Sunday 30 July 2023

Overgrown and overwhelming

Some of this post is a moan and the remainder is about a really good time, in spite of the stuff that generated the moan, okay?


The Caldon Canal is more overgrown than the Oxford was and that is saying something! There are parts of it from the Cheddleton Locks down towards Froghall where the canal is reduced to a boat width purely by foliage of towpath weeds that are so heavy and thick they are leaning into the water, overhanging/intruding offside trees, and silt build up. And that bloody himalayan balsam is ubiquitous down here.

If you want to read a contained rant and photographic evidence, then read Irene Jameison's blogpost at this link: And also read her following post.

Apart from the impact on boaters of the overgrown towpath there is a significant impact on walkers, anglers and cyclists - the nettles are at eye height for kids (and me) and at leg and arm height for adults. Dangerous and painful.

After leaving the Park Lane moorings we headed for the Hazelhurst Locks, met up with Ed who had to remedy a bit of wiring for the Webasto. We were expecting to see Mads and Bevan appearing on foot at any moment. They had parked their motorhome at The Hollybush and walked back. In the meantime, David washed the floor.

It's shameful how dirty we had allowed the floor to get - I am sure David poured the buckets into the bath and left it there to shock me. Mission accomplished: I am going to be requesting that he washes it every couple of days from here on in... But to be fair, I am not sure how so much of the outside of the towpath gets to make its way inside! I sweep the whole boat twice a day and still there is stuff on the floor when I go to bed, dammit!


Mads and Bevan  appeared when I was waiting for the second lock, so we scooted on through, leaving Irene to find a place to wait on the lock landing as well as negotiating the boat coming up... She did badmouth me to the other boaters, but I ignored her...😈

Mads (and her sister Suzie) had boated before with Dee and me and Lesley way back in 2011, I think. So locks were familiar to her but she'd forgotten the process. So David did his Lock Operating 101 course. He is very thorough.

David and Mads winding down the paddles once Irene was in the lock. I think Ian had walked on to the next lock. Irene is waiting patiently and just making sure David's instruction is up to scratch - it is definitely thorough.
Winding the bottom paddles up. Irene is taking photos with her fancy camera.
At some point I had to go and tell Mads that she needed to do the woman way of winding - with both hands side by side and her facing the windlass. We don't always have the upper body strength to wind it side on. Once she changed stance, it went much faster.
The Caldon was recently closed for a couple of years after a bridge collapse, but previously it had been closed and then restored and reopened. This plaque was installed to provide that information. If they don't watch out, soon there will be plaques in a variety of places saying that this is a site of the former Caldon Canal which fell into disuse because it had not been adequately maintained.


We boated on to The Hollybush and intended to have coffee and cake there, but we were too early so we had a late morning tea on the towpath with our chairs and tables, chocolate biscuits (Irene and Mads) and Nairns fruity oatcakes with cream cheese and strawberries for individual cheesecakes (me). While the rest of us boated on, Bevan took the motorhome to The Boat Inn at Cheddleton where he had arranged to leave it for a couple of nights. His instruction was then to walk back to us.

He seemed to take ages, so Mads called him. Yes, he was on his way thank you very much. Still he did not appear. So I called and asked where he was and was he OK. Yes he said. We ended the call, but still something didn't feel right about the time he was taking and what he described of what he was seeing. So I sent him a message...

After a time of wonder he appeared, i.e. after we had completed the Cheddleton Locks and when we were on a long right hand bend. Not the easiest place to pick him up actually, given the canal wall was made of blocks that sloped inward and meant the boat could not get in close. It wasn't helped of course by the ubiquitous towpath weeds (mainly nettles at that point). Bevan had found the only clear patch in hundreds of yards. We got him on and not far on from that Irene appeared on foot. She and Ian had moored just past the Boat Inn on a mooring that used to be clear of weeds with space for 3 boats comfortably, but now had space for 2.5 boats and one was already in situ. 2IJ had pulled forward into the 5 foot high weeds and used the last possible ring for their stern and then pins in the depths of the nettles to secure their bow. Ian had then paced out a Waka Huia sized length. So on we went hoping that no one boating towards us had seen the space and co-opted it.

