I clearly like the excitement of a solid, earthy, no nonsense, lively boozer and I reckon it has a lot to do with your early experiences.
If your first visit to a pub at 18 is to somewhere like a Farmhouse Inns or Fayre and Square pub then you’re unlikely to become a lover of the backstreet boozer.
So, I thought I’d take a step back in time today as I thought it was time to visit a real backstreet boozer in Olton.
If I punched in the postcode for where I lived in my youth then the nearest pub to spring up on the CAMRA website is 246 – The Highwood B92 8SX.
It’s not an estate pub as such, more of a backstreet pub, as there are hundreds of houses surrounding it, tucked away in the suburbs of Solihull with its nearest vantage points being either Land Rover or Solihull Ice Rink.
(The opposite side of Highwood Avenue)
The Highwood is situated in an area once described to me as “a suburban buffer zone between the north and south of Solihull.
The north side of the city (NEC excepted) is very much an ongoing regeneration project and borders the area so beloved by Martin for its endless cask based outlets, East Birmingham, whereas the south side of Solihull is far plusher (millionaire’s row).
This was the closest pub to me when I first started drinking and, along with the likes of The Olton Tavern, The Lyndon and The Hobs Meadow, would all be classed as local boozers. Undoubtedly frequented by Land Rover workers and builders as opposed to someone jumping on a bus to go and work in the business quarter of Birmingham, they have been solid, trouble free pubs serving the community for many years.
The Highwood, in particular is the sort of pub you wouldn’t go and visit unless you knew it was there as it’s not on any major routes and is innovatively named after the road it was built on – Highwood Avenue.
There was a legendary gaffer there for years by the name of Dave. He was massively hard working and there was always something going on whether it was an OAP lunch, skittles, quiz night, race night, live sport, trip to the races etc. and it had a solid base of punters.
He was also partial to the occasional lock in, which was always a real treat back in the days of pubs shutting their doors at 11pm and I still see him at his second home, St Andrew’s, watching Birmingham City on occasions. He said the ‘pub game was becoming harder to make money’ and when you know someone who works as hard as he did is feeling the pinch, then the future isn’t massively rosy for the trade as a whole.
Nonetheless, I haven’t been here for over a decade and it was good to see the old place still surviving and it has clearly had a refurbishment recently.
It is a two roomed pub and was selling IPA (Greene King), which was actually very good and at a price of £2.60, I could easily have stayed for more than one!
Martin has often commented about how 4 till 6pm is the new boom time for pubs with post work drinkers and this was the certainly the case here. The boozer was empty inside but there was around 20 people outside, which at 4pm on a Monday, is not bad by anyone’s standards.
The GK IPA was top notch and was the only ale they had on but that’s about right for this neck of the woods and all the other orders from boys in Hi-viz jackets and construction work shirts were either Carling or Carling Dash. It’s all about playing to your audience and this has never been a real ale stronghold so give the punter what they want.
It’s still got some bench seating and serves the local community with sky sports, dart board, skittles, karaoke and a poster for a lost dog all on their noticeboard along with a weekly All Stars competition and hanging baskets to boot.
It is ostensibly a proper pub frequented by people who live in the vicinity…you never know, it might just catch on!