Friday, 26 August 2016

Two VIP guests and true friends

Tuesday 23rd - Friday 26th August 2016

Tuesday 23rd August
Between bridges 84 & 85 (T & M) to Stone
3.25 miles, 1 lock

First thing Tuesday morning we had a new neighbour patiently waiting for his/her breakfast

We had an easy run to Stone in lovely sunny weather with a boat leaving the only lock we had to do just as we arrived.

We were soon in Stone on (for us) the perfect 5 day mooring.  We were opposite the gap in the hedge where there are rubbish bins hidden and they are in a car park.  We were expecting visitors and they were bringing a Tesco shop, so easy access to the car park was essential.

We made a dirty dart into Stone to get the paper and were pleased to see that the flowers in the town are as lovely as ever.

Our first lot of visitors were the VIPs - grandsons George and Jamie.  Their Daddy delivered them early afternoon for a short stay on board with us.  First stop was back into Stone where we tried out the new 'Milkshake and Oatcake Bar'.  It was very popular and constantly busy throughout our three day stay in Stone.  They do baps, ice creams and other drinks, but the boys decided on a fudge milkshake.  They went down very well even if it took Jamie a while to find sufficient sucking power to actually get any into his mouth!

On the way back to the boat we stopped at the play park where George, the gymnast, put some of his moves into practice.

Jamie is not allowed to hang from bars until he is five (November) as he dislocated a shoulder last summer which involved a trip to A&E. Not something we wanted to do again!  He found plenty of other things to do, however.

Including many trips to the top of this pole

I do love this seat by the canal in Stone - there is just so much to read.

They had dinner on board and I then took them back to the play park to get rid of a bit more energy.  They were both really good and after a 15 minute 'giggle time' they settled down and went to sleep in our bed.  Once they had gone Monty planted himself as close as he could get to them - on guard we think.

That evening saw the first visit of our very good friends Jane and Chris - they were on their way home from a day out in Gloucester and they called in to collect our bedding and towels to wash and dry overnight.  Something all boaters really appreciate.

Wednesday 24th August

The boys were very patient whilst we dismantled the dinette bed and re-mantled (is there such a word?) the dinette seat, moved all the bedding around and generally sorted ourselves out.  It is always amazing how long it takes.  After breakfast we gave them the choice of play park or shops!  Jamie replied 'I think we will go to the park please Grandma'!  I left Chris and Monty in charge at the park and popped into town for the paper.

At 11am Jane and Chris returned with their Black Lab, Kiera.  Monty spent five weeks with them when we were in France and he loves Jane and Chris, and Kiera is his best dog friend.  They took us all for a walk at the Downs.  These two pictures will be of particular interest to Sheila (Monty's breeder) - this is the dog who used to stand at the side of the stream and bark at Kiera whilst she splashed about.  After five weeks of going here most days he is now straight in without a second thought!

This was the boys favourite part - there were many crossings.  George ended up running across and even though Jamie wobbled a few times he was very good at 'wind milling' with his arms to retain his balance.  The shoes and socks did have to come off when we got back to the boat, but they soon dried out in the sun.  I am afraid I disappointed George - he was very keen that I should fall in!!

Back to the boat and the six of us had a tow path lunch and then Jane and I took the boys to 'Stay and Play' in Stone.  It is a huge indoor play area that has equipment that you would normally find outside.  This is just a very small part of it.  The prices are reasonable and they do not even overcharge for drinks.  It was a definitely winner.  We ended up with boys with wet heads rather than wet feet.

We had left the men to clear up lunch, have a 'man nap' and take the dogs out again.  At 5pm we met the boys' Mum at The Star Inn by the bottom lock in Stone where the seven of us had an early dinner. During the summer holidays the children can eat a (children's) main course and pudding for £1 providing there are two adults per child!

With apologies to all vegetarians, but we did like this sign outside The Star.

We thought Jamie might fall asleep on the way back to Bromsgrove, but he made it home (the DVD was too exciting!), but did not need any rocking once he got to bed.

Thursday 25th August 2016

Rain stopped play!!  And oh boy did it rain.  Monty got a couple of short walks and we got some jobs done.  Jane came and collected us at 17:30 and took us to their house for dinner and Chris returned us.  A great evening.

Thank you both for all you did over the last few days.  It really was appreciated.

Friday 26th August 2016
Stone to Barlaston
3.5 miles, 8 locks

The rain had stopped and the sun was shining brightly.  I headed off to Morrisons whilst Chris moved down to the water point to fill the tank. Just before 10:00 we were ready to go.  I had to empty the first lock before we could enter, but from then on there were either boats coming out of the locks or voluntary lock keepers.  Luck continued leaving locks and I don't think I had to shut one top gate on any of the eight locks we did.  There are still bridges at the bottom gates which does save a lot of shoe leather and the people of Stone are lovely folk - one lady hopped off her bike to help me with a very heavy gate and at another lock a man inquired if I was okay?

There were three VLKs at this lock - two were under training, so all I had to do was stand and watch!

We stopped at Barlaston, so we can get the paper in the morning, but we are quite a bit along from the pub, so well away from the road.  We walked with Monty to the Wedgewood moorings which was our other option - they were full, so we made the right decision to stop.

Monday, 22 August 2016

Hayward and other Junctions

Monday 22nd August 2016
Tixall Wide to somewhere between bridges 84 and 85
7.25 miles, 3 locks

After a wonderfully peaceful night at Tixall Wide we left this morning around 09:30.  Monty and I walked the half mile or so to the junction at Great Haywood.  A pleasant walk despite the obstacle course which was much easier for Monty (straight underneath) than it was for me!

