..Alright, not quite. I don’t mean to be too misleading with the headline, but with the array of new bars and restaurants opening in Wolverhampton to add to our quite substantial existing selection, it might as well be for those who can afford it.
Let’s take a look at what is and what might be..
The Island House
A former pub turned gourmet fish & chip restaurant, bar and grill, the Island House pub on Stafford Road, Oxley, wasn’t doing too well in its later years, closing in 2007. The building started its life as a house, with conversion to a pub, The Croft, in 1937. Purchased by Andrew Calleja who formerly ran the award winning Newbridge Fryer, The Island House has been open as a takeaway for a few months, finally opening as a fully functioning bar and restaurant this week.
Early reviews are excellent and with a menu including pan fried seabass and spiced battered cod cheeks (not to mention a selection of burgers), we’re confident that The Island House will prove a long-term success.
Gali Kitchen at The Hooded Ram
Under construction at the former Rothwells / Indi Bar in Princes Square, the very prominent crossroads in the centre of Wolverhampton’s Lichfield Street is the Gali Kitchen at The Hooded Ram. This is a city centre project that certainly gets the mouth watering – Hooded Ram are an Isle of Man brewery specialising in cask ale. Their selection includes Black Pearl Oyster Stout, Amber Ram Best Bitter, Little King Louis IPA and a large selection of seasonal beers / specials such as Green Hop Ram (an ale made using fresh or ‘green’ hops during hop picking season instead of the usual dry hops), Smokey Pete Smoked Porter (a smoked beer), Mint Chocolate Stout and Abattoir Blues (a barleywine).
The food promises instant salivation – Galī means alley or narrow street in Punjabi, the Gali Kitchen will bring Indian street food to Wolverhampton’s dining out scene. We can’t wait!
Queen Street was the location of Wolverhampton’s first public health dispensary – the first hospital in the city. This opened on 10th July, 1821, at 46 Queen Street and was constructed to cater for the needs of the poor who could not afford to pay for treatment. At 22 Queen Street, we’ll soon (subject to licensing) have Wolverhampton’s newest micropub, named The Dispensary in recognition of this important part of Wolverhampton’s history. Planned by Ron Reynolds, known locally for bringing a good selection of cask ale to The Horse & Jockey pub in Woodcross, The Dispensary will be a small pub (definition of micropub here) next door to Nandos, with seating for 30 people (more upstairs for functions / meetings).
Plans give a good idea of the layout (here), with both cask and craft dispense on the bar. The pub will have a history of Wolverhampton theme, and promises to add further depth to the city centre’s pub scene.
Currently at the planning stage, the owner of Newbridge Brewery, James McCann, has submitted plans for a micropub on Newhampton Road West in the corner building previously occupied by New Style Windows. The micropub, if approved, will provide a local outlet for Newbridge ales in the Newbridge area of the city.
Mr McCann has stated that the pub will be fashioned in a similar manner to that of Hail to the Ale micropub in Claregate, the three times (current) Wolverhampton CAMRA city pub of the year. The plans are, however, facing opposition, as reported in the Express & Star.
More can be read about this exciting venture can be read in the supporting statement here.
With the well publicised return of The Claregate as part of Marstons’s Generous George chain (with pizza oven and smoke house, opening Monday 10th April) and hot on the heels of recent renovations to Hogshead and the Royal London and the opening of Slaters, The Bohemian and Burger Priest, these new venues will give Wulfrunians and visitors alike plenty of food and drink options.
All Wolverhampton is in need of is a craft beer outlet supplying beers from the likes of Cloudwater, Verdant, Magic Rock, Harbour and Siren Craft to bring us into the big league.. what are your thoughts?
Up until maybe ten years ago, if you wanted to visit a pub other than a regular serving, for example, cask ale, you’d have to chance it. Armed with the latest edition of the CAMRA Good Beer Guide, you could visit what reads as the ideal pub – but, despite the guide being very good, the information might already be out of date leaving you with a lack of choice or even a closed venue. We’ve got it good today. There are a plethora of phone apps out there that will not only give you details about a venue, but will give you up to date ratings and beer scores. You can see, in close to real time, what people are drinking (and whether it is any good!).
WhatPub.com is a great resource for information on pubs – whether they serve cask ale, whether they are family friendly, have a beer garden, serve food – even as far as whether pub games are available or if the pub is dog friendly. WhatPub.com perfectly compliments the Good Beer Guide and if you’re a CAMRA member and know what you’re doing, you can update WhatPub.com with both beer scores and up to date information on the venue. This system works well, but CAMRA always needs more people willing to submit up to date information – so if you’re a CAMRA member, sign in, take a glance and where you can, provide an update. WhatPub.com is browser based and works well on the majority of phones and tablets we’ve tried it on.
