Catching Up

Mooove along there ladies!

I like keeping a blog, really I do. It augments the diary I keep every day and refer back to frequently. Off and on I’ve been a diarist since childhood. Some of my most cherished possessions are a couple of my childhood diaries, from when I was 11 or 12. Through those old pages I’ve met myself at that age and it’s amusing, sobering and surprising all at the same time. But I digress. I like keeping a blog, so why is it so hard to find the time to write it?

I don’t think there’s room for any more flowers on that boat

When last I wrote we had just come through the Harecastle Tunnel, and I was feeling rather pleased with myself for helming the boat through. I didn’t mention it then that emerging into the daylight I made a complete Horlicks of the exit. Better luck next time!

Armitage Cutting, which used to be a tunnel.

That night we moored the boat at Etruria Junction in Stoke on Trent. I’d been dreading Stoke. It gets mentioned a lot on canal Facebook pages and blogs as a place that isn’t really safe to stop overnight, where the youth is feral and the inhabitants snack on their young. That wasn’t our experience at all. We moored opposite some houses with well-tended gardens and had a very peaceful night, except for the towpath being more of an urban clearway with people zipping up and down on bicycles and scooters, both electric and human-powered. We arrived early afternoon, and from then until the evening one of the inhabitants of the houses sat at the end of his garden stoically fishing, catching nothing. As soon as he’d packed up for the night one of his neighbours came out to feed the fish, the water was boiling as they hoovered up the food they’d brought. We did laugh.

The daily heron at Barlaston. A couple of PCSOs on bicycles held back so I could get that shot

On the way down Heartbreak Hill a fellow boater at a lock told me we’d be fine staying overnight at Etruria, but she also said she’d come across a boater who’d been the victim of an opportunistic thief at Barlaston, where we moored up the following night. He’d been asked for a drink of water and while he went into the boat to get it his boat was burgled. So there we were, in the very nice village of Barlaston, post-lunch in the Plume of Feathers (Neil Morrissey’s pub) and a guy wanders by and asked us to fill his water bottle. Mindful of what I’d been told I stammered out an excuse as to why we couldn’t and spent the rest of the evening feeling guilty that the poor chap was dying of dehydration on the towpath. And I’m normally quite a trusting soul …

Penny in Stone. Yet another lock.

From Barleston we cruised through Stone, where we really would have liked to have stopped if only to go and fill our boots in the canalside M&S food hall. Instead we kept going and moored in the pretty hamlet of Burston. Martyn and I went to explore and found a smattering of houses around a duck pond and a rather unremarkable church on the site of a much older one.

Zombie ducks in Burston. They wouldn’t stop following us no matter how many times I told them we had no food.

Food is something of a theme. At Great Haywood Junction we found a fabulous farm shop, highly recommended if you’re ever in the area. We left the Trent and Mersey there and very briefly moored up at Tixall Wide, a mooring I’ve heard lots about because it’s so picturesque. I wish we’d been able to stay there for more than one night. Penny and Andrew chose to wait out the worst of the extreme heatwave there, very sensible, because the breeze across the wide was lovely, but we had to wave goodbye to them there as we were heading for different destinations at this point.

Mooring up at Tixall Wide

We left the boat in Kings Orchard Marina in Lichfield for a few days to travel down to Dorset. We had a funeral and a wedding to attend. Kings Orchard was lovely. I just wish I’d known earlier what we found out on our last day – that they offered a boat valeting service! Never mind, Williams Waterless Wash and Wax is a miracle when your vehicle is 57′ long.

Onto the Coventry Canal at Fradley Junction

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