Monday 18 November 2019

BRAPA and .... the Three Witches of Stratford : Hallowe'en Beermat Special (Pt 1/2)

I've had this mysterious old beermat on my bedroom wall for years now.  Not sure where it came from, but it is ancient, stained with beer and smoke of yesteryear, and realising that The Three Witches was a pub, I decided to do a bit of research into where it might be and take the beermat for a 'homecoming'.

After discounting the only existing Three Witches, a modern build dining keg only Marstons pub near Inverness, I realised it must no longer exist or at least have had a name change.

I then looked into Flowers brewery (I vaguely remember seeing their ale occasionally in the south west when I first got into real ale in 2002) and saw that they were once based at Stratford.  Of course ....  Shakespeare, Macbeth, Three Witches, it all made sense!

And although there were very few online anecdotes and absolutely no photos of the pub, I managed to pinpoint the location on the Alcester Road going out of Stratford.  It had been demolished in the early 90's.  This was handy as you know how much I love doing BRAPA alphabetically, and Alcester was the first place listed under Warwickshire.  Serenbrapity.

So back in July, I decided this could form the basis of a Hallowe'en Special BRAPA crawl. 

'Eye of Newt, Toe of Frog, Wool of Bat, Tongue of Dog.  Adder's Fork.  Blind Worm's Sting.  Lizard's Leg, and Owlet's Wing ....... 

...... and they are the names of just eight of the new micropubs which have opened in Kendal or Skipton since you started reading this blog. 

Birmingham Snow Hill Station on the Saturday morning of 26th October, the weather was foul and my train to Stratford had just been cancelled.   Time to think on the hoof and improve my chances of getting six pubs done ..... one of my Birmingham newbies was a 10am opener.  Time for a pint before the next train ......

I stood under the awning next to Cherry Reds, Birmingham (1610 / 2827) like a drowned rat praying they'd open sharpish.  A group of 'LADS' had the same idea a couple of minutes later, and I glared at them like "I'm first to the bar so you better observe proper pub etiquette LADS".  10:02am and we all realised at once that the door was now open.  I burst in first, glad to see the LADS heading to a table.  I hastily got a pint of a new spicy Salopian and the fragile but friendly looking staff eyed me with the suspicion of the 10am liquid breakfast person I was.  I couldn't relax though as water had seeped into my phone, and I couldn't get any sound out of it re ringtone, Mum's voice, music, YouTube clips, anything, so spent my whole time here in an agitated state of discomfort, ringing home, doing experiments to fix it!  Sad really, as this was a cute, trendy breakfast bar with a strong live music bent, I know I've liked some bands on the Cherry Reds music label before, like The Meteors..  The LADS were told by a concerned mousy barmaid that it wasn't table service and they'd need to go up to the bar, to which they replied "we know, we're just choosing what we'd like to eat" which I'd totally not be expecting, and it was unreal banter from a group who I thought would be straight in on a diet of craft lager, accumulators and animated discussions about Raheem Sterling's crib and how peng the talent was.  My phone recovered, and I had to drink quickly to get back to Snow Hill for the next train.  I took my glass back to the bar, coughed, harrumphed, pulled my hat down over my face and said 'FANKS!' which seemed to scare the staff all over again.

Neewollah, nee bother!

Some of the LADS and background Brewdog which I bet they went to next.  Banter.

Elvis and a Duffle Lamp
Second time lucky, and I was on a train, but what a shit station Stratford-Upon-Avon is eh?  I'd been expecting something bright, shiny, touristy, Shakespearean, not this grim half baked concrete arse splodge.  Bring back Birmingham New Street, all is forgiven!  (not really of course, it is the biggest most confusing monstrosity in the entire UK).  

No taxis, no discernible bus heading in the right direction, not central for the town centre, utter bilbo babbins as they probably say in these parts.  

There was only one thing for it, march on the old Alcester Road to see if any remnants of the Three Witches pub still existed (maybe it'd have a blue plaque?), a stone's throw from Anne Hathaway's cottage, the rain coming down heavier than ever now.  At least there was a bus stop called Hathaway Green Lane right next to the old site.......

Hmmm, is that it?  (On the right hand side I think just beyond the junction of East Green Drive)

If the pub location was an anti-climax, the lack of a bus shelter and suitably leafy tree, plus a 24 minute delay meant I was seriously fed up as I aimed to get out to my second pub at Studley, just north of Alcester.  

