And the mid-Essex branch of CAMRA have crowned a new champion: the White Hart at Margaretting Tye is this year's Pub of the Year. This spurred TCMJ and I to leave our sun-drenched back garden and head into the depths of the Essex countryside to check it out. And I'm pleased to report it was well worth the effort, and definitely deserving of the title. In a way, I'm glad its a four-mile drive from the house down a narrow country lane, otherwise I'd be here every night!
It's animal friendly. This must be the only place where I've seen a Mum arrive with her small child on a Shetland pony. There is also a pets' corner, with a fed-up looking goat, lots of squeaking guinea pigs, several rabbits and an aviary. Oh, and a large duck pond with some randy ducks providing entertainment for the parents, who were busy answering the question of why the lady duck was giving the gentleman duck a piggy-back!
Here instead of some hot duck action is a picture of a sleeping cat and a guinea pig.
The location is almost impossibly English. This could only be a better place to bring an American tourist if a soldier wearing a bearskin was drinking Beefeater gin before being arrested by a policeman whistling and swinging a truncheon. Look, a village green with a waterpump and a red phone box! They don't make 'em like this any more.
Meanwhile, like an episode of Life on Mars, Helen reads a copy of The Taproom sat next to a vintage red post box and an R Whites litterbin from the 70s.
Oh, and the beer? Excellent - you don't get to be POTY for nothing - six real ales on at any one time. I had a pint of Nobbys Plum Porter from Northamptonshire which was very plum coloured, but not very plum tasting. But a good well-kept beer nevertheless; and as well as the usual local Crouch Vale there were several other interesting beers on offer. They hold popular beer festivals here too - the next in June - and a village fete and jazz day in August. I'll definitely be back!
One note of caution if you're thinking of trying this place - it's not in Margaretting itself... it's tucked away down a single track lane between Margaretting and Stock - check the website for a map... you'll need it, but it's well worth a bit map-reading to find it!