Rotund midriffs don't really tally with the image of long-distance walkers. We've rambled here, there and everywhere along the 2,000 and more miles of canals, and have calf muscles of iron, but the stomachs tell another story! I blame those landlords and landladies of canalside pubs serpenting us with their best ale on almost every turn of the canal.
Our floating office has been moored in Stourport Basins for over a month now, which feels like an eternity for our itchy feet (we're in our usual typing frenzy getting our next book ready for our printer's deadline!). But Stourport is making us welcome - it's a canal town, and so a good community goes without saying. Maggie, the landlady of our Stourport local, has her own narrowboat of course.
April is Community Pubs Month and her pub, the Hollybush, just a stone's throw from the Staffordshire & Worcestershire Canal, has what a good pub needs - a landlady who cares about her pub, fab real ales and a community welcome that's real.
The local pubs have welcomed us strangers in town, and already the looming goodbyes will be sad. It's a reminder to me of the vital role real pubs play in nurturing community. It's a hard and frankly worrying fact that, according to CAMRA (the Campaign for Real Ale), pubs are closing at a rate of 16 per week. Canalside pubs have the bonus attraction of the water and summer tourism, but still need to manage year-round trade to keep them open.
"In the old days, you just had to stand behind the bar with a jug of ale and people would come flocking in", Maggie jests, "but now pub landlords and ladies have to reach out and give people reasons to come: pub quizzes, curry night, jamming nights". And Maggie's energy spreads into social media networking too, and of course her good beer, lager and food... and a smile.
GOOD landladies and landlords make GREAT pubs... and create vital hubs for their communities.
Support your local:
Community Pubs Month is an initiative by CAMRA to increase awareness of local community pubs this April.
Pub is the Hub
CAMRA, the Campaign for Real Ale