Friday : Mild, Saying Goodbye to Stratford-upon-Avon and the LDWA AGM

After three nights in the YHA at Stratford-upon-Avon, it was time to leave, but not before my usual entirely unnecessary ritual of photographing the layout of the building from the fire map on the back of the door. I was in room 12, at the top-right of the floor plan, in a relatively recent extension which has a series of smaller en-suite rooms. I’d recommend the hostel, it’s a clean and functional property, although I think that in normal times the prices aren’t always as competitive as they could be. But, the suspension of dorm beds means bargains are available at the moment, so I was content with my £23 per day for a private room.

After my 40 minute walk back into the town centre, it was another day, another Wetherspoons breakfast, once again in the Golden Bee in Stratford-upon-Avon. I accept I’m not very creative in my breakfast choices sometimes, but their prices are so low and their set-up so convenient. A lady from another table kept talking to me about some of her personal problems and she was lovely, although I’m not sure that I was too helpful in resolving any of them. But, it all adds to the excitement of the arrangements.

The ‘old bank’ which is now operated by HSBC, but which was built for the Birmingham Banking Company in 1883. I’d be surprised if the HSBC are still at this site in ten years, this is one of the most prominent buildings in the centre of a major tourist town, there must come a point when it’s flogged off to become a restaurant or the like. But, for the moment, it’s in use for its originally intended purpose and credit should be given to the bank for hanging on here.

The Stratford-upon-Avon canal and anyone walking along here will reach Wilmcote, where Mary Arden’s house is located. Although that assumes that they go the right way, otherwise they’ll end up at the River Avon.

The Jester statue which was designed by James Butler and was unveiled by the Lord Lieutenant of Warwickshire in 1994 and was donated to the town by Anthony Bird.

The birthplace of William Shakespeare which was probably first built in the mid-sixteenth century. There was a huge fuss made locally in 1846 when the property went up for auction and there was talk of it being demolished, transported to the United States or sold off in pieces to sell as souvenirs. Common sense won the day though and public subscriptions helped the property to be purchased and transferred into a trust who could look after it. There has been much fiddling about with the building, so it’s not as authentic as it might appear, but it looks grand in its current location.

Earlier on in the week, I’d explored most of the town’s pubs that had been well reviewed or looked interesting, but the Coach House from the local brewery Davenport’s also looked intriguing. I’d suggest that the design of this pub is just slightly clumsy, they’ve made it look like a fine dining restaurant, when it’s just a pub. This was the Lamplighter pub and it was clear that a refurbishment was needed when Davenport’s took it on, not least to make the venue more accessible.

And as a pub, it’s a comfortable, modern and clean environment, although they’ve perhaps slipped into being formulaic here and there’s a surprising lack of power points from a pub recently refurbished. All told it’s really more design led than functional. There’s currently no food being served and I’m not quite sure what the main focus of the pub is. However, the service was friendly and I liked the engagement from the team members, it was a welcoming and comfortable pub. In terms of being a bit trite, they’ve decided to put old seaside postcards in the toilets to show how on edge they are, but it seems a poor fit design wise.

I was pleased to see that there were three real ales on, which included Davenport’s Mild. Unfortunately, it transpired the Mild wasn’t available, although they fixed that by the end of my visit, but they had a bottle of it available, so I opted for that. It’s one of my preferred beer styles and the beef crisps complemented it perfectly. Food and beer pairings are an essential part of any pub visit.

Mason’s Court, a townhouse built in 1485 with numerous internal features still intact. It would be marvellous if local residents could still live here, but unfortunately it’s been turned into holiday accommodation and its soul has been rather lost. I’d better not drift off into another series of random thoughts, but it’d be really positive when buildings can be lived in by local people rather than treated as an investment vehicle.

William Shakespeare near to his birthplace, a sculpture designed by James Butler and placed here in 2020.

My Stratford-upon-Avon story ends here, as with that, I was then picked up by Richard in his little tank as we were going to the LDWA AGM near Leamington Spa.

I rather liked my room in the conference centre and I was pleased that Richard’s room had sloping ceilings as I wouldn’t want him having a more decadent room than me. All very comfortable, other than the little milks in the room were out of date. I didn’t let it mar my stay.

And here is the wonderful Julie Cribb, our national LDWA chair, with Julia our membership secretary on the left, who is also of course wonderful!

I thought that I’d start proceedings with a Guinness, and then Richard appeared and so I offered to get him a drink. He went for a silly choice of wine, which is far too expensive, so the barman agreed with me that a medium wine would be much better than a large wine. He’s getting far too decadent (Richard, not the barman). Although, to be honest, he’s always been ridiculous decadent.

And here he is, with his Norfolk & Suffolk badge on.

I had a little look in the freecycle room, where members can take bits of kit they don’t need any more and it’s free for anyone to take, although donations are welcome. I understand that we received £150 which is given to charity, so thanks to all of our members for their generosity over the weekend. This is also where our merchandise is stored and Stuart has modernised things somewhat by bringing in a card machine to take payments, which surprised and delighted Tim.

By coincidence, Stuart (the LDWA’s actually quite competent Environment, Risk, IT, GDPR, etc Officer) and I were standing by the entrance to the room just as it opened. Which meant that we got to the food first, which was really very lucky for us.

The menu that was available to our lovely LDWA members, including gammon, salmon and pasta.

All nicely presented and looking very appetising.

I went for the salmon and five spice fries, which was delightful.

The desserts were pick and mix doughnuts and a cheese board. I wasn’t sure if I was meant to have both, but I did anyway.

There was only one workshop being held during the weekend, but the members got perhaps the best NEC officer to do it (hopefully the other NEC officers won’t read this). I explained the Strider consultation that’s taking place this summer and I think that the session was very productive. To avoid a clash with a quiz, I cut my workshop down to 45 minutes and I was pleased to note that it ended after exactly 45 minutes, such professionalism….

With that there was a quiz or the chance to gossip in the bar, so I opted for the latter. There was plenty of random chat about lots of topics, not least Richard worrying about his big walk that was taking place the next day. After a few more beers, we agreed that it was probably best to let Richard get some sleep before his huge walking adventure on the Saturday. And as a final comment, it’s a delight to be back at the LDWA AGM, two years on since the one near York, which was held a few days before the first lockdown.