Ian's pacing was absolutely accurate - we were button to button with them and also with the boat behind. Three ropes were required to make sure we didn't surge back in to the boat behind - his bow was much higher than our stern and surging could have damaged our swan's neck.

We didn't have a joint meal that night: 2IJ ate leftover lasagne and Bevan cooked a pack of tortellini with a bottled pasta sauce for him and David. Mads and I had eaten nibbles (as had the two guys ...) and we didn't need more food. And then the 2IJs came over for cards. Lots of laughter and I cannot remember who won any of the games, but I am fairly sure it wasn't me!

We can sit 6 at our table courtesy of a false floor that we can insert in the corridor space by the table. 2IJ brought their folding stools for David and me. At this point we were playing Up and Down the River - much hilarity!

2IJ were keen to play Mexican Train but I was tired so I sent them and Mads and Bevan to Free Spirit. David and I made M&B's bed on the dinette, and then I headed rapidly to our bed while David went for a walk the way we would be heading in the morning. He came back and asked what I thought about whether we should go on to the River Churnet. I suggested he see 2IJ and M&B and told him I would do whatever they all thought was best. and off to sleep I went.

I heard David come back and get into bed, but I didn't hear Mads and Bevan - clearly they have experience of creeping in quietly ... 

Mads and Bevan travel with Paddington Bear and Mads brought him on board because she thought he'd like to meet up with Mel. See, Kirsty, we are not the only nutbar ones who make out that st***ed animals are real and, what's more, that they can speak in English, OK?

The River Churnet it was - and I wish it wasn't! Parts of it were lovely, but going down past Consall Forge was awful - very narrow and we had to stop twice so I could clear the weedhatch - looked like blanket weed to me, although it may not have been. 

Coming to the railway station at Consall Forge - the station building was cantilevered out over the canal. And it is NARROW.

Bevan was steering and doing a good job for a novice, but he could not get down to clear the weedhatch! So it was my job. I don't really mind doing it - I am small, I fit down easily to kneel on the swim, and I am not afraid of the water, and its coldness doesn't bother me like it does David. 

Getting down there. When I am clearing it, I am on my knees on the swim, my head is under the stern and my right arm is deep down in the water with my hand turning the prop and clearing the prop shaft. But no one got a photo of that, dammit!


But I did get pissed off that no sooner had I cleared it and Bevan had restarted the engine than the prop was blocked again! After the second clearing, I pushed the boat off as far to starboard as I could** - away from the portside. But considering there was only about 9 feet of width, that was not very far. ** Ian had been holding the rope and called out to me to be careful - I think he thought I was extending myself past the length my legs and arms could cope with ...

Shortly after that, we winded - and once again it was with the obligatory boat moored and left at the winding hole - aaarrrggghhh! In part it's a function of there being very few places to moor. In another part it's boaters thinking that it doesn't matter if other boaters are inconvenienced. Selfish behaviour.

Around we went with David having to pull on the bow rope from the shore. There were two guys sitting on a bench by the lock where 2IJ waited for us to turn first. Irene, as is her wont, told them I was an NZer. And then the moored boat became a hindrance so I told the two benched guys that I had only said F*ck once that day and they should block their ears now... Much laughter. Very cheering those interactions are!

On the river section which was predominantly overgrown, there was a patch of about 100metres which had been strimmed! yay!!
A very low bridge

Ducking and holding on
And out the other side


I steered back through Consall Forge and then we came to a wide lefthand bend with two narrow low bridges hard up against each other on a bend. Of course I messed it up and we got grounded on the portside. Mads and Bevan were exemplary at rocking in time standing on the starboard gunnel while I steered gently forward and David stood on the portside gunnel and used the barge pole to push off the bank. Then a little reverse and we came free. Then of course I was not on course for a trouble-free passage under the bridges ... Approaching from a 90 deg angle sort of makes that impossible 👎👎😡

Bevan has a weight advantage here ...
And then while Mads is hard at work, David and Bevan chat ...


Bevan took over the tiller again and I cooked some corn on the cob for lunch on the move.

