I suspect I won’t be getting the honorarium as east Brum’s Tourism Ambassador (that’s Ian Clarkson’s gig anyway), but I do have some highlights from Hours 3-4 of my walk that at least keep Solihull above Maidenhead on my UK Town League Ladders (I’m using the ones from 1980 Shoot ! for this purpose).
My urban tourism took me under this beauty into town.
I’d been to Solihull Hospital on NHS business before, so I knew there was a secret footpath that led to a centre largely comprised of posh shops and chain pubs, a heady mixture.
Next possible lunch stop Beech House.
Another attractive roadside diner, this time offering a Josper grill and Purity to smartly dressed folk with John Lewis bags. The most noticeable difference between Cambridge and Solihull is that everyone had John Lewis and Jaegar bags; not a Primark bag in sight.
I wanted something authentically Brummy for lunch, so pressed on into town looking for a Balti or pork bap. I got as far as the German nougat stand, and succumbed to the soft pistachio fudge (NGFSS 3.5). My second Prussian of the week, and as cheery as the last.
It’s obviously Christmas in Soli, as an impressive continental food market was in full swing, livening up a Coventry style centre that actually reminded me of a modern Ruhr town like Duisberg. Without the German beer at 3 euros, sadly.
Plenty of smart chain shops. Not many medieval buildings, this one apart.
In fairness, the Touchwood Shopping Centre is the smartest I’ve ever been in, and if I ever need to go shopping I would have no hesitation in wasting Mrs RM’s money here.
It was 3pm and I was delirious with hunger, but wasn’t succumbing to the Spoons fish & chips club. So I found Wrapchic just in time. Proper Indian food in Mexican style wraps, washed down with
Tiny Rebel Indian milky tea.
The centre was then taken over by the entire population of Solihull’s secondary schools. One lass asked me to intervene in a domestic dispute with her boyfriend before deciding I wasn’t Solomon and pushing him in the bush to make her point.
“Respected” chain pubs there were many. Spoons, O’Neill’s, Walkabout, Yates, Hogshead/Stonegate, Slug & Lettuce – a full house.
Perhaps the Masons looked most like a traditional boozer.
The GBG app reveals the extent of local CAMRA confidence in the town centre. That red dot 20 minutes south is a decent Ember Inn (inevitably), the only Guide entry for miles.
And the Scots think they’ve got it bad.
I head back up Lode Lane, passing the reed bed where a Clarkson clearance against Tranmere ended back in the Blues’ promotion season of 1991-92. The ball’s still there.
You then pass the Land Rover works, probably home to a Social Club that will be in the GBG next year with Purity beers. Some typically poor Brum parking on show here.
Talking of Ember, I’d noticed the Olton Tavern was heralded in WhatPub as offering 8-9 beers, as if that was a good thing. They had the balloons out in anticipation of my pre-emptive tick.
Anywhere else, an Ember Inn elicits an “Oh no“, but in Brum they often are the only option, and seem to fulfill the “All Human Life Is Here” role to perfection. As here.
Mobility scooters, ladies who lunch (late), Hi-Vis jackets, folk skiving off from a conference, Old Boys. A Proper Pub.
Not nine beers either. Just three, and all drinkable. The Pedi was my best for a while (NBSS 3.5+).
4pm in a busy suburban pub really can be the Golden Hour. Few diners, tradesmen, Professional Drinkers, mums and toddlers. Pub life.
The only seat was by the fruit machines, a perfect viewing platform. I really hope this gets in the Guide, even with a mainstream beer range. BRAPA will love it, but I bet BeerMat beats him there.