A pick of the bunch app is Untappd. This allows you to rate a beer (this also includes cider and mead), adding a photo, comment and location. When enough people use the app (they generally do), the search function comes into its own. For example, you can find a beer within a certain radius – ideal if you know a beer is out there, want to try it, but don’t know where to find it. You can search for nearby beers or venues, to see what people are drinking and what rating they give to those drinks, in your local area. Of course, the application stores data so you’ll know if you’ve had a certain drink before and whether or not you liked it. We’ve also found Untappd useful in that a beer can be rated on the spot at the time & then scored on WhatPub.com afterwards.
A quick look at Untappd data tells us that, in the last month, 51 beers were checked in at the Lych Gate Tavern in Wolverhampton centre, 48 at Hail to the Ale in Claregate, 75 at Slater’s in Wolverhampton, 23 at The Crown in Codsall and 41 at The Great Western. Of course, this data can be taken in many ways and in no way represents the amount of people visiting each pub but does possibly shed some light on places that tech savvy beer hunters are visiting.
So, there’s no reason to drink poor beer or visit a pub that doesn’t serve your needs again – and more reason for pubs to up their game..
It should come as no surprise to people who use pubs in their area that many are endangered. At the last count (the second half of 2015), pubs are closing at a rate of twenty seven a week. This is a lot – though it’s less than the thirty closures a week a couple of years ago. The UK currently has 52,750 pubs – that’s a fifth less than the 66,177 ten years ago. Why are pubs closing? There’s a multitude of reasons, not least beer tax, cheap supermarket cans, changing demographic (and with it, cultural change), high rent – and of course the recession and the smoking ban.
Wolverhampton isn’t immune from pub closures. Far from it. Bushbury is a prime example of an area than once had several pubs, but is left without any. The King Charles was the most recent closure. The website, ClosedPubs.co.uk lists many lost Wolverhampton pubs, but even this doesn’t come close to the full amount that have gone.
A new Facebook page has been launched called ‘Love Your Local‘, with the aim 0f raising awareness of the risk to pubs, bringing pub users together to share information about their pub and providing information on ways people can band together to secure the future of their pub. Nothing is foolproof of course, but registering your local as an Asset of Community Value (ACV) is a good start.
There are a couple of pubs in Wolverhampton with ACV status. The victorious battle for The Claregate saw pub users band together under the banner of ‘Save Our Claregate’ when Marstons were pushing to sell the pub site to a care home company – this would have seen The Claregate demolished and a care home built in its place. The Ashmore Inn, The Harrowby Arms and The Rookery Tavern also benefit from the protection of being ACVs.
The best thing about registering your pub as an ACV is that it’s easy – the local council and the Campaign for Real Ale both provide guidance and anyone can do it – you don’t need to belong to CAMRA or any other organisation for that matter – you only need to care enough about the future of local pubs.
If you care about Wolverhampton and South Staffordshire pubs, visiting ‘Love Your Local’ will help you add a line of defence to your pub/s.
Our area offers us much of what we need – the benefits of an urban centre and the many healthy advantages of our countryside borders. We’re also lucky in that we have some excellent pubs within reach of our many country paths, both within Wolverhampton and linking the South Staffordshire villages that surround us. For this reason and to provide the opportunity for locals to enjoy both, we’ve launched our ‘Wolverhampton Paths & Pubs’ group on Facebook.
Paths & Pubs is an informal group open to all who enjoy both outdoor walking and using our wonderful selection of pubs. Not only will this group benefit the health of those involved, it will assist in pub preservation.
West Wulf invites all with an interest to contact us and, if you are a Facebook user, please join the group and get involved – we already have well over one hundred members, with people sharing their walk ideas, pictures and routes.
Too many people rely on transport these days. Years ago, people had no option other than to walk. Walking carries many benefits – some obvious, such as improvement to physical health. Others not so plain to see – walking in the countryside has been proven to improve psychological well being.
If you already enjoy walking, you’ll know all about public rights of way in the countryside, bridleways and so on. For those of you who don’t, well, read on.
An overview from gov.uk reads as below:
You have the right to access some land for walking or certain other leisure activities.
- use public roads and pavements or public rights of way, eg footpaths or bridleways
- use your right to roam on open access land including mountains, moors, heaths, downs, common land and some land around the England Coast Path
If neither of these apply, you may still be able to access private land if either:
- the landowner has given permission (‘permissive access’)
- there’s a local tradition, or right, of access
Basically, there are footpaths that run through the countryside that are accessible to walkers (some – bridleways & byways are also accessible to horse riders, cyclists and so on, we won’t cover this but you can read more here). How do you find these footpaths? Well the obvious clue is in looking for the signs, as below.