Mads and Bevan disembarked at the Boat Inn bridge and rescued the motorhome from captivity, moved it to the Hollybush and then walked back to join us. I had reminded him that this time he needed to keep the canal on his right ... I picked them up in the same place I had onboarded Bevan the day before.

Back up Cheddleton Locks, and the rain started in earnest as we approached the Hollybush moorings. There was almost but not quite enough room for Waka Huia and Free Spirit, so I left David holding the middle rope and I walked forward to see if there were any git gaps that could easily be filled. Oh yes, look at this - the short boat in front of us had left at least a 10 foot gap in front of them. So I knocked on their window and asked if they could move forward, and said that we would help. The man said they could do it and they could use a chain although they preferred rings - the trouble with that strategy of course is that the rings are not spaced for use at both ends by short boats and that's what they had tried to do. The man was obliging, but then his wife came up and she was toxic. It's the only polite way to describe her.

A boat was coming towards us and of course its bow wave pulled Waka Huia forward. As I was hauling on the stern rope and David was hauling the front rope, she shouted at me to hold your bloody boat back. As I was no longer in the best of humours at her intransigence and selfishness (and my embarrassment at being shouted at in front of the bar patrons sitting outside) I shouted back that I was bloody trying to, and what did she think I was doing?

Anyway, in the mode of cutting her nose off to spite her face, she insisted to her husband that they tie both stern and bow ropes to a ring near the middle of their boat - resulting of course in any movements of boats coming past (and there were a few) rocking them and banging either their stern or bow on the concrete edge. If she thought I would feel guilty about that - nope! I'm the wrong person to ask to pack a bag for a guilt trip...

David, who has a horror of upsetting people (he is good at packing for said guilt trips especially if it's people he doesn't know), made sure our bow rope was on a chain that left a good metre and a half between our bow and their stern. If I had been on sorting out the front mooring, I would have given them 500mm and no more, but I am known for being harsh ... 2IJ moored up button to button with us so they were just clear enough of the bridge-hole.

Then a short break while we recovered our equanimity, ate orange syrup cake that Bevan and I had made in the morning, drank port and then got cleaned up for dinner at the Hollybush. It had been a long boating day - we had done 6 hours all up and some of it quite stressful, if you hadn't already guessed!

Dinner was very disappointing - the food was very slow in arriving, some of it was too hot, some was almost cold, most of it was not very flavourful. Currently, they are advertising for a chef, so if they want to keep doing food until a new one is appointed, I'd suggest that they get two or three people in the kitchen who are used to cooking for crowds, and have them organise two soups as starters, three main courses (one vegetarian, one chicken casserole, one chilli), two large bowls of coleslaw with a vinaigrette so it keeps, and large undressed lettuce salad, and lots of mash and basmati rice which stays separate when cooked, two puddings (one cooked, e.g. a large tray of sticky toffee pudding and sauce, and one uncooked, e.g. storebought meringues, berries and cream) a large container of icecream and lots of tins of custard. Warn people that the menu is limited but it's going to be good home-cooked food. A far better approach than maintaining a menu with about 25 different choices across 3 courses and not a huge amount of culinary skill or sense of scheduling serving.

As soon as I had eaten about half of my overcooked stodgy cauliflower bake, I was well over The Hollybush, so I offered to take 2IJ's protege (Toffee the labrador) out for a toileting walk. It was a pleasure to be out in the rain, and even a pleasure to be picking up her poo after she'd scouted about 100m of the towpath to find the best place ...

We were both interested in the duck with her late arrivals...

I hope she was taking them home to bed - it was too late for them to be out!

Monday 24 July 2023

Calamity on the Caldon

 2IJ had headed off to Westport Lake the day before to meet up with their son so they could take temporary (we think it should be permanent) guardianship of the dog, Toffee. David and I stayed overnight on the facilities mooring at Festival Park, then moved off about 7am to head towards the Caldon. I was keen to get away early so we didn't upset the apple cart for Black Prince. There's being given a favour and there's taking advantage. And I don't like doing the latter.

At the junction, we emptied the cassette, filled with water, ditched the rubbish, chatted with the CRT guys (I talked with them about the outsourcing as much of the canal maintenance has been contracted out and they have been told it's cheaper - it's not, I bet...) 

The statue of James Brindley at the Etruria Junction.


