Well the answer is obvious isn’t it? You might think so, but fantastic though the Queen’s Jubilee pageant was, my real favourite cruise and the winner of
Best Cruise on Someone Else’s Boat 2012
was the sublime
narrowboaters’ pageant rehearsal
the previous week on Nb Indigo Dream.
It was absolutely fantastic. Two days of perfect weather all the way out to Barking then up to Brentford and back to Limehouse and the Thames has never looked better, even though on day two we had to lock out of Brentford at about half past four in the morning.
The formation boating was a treat and the company was good. In addition to our ever attentive and generous hosts, Sue and Richard, we also shared the ride with Greygal Sarah and her other half Andy and Amy Duck. I think it might possibly be the best two days’ boating I’ve ever done. Thank you so much Sue and Richard. This means Indigo Dream has won the award two years running – not strictly within the rules but there could be no other choice. Commiserations to our wonderful runners up Sarah and Jim and to Adam.
By the way if you thing the very big boat in the top photo is Indigo Dream –it isn’t. As far as I recall, Indigo Dream has no guns.
Now then. Our last nominations before we have an intermission during which I will post for you a little picture quiz.
As usual our cruising this year has had a serious side. Someone has to do an in depth survey of good pubs for narrowboaters and we have again felt obliged to step up to the mark. This is especially so as good pubs come and go. The buildings might stay, they might even remain as pubs, but their quality depends on how they are run as well as their setting. A good pub should not just be somewhere to get a drink or a meal, it also needs to be a pleasant place to while away an hour or two. Maybe you want to relax in comfort and read the papers. Maybe you want to have someone to natter to. Or perhaps you want to play a game or listen to some good live music. Pubs don’t generally do all of these, but good pubs do some of it.
This year our short list contains two pubs that have had chequered histories as far as quality goes, but in their present incarnations they are in their prime. They join three others we hadn’t visited before but really enjoyed. Once again we’ll do it in alphabetical order.
Nominations for Best Pub
1. Admiral Nelson – Braunston
Although in the perfect canalside spot, this pub has in recent years been something of a let down. However the present owners who moved in early this year have wrought a real change and we now like it very much. I urge you to give them your custom ‘cos they deserve it. They have invested a lot in making it comfortable and attractive. The pub is now on the smart side I suppose, but welcoming, with sofas and easy chairs in the bar and an attractive separate dining area. Nevertheless the old traditional skittle table is till there and last time we were in there was a match on. The beer is well kept . They seem to have T. Taylors Landlord and Black Sheep as regulars and their recent guest ale Caledonian American style IPA was lovely. We ate their big rump stakes which were perfectly cooked with attractive trimmings for a tenner. and the food is very good and reasonably priced. The staff are friendly and attentive too.
2. Bridge 61 – Foxton Locks
This little pub at the foot of the locks is a gem. A real contender for the prize. Plain and old fashioned, it has a proper old local atmosphere. Drinks are served from a little hatch counter. There are two smallish rooms to sit in. The one with the hatch seems to be the ones the regulars use, but they make you welcome if you sit there. Quite a few of them seem to play regular chess games! We drank an ale called Inclined Plane which was gorgeous, and then fell prey to a pint of Old Rosie Cider – lovely but very strong. If you’re hungry you might get fed, but don’t bank on it, and it’ll only be simple fare. The big pub opposite does quite good meals.
3. The Folly at Napton
Another pub that has turned around. We love it. The beer is good (Hook Norton), the food is home cooked and tasty and the decor is fascinating with lots of old photos and all sorts of implements and paraphernalia to gaze at. All the rooms are comfortable and attractive. Most people go to the right hand side to eat, but you can eat the other side which is where the drinkers congregate. We tend to go that side because it is very sociable and you will almost certainly have a conversation to join in. Mark the landlord is a good host and often joins in the discussions. Start him off on 60’s pop music and you’ll have a long and entertaining natter with some good anecdotes.
I notice they now have an amusing web site and it does give a very good sense of the place and includes a splendid photo of Mark in one of his trademark hats. Click Here
4. The Prince of Wales – Cambridge Street Birmingham
We found this pub from a web recommendation. It’s a good pub with a good atmosphere and an exceptional range of ales – and it’s 100 yards from the canal. Just up the road from the bridge by the NIAl. When we went they had just reopened after redecoration and it was done very stylishly. Coloured bowler hats for lamp shades! In the main though the decor is victorian and nicely pubby. The amazing bit though was the mens’ loo.
Say no more!
As far as I recall the pub had about 6 real ales on and the ones we tried were really good. They had live music on and whoever it was was fine, but if you prefer to be quiet don’t worry, they only have music once a week. We didn’t eat there but the food reviews for the place are promising. If you are mooring in Brum centre then I would definitely recommend a visit.
5. The Victoria – Jericho, Oxford
Just a short stroll from our mooring at Jericho we went into this pub lured by the promise of its home made pies. The pies were good and different, I can’t remember the fillings now but they were innovative and the taste was good. This is a great pub for sitting and reading the paper (they have a good selection). Comfy seats, big scrubbed tables. All very clean and and tidy but not at all fussy. The decor is interesting, they have a big model airplane hanging from the ceiling surrounded by an upstairs gallery. Low lighting with lamps and candles. Very relaxing. The beer was limited in scope but absolutely fine. A very nice pub for a quiet evening.
A couple of honourable mentions – Great Western Arms at Aynho where we had good food and beer in comfort on an excellent evening in the company of Bones, and a pub in Long Itchington which we visited with Jim and Sarah- I think it might have been the Buck and Bell –anyway they had excellent beer and the landlord was fun and keen on his ales. A bit of a walk from the canal though.
Results tomorrow and the start of the intermission picture quiz.