Friday, 14 November 2014

Golden Cross - Clee Hill, Shropshire

Should you ever find yourself in the lovely Teme Valley area in search of a pint with a view, the Golden Cross at Clee Hill should fit the bill perfectly. I wouldn't particularly recommend the trip when snow is forecast though. The roads are steep and winding, particularly the one from Tenbury Wells that I chose to drive up, and I'd imagine the village can become somewhat isolated when the weather turns nasty.

The view from Clee Hill is certainly impressive, but if you like a good game with your pint, you may find it difficult to drag yourself away from the bar and take it all in. That's because the Golden Cross is home to one of the most impressive collections of traditional games your likely to find in a pub. Acquired by licensee and pub games enthusiast Aaron Jeffs over the course of several years, there's hardly a category of game which isn't represented at the pub.

The first item to meet your gaze on entering is a fine old Bar Billiards Table, covered when not in use and therefore in excellent playing condition. It's a John Bennett & Co table, a Billiard table manufacture which held a Royal and War Office warrant at one time, this table dating from around the 1950's judging by the London address on the name plate.

From my perspective, the most important gaming item at the Golden Cross is also one of the most humble in form. A simple, unpainted concrete Quoits Board sits solidly below one of several Darts Boards at the pub, again covered when not in use to prevent stray Darts Arrows damaging the surface. Quoits is of course the local game for the Shropshire/Herefordshire area, and league matches can be seen at the pub throughout the summer months, Darts and Pool taking precedence in the winter. Rubber Quoits and all the other paraphernalia of pub game play are available from the bar on request.

Note the unique handmade scoreboard to the left of the Darts Board. Outside of the Hereford Town League, where Quoits is a straightforward scoring game along similar lines to Darts, most leagues play a game where each team or player aims to accumulate specific scores, maybe from 1-12 or 1-15. Four Quoits are thrown and if for example 8 is scored, that panel on the board is claimed and becomes closed to your opponent. The board here goes up to 20, but given that this would require a full house of 'Pegs' (which score 5 points), perhaps the full board is reserved for 'expert' matches rather than regular weekly league play. Or maybe players in the Clee Hill League are far better than I give them credit!

Rare and unusual games are represented at the pub in the form of a fine Pitch Penny bench (left), possibly the only example in use outside of the East of England. This is a genuine and original bench acquired for the pub by a family member, the leaded backing added by the licensee to help preserve the wood from damage.

Other games available for play include Ring The Bull (below), Shove Ha'penny, Devil Amongst The Tailors, and Shut The Box, as well as the usual selection of Card games, Dominoes, Pool and of course Darts which is very popular at the pub.

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