There’s a saying – ‘Life’s what you make it’. The organisers of Codfest must live by this mantra as they certainly make life great for a day for those lucky enough to get a ticket to this small, but lovingly crafted music festival in Codsall Wood. In its 8th year, Codfest improves each year but stays close to its original blueprint. It doesn’t grow beyond the field boundary it sits within, and the location of the arena and stalls stay in more or less the same place year on year – but tweaks to the way the festival is ran through to improvements in the selection of food and drink available are noticeable.
This is a top festival on a small scale. Musicians are, in general, local, as are those in attendance. The music is a heady mix of rock, pop, folk and, this year, the acoustic dub reggae sounds of Birmingham duo, BEAR were thrown into the mix. There’s something for everyone – highlights for us were the brilliant The Arrangements and the fun (check out the costumes) sing along crowd pleasers, The Pale Aliens – who also had a rather tasty Morton Brewery beer available in their name at the Hail to the Ale mobile bar.
Sam Draisey played on the main stage during the afternoon, with songs from his new album As I Live and Breathe (review here) going down well. Organised by Sam and father, Roy and team, Codfest is a family orientated festival. Prime evidence of this could be seen in the queue for the face-painting stall, in the merchandise on sale, but most of all by the amount of families with children in attendance.
Codfest’s tagline is ‘The Friendly Festival’. It certainly is. The festival is a safe, fun place for families to attend, the sort which breeds warm childhood memories for us to look back on fondly as adults. Many people wore fancy dress – this year’s theme was heroes & villains; amongst them was Superwoman, Michael Jackson, Freddy Mercury, a man dressed as a banana and more. Despite Roy making mention of a few setbacks late in the day during organisation of Codfest 8, they certainly weren’t noticeable to hundreds enjoying themselves into the night, many camping out, helped on by a beautiful sunny early September afternoon.
The main benefit from events like Codfest and Codsall Beer Festival (the third is to be held next month) is what it brings to the area – a sense of community; local people who care about each other sharing a good time in pleasant surroundings. Every area could do with their own version of Codfest – but not every area has dedicated people willing to volunteer their time to put on an event that will last in the memories of those in attendance. It’s a shame we have to wait a year for Codfest 9!
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..
Things aren’t all that bad in Wolverhampton and surrounding villages. We might still be struggling with a lack of shops in the city centre, but the government tells us today that they are focusing on the ‘Midlands engine’ (£12 million for Midlands Connect and the transport infrastructure for example), construction and refurbishment is ongoing throughout the city, independent businesses are thriving and people are setting up and maintaining some wonderful events that simply didn’t exist just a few years ago.
Two such events are Tettenhall’s #MakeItorBakeIt street market (which took place on 25th September) and Codsall Beer Festival (30th September and 1st October). Both events were conceived in recent years by individual with an idea, both raise money for charity and have flourished with the help of volunteers and good attendance by local people.
We attended both events for a look at how they are doing. We also took a look at Cupcake Lane cafe’s second birthday celebration, which saw a steam engine return to the former Tettenhall Railway Station.
In a couple of days, the West Wulf blog will be one year old. The idea & formation of West Wulf is five years old. Time flies! What started as a means of providing a media outlet for AFC Wulfrunians, the west Wolverhampton football club, has developed into a Wolverhampton & South Staffordshire news, events and ideas portal. We’ve reported on numerous events such as the rise of the award winning Hail to the Ale micropub in Claregate and Britain’s Best Small Community Market 2016, Make It or Bake It in Tettenhall. We’ve charted the activities of independent businesses such as Wild Bytes Cafe in Wolverhampton. We’ve provided news on the many construction projects in Wolverhampton and had a hand in gaining the west Wolverhampton Artists’ Quarter the recognition it deserves as well as highlighting the ever improving pub selection in the area. Our most popular reports have been the two sets of ‘twenty five reasons to be cheerful‘, which proves that Wulfrunians love their city and constantly seek it’s good points.
Most recently we’ve created the ‘Wolverhampton Paths & Pubs‘ group on Facebook, enabling like minded people to come together for country walking and in support of our pubs – something that also has a tie in with the new ‘Love Your Local‘ Facebook page – designed to encourage people to value, use and where needed, protect their local pubs.
We wouldn’t be here without you, people of Wolverhampton, South Staffordshire and beyond – our readers. As we begin the third month of 2016, we thought we’d lick a finger, put it in the air and see which way the wind is blowing in Wolverhampton at the moment..
Bite sized news for March 2016
There are some exciting times ahead. Work has begun on the extension and refurbishment of Wolverhampton Railway Station’s car park – raising the capacity from 450 to more than 800 long stay spaces. This will pave the way for the eventual extension of the Midland Metro and rebuild of Wolverhampton Railway Station. The entrance to the car park will also be relocated to Mill Street / Corn Hill. More information, particularly about the extension of the Midland Metro can be found here in a Proof of Evidence.
i10 is filling up. There is already a branch of Superdrug operating at Victoria Square, with a new Hungry Horse pub / restaurant, The Sunbeam, under construction. In February, it was announced that national chain Kaspa’s Desserts would be the next tenant, taking over two units within i10 – Wolverhampton will be its 31st UK branch.
Just a stroll away, City of Wolverhampton Council have announced that the Canal & River Trust has acquired the former Crane Foundry on Bailey Street, Horseley Fields for purposes of regeneration – a boost to the council’s Canalside Quarter plans.
A couple of pub openings now – Slater’s Wolverhampton opened last weekend and is proving a hit, in what must be the perfect location – right on Queen Square opposite the Prince Albert statue. In Codsall on Tuesday 22nd March, The Crown – now a Joule’s pub, will open its doors following an extensive refurbishment. Just over a week later in Wolverhampton city centre, the previously mentioned Hungry Horse restaurant, The Sunbeam, will open – scheduled for Wednesday 30th March.
Wolverhampton’s Mander Centre, although a little devoid of shops at the moment, promises to be a top shopping destination by the end of 2017. Have a look at what’s going on here.
Finally, local & national press (here & here) have reported on a Wolverhampton beggar who reportedly takes home up to £500 a day. Yes, takes home. This beggar has a house and is, if reports are correct, rich – earning only £12,000 less than Prime Minister David Cameron does annually. When you pause to consider that the average salary in Wolverhampton is only £20,000 compared to the UK average of £26,500, you will understand why some kind hearted Wulfrunians as well as genuine homeless people are a little angry.
That’s all for now! Keep reading and thank you for your support.
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: