Sunday, 17 January 2016

A Darts Roundup

A clutch of wooden spoons in Darts & Dominoes at The Boat, Whittlesey, Cambridgshire
The Waterside Inn

The Waterside Inn sits on the very edge of Mountsorrel village in rural north Leicestershire, separated from it in fact by a broad loop of the River Soar. It's this section of navigable river that defines the pub and supplies much of its trade, sitting as it does overlooking a deep lock and moorings, and a narrow hump-back bridge which connects the pub to the village. Truly a waterside inn then.

So it's perhaps no great surprise that this is predominantly a destination dining venue. Indeed much of the pubs layout is given over to dining, and this along with the tidy riverside garden accounts for most of the pubs trade, particularly during the busy summer months.

Noteworthy in the context of this blog is that there's also a wonderfully traditional 'snug' at the bridge end of the pub (above). A smaller space reserved for the more intimate business of chat and a pint, and an object lesson in how to develop a pub in a way that fully exploits its location and business opportunities without removing all the essential pubbiness that makes the place attractive in the first place. For me it's this small room that is the very heart of the pub, a place I felt instantly at home in, and no doubt a favourite with seasoned boaters moored up for the night. There's also a Dart Board, which seals the deal for me.

The Cross Foxes

I've featured a few of Shrewsburys attractions on this blog before, most notably the historic and unspoilt Loggerheads in the heart of the old town. But there's more to Shrewsbury than the admittedly attractive and historic town centre. Across the river and south of the English Bridge is a cluster of pubs in the suburbs of Coleham and Bell Vue, including the Prince of Wales which has also featured here, and one or two proper locals pubs worth searching out.

The Cross Foxes (below) consists of a single tidy bar room, and is very much an old school social drinking pub. Good beer, conversation, and when I popped in for an afternoon pint of Bass 'the horses', hold sway in the bar, so it'll come as no surprise that the bar room staples of Darts & Dominoes are very popular at the Cross Foxes. Indeed a casual afternoon game of Darts was in progress as I supped my pint, and numerous trophies are dotted around the pub.

The St Dunstan Darts League was a London based league associated with the St Dunstan's war veterans charity, established to help men and women blinded in service to their country (now called Blind Veterans UK). In 1945 a sighted team known as the Dunstan Four was formed by the then chairman of the West Islington Darts League Harry Allen, who toured the country raising money for the charity in popular exhibition matches. The associated league helped the fund raising efforts in pubs and clubs throughout Greater London, and a successor to the league continues today in the form of the Salisbury & District Darts League which raises money for Wiltshire Sight.

The Junction Arms, league winners in 1950, seems to have been located on Junction Road, Upper Holloway, and was renamed the Drum & Monkey within 15 years of this medal being struck. Following a period of closure the pub reopened fairly recently as the Oak & Pastor, a typically pleasant London pub, tastefully refurbished, but without any sign of a Dart Board as far as I can tell!

The Railway

I used to make a regular pilgrimage to the Leicestershire village of Ratby, principally for pints of excellent Marston's Pedigree at the wonderfully unspoilt Plough. Tucked away off the main street and overlooking a common, the Plough was a real treat. Quarry tile floors, drilled bentwood seating, beautifully kept beer, and a Pool Table that kept us amused for far too many pints it must be said. The Plough is still worth a visit though much of the original interior was altered during an early 90's refurbishment. Gaming interest here is in the form of Petanque and a Dart Board in the dining room!

Of the three pubs which remain in the village, the Bulls Head retains a very attractive snug/bar and its traditional Skittle Alley, but for me it's the Railway (above) that hits the spot now. There's a lovely little railway themed back bar (the Pullman Lounge), and a more basic public bar which is where the Dart Board and associated trophies can be found.

The Hop Pole straddles the border between Beeston and Chilwell in Nottinghamshire. Darts is played on Monday evenings in the smaller 'Beeston' bar.
Brass barrels and feathered flights. A set of 'Tournament Darts' from St Albans based Kwiz Darts Ltd. Production ceased toward the end of the 20th century when slimmer tungsten alloy Darts superseded brass.

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