If you’re getting bored of Shropshire,
a) Don’t worry, I’ve nearly finished (just an isolated pub at Onibury to tick)
b) Try living in the Fens for a month.
Onward to Whitchurch, which is a cracker. Forget your Maldives and Maidenhead, this was the place to be on the hottest day of the year so far.
On the close-up you can see how near the town is to the Welsh border (roughly Redbrook on the A525/A495 junction), which somehow never fails to surprise me, as it never feels quite as old-fashioned as the border towns to the south. The flags of St George are often the best indicator of the border, though.
The benefit of annual trips back to towns to visit new Beer Guide pubs is that you’ll always see something new. This time it was the string of attractive buildings lining Dodington and Watergate.
It’s noticeable how the town has resisted the homogenisation of the chain shops, though it was worryingly quiet for a market day.
There’s some classic shop fronts,
and some less than classic shop fronts too
The new Guide pub was opposite the wonderful St. Alkmunds Church, which I seem to have overlooked before. The folly of youth.
The Cock & Greyhound is an Atwill house, which is fine by me. They’ve made a good all-rounder of a pub here that wasn’t as quiet as this picture manages to paint it;
No Salopian, but Pride, Bishops Finger and a decent Dizzy Blonde (NBSS 3) is a good solid selection. Just in front of my glass you can see a blue bag full of wires that someone left unattended when they popped into the garden. No-one berated them when they came back to pick it up, like they did to Simon in the Scottish Stores. Just saying.
The less said about the door stuck to the ceiling, Tut’ n’ Shive style, and the “Big Cock” challenge, the better. They like their multiple exits and large chickens round here.
They like their traditional pubs too, and the Old Town Hall Vaults is one of their best. With a feel closer to Sam Smiths more basic houses than their own flagship dining pubs, it’s one of Joule’s top pubs too.
I felt a bit awkward exploring the rooms; it is very much a local rather than a tourist pub, and the barflies in the main room were conspicuous. The side rooms were very peaceful though.
The inevitable Pale wasn’t quite as good as it looked (NBSS 2.5/3), despite some decent turnover, but it was worth £3.10 just to enjoy the later afternoon bustle from a cross-section of local life, to a musical accompaniment of Boogie Nights, Return of the Mack and In the Air Tonight. Those three segue perfectly.
The rugby shirted couple planning their dinner party are probably still disagreeing on canapes now.