I find myself with three friendly locals who announce it "national moaning day".  At first I think surely there cannot be anything to moan about.  But then I am underwhelmed by the single hand pull available.  Even more underwhelmed when I get my pint - I don't remember Spitfire being quite so murky.

Red Lion
All that's available
Quite liked the pub.  Unobtrusive TV showing the snooker and a collection of newspapers to read.  The unique chance to enter a Meat and Crab Raffle.

Red Lion
Come back Friday for the Crab
Pickled Pig, Lefebvre Street, Butcombe Original

A walk back along the sea front and the uphill over the shops to find this bar that's in the 2017 Guide.  It's part of a posh hotel and set in a pretty courtyard, with a sign showing the two words that put the fear into any pub ticker.   GASTRO PUB.
Pickled Pig
It's a Gastro 
Inside its all dark wood and tables setup with wine glasses and napkins.  There is one long high table for drinkers.  Again, choice is limited to a single handpull, but I got on much better with the Butcombe Original.

Butcombe at Pickled Pig
Perfect Presentation
The Golden Lion, Market Square, Glamorgan Brewery Thunderbird

Third time lucky and I strike gold with a proper pub that has a choice.  Some might say too much choice, with around 8 handpulls on.  I spot Spitfire and Black Sheep amongst the options but a never before seen Glamorgan Brewery Thunderbird is selected.

Black Sheep at Golden Lion
All lined up in a row
There's an attempt at live music with a multi instrumentalist banging out one song on the piano and then a second with the guitar.  She gives up, as its obvious that the only person providing any encouragement is the oddball pub ticker from the comfy chesterfield seat.  The lonely sound of one brummie clapping.

The Golden Lion
Pick of the 3 - The Golden Lion
Day 1 over, I'll try again on Day 2

The Prince of Wales, Rue de Manoir, Patois

This might win the prize as the most handsome pub in St Peter Port.

Prince of Wales
The Prince of Wales from the Sunken Garden
It's a bit of a strange setup.  On the opposite side of the road is a lovely beer garden, perfect for the conditions.  They don't sell real ale at the bar there and the queue is massive, so I head into the cellar bar of the building seen in the picture. 

They have one ale on - and its the local brew, Patois.  You are not allowed to take your pint over to the beer garden as they don't have a licence for the road.

So I sit in the gloomy bar, alone, listening to the bonhomie from the other side of the road.

And the pint?   A ropey, murky mess.  If I had known more about the beer, I would have sent it back.  Instead, I look at photos on Untappd to see if this is how its meant to look.   It appears so.

Prince of Wales - Patois
The latest of several dodgy looking pints
Cock and Bull, Lower Hauteville, Butcombe Rare Breed

Final two in town are directly opposite each other.  But which to tackle first?  It will be the one with the live music blasting out that has the most atmosphere, just in case the band stop playing.   There's no danger of this..... they're still at it when I leave the cornerstone after 11pm.

Cock and Bull
Cock and Bull by night

It's not an ordinary band either.   Its a full Irish Orchestra of double figure participants.  The sound is fantastic and for the first 30 minutes, you think you have found the best pub in the world.

The beer is good, the songs are rollicking, you can even keep your eye on the Arsenal result from the upstairs TV.

Then the songs get a bit repetitive and its all a bit annoying.   A strong need to head next door for some respite.

Cock and Bull
The 30 minute racketeers
Cornerstone, La Tour Beauregard, Black Sheep

10:50pm and I burst through the door that has three friendly patrons huddled around the bar.  The governer states that he is about to close up but can serve me a drink, if I am quick.   Such is the level of  customer service, he is forced to catch the Black Sheep overspill in his hands, having already removed the drop trays..

The good news is that I have found the best pint on the Island.

I will probably pop back during next week's visit, just to make sure and get better photos.

Close of Play Cornerstone

Sunday, 22 April 2018

22/04/18 - Geocaching in Brailes

Distance - 7 Miles
Geocaches - 21
First Cache

Mrs M is working in Stratford-upon-Avon.  A scene of two of my walks this year already, so I headed further afield to look for a caching trail.

I wasn't going to blog today but the walking is so spectacular that I felt the need to share my photos.  A gorgeous circuit of Brailes Hill, providing superb views across Warwickshire.   Good footpaths, little mud and sheep the occasional lifestock.

The caching is perfect.  7 miles, parking co-ordinates provided, a bonus to identify from letter clues in each cache and hides that aren't simply signposted in the hints.  I say this, having failed to find the 1st on the trail.  I do get the bonus.

Here's what awaits.

View from Brailes Hill
First views from Brailes Hill
TB Drop Off
Dropping off a TB 
Coming down off the hill
Bottom of the hill
Flower Avenue
Avenue of flowers takes you to Sutton Under Brailes
Sutton Under Brailes
Church at Sutton Under Brailes
King of the Cache Containers
King of the Cache Containers
Coming back into Lower Brailes
Path back to Lower Brailes
Lower Brailes Church
Lower Brailes Church

Superb Round - Thanks to the CO Griff Grof 

But I know what you're thinking.... where's the post walk real ale.

Mrs M is picked up bang on the allotted time and we stop off at the home of the Archers in Inkberrow.

The Old Bull is a perfect country pub - worthy of a coach load of pensioners coming for a Archers themed visit and not worrying about the personal space of patiently waiting diners.

London Pride in fair condition.

The Old Bull
The Old Bull, Inkberrow
London Pride
London Pride

Saturday, 21 April 2018

21/04/18 - This Country, Northleach

Distance - 6 Miles
Walk Inspiration - Country Walking Magazine, August 1999, Walk 14
Geocaches - 6

A walk inspired by a TV programme, completed with no jacket required and ending with a fine lunch.

If you've not seen This Country, you could be excused but you really should search it out.  It is is available on catch up from the BBC iPlayer.  If you can forgive its blatant rip off of the Office Format, there are a lot of laughs to had from a couple of young adults fighting boredom in a small Cotswold Town.

The Cotswold Town where it was filmed?  Northleach.  Not South Cerney, North Cerney, Cerney Wick or Bourton on the Water - where you will find enemies.

On a glorious spring day, we head down - parking in the bustling market square and investigating the church.  Big enough to be christened as the Cathedral of the Cotswolds.

Northleach Market Square
The Market Sqaure
The Cathedral of the Cotswolds
Northleach Church

The walking is what you would expect - glorious countryside, new born lambs, easy to follow and mud free paths.   Lovely.
Striding Out
Following Mrs M to a Geocache Location
Cotswold Views

The route is simple - head west to Yanworth, have a look at the tiny hamlet and head back on lanes and paths used by both the Monarch's Way and the Macmillan Way.

Yanworth Church
The tiny church at Yanworth
Coming back into Northleach
Looking over Northleach as we return

Before hitting the pub, we see if we can find any off the filming locations.  We recognise the play area where Kerry's Gang hang out, the bowling club where Kurtan gets a job and we'll leave you with photos of Kerry's house and the bus stop, where they pass time.

Kerry's House
Kerry's Mom, bellowing from upstairs
Their bus shelter, behind the classic
Classic Car, with the bus stop behind.

A decent lunch is taken at the Sherborne Arms - the more down to earth of the two pubs in town. Average beer (Marstons 61 Deep) but fine sandwiches rounding off a perfect walk.

Not the keepers
Not Butcombe