Friday, 3 December 2010

The Worst Journey in the Midlands

Well, I've no doubt there are quite a few contenders for this title at the moment - but this is actually a book review.
As the title suggests, this is a tongue in cheek account of how in the autumn of 1982, Sam Llewellyn set out to travel from mid-Wales to London by water in an eight-and-a-half foot rowing boat, camping out along the way, for no good reason other than it was something he wanted to do! He made three mistakes:
- Choosing to make the journey during what turned out to be the wettest October then on record,
- Having a boat that leaked, and
- Planning a route down the River Severn to Tewkesbury, up the Avon to Warwick and then along the Grand Union and Oxford Canals to London!
Fortunately, the one major flaw in this route was pointed out to him before he got to Worcester and so he was able to divert via the Midland canal system, thus avoiding what would have been a rather difficult right turn at Warwick given the lack of a connection between the Avon and the canal and with a thirty-foot difference in levels. This also made the book much more interesting for canal enthusiasts with accounts of coping with Tardebigge locks and the various tunnels on the Worcester and Birmingham, these being some of many places on the journey when Sam feared he might end up "horribly mangled".
In typical travel-book style the author encounters a succession of interesting characters along the way (Now why don't I do that when I go anywhere?) but readers from the Midlands need to be warned that his opinion of the residents of that part of England are not exactly favourable. ("How very Midlands")
My paperback edition was published in 1984 by Pan Books, so I've no idea whether it is still available, but you know where to look!

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