And then we headed off to the set of staircase locks. They are pretty deep and the flow is quite fierce. It's a good thing that I have adopted Irene's practice of being in reverse and backed up to the bottom gates, I reckon. The water surges can be disconcerting.


The bottom lock of the staircase. Those are very tall gates!
Looking back into the bottom lock.


I really don't like the first part of the Caldon up through Hanley - it's full of rubbish, the canal is shallow and overgrown, the surroundings are a bit blah in parts - industrial or run down. Some really nice terraced housing on the canalside though. 

A fairly derelict building beautified by buddleia...

The canal is winding and narrow and the bridges seem to be on tight corners!

In Lock 3 I saw that there was a small food market on an adjacent street, so I said to David we would get the boat out of the lock and he could hold it while I dashed over to do a last minute bit of shopping. So I went to drive out of the lock. No power, I tried again, and then the engine stalled. So I restarted it, engaged the throttle, but the noise wasn't normal and we stayed still. We thought there was something around the prop. So I tried to turn the engine off, David tried, I tried again. But no, it was going to stay on... We realised that bolt on the start solenoid had loosened and the stop function wasn't operating. The engine was too hot for me to get down beside to pull back on the lever.

So we rang Ian for advice. Although they were about to come back down to Stoke and were on their way, he said he would walk from Stoke to join us and sort the problem out.

We had pulled the boat out of the lock and used spikes to tie up with right beside the Stoke on Trent College, and I made cheese scones - if all else is falling around my ears, make scones I say.

Ian arrived in the rain, got down into the engine bay, and bravely leant over to de-activate/activate the solenoid. He wasn't afraid of the engine's heat! He noted that the thread on the bolt was worn, so that went on Ed's list to replace.

Ian, bum up head down: it hadn't occurred to me to reach the solenoid that way - I had always stood either side of the engine to reach it. Ian's way is much less exposing of the inner thighs and nether regions, especially for someone as short as me.
Ian fitted a string to the solenoid so if the it fails again, I can pull the string to activate it.

Once the engine was stopped David was able to take off the weed hatch lid and then pulled out a substantial piece of carpet!

Now how did this get in the canal?
No wonder the engine stalled...

Needless to say, I didn't get to the foodmarket!

Scones, coffee, and Ian went back to Stoke with additional scones for Irene. She was keen for him to get back as she couldn't light the gas stove. Being Ian, he can fix anything. He took the hob off and pulled things apart, and he realised that the pillar on the temperature selector was stuck in, rather than out and unable be pushed in. Therefore the safety was off. He flicked the igniter and the gas that had built up in the oven lit and BOOM! The oven door flew open and the flames shot out. Luckily Ian was standing to the side of the oven - otherwise roasted nuts, goodness gracious, great balls of fire.

The oven didn't suffer and he finished fixing it - application of WD40, I think and reassembled...

While he was carrying out his dramatic turn we continued on our way, in reasonably clear weather. Until I got something else around the prop at the same time as the heavens opened. David had to pull the boat into the side and in the bridgehole so I could get down in the weedhatch under cover. It was a piffling little computer cord, but it still had badly affected the revs and the steering.

One of the lift bridges - such power to be able to stop traffic...
And lowering the bridge. And an inconsiderate boater moored on the bridge landing...

We were aiming for just before Bridge 20 - 2IJ had told us there were nice moorings there. And there were very few places suitable for mooring before that - overgrown towpath where, even if you could jump to solid ground, you'd need an 8 foot plank to climb off and on the boat. We don't have an 8 foot plank, and I would not be leaving the boat - my confidence in my balance is not high ...

We were both quite tired and David walked ahead, as soon as he saw the openness of the gentle hillside across the cut and the armco on the towpath, he stopped and pointed down. The message was clear - we are stopping here. So we did. And once again, we were just in time - the pram cover was up and we were inside as the rain started. 

A bit later that evening we walked up to above the lock - just to confirm we had the best mooring spot. Yes we did!

On the way back down we saw a man casting for fish - he wasn't sitting down, but was moving up and down the canal. So we stopped to chat. What a lovely person he was. Three years retired from the NHS as a nurse aid, and determined to be receiving his pension for a fair while into the future.