You can purchase walkers maps – or a decent Ordnance Survey map of your area will show footpaths. Staffordshire Council host a wonderful map on their website, which allows you to look for rights of way in your part of Staffordshire. They are colour coded by type and the map allows zooming in to a good degree to search. The map doesn’t include Wolverhampton, but Wolverhampton’s borders with Staffordshire are included.
There is also the Bing maps Ordnance Survey layer, which you can select to see rights of way.
A walking project
We’re going to look at putting together a walking project for the West Wulf area and beyond.
The aim will be to get people together for purposes of physical and psychological well being, to attempt to learn to appreciate the countryside around us, to use some of our neglected rights of way (some are overgrown through lack of use) and finally, to socialise – the final destination of a walk where possible should be a local pub or cafe, which we will support by giving them business.
Interested? Contact us and let us know.
More information on walking in general can be found below:
As a follow up to last months ‘Wolverhampton – 25 reasons to be cheerful’ and because there was so much we’d missed – people have prompted us – ‘you can’t miss that off!’, we continue with our second twenty five, bringing the total up to fifty.. yes, Wolverhampton really does have that many reasons to be cheerful.. so give us a smile!
26. Our local accent and dialect – it’s not ‘common’ – in fact it’s increasingly rare and something to be treasured – and has its roots in the old Mercian tongue of the Angles. Thanks to Roberthe Harriman on this suggestion.
27. Wightwick Manor & Gardens. As pointed out by Lynn Hawthorne, 78,000 visitors a year, an internationally-important collection of Pre-Raphaelite Art and William Morris interiors- if you haven’t visited, do so..
28. The beautiful Light House Media Centre – possibly underused as a venue but not underloved and housing the Black Country’s only independent cinema.
29. Our canal network. Constructed for and heavily used during the industrial revolution, with two major junctions (at Autherley and Aldersley), now used by fishermen, cyclists, joggers & walkers and a haven for nature. The City of Wolverhampton Council are also planning a Canal Quarter in the city centre..
30. Our arts & booming creative scene. We have the Newhampton Arts Centre, Eagle Works, Asylum Gallery, WildSide Activity Centre amongst others. Wulfrunians embrace creativeness as seen in the organic development of our Artists’ Quarter, centred on Chapel Ash.
32. Banktock House Park & Museum. A Grade II listed building surrounded by 48 acres of parkland with a museum of Edwardian life. Learn about Wolverhampton’s history & attend some great themed days & events.
33. We have a male voice choir – the Wolverhampton Orpheus Male Voice Choir & they are very good. Catch them this week at Darlington Street Methodist Church for the Civic Carol Service, Wednesday 9th December at 3:15pm. We also have the Wulfruna Ladies Choir. We like our singing in Wolverhampton.
34. We have a cycle club, the Wolverhampton Wheelers – popular with both adults and children, based at Aldersley Leisure Village.
35. Northycote Farm And Country Park, a Tudor farmhouse and park with family events throughout the year.
36. Queen Square (note- not ‘Queen’s Square’). Formerly High Green, the square is timeless. Meeting place for countless generations of Wulfrunians and famous for the MOTH – Man On The Horse – which is, of course, a statue of Prince Albert.
37. Transport links. Our central position means we can get anywhere by car or train in no time – both the north and the south are very accessible, as pointed out by Moira Campbell. We also have the Midland Metro, taking us from Wolverhampton to the centre of Birmingham.
38. Dunstall Park, Wolverhampton’s racecourse and also a fine venue for events and live music, also..
39. Monmore Green – Wolverhampton’s greyhound / dog racing track – another fine venue.
40. Our speedway team, the Wolverhampton Wolves – founded way back in 1928 and a high thrills fans favourite to this day.
41. Wolverhampton has produced some well known faces in both the music scene and on television and radio. Frances Barber, Beverley Knight, Nigel Slater, Suzi Perry, Liam Payne, Mervyn King, Bert Williams, Mark Speight – the list goes on.
42. We have a thriving gaming scene, from role playing to wargaming to board games. As well as having a branch of Games Workshop for many years, Black Border Games, a new independent gaming store has set up in the heart of Wolverhampton and gaming nights also take place at Wild Bytes Cafe.
43. We have a thriving pub scene – not just any old pubs serving generic drinks, but top quality establishments serving good cask and craft beer, lager and cider as pointed out in our article, ‘Our area – beer utopia?’
44. Our proximity to the countryside. We’re part Black Country urban conurbation in the south and east, part South Staffordshire countryside in the north and west. Best of both worlds.
45. Our places of worship. We have some brilliant buildings, not least St Peter’s in the city centre and we have people of many faiths and denominations working together to improve the city and cater for all.
