Some folk seem to think I have a nice life, travelling round the country visiting pubs and listening to female folk singers. Don’t be fooled. My good friend Charles gets to stay in the Black Country a night or two a week, have a curry with me, and go to Audit Comittees. That’s livin’ alreet, as Kevin Rowland once said.
I also get to practice my Totally Immersive Tourism Service on Charles. It’s a potential future career if the Government goes bust, assuming there are folk willing to pay to be herded round dumpy Midland towns and fed pork pies in scruffy pubs.
Charles had never been to Bridgnorth, which I can only describe as an omission akin to never drinking Bathams. I characterised the town as being to Bewdley what Scarborough is to Whitby, which was meant as a compliment.
It might lack the iconic riverfront, but Bridgnorth has the hill, and a castle seemingly on a perpetual collapse.
Where folks from the Black Country visit Bewdley for an evening of fish and chips by the river, Bridgnorth gets a decent amount of overnight visitors throughout the year, many staying in the town’s old pubs, though perhaps few are here for a pub crawl. Visitors from such exotic locations as Stourbridge and Dudley had stayed at The Croft, the best B&B run by a bloke from Blaydon in town. Top kippers.
This is a great town to amble round, particularly in the morning. Travel down to Old Town on the funicular and then run up the adjacent steps. There’s a defibrillator half-way up, but the scary doll shop is more likely to finish you off than the walk.
Actually, the shops are as quirky as ever, with only the arrival of Costa and Prezzo seemingly breaking the independent stronghold.
We took the less steep walk round Cartway, one of the most picturesque streets in England, and revisited the Black Boy.
No new GBG pubs for me; they’ve pretty much all been in the Guide over the years, such is the overall quality of the town. But you should always visit the Black Boy.
The Black Boy has a touch of Worcester’s King Charles II about it, an unpretentious but very well-ordered and cosy place with one a beer range of just the right size (5 beers across the range of styles and strengths). Purple Moose and Sadlers were NBSS 3.5, the pork pie served at room temperatures scored even higher, the Led Zep a bit predictable.
Fantastic pub seating, too.
Which is something that can’t be said about the Black Horse in Low Town. A must visit due to its Bathams last time, this is one of the most challenging pub write-ups I’ve had to do.
You enter a modern bar that resembles an assault course, containing every type of seating except comfortable ones. It looks like the sort of “Young Peoples” pub you find in Biggleswade. That’s not good, by the way.
No cask in here of course; that was in a tiny back bar packed with barflies, mums with pushchairs and folk looking for a seat to enjoy their pint. An adjoining conservatory was also overflowing with happy boozers.
And there’s the rub. Much as we wanted to dislike this place, the Bathams was nectar. It really was an NBSS 4 beer, as good as Kinver or the Dog & Doublet.
We squeezed back into the sports bar with its exposed paintwork and exposed lightbulbs, catching the end of “Ride on Time” and hoping this was all some great Work-in-Progress. It will be our first port of call if we come back. Reports welcome, as they say.
To show how odd pub life is, we then had a wonderful hour of banter in the Railwayman’s Arms (it’s near the railway), but the Bathams there wasn’t as revelatory as in the Black Horse. There were plenty of ale drinkers in, but still perhaps the beer range was ambitious. Or perhaps folk are getting blasé about the wonders of the Brierley Hill
amber bitter nectar.
Apart from the ordeal by real fire, it’s the company that make this one so great. On Thursday, that was a couple of market stall holders enjoying their night off with rum and Bombardier. The chap spoke about Charles Wells finest the way Mancunians speak about Cloudwater DIPA No.7. It was decent enough here, but peculiarly under-sparkled.
Charles left his request for future beers on the pub’s chalkboard.
Three busy pubs, a good mix of custom, none of it from diners (our pork pie apart). Things are looking up.