Thursday, 12 June 2014

There and Back Again through Three Counties.

Thursday 12th June, 2014 back at Aston Marina.
Another early(ish) start on a glorious day, which was in truth a tad too warm for the nine locks that we had to do. At Meaford top lock, we were confronted by a swarm of Environment Agency chaps and a sad array of dead fish. It appears that the canal water had been contaminated, possibly by a local sewage plant, and the surface of the water was peppered with dead fish. The EA people had removed some of the fish and we were surprised by the size of some of them. We didn't realise that there were fish that big in the waters below MM.
The EA chaps were busily aerating the water with water jets and injecting a special detergent. Hosts of small fry were gathered around the jets "breathing" the unpolluted water in obvious relief.
The detergent was making the water in the lock foam as the lock filled and coating the waterline of the boats coming up through the lock; they looked exactly as if they were taking a bubble bath!
A small queue of boats had built up while this was all going on but we still got through the flight of four locks in fairly good time.
At Stone top lock, we met a pleasant couple on their rather unusual boat, built in China. M asked how it had been transported to the UK. Apparently, at 40ft, it will fit into a standard shipping container. They had made an extension on the back to carry their motorbike!
A hundred yards below the lock we were held up by a boat, nb "Odessa", broadside across the canal. One of its mooring pins had come out and it was completely blocking the canal with its bow wedged on the non-towpath side. In front of a gathering crowd on the towpath, R gently manoeuvered MM until the two bows were touching and then walked along MM's gunwale to tie a line from MM's bow to Odessa's bow thinking that he could then pull the bow back across to the towpath side.
It wasn't that easy, however, as Odessa's bow was firmly wedged in some tree roots and wouldn't budge. The only answer was to put MM hard into reverse and yank Odessa's bow free. It still took three attempts before the bow came free and we were able to get Odessa's bow back to the towpath side, reset her (rather flimsy) mooring pins and get past!
Once in the middle of Stone, we moored up to go into town for a "few bits" and, of course, to visit the local Costa for a well earned coffee.
Stone is a very charming "canal" town and we love walking around its historic streets. It was apparently founded in 650AD and for many years it was the administrative centre of the Trent & Mersey Canal Company.
Only two more locks to do before we arrived back at Aston. Stone is naturally a very popular town with boaters and just south of the town there were dozens of boats moored up, so we had been very lucky to find a free space right in the centre.
Finally Aston lock beckoned and there was Aston Marina. We were home. Hooray!
It was the loveliest feeling to moor up in "our" space, A22, and wander up to the Bistro for tea and scones (they were out of tea-cakes!). As always, the staff greeted us like old friends.
M did a few jobs on board while R went in to Stoke-on-Trent with the car to acquire a new printer as our old printer had stopped working. By the time he got back, the afternoon had begun to cool off a bit and he was able to wash MM's roof down. Amazing how much dust and dirt accumulates on one's travels.
Then it was time for dinner - in the Bistro, of course. Where else?
As we walked back to MM after dinner, our way was illuminated by the full moon rising over the marina.
Our trip to the Peak District took us "There and Back Again" through three counties: Staffordshire, Cheshire and Derbyshire. What an absolutely delightful journey it has been.
Tomorrow we are going home to spend time with David and Justina, who are coming over from America for a visit. Our travels will resume in 10 days, when we will set out on our main summer cruise towards the south, aiming for Gloucester and Sharpness via Stratford-on-Avon and returning on the west side of Birmingham back to Aston in October.
Today: 5 miles, 9 locks and 3.5 hours
Trip: 100 miles, 56 locks and 62.0 hours.

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