Sunday, 26 June 2011

Remote canalside pubs

The guidebooks like to speak of these but, in my experience, the reality rarely seems to live up to the description. I remember the shock at arriving at the "remote" Consall Black Lion on the Caldon and finding a shrieking horde of kids rushing around while their parents boozed and shouted. It could have been Blackpool.
I hoped for more from the "remote" Anchor Inn at High Offley - and got it. This is a pub like I recall country pubs in my youth. Big settle benches in the public bar, vaguely uncomfortable padded stools in the posh folks' saloon and a choice of one ale (Wadsworth's excellent 6X), one lager and for the effete wine drinker, red or white from a wine box on the counter. Plus 'Strictly No Children' and - of course - no food.
In Tom Rolt's day most pubs were like this and it was amusing to compare his descriptions with today's reality. Thde Wharf Inn at Cheswardine "the most remote canal inn we had yet encountered" was a "simple, friendly house with a rough bench beside the fire". I think the picture of today's Wharf Tavern with (presumably) the owner's Range Rover outside says it all.

Earlier on the Staffs & Worcs we passed The Cross Keys, a decent looking pub across the canal bridge from a housing estate. In Rolt's day it was "a little lost canal inn standing amid the fields beside the towpath".
Times, sadly do change, and much as I miss sitting on a bench in a country pub while the landlord brought a jug of ale from the cellar, or playing bar billiards, I'm probably happier eating a decent pie and chips witha pint of decently kept brown beer picked from a choice of four or five. Trouble is such pubs are harder to find than welcoming village inns were in Rolt's day.


Lesley NB Caxton said...

Hi Kevin
I have just read Tom Rolt's description of The Wharf (last night in fact) and thought the same thing, how things have changed.
We had a pint of non-descript beer at The Wharf in April this year surrounded by screaming kids from the adjacent caravan site - the pints were abandoned... The Wharf doesn't get our vote sadly

Captain Ahab said...

The Anchor Inn is something else. Have spend several very happy evenings there on my solo autumnal journeys - the local boating community are very welcoming.