Merlin and the Prisoners of the Donnington Way
Stage 3 of the Donnington Way Ale quest took place on the back of at least 3 weeks of poor weather. Merlin’s prisoners met at the Black Horse in Naunton at 8.30 sharp – well, four of them, as To & Hartwell were lost and still busy driving round the Cotswolds at this time trying to find the pub! What should have been a 25-minute journey turned into a bit of a countryside epic.
From here we took two cars to the starting point of today’s ten and a half mile walk - The Fox at Great Barrington. With the group back up to full strength, One Lane Lane now again Two Lanes Lane, we set off on our muddy trek back to the Black Horse; amazingly the weather was prefect, wind down & rain elsewhere.
This walk contained plenty of mud, mud and more mud, but after a few hours in the delightful Windrush Valley we arrived at Bourton-on-the-Water via a quiet road section where Wilson made his third guest appearance. Wilson, now Merlin’s 7th member, took another shoeing, experiencing the full wrath of the winter’s weather and Mrs Two Lanes Lane’s right boot, which on one occasion kicked him straight into the roadside stream and only prompt action by Mrs Merlin and Wannabe saved Wilson from a watery grave [however since this adventure I have heard Wilson has taken a machine wash and tumble dry and is now ready for several sets at Wimbledon].
Walking through Bourton and strolling past a Chippy, it was clear to see Merlin had miscalculated his itinerary and forgot to pencil this pit stop in; equally gutted too were the ladies as we passed a shoe shop without slowing. Slightly further on through Bourton Merlin suggested we did take a quick breather and, like a true leader, he dug deep and produced his motivational goodies from his rucksack - three tinnies of, no not beer, but Pimm’s – yes, it was Pimm’s O’clock in Bourton-on-the-Water, tally-ho. Not to upset the male contingent Merlin also produced a hip flask containing Merlin’s favourite Talisker.
The next part of the Donnington Way from Bourton to Naunton showed off some great scenery and it was probably the best stretch of the 3 stages so far, single tracks, woods, wide open fields, the river Windrush - and plenty of mud. It surprised a few us at how many walkers we passed on our way to Naunton, including an American/Italian couple seeking directions to see the Black Horse. We let Merlin explain to them that the Black Horse was a pub and not Black Beauty. Anyway they seemed keen to tag along and joined us all the way to the Black Horse. Merlin’s entourage was growing - I’m sure if we gave him a flute to play more walkers would have followed.
A few fields later and a golf course crossed we were finally closing in on the Black Horse – 11.1 miles covered according to Merlin’s magical GPS - and hadn’t we earned our first drink. Merlin had one more surprise up his Wizards sleeve for us, although may I say probably not planned. We were dining in front of the tele-box and showing was the Leprechaun-Springboks rugby match, smiles all around for the male contingent as those Leprechauns won 20-15.
Next stage of the Donnington Ale quest is to take place sometime in February or March; if you wish to join the next walk “Merlin and the Goblet of BB” please contact Keith Ferguson.
Merlin’s Pub Rating:
The Black Horse – Naunton ****
Good Quality Food
Friendly Fun Service
Well Kept Fresh Beer
Key comment: Bar staff first-rate, extremely fun and friendly