Saturday, 14 March 2015

A pub lunch with a difference

An unprepossessing side street local from the outside
You can't come to Windmill End without visiting The Old Swan, better known as 'Ma Pardoe's', just a few minutes walk from the canal in Netherton.
On the outside it's simply a streetside pub in the middle of a terrace of Victorian shops but step inside and you discover a startling gem of ornate Victoriana. The highspot is the famous enamelled ceiling with a beautiful swan at its centrepiece but there's loveliness everywhere you look: the ornate bars, the elegant lights, the gleaming brass, the bold swirls of the period wallpaper, the richly painted woodwork.
But inside a Victorian masterpiece
It's a little masterpiece; perfectly restored and immaculately maintained. But it is still very much a pub. The front bar has its complement of drinkers (the pub brews its own beer as well), a quieter lounge serves those want to eat and there's a cosy 'smoking room' – though of course it's not smoke filled these days – for those who want a quiet corner to chat, read the paper or sup an ale. There's even a posher restaurant upstairs these days.
Gleaming brass, warm lighting and rich paintwork
The nickname comes from its long time landlady, Doris Pardoe, who owned the pub until her death aged 85 in 1984. Such was its fame among pub lovers that when it then came up for sale a company was set up by CAMRA to buy and run it. That was short lived but was enough to ensure the pub and its on-site micro-brewery survived.
If it was in London, tourists would be queuing outside and beer would be a fiver a pint. In Netherton it can be a beauty spot and a proper pub as well, a fortunate combination. We left with contented smiles after a couple of pints of Bumblehole and two hearty lunches.
Mushroom End, a cosy hamlet that could be part of any English village
Netherton was home of the Black Country chain and anchor making industries. The anchors for the Titanic were made here. Today the noise and smoke is gone but streets of unprepossessing houses and a few small factory units have replaced them. But in next-door Cradley (the boundary with Netherton seems purely an administrative one) is one little corner that is an unexpected oasis in this hum-drum sea.
A nod to the area's past in the chain mushroom sculpture
Mushroom Green was originally a small collection of workers' cottages built around a chainmaking factory. Today the little Victorian houses are a tucked away hamlet that could be found in any one of many little English villages.

A picture perfect country cottage in the middle of a Midland suburb

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