46. Bentley Bridge at Wednesfield. Yes, it may take people away from the City Centre, but – free parking, cinema, restaurants, bowling and all those shops.
47. Bilston Market. Have you visited? It’s great, a proper market and it has retained it’s use – popular, very busy and perfectly situated.
48. We’re right on the UK’s watershed. Depending where the rain falls in Wolverhampton, it will either end up in the Atlantic (via the River Severn) or in the North Sea (via the River Trent & the Humber).
49. Continuing the geological theme, the last ice age or glaciation ended around 18,000 years ago. The southernmost limit of this glaciation in the West Midlands / Cheshire / Shropshire lowlands area was at Wolverhampton and is known as the Wolverhampton or Smestow Line. It’s the reason for the large boulders known as erratics we have lying around, such as the one in West Park – carved from mountains and deposited by glaciers thousands of years ago.
50. We love our darts. As well as hosting the annual Grand Slam of Darts at the Civic Hall, the Cleveland Arms on the Willenhall Road also hosts events with big players and we have the Winmau Darts Centre in Dunstall at the Wolverhampton Indoor Community Sports centre (18 boards and leagues played from the venue).
Wolverhampton was once known for its great nightlife. People came from all over the West Midlands, Staffordshire and Shropshire for Wolverhampton’s nightclubs – the likes of Club Lafeyette and The Mezzanine were semi legendary names in their time and people have fond memories of them to this day. In more recent times, venues have come and gone – Atlantis was good for a while and our halls – the Civic and Wulfrun – continue to punch above their weight in attracting some of the best live bands and comedians around as a cursory glance at the Wolves Civic website will tell you.
But Wolverhampton and the surrounding South Staffordshire villages are becoming known locally for another reason – great pubs with very good beer. Let’s look at pubs. The obvious candidate to mention at the moment is our own micropub in Claregate, Hail to the Ale. The Morton Brewery ran pub is a multiple award winner, being pub of the year 2015 for Wolverhampton, the West Midlands and the greater West Midlands region – no mean feat for a pub that opened just over two years ago.
Highly popular in Wolverhampton are the real ale pubs, of which the city has several. The Lych Gate Tavern, ideally positioned next to St Peter’s Church and an attraction for the city centre’s office workers, is one of Wolverhampton’s oldest buildings. Beautifully preserved, this Black Country Ales pub has an enviable selection of beers on offer as well as some real cider. A short distance away on North Street is a relatively new pub, the Dog And Doublet. This pub occupies a space where there have been numerous drinking establishments over the years – The Tiger, Kipps Wine Bar and Manders Bar will all be familiar names to Wulfrunians. The Dog & Doublet is making good use of its space – as well as a good selection of ale, there is a wide range of continental bottled beer, real cider and some very good lager such as the local Freedom Brewery Freedom Four & Pilsner. The Dog also plays host to live music nights and has an impressive beer courtyard.
There’s also our Victorian gem, The Posada as well as Hog’s Head, the Great Western, the Combermere Arms.. we could go on. All that we’re missing is a dispenser of craft keg beer, as anyone who has tried some of the current small brewery keg beer will tell you – it’s rather good. That gap may well be filled early in 2016 – as Slater’s are opening a pub right on Queen Square which might not only serve some of Slater’s own excellent Stafford brewed ale, but craft as well – though we’ll have to wait and see on that score.
A short journey away (by bus, train or designated driver..) is Codsall. Codsall Station, the Holdens pub at the railway station is well known for its good beer and beer festivals – a regular award winner. Nearby, the Firs Club is also holder of an award and along with Codsall Station, holds beer festivals. To top this off, Codsall now has its own Codsall Beer Festival. The one day event was held at the Village Hall on October 3rd and there is hope – and early indication – that organiser Andy Evans will extend 2016’s event over the whole weekend. And yet there’s more good news in Codsall – the celebrated Joule’s Brewery have purchased the Crown in Codsall Square, which will add another quality venue to Codsall’s selection (we haven’t even touched on other good well used pubs, The Bentlands and The Bull).
There’s The Vine in Wednesfield, Café Metro and The Trumpet in Bilston, The Stile and The Newhampton in Whitmore Reans, The Claregate in, well, Claregate. We truly are spoiled for choice.
And what of the beer available? Well we’ve got Banks’s / Marstons brewing in Chapel Ash at the huge Park Brewery site. We’ve got the excellent Sacre Brew just off the Bilston Road, Morton Brewery in Essington, Newbridge Brewery in Bilston. And the above mentioned pubs serve (or will be serving) top local ale such as Holdens, Beowulf, Fownes, Slater’s, Kinver, Springfield and so on.