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!