Regular readers of the blog will know that whilst I once liked to kick a ball around I am strictly on a watching brief these days.
Walking yes, cricket occasionally, but that’s about my lot; however, when one of my pals, who cycles, suggested a ‘pub cycle’ along the Trent and Mersey Canal towpath then I reckoned it was time to dust down my tracksuit bottoms and go for it.
The ‘other’ Martin (from Burton) loves to cycle and seems to combine it well with beer and when I recently suggested ten towns to go for a drink in, Rachel called me out on Alrewas so this was going to kill two birds with one stone.
This was the planned route from Willington canal all the way down to Alrewas and then work our way back on the towpath after visiting a few hostelries en route.
(Willington to Fradley – look for red markers)
What could possibly go wrong?
My pal, who also wasn’t wearing Lycra, is a top bloke but definitely adopts a laissez-faire approach to life in general. This soon became apparent when, just as we approached Stretton and I felt like I had been cycling through treacle, a closer inspection of the bike revealed not one but two flat tyres!
However, we weren’t done just yet and intrepid bike man Rod set off to the nearest bike shop for repairs Cycling 2000 in Dallow Street, Burton whilst I walked down the towpath with the aim of meeting him with his new inner tubes etc.
I walked for a decent length of time until I saw the miraculous sight of a pub appear by the canal.
This definitely wasn’t on our to do list but I don’t think I have ever been so glad to see a Hungry Horse chain boozer!
You often hear big pub companies saying they still build new pubs
to replace the older ones they are shutting down even if they are popular as they re-evaluate their estate…
Basically, aside from Independent Micro pubs, all big chain new boozers are built near to either (a) a budget hotel (b) a fast food restaurant or (c) a 24/7 garage with coffee shop attached.
This one has apparently been open for 20 years and with no sign of Rod as yet I thought I should pop in, it was almost midday after all, and see what it had to offer.
364 – Mill House DE13 0LA is classed as Stretton and could well appear on Pete’s radar in the future as you can moor your boat here and drink all day with the possibility of food to boot!
I’m not going to say it was an unbelievable pub or that is a classic of its kind but, it is definitely serving a purpose.
(Sky Sports and pre midday pints)
There is a Wacky Warehouse section that draws in most of the kids meaning that the ‘pub’ section is pretty much all adults and has all the things you would want from a local pub, apart from a ‘character building’ of course.
(Hungry Horse etched windows – will we be talking about these in 30 years time!)
It has a poker night…
and a remarkable amount of people in for just after midday on a Wednesday, albeit in the school holiday.
Mind you, this lot definitely weren’t on their school holidays and were settling in for a session I reckon. I should point out at this point that the barmaid (possibly the gaffer) was terrific, really friendly, chatty and helpful, which is always a positive sign in any pub.
If you walk out the front you can see it has been plonked right next to a new housing estate…
…and therefore within walking distance of chimney pots, which makes it unusual for a new build, whilst backing onto the canal is a positive most new boozers don’t have.
I was just settling down into my little alcove with Lee Johnson and Bristol City on my own personal Sky Sports TV when Rod rang to let me know he had the repair kit.
This of course meant I had to try another of the ‘easy drinker’ Greene King IPA(Greene King) and my cycling partner plumped for an Abbot Ale (Greene King)
which came in at under £3 a pint, so was helping us through the pain of mending a bike.
I say ‘we’ but it was very much Rod with me adopting a strategic management role,
however, my encouragement whilst watching a grown man struggle was clearly paying dividends as, suitably refuelled, we were good to hit the Trent & Mersey Towpath in style and reach Alrewas before the evening draws in…