Crawling #5: Worcester to Bromsgrove…on foot!
June 11, 2022
This was initially supposed to be a walk. Maria (my wife) and I went down to Worcester with the intention of walking back to Bromsgrove and, in particular, the Queen’s Head pub.
It was a five hour walk but my wife only has little legs, so I was expecting it to take a bit longer. As it progressed it, sort of, turned into a pub crawl. The pub crawl ended up playing a key role in my aim to win this year’s #BadgeGetters competition on Untappd. The idea being that you have a specific number of days to get as many badges on Untappd as possible. For those unfamiliar with Untappd, each beer counts towards various badges in five beer bundles. Such as; five IPA’s is a badge. 10 IPA’s is a badge and so on. Plus, venue check in’s count towards badges. So, five beers in different gastropubs is a badge.
At the conclusion of this blog, I’ll be detailing my tactical approach to #BadgeGetters. What you need to know is I trail Phil Jones, the current leader, by a whopping 8 badges at the start of the day and he’s out there somewhere also drinking beer.
PUB #1: The Postal Order (Wetherspoons)
We arrived on the train into Worcester around 10.40am and Maria needed the toilet. The train station toilets were closed due to “vandalism”. Great. No wonder RMT wants to strike. The whole rail network is a mess by the way. It only actually works in London. As a result of Maria’s toilet requirements we ducked into the Spoons by the station and it would be rude to not get a drink. Increasingly though, I’m of the opinion that all beer in Wetherspoons tastes, sort of, the same? Like it’s something they put in the taps. It’s the same way all McDonald’s food smells similar regardless of what it is. I had a Moose River from Hop Union. ***. This is also where the badge dream came to life as I got badges for International Axe Throwing Day, Beer of the World (level 70) and Draft City (level 60). Beer of the World is a broken badge, imo, but otherwise happy with that.
After Maria had finished her business, we set off to the canal, which would take us all the way to the Queen’s Head. Some 13.5 miles according to my calculations. Maria has never walked this far before in her entire life but for the first hour she was loving it. Strolling along a picturesque canal with me explaining how locks work, her seeing that first hand and posing for photos all over the place. Then it absolutely pissed it down and Maria wanted food. She ate a chocolate bar I’d packed but wanted a proper sit down meal, which I had lined up at the Bridge Inn, but she was already slowing down. Our decent opening pace ended up a sluggish two hours for the first five miles.
PUB #2: The Bridge Inn, Tibberton
The Bridge is right on the canal so you can walk up from the towpath, up a flight of stairs, right into the beer garden. We sat down, ordered some fish and chips and got a pint in. I had a Cheers Ma’am, one of these dreadful jubilee beers from Marston. **½. The pub is a nice little square divided into three rooms with one very much a restaurant. They also serve food out to the garden, which is across the car park and out in nature. It was a nice place. Beer range wasn’t great, and I received no badges for my selection.
After an hour’s rest, I thought we could hit the next section of the route hard and make good time for the Eagle and Sun, our next stop around 4 miles down the canal. Maria, who isn’t used to this kind of exertion, had other ideas and started stopping to stretch her legs. We had to come off the canal, while it went through a tunnel, and at Fir Tree Farm she literally lay down and fell asleep for a bit. Right after that was a particularly harsh hill and she was basically hanging off me by the top. It was becoming increasingly apparent that the walk was going to be beyond her and I started feeling so bad about it that I stopped enjoying what had been a very pleasant stroll through the Worcestershire countryside. The following two miles felt brutally long for her and at one point she was basically asleep while walking. She takes a nap in the afternoon and we’d invaded her nap time!
PUB #3: Eagle and Sun
The Eagle and Sun is a family carvery type of place, right on the canal. We got there around 3pm and Maria was finished so my dad came to the rescue, coming and picking her up so she could go home and sleep for a few hours. On the outside of the Eagle and Sun it says “real ales” or “traditional ales” or something along those lines. The real ale I had was a Birra Moretti. Which at least helped with the thirst in the hot June afternoon. I hadn’t intended to still be going this late into the afternoon where the sun gets to its hottest. I figured; start at 10am, it’s a five hour walk, be finished at 3pm.
I had around 5-6 miles to go at this point and would have to crack on solo. At first I was motoring and making good time but somewhere between Droitwich and Stoke Works I started to feel it and slowed down a bit. It was very warm. I was out by Wychbold where the M5 exit is and while I could sense I was getting closer to Bromsgrove I was flagging and did I mention warm? I was sweating so much I hadn’t needed to take a piss for hours. My shirt was drenched. I sweated so much the rucksack was soaked. I had a spare shirt in there but it was by my back and was also wet through the rucksack! Jesus.
PUB #4: Bowling Green Inn
I had to come off the canal for this one and regretted it pretty much immediately. The exit was really steep and then I had to cross a main road on a blind bend. As I walked around the corner on a grass verge it turned out I didn’t have to cross the road and crossed back over, discovering there was a path there the whole time. I felt a bit dim here. The Bowling Green is set back from road and seems to have a BMW parked outside it permanently as it appears on Google Maps as well as IRL. I walked past the bar, full of old gents putting the world to rights, and into the empty lounge where I ordered a half of Banks’ Mild. I love a mild and this was a tasty one. ***¾. I’d intended this to be a quick break to give my body a chance to stop sweating.
