The next pub on our tour around Hereford was the Good Beer Guide listed Orange Tree which is operated by Black Country Ales, a chain that I know from my previous visits to Birmingham. The Orange Tree is Grade II listed and the front section was built in the seventeenth century, with a more modern section at the rear of the venue. For reasons unknown to me, it was called the Firefly for a while, but the older name returned in 2019.
Then, in 2020, the pub got national publicity when the landlord posted on social media:
“There’s a lot of young chavs, or roadmen, with bum bags in Hereford, if you know what I mean, been frequenting the pub and they don’t know how to behave. The youngsters don’t know how to handle themselves in a pub. A lot of them turned 18 during lockdown and are just misbehaving to be fair, and putting off other customers.”
To reinforce his point, he then banned hoodies and anyone in Stone Island clothing. Oh, and banned under 21 year olds on some evenings. Any pub which has to resort to banning people based on their clothing choices is unlikely to last long (unless it’s so good that it decides that it wants a decadent dress code, but how many city centre pubs are realistically going to be that extravagent?), and it was the inevitable course of events here. It was sold just a couple of months after to another operator, but then, two years later, Black Country Ales purchased the pub and admitted it had been failing for years, before they steadied the ship. They removed the upstairs commercial kitchen to put in a larger manager’s flat, but they restored calm and balance, with a swift entry in the Good Beer Guide coming soon after.
The Hereford Times reported how a former landlord checked on the age of customers:
“If Jacko the landlord had doubt about your age, he used to open your mouth and check your teeth like a vet checks a horse’s.”
Interesting…. I don’t think that will catch on instead of the Check 25 age verification policy.
Looking towards the more modern rear of the pub, much of the wood panelling in the venue has remained in place. There used to be bagatelle played at the pub, but that habit no longer persists. More pubs need bar billiards tables and a bagatelle arrangement. Writing about matters of the past, I liked the article in the Hereford Journal in July 1860 given it covers the subject of pubs and walking:
“VISIT OF JOHN MOUNTJOY – THE CELEBRATED PEDESTRIAN, TO HEREFORD.
On Monday last, it was advertised by public bills, that John Mountjoy, the celebrated pedestrian, whose wonderful feats have been heard of far and near through the medium of the sporting papers, had visited this visit, and that on Monday morning last, he was to perform the following wonderful feats three days in succession – the more wonderful as the pedestrian is now in his 60th year. The bills stated that he was to start from Mr. Hewitson’s the Orange Tree, in King Street, and walk to the Green Man at Fownhope, and back again to the Orange Tree, four times in the course of each day.”
The walking though was just the start of it:
“The other part of the programme was that he would perform the following nine feats in 40 minutes :- To walk forwards half a mile and backwards half a mile; to run half a mile; to hop on one leg for 100 yards; to run backwards 100 yards; to pick up with one hand 30 stones, placed one yard apart, and to deposit them singly in a basket; to pick up 20 eggs in his mouth without touching the ground with his knees or the eggs with either hand, and to deposit each in a bucket of water, without breaking it; and, finally, to leap 20 hurdles, each ten yards apart, with the last egg in his mouth without breaking it”.
Perhaps we should add this extra element to LDWA events….
The bar with its extensive range of real ales, including several from Black Country Ales. With regards to the team member, he was engaging and personable, offering a positive and warm welcome. We were visiting the pub towards the end of the evening, but it was evident he was content to serve until the advertised times. This might not sound particularly notable, but there are a few pubs who do ignore their opening hours and shut early or open late.
They’re not Untappd screens, but they’re useful ways of seeing what beers are available. A well curated selection of beers, with the prices being reasonable.
I went for a snack and the Old Mill Stout from Little Eaton Brewery from Derby. It was a well-kept plum porter and it was smooth with an edge of decadence, a more than acceptable way to end the evening. I was, once again, pleased with my food pairing choices.
All credit to Black Country Ales for this comfortable, friendly and laid-back pub, especially given what the venue has gone through over recent years. It’s done well to get into the Good Beer Guide and from my visit, it seems well deserved. All really rather lovely.