Back to the boat, and into bed - settled down for a full 24 hours of blobbing - that's how long the rain was due to last! David managed most of the following day in bed, but I got up very early in the afternoon - I had a chocolate brownie to make for last night's dessert and a blogpost to write. David did get up to heat the broccoli and stilton soup I had bought. He had it with slices of the most crusty sourdough - I had defrosted it the previous evening and decided to freshen it up in the oven that day, and promptly forgot it was in there ... However blackened crust or no, it was delicious. But not sensible for it to be eaten in bed: crumbs everywhere!

It's a good thing our bread knife is sharp!

We checked the weather before going to sleep for the trip in the morning:

There was a window of a few hours of clear weather available for our cruise to Stockton Brook...
It was the first time I had seen blue skies reflected in the water for some time! This was below Bridge 20. Really nice mooring - not that you can tell from this picture!
Bridge 20 and the lock. You cannot see it in this photo, but the steps up the side are very well worn. It is lovely to think about all the people that have climbed up and down them over many years.
A not so high tech lift bridge - still automated though but on a path rather than a road.
Does anyone know what this plant is? I haven't seen it anywhere else apart from on the Caldon so far.


Yesterday morning, we were aiming to moor near Stockton Brook locks, either above or below them.

There was a nice space below, but we hadn't been on the move for long and I had washing going. So up the locks we went. 

David waiting for me to enter the lock so he can close the gates behind me. The locks on these canals have little bridges over the lower gates - that is such a good idea as it saves a lot of time spent walking around the full length of the lock to close the second gate - if, like David, you are not prepared or able to step across from one gate to another.


It was a bit stressful as we cruised above the locks because once again, the towpath was overgrown even where there was armco and there was far too much shade for the solars to be effective.

I was also mindful that 2IJ were aiming to join us and they were starting from the junction so had a fair distance to go and the rain was due about the same time as they were.

Lovely moorings appeared outside the Stoke Boat Club, so in we pulled. I say they were lovely but there were a lot of nettles growing. So before I had the pramcover up I got the loppers out so I wouldn't get stung as I fitted the side panel on the towpath side. Then once the pramcover was up without my being stung, I set to clearing the vegetation in the length that 2IJ would be mooring at. Lots of runners, walkers and a few cyclists came past as I worked. I asked all of them if they had their strimmer with them. Sadly none did.

But I had some cool conversations - that is the real boon of this boating life, the interaction with people we will never see again, but making a connection with them anyway.

2IJ obviously set a cracking pace and David had rung to ask where they were. Just entering Lock 5 on the Stockton Brook flight. So while I did towpath gardening with loppers, he walked back down to help them up the locks. I was pleased that the weeds and grasses were still floating below the armco so that they could see how hard I had worked...

Part of my towpath gardening completed.

Dinner was onboard nb Waka Huia - toad in the hole with veg sausages, peas, carrots, mashed potatoes and mushroom gravy, followed by chocolate brownie. Toffee the dog came onboard too, and sat/slept/kept an eye out for food under the dining table. She's a lovely dog.

This morning the long gas lighter finally ran out - David had been trying to tell me it wasn't working since before we left Debdale... Now we are using the short stubby one. I don't like it as I cannot put the kettle on the ring and poke the lighter underneath it to ignite. I am going to find another long one asap!

Today we have our lovely Ed on board doing some work. So more cheese scones and onion soup.

David took all the guff out of the lockers under the sofa and from under the bed because one task is to remove one of the additional heaters that Tim installed in the lounge because they were onboard through two winters. The guff is on our bed, so no nana nap for me!

The bed - princess and the pea came to mind...

 But not to worry - Irene is on dinner: veg lasagne followed by apple and rhubarb crumble. Yay!! And it was all very yummy.😘👍

I saw this meme the other day and it rang true to me:

Saturday 22 July 2023

Weston on Trent and onwards

 Once again I have left a pretty big gap between posts - my bad!

Above Weston on Trent was a lovely mooring. Once more, we cruised in the rain - David and I left Weston on Trent early to avoid as much of it as we could - we were pretty quiet (a boat behind and the Jameisons in front) but even so the IJs were out of bed and poised at the duck hatch to take photos of our departure. Irene was decently clad with a dressing gown on, Ian was not - underwear only and only one piece of underwear. Blue if I recall...

