Beer Matters

Beside still waters…

Canalside pub

As I mentioned in my last article but one, the propensity of ringers to seek out good ale is shared by the followers of other traditional pastimes, including narrow boat enthusiasts. Since I have but recently returned from the annual ringing and boating trip on the NB Intrepid, it seems like a good idea to expand on this theme.

One of the best things about pottering along the waterways of England is that the pace of life slows down – to around three or four miles per hour to be precise. No-one is in a hurry and people have the time to be friendly and helpful, whether it’s a nod and a cheery “Good morning” exchanged between drivers as they pass one another or the crew staying behind to set the lock for the next boat. And there is no shortage of good pubs where you can spend a pleasant hour between mooring for the night and dinner, or grab a quick pint in the middle of negotiating a long flight of locks.

And the beer is generally good for the reasons to which I’ve already alluded. Waterways are not for lager louts and shallow seekers of instant gratification but for folk with depth, prepared to take time to appreciate the beauties of nature, the tranquillity of a canal-side inn and the character of a good drop of ale.

Historically the story of canal-side pubs was not always a happy one, though. In the days of horse power, barges had to be “legged” through the tunnels by someone lying on the roof, while the bargee led the horse over the top of the hill, as there are no towpaths in the tunnels. Much of this work was done by professional “leggers”, who were wont to while away the time between jobs by drinking. It was thus not unheard-of for a legless legger to fall off, with the consequent risk of being crushed between the boat and the tunnel wall or drowning in shallow water beneath the hull.

Fortunately boating today is a relatively safe activity, even when you’ve had a few. So, for the benefit of anyone taking to the waterways this summer, here are a few good canal-side pubs I’ve visited in recent years:

Grand Union MarsworthRed Lion
BugbrookeWharf
Whilton LocksNew Inn
Old Grand UnionYelvertoftKnightley Arms
FoxtonBlack Horse
River Soar NavigationLeicesterBlack Horse *
Barrow upon SoarNavigation
Normanton on SoarPlough
Staffordshire & WorcestershireStourportBird in Hand
KinverCross **
Compton (Tettenhall)Swan
PenkridgeCross Keys
Stratford CanalLapworthPunchbowl
Trent & MerseyGreat HaywoodClifford Arms
KidsgroveBlue Bell
Worcester & BirminghamAlvechurchWeighbridge
Stoke PriorNavigation

* Not exactly canal-side but close (Braunstone Gate) and well worth a visit.

** Not canal-side but conveniently situated up the hill between the church and the canal.

Maximus Bibendus

Reproduced by kind permission of The Ringing World.

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