What? Only five waterside pubs visited this whole year? Actually that doesn't seem too bad going given how little cruising we've done. And I should add that this year only once did we go "just for a pint" - the rest were always for food too.
The poor old pubs have been having a hard time so they all deserve an award for keeping going, but this is the Herbie Awards so we have to find the very best. With only five contenders, we can afford to put them all on the short list. Let's try it alphabetically.
1. The Admiral Nelson - Braunston. We walked up there to meet Rick and Marilyn for lunch and sat lockside. I can't remember what I ate (fish and chips?), but it must have been fine because I would remember if it wasn't. I do recall that the beer was very nice. A very good pub as most boaters know and a great place to watch the lock traffic.
2. The Blue Lias - Long Itchington. This was the one where we only drank -as a refresher after working down the Stockton locks on a hot day. What a nice garden to moor up on.
3. The Cuttle at Long Itchington - also deserving a mention because they have a mooring (albeit treacherously shallow at one end) at the end of their big garden. Here we ate and drank on their terrace and it was 'OK' and the staff were friendly..
4. The Folly at Napton. What can I say? The Folly has won more Herbie Awards than you can shake a windlass at. This year Mark and Caroline(?) have really put in the extra mile with their beautiful garden plants, the smart marquees and the building of their huge wooden Potting Shed - which is as big as many a pub in it's own right. I haven't been in the shed since it opened but it looks gorgeous. All this despite struggling with staff shortages and new kitchen staff to train up. Beer good as always. In the circumstances we have to let them off for the limited menu and the polystyrene food containers.
This where we settled for the night after leaving the Blue Lias. Here we see it from our mooring some days later at the previously mentioned Cuttle across the canal. I do like a proper old canalside pub.
Here we ate home made pies. I'll forgive them for the fact that it was a pastry top on a dish of filling (I don't call that a proper pie) because the filling was really very good indeed. The moorings right outside the pub door are a bonus too, and the landlady was very friendly. I'd certainly go back even though the beer was no better than OK.
So that's the lot for 2021 pubs. As for the winner? Well there could only be one. For sheer hard work and dedication to the job in the face of huge obstacles, expanding while others contract, and always striving to create a great environment for customers, yet again
The Herbie Award for Best Pub
The Folly at Napton
They're going to need a bigger trophy cabinet.