First stop at the junction was the Anlgo Welsh base to get fuel - 108 litres at 65p a litre.  It took a while as the man was just about to have a coffee break when we arrived and then I think they forgot about us!  Still we were not in a hurry and put our kettle on.

Next it was turn left at the junction and stop to fill up with water and get rid of the rubbish.  Whilst Chris dealt with that I walked across the bridge to the fabulous farm shop,  What a joyful place to browse - such wonders on offer that I could have spent a fortune and we would then have ended up several pounds heavier!  I resisted all the really naughty things, but did come away with a few goodies.  It was the beef patties with a mushroom sauce in them that jumped into my shopping basket!  We will find out tonight if they were a good buy.  The verdict - sadly they were not as good as they looked

Then we were ready to go, but there were boats everywhere.  This one (there was another in front of him that had already past us) coming through the bridge

One behind going right down the Staffs and Worcs canal, plus three on the water point

There was so much going on that a comment was made it was 'busy enough to be Watford Junction' - another name to add to Clapham, Spaghetti Junctions and of course Piccadilly Circus to describe a busy waterway.

Behind the farm shop is a place to ' pick your own strawberries' - what a great idea to grow them on stands.  I am sure it helps with pest control as well as saving sore knees and aching backs!

Monty and I jumped ship again - this is the first 'jungle' towpath we have encountered this trip.  At this time of year they are relatively dry and thankfully they do deter cyclists.

After so much going on at the junction the wide open countryside is much appreciated.

This looks like Diana to us - who ever it is he is a talented man.

Monty was confined to the boat for Weston Lock as this family were taking a lunch break right by the top gate.  We followed suit and tied up for lunch just after we had passed through Weston before pushing on and going through Sandon Lock.

Not a job either of us would want to do and I am glad to say that he stopped as we went past, so we were not covered in grass cuttings and dust.  Just look at the state of his overalls.

And here we are moored in the middle of nowhere - the only other boat is a good way off

These are the neighbours

And this the view from the side hatch. Mind you it is too wet to enjoy the view.

The downside to this mooring today - the freshly cut grass does not mix well with heavy rain!

Sunday, 21 August 2016

A queue or two - or maybe more!

Sunday 21st August 2016
Penkridge to Tixall Wide
9.5 miles, 6 locks

We were about 15 minutes too late setting off this morning and found ourselves third in the queue to go down the first lock (Penkridge), so we decided to pull across to the sanitation station and top up the water tank as we had both had showers last night.  We also emptied and filled as necessary and I popped round the corner to get the Sunday Times - good job I was not much later as there were only 2 left on the shelf.  We timed it to perfection and were ready to pull across to the lock landing as the boat ahead of us went into the lock.

I had assumed that the queue would have dissipated by the time we reached the next lock, but from the distance we could see two boats waiting.  They were, however, different boats, so it was a new queue.  Once again the boat immediately ahead of us was nb Escargot - we are not sure who is stalking who.

This was the lock when the fun really started.  There was a similar queue at the bottom waiting to come up, but two of them were an hotel boat with it's butty.  The hotel boat came up, Escargot went down whilst the hotel boat positioned itself in the lock jaws ready to attach a rope to the butty to help haul it into the lock.

 Meanwhile behind us another boat had appeared, dropped off the crew member and then got into all sorts of difficulty and ended up diagonally across the cut.

He managed to straighten himself up, but was still on the far side of the cut when the hotel boat and butty went past.

The M6 was our constant very noisy companion for quite a while today
 Just over a mile outside of Penkridge it does cross over the canal and moves a little bit further away from the canal.  However this rather lovely house is right by the bridge

The Motorway is on top of this wall which forms one boundary of the garden.  I am sure double or triple glazing hide most of the noise inside the house, but it must be hard to enjoy the garden.  I dread to think what building the M6 did to the value of the property.

But for us peace and tranquility were restored.  There were inquisitive cattle to admire

Wide open vistas

And peaceful stretches of canal to enjoy

I was a bit late taking this photo as the dog was so still I thought it was a statue, but no he/she was eyeing up the very large stick in the water.  We will never know if he/she fell in or managed to get his/her reward for their patience.

Now who would not want to play in this whatever their age!

What a super clock and it even tells the right time.

From the distance we did wonder what this crane convention was about

It would appear that whatever they are building has something to do with very large drains.

Does anyone know what breed of cattle these are?

Of the six locks we did today five had queues both top and bottom, but despite that we made fairly good time -  it helps a lot as it means there are extra hands to open gates and you can leave the gates open as you leave.  It is always a good chance to chat and pass the time of day with fellow boaters. Our target was Tixall Wide.  One of our favourite places.  As the name suggests the canal is very wide here and there was surprisingly a choice of moorings.


The canal is wide enough for us to turn round so we get the view from the side hatch - we were aiming for the patch of sun behind the yellow boat.

Safely tied up with a blue sky and a little sunshine.  Sadly it did not last long enough to get the chairs out.

The gate house of what was Tixall Manor is the view of choice

That was taken and for us it is obscured by the trees.  It is, however still a great view from the side hatch and one to be enjoyed.  It is very windy and as the wind is blowing across the canal and pushing us into the side we hope it drops a bit before the morning or we could have fun trying to get off and turn round to continue on our way.