Meanwhile, Dad, safely tucked up and dry in Hull's Whalebone sent me the kind of message that might've been amusing and poetic under different circumstances .......

Luckily, the bus eventually arrived and Dad was forgiven, the roads were in a bit of a sorry state by now but we ploughed on through the river ......

And in Studley, my next pub was a pink tinged Micro thing ........

Weatheroak Tap House, Studley (1611 / 2828) was not really the ideal pub in my current circumstances, offering as it did a slightly chilly welcome as locals and staff didn't exactly greet me with a warm smile, though the bar blockers did at least make a play of shuffling to one side so I could get in to these 'yummy' Weatheroak ales, I got a Queen Victoria one.  Tasted vaguely like beer.  Still, probably good I didn't vocalise my mentally rehearsed 'the weather is a joke, but I'm on the Weatheroak' line.  Perched at the front of the pub with a sliver of cold air seeping through did little to improve my mood, but as time went on, things improved when I realised there was plenty of 'quirk' in the local's character.  The stodgiest bloke asked the female business owner's daughter, who was playing, I think, with some lego figures "What is this chap called?"  He and I were surprised when she replied "Barbara".   Exeter City were then slagged off for having too much money, and people then ranted about Leagues One and Two in general, softening only when the subject of their much loved Rugby Union came up.  An angry looking man darted for the door, turning, bewildered on his haunches, and asks me "Where's he fackin' gawn?"  It was the first time I'd been engaged in conversation in 20 mins, and I was at a loss.  Turns out his son was supposed to pick him up, but had driven through a puddle and broken down.   I'd just rung for a taxi so was keeping an eye on the door anyway, and with the likelihood of further customers at a low ebb, the owner dashes off to the neighbouring chippy. She returns, complains she'll not be able to eat 'em all, so the Blockers tell her to put them on the bar.  When I return my glass, they are all like "go on lad, take as many as ya want!"  I took 3 chips, and I can tell you, they are the best 3 chips I've eaten in 2019.  Then I had a nice chat about taxis with 'flooded angry man' before my taxi showed.  Strong end to my time in this pub, shame it hadn't started like this! 

Decent GBG selection

View of the back room no one went in

It's all action down in Studley

Yes, it felt a bit of a 'cheat' but after the bad start, I really needed a boost if I was to get my six pub quota done before the train home, and with the bus a good hour off, I taxied it to a village just south of Alcester courtesy of Tony and his grey fleece.

Broom was its name, after all, the Three Witches all need a broom so it seemed fitting.  The pub looked like something two dimensional built for a stage play ..... 

Obviously a pretty old building, but it was soon evident that the Broom Tavern, Broom (1612 / 2829) was the extreme posh end of outer Stratford dining pubs.  A friendly bald man with a healthy tanned complexion held the door open for me from afar, I branded him #PubMan, and that was about as 'real' as this place got, though creaky beams evoked memories of an older 'pub' pub.  A wiry motivated youth with an air of Scrappy Doo served me with wide eyes, the result was an unchallenging North Cotswold ale, which would prove to be good news for me.  A crazed South African in bright shirt barked aggressively to our bald hero about forthcoming Rugby World Cup joy,  'twas 'three witches presentiment-esque'.  I sat, a shambling rose between two thorny dining areas, at the most neutral table I could find, full of newspapers, probably not even designed for customers to sit at, but I know my place in such establishments.  Baldie and our Saffer sat at the bar, everyone else was a posh diner.  'Some were thin, most were called Carolynne, some had pearls and rubies.  We had men in tweed, pudgy children in need, and old girls with buxom boobies'.   After gliding over beautifully carpetted stairs to the cleanest loos imaginable, I noted a bus was 20 minutes away if I could neck this pint in ten and get to the bus stop, a ten minute walk from the centre of Broom (7 or 8 for a quick walker).   I didn't wanna stay here for two hours, so I had to go for it.  'Chug, chug, chug' (I was perhaps first person in the history of this pub to chug). 

Bar heroes in Broom

A nice neckable pint

IF I miss the bus, I'm coming back for a Pink G&T

Evidence in the beams of when the pub was a pub

Back onto the flooded lanes of Broom, I had a bus to catch.  Could I make it?  How would Alcester fare?  Could I squeeze in the Stratford tick?    Join me for #PubMen like this in part two .......



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