Saturday, 31 May 2014

Off at Last!

Saturday 31st May, 2014 at Stoke-on-Trent.
Well, finally we are off, just like the policemen in "Pirates of Penzance" - we go, we "really, really go!" Actually we "went" a few days ago - but we have had such fun that we have only just got around to writing up our diary!
After the "Big Breakfast" in the marina bistro, and collecting from Nick (the butcher in the marina farm shop) the packs of meat that he had prepared and frozen for us, we set off at last. We knew that it would be a happy/sad moment to leave the marina but took comfort from the fact that we will be back in two weeks.
The morning was bright as we turned out of the marina. It was like the first ever day of our travels back in 2011. MM was sparkling on the inside and pristine on the outside with her gleaming brass and fresh paintwork. The fridge, freezer, cupboards and wine cellar were all stocked up and the sun was shining. Who could ask for more?
As we pulled out of our berth A22, Captain Guy was on hand to supervise.
Which way did we turn - north or south? Did we toss a coin or just wait to see which way the wind took us? Actually, neither. Because we have to go home for a week in June to see David and Justina (yippee!!), we decided that there would not be enough time to cruise the Leeds and Liverpool over the Pennines without rushing. When we do that trip, we want to be able to take our time and savour every minute. So instead, we decided to use these two weeks to go up to the Peak Forest Canal in Derbyshire, via the Macclesfield Canal, and back, then we can put MM back into Aston Marina while we go home for a week and afterwards we will head south west to Stratford-upon-Avon, Gloucester and Sharpness. Now we've made that decision, we are really looking forward to it.
Just a few hundred yards from the marina loomed the first lock. After a seven month gap, M had been fretting about doing locks again - would she remember what to do? But, of course, it was fine. Just like riding a bike, it all comes back to you and soon we were through the first lock and on our way.
It was a lovely day and, being a Saturday, there were many people out on the towpath and everyone waved cheerily. The countryside is always beautiful at this time of year and there were many broods of young ducklings and cygnets in the canal, including one pair of swans with ten little ones.
We remembered well the locks in Stone, having done them last autumn. One was very hard work and M, struggling with the stiff paddles, called out hopefully to a group of passing youths - "I could do with a strong man!" Sure enough, one came running to help. He was a local lad, yet to M's surprise, he said that he'd never worked a lock before. He appeared to enjoy this new experience!
We stopped for lunch opposite the Wedgwood factory beside a field of buttercups. We had moored in the same spot last year when we had visited the factory.
Usually, any herons on the bank fly away before we get to them, but this one seemed quite unconcerned at our passing and just sat and watched as we cruised by.
The city of Stoke-on-Trent became increasingly familiar as we approached; we spent a lot of time here last year. To our surprise, and M's delight, we spotted an "Eddie" passing over one of the bridges; we were able to identify it and count it as our first ever "spot" from MM!
We moored in the same spot where we stayed last autumn when Erika, Dan and Lucas came to visit, with two beautifully restored bottle kilns on one side and the local cemetary on the other. A quiet and peaceful mooring yet just a short distance from the city centre.
We had a lovely day and were both very happy to be back on board. At the second lock of the day, we acquired the first scrape on the new paintwork - inevitable! M said that at least now we could relax and stop fretting about it!
Today: 10 miles, 12 Locks and 6.8 hours

No comments:

Post a Comment