Sunrise - a sure sign we were due for rain. But the sky looked beautiful.

And we are off in the early morning light.

I only have two warm jerseys over here - that one and my dad's one.  That's why I seem to always be wearing the same clothes - because I am! I didn't realise it was going to be so cold this month of summer! Admittedly though it was about 6am when this photo was taken - never a particularly warm part of the day!

Beautiful brickwork - built by artisans.

I reckon our early departures have inspired 2IJ, or otherwise they have decided if they can't beat us they should join us, because they weren't far behind us. Admittedly, even though their boat is super quiet, and even though Irene is expert at cruising slowly to a halt as she moors (not yet within my skillset except as a fluke event) I am thinking their cruising speed may be a bit faster than ours.

Anyway Stone is a lovely place to boat through and has some very lovely homes on its outskirts.

See what I mean? I think this was near Stone, but am not sure.
And I really liked this one and its roses. So nice to plant a canal side garden even you cannot actually see it from inside your property!

See what I mean?
I am not sure where this was, but it tickled me that the cow seemed to be guiltily hiding from my gaze...
Aston Lock top gates are very leaky!


Looking back from Aston Lock. The Aston Marina is off to the left - it is very very large. I remember mooring above this lock with Olek at one time and he played on the wide towpath with battery powered car that I think he bought with a gift of cash from Lesley.

I faffed a bit about where to moor. Someone had told Ian that above Lime Kiln Lock which used to be a good place had been empty when they came through because people had been put off by poorly behaved young people - drugs etc. As we cruised slowly past, I struggled to marry that info with the lovely homes beside the canal - I couldn't imagine the homeowners sitting still for such antisocial behaviour.

However, I walked on through the bridge and saw a very nice length of canal - a park behind and a lovely wee housing estate across the water.

So the second or third WhatsApp message to Ian to change my mind once more ...

David and I moored up and I got out the loppers - one of the bugbears we have about the canal towpaths this year is how overgrown they have been allowed to become. This patch wasn't too bad, but it needed remediation. So I lopped off a boat length of nettles, cowparsley or some other tall white seed-headed plant, dock and thistles, and something else with prickles that had rose bush shaped leaves. And some long grass and small reeds.

There, that will make it nice for the 2IJs...

And then, right on cue once again, just as the 2IJs arrived, the rain came down. Timing is everything, I reckon.

While Irene and I cooked dinner (leftover Thai green veg curry for starter and stirfried noodles and veg for main) Ian had a look at our engine. We had been worried that the idling revs were very low and by the vibrations the engine made in tickover were loud. Ian of course had the tools to verify the revs. It involved a piece of reflective tape stuck on the wheel below his right hand and a little techie gadget that measured the times the reflection went past the gadget - a bit like measuring heart rate, I guess.

Ian declared the alternator belt was fraying, so he changed it for a spare one we had.

Irene is dousing the stirfry with hoisin sauce - she did have to bring that with her as we didn't have any - rectified in my last shopping expedition.

He fits down in that engine bay very well.

David was in charge of starting and stopping the engine for Ian's checks

More food , more card games, another game of Mexican Train, and another early night. You can see why I struggle to keep up with blogging!

When we played Up and Down the River and got to the Blind round, Irene refused to state her guess of the tricks she would take until she'd been able to wave her hands over her cards in seance fashion. So her cards were withheld and she had to guess without spiritual nonsense! That's her cards on the seat.

And the following day it was on to Stoke on Trent. I had phoned Black Prince at Etruria to organise buying diesel as we were on half a tank and there didn't seem to be anywhere to purchase it up the Caldon. Their facilities area was closed as they are having to retrieve boats that could not get back to base as a lock on Heartbreak Hill was out of action.  If we got there before 9am the guy would still be on site. I optimistically thought we could do it. And then I looked at the map - we would have had to leave about 4am to achieve that, and even then it would be close!

