In the Black Country you’re probably never too far from the cut (canal) and Saturday’s Black Country Pub adventure took me on a trip down memory lane when bloke suggested heading to The Navigation Inn.
When we arrived at this popular pub at Greensforge lock, I was immediately hit with a flood of memories; scampering down the cut as a young wench, watching the barges navigate the lock and seeing weary boatpeople disembark for ale and grub. I was also hit by the pungent smell that wafts up yower nostrils as you approach across the large car park. I must have erased that from the memory bank.
We grabbed our ales: XXX (Three Tuns Brewery) for wench 2 and bloke; Enville Ale (Enville) for chap; lime and soda for poor me (designated driver at this point) and made our way to the side of the cut. We were particularly careful to coordinate our approach to the rickety table, less one of us ended up admiring more of the cut than originally intended. Unfortunately bloke forgot this approach when disembarking, leaving the three of us clinging on with dear life to said table.
I remember how busy this boozer used to get in the warmer months with locals and visitors spilling out of boats, cars and country lanes. I’m sure it still does, but there’s no time to stay and find out when you’re on a Black Country pub tour.
I’m not sure if the fumes from whatever gives The Navigation that pungent smell had gone to bloke’s head, but the journey to our next destination provided him with ample opportunity to serenade us with a variety of Eurovision hits. I use the word ‘hits’ loosely, unless Jahn Teigen Mil etter mil (1978 nil point) is your thing?
Navigation and coordination seemed to be the Saturday evening theme as we arrived at The Park Tavern and watched several men clamber into a minibus, before appearing to reverse into a hedge and lose a wing mirror. In their defence they were almost parked in the hedge and trying to reverse out of the full car park (a bit tight as I later found out), but it did raise a few laughs from all (including them).
As we waited for our ales: Backyard Blonde (Backyard Brewhouse) for chap and wench 2; Lemon Dream (Salopian) for wench; Landlord (Timothy Taylor’s) for bloke, I was pleased to spy alongside the staple Black Country cobs, homemade pickled onions!
It took all of my inner strength not to rip off the gingham doily and relieve that jar of some of those bad boys. We’d sent bloke and wench 2 off to find seats in the lounge, which gave chap and I an opportunity to enjoy this amazing gent. We’ll be practicing his ale carrying technique at some point.
The Park Tavern has a spacious, comfortable lounge which we preferred to the bar. The screen was on in the bar and obviously we didn’t want to miss each other’s intelligent conversation! Who would?!
We also liked these Black Country pictures which reminded us of some we saw at an exhibition at The Public (RIP) in West Bromwich in 2013.
These were a fab collection of Black Country pub paintings. Unfortunately I can’t remember who the artist is, but will try and track down the info (unless someone can help out?). There were some familiar boozers, like The Crooked House.
After admiring the artwork we decided to head off to another Black Country pub and there, standing proudly in the dusk light on Mount Pleasant, was The Woodman. We immediately had a good feeling about this place.
Once inside we were not disappointed as this pub has kept a lovely traditional feel. Wench 2 demanded (prehistoric style) a sup of her village ale, ordering Cave Girl (Kinver). Honestly, the resemblance is almost uncanny, although we’ve requested she leave her club at home next week! Loyal husband, chap decided to join her, bloke opted for Slack Alice (Abrahalls/Celtic Marches) while this poor wench was back on the lime and soda.
I could have been surly supping my sober lime and soda, but there was too much visual pleasure for that.
For me, the real excitement came when I spied two china dogs on display. I seem to be developing a liking for a pair of china dogs. It may be because I grew up with two on the fireplace at home. What could beat that I thought? But then I noticed that bloke and chap seemed a little distracted by something that they quickly christened ‘soft porn corner’, although I have to admit I didn’t immediately notice the nipple action. I was still salivating over the china dogs.
Bloke then investigated the ‘surprise in the back’ and no that’s not connected to ‘soft porn corner’, but rather delicious food at the Sommai Thai restaurant. The menu looked great and we agreed we definitely need a return visit to sample the food.
After living close to The Bartons Arms in Birmingham for many years, it will be great to have a pub/Thai combination close by. The Bartons Arms is a must-see, so if you’ve not been, go now. It’s a stunning Victorian pub with real ale and amazing Thai food. Ask for an Irish coffee at the end of your meal to get a real treat!
On the way back from checking out the restaurant, bloke enjoyed some more visual treats, but we couldn’t decide which was our favourite.
We were genuinely sad to leave The Woodman, but I did manage to refrain from patting the china dogs’ heads on the way out and we managed to prise bloke and chap away from ‘soft porn corner’.
Next stop was The Glasscutters Arms on a quiet residential street in Wordsley.
I was very impressed to see a Black Country flag on display in the car park next to the bowling green. Don’t forget to get yours in time for The Black Country Festival on 14 July 2015!
The porch was displaying the guest ale, so of course this wench had to go for a bit of Bumble Hole (Olde Swan) action again, as did bloke.
It was a quiet night in The Glasscutters (we doubled the headcount), but even in such a laid back atmosphere (stuck between a Clint Eastwood film and the Eurovision) trouble was brewing.
I asked at the bar ‘does anyone want any scratchings?’ and even asked ‘are you sure?’ I was reassured that no one was hungry, so clutching my bag of KVE Tipton scratchings, settled down where I could see the Eurovision but hear the Clint Eastwood film (I’ve now learnt this is the best way to watch Eurovision).
Now I don’t mean to be rude, but those greedy beer suppers got their fingers in my scratchings, prompting me out of my comfort zone and back to the bar for more. I discussed this crime with the bar wench who commiserated while ringing my purchase through the vintage till.
Next time we go to the Glasscutters I might make use of the Premiership Bar, where greedy scratching stealing must surely be banned.
I really liked the old-school vibe in The Glasscutters, but was getting bored of every Eurovision country sounding like Dirty Harry and I needed to end my designated driver status with a good pint or two.
Back home to The Unicorn and we all dived in to Bathams of course! We arrived as a racing competition was happening in the car park (obviously a drunken argument over stamina) and had the dubious pleasure of hearing a fascinating conversation about a couple’s sex life (although they then switched to discussing the thermostat which left us all confused). As it neared closing, the busy pub soon started to empty and I realised (with shock) that I’d never noticed David Jason on the wall. I’m ashamed of myself.
I knew we’d all had too much beer when a long conversation about the wonderful liquor dispensers on display commenced (and I started considering an eBay search).
We bid farewell to The Unicorn and staggered across the road to chez wench where an after-hours pub is in development. I’ve got to do something with that cellar and the vintage liquor dispensers I’m bidding on.