In August 1997 Rubicon hired the 'Merlin' from the London Narrowboat Project. We navigated round the 104 miles and 119 locks of the Warwickshire ring. Present were Adrian Seal, Sarah Withey, Me, Matt Smith, Helen Smith, Clare Preedy, Sam Owen, Paul Allen and John Marsden.
Friday 22nd Aug 1997 Braunston to Hillmorton, 7.5 Miles, 3 Locks
Pick up the boat at 5pm from Braunston. We set off at about 6pm. Pull off straight into the path of an on-coming barge, not a good start. Go past the Rugby arm where we picked up the Willow Wren boat from in 1987. Keep going till it gets dark as we had intended to stop at Newbold. Moor up very close to the railway, but it does not disturb us. Stop near the village of Hillmorton, walk along dark country lanes to a pub called the Stag and Pheasant.
Saturday 23rd Aug 1997 Hillmorton to Atherston, 23.5 Miles, 8 Locks
Get a good early start at about 8am. Almost everyone gets up very early and starts doing things. I do most of the driving today. Go round a very steep U bend at Hawkesbury junction, whilst everyone at the pub watches. Use the mobile to phone one of Sarah's friends, Catherine. Arrange to meet her in Nuneaton at a pub called the Boot Inn. We all play on the bouncy castle. Adjy and a few others go shopping, and get caught in torrential rain. Stop after most of the Atherston locks. Go to the King's Head by the A5.
Sunday 24th Aug 1997 Atherston to Curdworth, 11.5 Miles, 15 Locks
Another early start. A few locks early on. Stop at Polesworth and walk into the village to get a Sunday paper and some supplies. Turn on to the Birmingham and Fazeley canal and stop at the Drayton Manor swing bridge. Matt and Clare stay behind and the rest of us go into Drayton Manor Park. Go on the Shockwave, Haunted House, Rapid Rider and other large rides and then back to the boat. We are pictured filling up with water near Curdworth. Moor up in Curdworth just outside the pub, The Kingsley Arms. It is a very large modern steak house type pub by the road.
Monday 25th Aug 1997 Curdworth to Gas Street Basin, 9 Miles, 27 Locks
Pleased then the planning has worked out well. Starts to get very industrial today. Go under Spaghetti junction as soon as we enter Birmingham. We have a choice of routes, we go the Aston locks route, I am surprised that we see so few people, until we get stuck. The Aston locks have a very well renovated towpath that is used by a lot of people. However the canal is not in very good shape. We get very stuck going into the first Aston lock. We drag out a tyre and a scaffold pole before we can get in. All the girls get off to go shopping. The crew is just Me, Adjy, John and Paul. Adjy drives all the time. At one of the Aston locks the ledge of the boat gets caught on the side of the lock and it starts to lean at a large angle. Adjy jumps off and I realise just in time that we are within seconds of sinking it. Open the sluice gates to rescue the boat. Everyone meets us at the top of the locks. Go very close to the post office tower and underneath large office blocks. Lots of people are watching when we go up the Farmers Bridge locks. Me, Paul and John make a good lock team. Reasonably sunny for most of the day. Arrive at Gas Street Basin at about 3pm, the place is really kicking with lots of people and boats. Moor up just past the main part and walk back into the centre. Start at the Flapper and Firkin, move on to the Malt and Hops and then into the James Brindley, lots of drinks. Sarah and Matt walk back to put the baked potatoes in. After tea a few of us come back for more beer in the Tap and Spile.
Tuesday 26th Aug 1997 Gas Street Basin to Hockley Heath, 15.25 Miles, 0 Locks
I have a lie in till about 9am, and nobody seems to mind. Drive on to Cadbury's World. We could not get onto the main tour but we go to the museum. Helen gets her face painted as a flutterby and Sam as a dog. We all buy lots of chocolate. Anna rings up to ask if she can come down and meet us. Her and PK meet us at a pub called the Wharf Tavern in Hockley Heath.
Wednesday 27th Aug 1997 Hockley Heath to Warwick, 10.0 Miles, 39 Locks
Go down Lapworth locks and then join the Grand Union canal. It rains very heavily so I drive and Sarah keeps me company. Go to the Waterman pub for lunch on Adjy and Sarah's recommendation, phone up first to check if it is open. Go down Hatton locks as a pair, and drive on to Warwick. Ring up John's dad and tell him to meet us at the A46 junction. Unfortunately I decide to push on. Eventually stop by bridge 49. After a lot of phone calls and walking and running up and down the canal we meet up. Paul has got a bit of a sore throat from the damp air and decides to go home as well. John's dad gives us a lift into town and we have fish and chips. It feels very strange to be in the car and moving so quickly. Go to the nearest pub, The Crown Hotel and slob out.
Thursday 28th Aug 1997 Warwick to Stockton, 12.5 Miles, 23 Locks
Plan to go to the Blue Lias pub, unfortunately when we get there it is shut. Walk back down to the Two Boats Inn. Matt goes for the gallon. Have a few pints of Theakston's in a nice old world pub. When we get back Matt goes to sleep. Moor up outside a pub called the Boat at the top of Stockton locks. Only Adjy and Sarah go in.
Friday 29th Aug 1997 Stockton to Braunston, 7 Miles, 2 Locks
I drive whilst the rest of the team do a very good tidy up job. We arrive just on time at 1pm. As soon as we disembark they start cleaning it.
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