So I called back and set it up for the following day. So a more leisurely trip to Stoke on Trent and on to Etruria. There has been significant building development on the journey - my memory of the area through Trentham (said with a separate t and h here in England rather than the dipthong in NZ) was that the offside was scrubland. But now there's lots of earthworks and septic tanks and survey pegs and concrete pads.

It was quite a long cruise and 2IJ started off at the same time as us - 6.30am. There was rain due later of course!

The section through Stoke is a giant piece of noise pollution - extremely loud road noise and quite disconcerting, I found. Once we got started up the locks we left that behind and it was much more pleasant. 

It was a 10 lock day - more effort for David and Ian than for me and Irene. And the temperature went up and down depending on the wind and wet. 

Irene was already waiting as we ascended one of the locks. I am sure she was in that position for most of them, but in almost all cases there was a bridge obscuring the view.


I sent this photo to Barry and Pauline back in NZ. A few years ago we moored under that bridge when we dropped them off from a few days boating with us up and down the Caldon Canal. The Stoke station is nearby. It was a great few days as always with the Fitzgeralds.

It must have been cold - Ian had a lined shirt/jacket on over his usual T-shirt! David had walked on to the next lock wearing his jersey, I was still wearing a camisole, T-shirt, jersey and coat, plus silk scarf...

I've not seen wooden beams in canal walls before! It was the full length of both sides. I wonder why?

Interesting, that!


There were moorings above the last lock and we pulled in - not ideal as we were in the shade of trees, but rain was due so sunshine wasn't very likely for keeping the batteries topped up. 

David and I needed a blob so the four of us agreed that we would get together about 4pm and then go to the Toby Carvery for dinner. Unbeknownst to us, while David and I both had a nana nap, 2IJ headed off to the shopping area - Irene needed to sort out a septic toenail. She is such a brave woman - she hadn't complained once!

Dinner was rather nice - I had visions of a carvery not having any vegetarian food, but the menu choices were very good. I had a vege patty with a camembert centre, and David had a mushroom wellington. No dessert as all four of us were desserted out - even though Ian was keen, he was overruled!

So that we were in the right place early, David and I moved over to the services area at Black Prince before 8am. The young man filled the tank with diesel and emptied the poo tank and I handed over the money - happily!

He also told us that because the services area would be closed all day, we could stay on the moorings as long as we liked. We liked till the next morning 😆. But that day, we headed for different destinations on foot. I went off to do grocery shopping and to buy an angle grinder and orbital sander, David went off for something else that I cannot remember.

Before we went out shopping, 2IJ had moored up behind us just before heading to the Carvery for an all you can eat breakfast - not us: we'd had berries and yoghurt instead on the boat. There had been lots of food related overindulgence since we had all got together... And I blame Irene.

When we were both back, David tried to top up our 3 SIM for the router - no joy online, so we googled and found there was a 3 shop about where David had been already (much further away than Morrison's supermarket). But as internet has become a necessity, we bravely went walking again - good heavens, google maps has weird ideas about which routes to send you on when walking! And two different routes on two different phones!

A small colony of Canada Geese near a busy, 4 lane roundabout - they seem to be everywhere in Stoke. As is their poo. They poo on land, not in the water. Well, to be honest, I don't know if they poo in the water; but they certainly poo prolifically on land! And they don't bag and bin it either.


We found the 3 shop, bought two new SIMs, one for each of the two remaining months we are here in the UK, and headed back to the boat. 

And while I was making toast for a reviving snack, the gas bottle ran out. I had mentioned to Ian that morning that we had been onboard 3 months and were still on our first bottle. Famous last words, obviously.

I was sitting reading and saw the bow of a trading boat. I raced out and asked if we could pay by card. Yes came the reply. So Rachel reversed up and tied on. David got the empty cyclinder from the gas locker, plastic was exchanged as well as a bit of happy chat.

Rachel bounces along those boards in such a confident manner. She has been working on boats since she left school - first hotel boats and now the Four Counties Fuel boat. Super cool!

Just so you know, I had walked over 14,000 steps and my feet were sore, but hero that I am I still made dinner: marinated salmon, salad and new potatoes. And then I think I collapsed into bed... Later, while David was outside on the phone to Ed, I went and found a mint mini magnum in the freezer. And I didn't share.