Merlins in Milton Keynes 2001
by Paul and Sarah Downing
The last weekend in June heralded the Merlin owner's club first visit to the much-maligned town of Milton Keynes. Breakfast at the Holiday Inn was the first meeting point that saw all the Merlins arrive at the same time from different parts of the country.
After introductions, Barry recognised my number plate as being an 'EPV' like his, from Ipswich. He remembered the guy building the car, and told me I had got a good deal. My red Merlin is 10 years old and was only purchased in October last year, so my wife and I were looking forward to a pleasant sunimer drive. We headed off to my home village of Hanslope and had a stroll around the church, which has a famous spire from which 7 counties could be seen -that was before it had been struck by lightning ! From there we took a slow drive down some narrow lanes to our second rendezvous point, stopping for a few minutes to erect the hoods as the famous English summer rain started. Simon and Liz have an ingeneous set of solid side-screens and with hood up, they were not affected by the rain.
Stoke Bruerne was quickly reached, the cars being conveniently parked in a pub car park. We met John Winn and his wife in their very well presented Merlin. By then the Boat Inn car park boasted 5 Merlins, a Jenson interceptor and an immaculate red Motor Guzzi. We all sat outside the pub, in the sun, watching the boats navigate the locks on the canal. ..
...Unfortunately, I had to leave as lunch was ordered, as my brother-in-law had a sierra come into his possession, that sported a well-looked after 2.0 litre engine that would make a welcome replacement to my ageing 1.6 cortina lump. Southern Northampton was interesting. We intended to visit a working railway in a picturesque country park..what we found was 3 men covered in grease reconstructing very unromantic diesel units with a bit of history .The ladies were celery delighted by this(!), and even the blokes had had enough after 20 mins. So we returned to MK and prepared ourselves for a. ...night at the dogs!
Milton Keynes Greyhound stadium was a lot of fun and the restaurant was good food at a reasonable price. We didn't have to move from the table,;our bets were collected and winnings returned whilst we enjoyed the races, the food, the drink and the good company. Truly a night to remember.
The next day we drove in convoy to Willen Lake, the 10 clubbers supplemented by my 6 year old son who enjoyed looking out the back of my 2+2 as a lookout to make sure the convoy stayed together. We walked to the first ever peace Pagoda to be built in the Western hemisphere. Along with the Buddhist temple, it was a very calming experience. We were tempted to practice tai chi, but as it was so hot, we decided to make our way to the next watering hole.
We drove in convoy to the Three Locks at Soulbury , and managed a bit of formation parking, completely by accident, which presented a good opportunity for another photo. The pub, also on the canal, was very busy but our stay was short as the menu consisted of roast dinner or nowt. As we were already roasting, we opted for nowt and drove a couple of miles to the Globe Inn, also on the canal !
This one required the 5 Merlins to drive down a steep hill and practically along the canal towpath -an interesting experience. The occasion was marred, however, by the antics of an inconsiderate tanker driver -he decided to re-shape the front wing of the good Doctor and his wife's scrambled egg Merlin. Unfortunately, they had removed their famous external horn for safekeeping prior to the trip. The damage seemed to be paintwork and trim 'only' and not fibreglass -the tanker driver could not argue the blame as there were a number of Merlin drivers lurking menacingly ...
The convoy then had a pleasant drive to the final port of call -Woburn Abbey. Watch out for the sleeping policemen! At least one Merlin bottomed out. ..the police are big in Wobum. Although certain parts were open the parklands and animal-inhabited areas were off limits due to F&M, there was enough of interest to pleasantly while away a gorgeous summer Sunday afternoon (to paraphrase the Kinks). All in all it was an excellent weekend with some very nice places visited. A very big well done and thank you to Barry for organising the event, and lets do it again. Maybe a car treasure hunt or something. ..?