My friend Trevor and I used to have a habit of finding ourselves "on holiday by mistake", much like the inebriated duo in Withnail and I.
One year we found ourselves at a loose end and decided to visit a pub we'd heard about in Wiltshire which was owned by the mother of one of my flatmates and apparently had a reputation for being slightly...odd.
The reason for this was that The Barge Inn, in Honeystreet, not far from the famous ancient monuments of Stonehenge, Silbury Hill and Avebury stone circle, was (and still is) a popular focal point for all things crop circle related and it attracts all sorts of eccentric types, from archeology nerds and new age hikers to "Croppies" and ufologists, along with tourists and holidaymakers of all sorts, including those who arrive on canal boats.
We stayed on their campsite, met some truly strange and wonderful people, had a brilliant time and were made to feel incredibly welcome by the landlady, my friend's mum, who only had our word for it that we even knew her son, and who nevertheless laid on a massive mountain of food and gave us our own private barbeque.
Since that first spontaneous visit, I've been back many times and it's always a pleasure to soak up the undeniably unique atmosphere of a place where I have heard many an amusing anecdote, usually over a pint or two of their fabulous local cider.
Here is one of my favourite stories.
In July of 2007 a holidaying German traffic policeman called Josef stopped at the Barge in his hired car. He parked at the side of the barn attached to the main building and went inside to have a quiet drink and something to eat.
By all accounts, he spent a pleasant evening chatting to the locals and studying the “Croppie” literature and photographs of recently formed circles.
At the end of the evening, Josef said his goodbyes, went out into the dark and rainy night (this was England in July after all) and returned to his car.
Now, the only access to the pub is via a narrow, single lane track which runs down the side of the lumber yard next door. Parked where he was, the intrepid foreign explorer would have needed to turn immediately right to get back onto the road that would take him back to his holiday accommodation.
However, starting his unfamiliar, right-hand drive Fiat Punto, Josef diligently indicated to the non-existent traffic, pulled out from beside the barn into the deserted car park and turned left.
He drove slowly up the path in front of the pub, passing the final few bewildered customers as they came down the steps and watched as he stopped with his front wheels at the very edge of the towpath.
Then, indicating once more, and looking left and right with obvious concentration, he pulled smartly forward.
And drove straight into the middle of the canal.
At this point the car was almost completely submerged, the canal being 4-5 feet deep at it’s deepest, although the windscreen wipers were still comically sloshing back and forth.
Obviously panicking, Josef forced open the door, only to have the pressure of the water push it shut on him as he tried to climb out, trapping him against the side of the car.
By this time, customers and staff from the pub had rushed to the scene to offer assistance; someone dived in to free the terrified German tourist and after considerable effort from several volunteers with ropes, the car was manhandled back to the canal bank and secured, to await rescue the following day.
By the time the rescuers did arrive of course, armed with a giant a crane to lift the car back onto dry land, the media had got hold of the story and Josef's embarrassing holiday mishap was briefly famous.
His explanation for the accident was that the canal, in the dark and rain, looked very like wet tarmac, and the streetlight on the bridge further upstream made him think that this was the road.
I’m told that when he returned to work at the police station where he was stationed in Berlin, an enlarged press photo of his flooded car being craned from the canal was prominently on display in reception to welcome him home.
If you would like to visit The Barge @ Honeystreet, check out this link...