It ended up being about 15 minutes. I was rewarded with Bar Explorer (level 51) and Ye Olde Pub (level 18) badges on Untappd. The two venue badges I knew were within reach. Time was pressing on though and I’d agreed to meet Maria in the Queen’s Head at 5.30pm. It was 4.45pm. However, I knew there were pubs on route and set off for the nearest one.
PUB #5: Boat & Railway
I originally headed towards the Navigation Inn but Google was telling me to head out into Stoke Prior and come back down again. The journey time? 1h 5m. Taking me up to 5.55pm. Already way past my intended arrival time at the Queen’s Head, which was still some way off. Instead I doubled back and went to the Boat & Railway. This is a great little boozer. It’s literally right on the canal so you can see swans hissing at passing dogs and all the other fun of the canal. I had a Marston’s Old Empire, thankfully a half, and it was fucking awful. The trouble with selling cask beers is they don’t last long and if you don’t have the sales they’ll go bad.
I left most of it on a table by the canal and punched Queen’s Head into Google to see where to go next. It advised I hurdled the canal (????) and walked 34 minutes down the canal to the final destination. All good. I decided to use the bridge instead of jumping into a body of water. Off we set on the final leg and as I was walking the final leg I saw a sign…
PUB #6: The Navigation Inn
See…Google is full of shit. You can get to the Navi by canal. The path off the canal even has a little gate at the top. There’s even a sign saying “Navigation Inn 50 yards” with an arrow. So, I got off the canal and strolled down to the Navi. I’ve always wanted to go in the Navi because I see it on the train when I go to work. It’s a very clean pub, split in half, with a bar one side and a restaurant the other. It’s very family friendly and played 80s soft rock songs. I got a half of Camden Pale Ale in here and was just finishing up when my wife called. She was awake, where was I? Not in the Queen’s Head as planned! I left the Navi and went back onto the canal for the final stage. Having briefly abandoned the canal between the Bowling Green and the Boat & Railway it felt right to be finishing on the stretch of water that had brought me all the way from Worcester.
PUB #7: The Queen’s Head, Stoke Prior
Every pub I’d been in today had been lovely and quiet. The Queen’s Head is heaving. I’m not saying the decision to deck out staff in short shorts is the reason for the Queen’s Head’s success, but it can’t hurt (there was a bloke stood at the bar literally just ogling the waitresses). I had a pint of Guinness and waited for Maria. She turned up and looked knackered. I finished my beer and we headed home in the car. All in all, my 13.5-mile walk had ended up a 14.9-mile walk. The little Bowling Green detour, Navi related Google lies and unaccounted for walk to the train station tacking on those extra miles.
I was tired but satisfied. I’d done the walk I’d set out to do and somehow ended up in seven pubs as well. I guess the question for anyone looking to repeat this madness; can you get more pubs in than this? The answer is yes. You can get Speed the Plough, a pub just seconds walk from the Bridge Inn. It’s 130 yards down the road. At that point I wasn’t even considering a pub crawl but it’s right there. There’s an alternative route through Worcester from Foregate to Sixways. It’s still 3.5 miles but takes you through town, rather than the scenic route. This route takes you past the Firefly, which is Worcester’s best pub. However, you’d then have to control your bladder through one of the roughest parts of town and the only other pub is the Virgin Tavern, which looks…not great. If you can take this route though, eventually you’ll get to Sixways and near Sixways is another pub called the Barn Owl, which is a converted barn, which looks awesome. However, you would be four pubs down before leaving Worcester. Which is a lot of walking with four beers inside you.
On getting home, I had some food and had a couple of cans. I got the Beer 52 package this month and it’s a Croatian theme so I managed to drink three beers and get six badges including the Baking in Balkan badge for Balkan beers. Sufficient badges to get ahead of Phil Jones, the incumbent leader of the Badge Getters challenge. Had I won it? I’m not sure yet to be honest. At time of writing, the final scores at not yet in*.
*While I was typing this, I got a notification that I’d been pipped by three badges.
However here are some tips for getting badges on Untappd if you face a similar challenge!
- I researched what badges I was close to getting before the challenge started. I knew if I had one wheat beer, I would get three badges thanks to Untappd changing what qualified for it. That was very much on my ‘to do’ list for the month.
- After researching stuff I was close to, I stuck an order in to an online beer place to get beers to get me over certain lines. Thus racking up badges without a tonne of effort.
- Certain badges involve doing things in a time period like Brewery Loyalist, where you need to drink 10 beers from the same brewery in a 30-day period. That was one of the badges I got. I placed an order with Wild Beer to be sure of getting it, after having noted I’d already drunk two of their beers in the 30-day period.
- Take photos of everything! Until that Photogenic Brew badge maxes out every fifth photo earns you a badge.
- Go to verified venues, check in when you’ve purchased from them and drink them elsewhere too. Verified Adventure is a levelled badge.
- Take note of special badges. I could have scored a Cider Day badge but refused to drink cider and get it. Ales for ALS was available through certain beers (if you click on the badge it will usually tell you what qualifies). Also, Support for Ukraine.
- I went on several pub crawls going to pubs I’d not been to before.
- If I’d previously had the beer but needed a check in for the venue, I’d go with a half. No need to go mad checking in those venues.