Sunday, 3 August 2014

Two Gloucester Pubs

The Plough Inn is a welcome survivor in an area which has lost many traditional boozers in recent years. Walking out to the Plough from the town centre you can't help but be impressed and saddened in equal measures by the impressive tiled exteriors of the Vauxhall Inn and Robin Hood Inn, both long since closed and converted to alternate use.

The Plough has a much humbler exterior than these two, a simple rendered brick corner local on a back-street of a typical terraced residential area. The kind of pub which is being lost to the pressure for development and changing public tastes at a truly alarming rate throughout the country. It's a fine pub for the old-fashioned pastimes of drinking, conversation, and perhaps a game or two But sadly it's a little off the beaten track, and very much off the radar for many drinkers as there's no real ale, no craft-keg specialities, only traditional cider from Somerset producer Thatchers. That's a great shame as it's well worth spending time in pubs like the Plough Inn, even if it means taking a short break from your hobby.

The Darts Board is the main gaming feature of the Plough, viewed above through the servery (and reflected in a mirror) in the main bar area at the front of the building. On Sunday lunchtimes it's the Shove Ha'penny which comes into play, the fine smooth slate of a type common to the West Country taking pride of place in the smaller back bar. The highly polished and smoothed coins are available from behind the bar, and an angle-poise lamp provides the illumination needed to determine accurately the lie of the Ha'pennies during a game.

Summertime is the off-season for Skittles in Gloucester and elsewhere in the West Midlands and West Country. With holidays booked and outdoor pursuits to the fore, it's much harder to get a team up in the summer so most leagues leave the alleys to private functions and corporate team-building events. As a result skittle alleys in the West Country are unusually quiet in the summer, but still often available for a casual game with friends.

The chances of a game are increased twofold at the Englands Glory pub in Gloucester, which has the slightly unusual distinction of having a very fine double alley. The Gloucester City Skittles League remains well supported with close to 200 teams competing in the various divisions and regions of the league.

The view from the Sticker Up's end (above) shows that these alleys are all timber in construction. Many skittle alleys in the area are either painted or resin covered concrete, or feature an iron or steel 'frame' for the pins to sit on at the end of the wooden floored alley itself. A refuge exists between the two alleys for the Sticker Up, the lads and lasses who perform the all-important job of re-setting the pins and returning the balls down the integral side-chutes (below).

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