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The Stirrer’s Legendary Pub Crawls

FRANKLEY/RUBERY

13-03-2010

To the rundown outskirts of B45, beyond the Lickeys, where town meets country and council houses square up to the green fields of Worcestershire. If Springsteen was a Brummie, he’d have sung about places like this…

1) THE LICKEY BUNKER (Ormond Rd)

It was, I confess, with some trepidation that we got out of the cab in the place known – according to the street signs - as New Frankley in Birmingham. The area doesn’t have a great reputation to begin with, and here we were staring at low rise 70’s brick box, coddled with barbed wire, looking like the living definition of a “locals’ pub”.

We needn’t have worried. Granted, there was rather more of the “bunker” than the Lickey’s about this place, but the presence of welcoming African-Caribbean bar staff belied our fears about rampant racism in the neighbourhood, and real care was taken in pouring the Guinness.

It would have been even better if they’d stuck to playing the reggae blaring out on our arrival, but our presence coincided with the switchover to the now almost universal 80’s jukebox pap.

With a pool table, Sky Sports and bright lighting, the open plan bar is no “cosy corner” (the lounge was shut) but it was cheery and welcoming.

Nervous Anticipation 0 Bold Experience 1.

2 THE COLDSTREAM (Arden Road)

Note to film makers. If you’re looking for a location to remake “A Clockwork Orange”, just check out the blighted shopping centre next to the Coldstream. Everything about it, from the spray painted walls to the shuttered units, screams “Broken Britain”.

The pub itself stands at the end of this bleak parade, and historically had a reputation for fisticuffs. “Gulp” we thought as we walked past a boarded up window and headed into the lounge.

And guess what? It was another pleasant surprise – very much a family pub, skewed to an older clientele, highlighting once again that appearances can be deceptive.

Unfortunately, an EU-inspired row between the licensee and the brewery about the Working Time directive means that evening opening is being curtailed during the week, but if you find yourself in this neck of the woods, a pint in the Coldstream should hold no fears.

There are a couple of decent guest ales and you’ll get a chatty welcome behind the bar. Whatever problems this place may have had in the past, it’s now a model of a well run boozer.

3) The Cock Inn, Rubery Lane

Frankley was built in the 70’s as overspill to accommodate workers from the Longbridge car factory, no more than a couple of miles down the road. Rubery was built for much the same reason a generation earlier, and The Cock stands proudly on the brow of the hill which separates the estates, drawing custom from both sides.

No doubt at one time this would have been a proper country pub on a quiet country, and although it now has mostly local trade, it still retains a cottage-y old school charm.

Best of all, it was busy – really busy – which is great to see in these straitened times, and had a really good, sociable buzz.

There was even a little dancefloor action around the back, and one suspects that if you’re in the market for 40-something divorcees of either sex (albeit divorcees with ink) then this is your place.

They sell spicy onion rings too. Top pub.

4) New Rose and Crown, New Road

New Road is effectively “Rubery High Street”, running parallel to the A38 flyover, running out to the M5. West Brom is just a couple of junctions up the motorway, so maybe that explains why pictures of Dartmouth Park are hung around the pool room.

The sparse crowd in front bar told its own story, though. This is a pub which seems to have fallen on hard times – curiously so, as main Rubery doesn’t have much else by way of drinking establishments apart from a couple of social clubs.

With a bit of TLC this place could be so much more.

5) TOBY JUGG (Newman Way)

Only five minutes walk from Rubery, but tucked up a side road next to a new private housing estate. With hundreds of people on their doorstep, quite a few of them with money, how could they get it so wrong?

Playing drum and bass and pandering to the landlady’s loud-mouthed teenage son, this is a model of how not to run a pub.

Only my opinion of course – feel free to try it and tell me that I’m wrong.

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