Wednesday, 5 August 2009


Star in Star Lock, Stone

I think I must have been. I really can't remember much of yesterday at all! Basically we drifted up towards Stone (hence the bad pun of the title) in drizzly rain and moored up at the bottom of the four locks there before lunch.
And there we stayed. Stone, according to a town information leaflet picked up at the lock, is "the food and drink capital of Staffordshire". More like the canal capital, with four locks, as many boatyards and plenty of historic canal stuff to see. But canals don't sponsor tourist guides, restaurants and pubs do!
We had home cooked lamb shanks (from the famous Alrewas butcher and very good too) with our on-board stock of booze. Sorry Stone. But we did come away with shopping and a fistful of charity shop paperbacks.
At about 8.00 pm, after a long spell of quiet, a boat came down through the bottom lock and we briefly thought about going through the bottom lock and we briefly thought about going up while they were all in our favour. But only briefly; laziness won out.
A pity; this morning we had to go up the lot in a queue with no-one coming the other way so the full empty and re-fill routine was needed each time. Before the third lock we even fitted in a canal-style pit stop, tanking up with diesel, dumping the rubbish and emptying the toilet - and all before the lock was ready for us!
Ten minutes further on and it was the same game all over again - four more locks and all running against us. Why did I volunteer to do the lock wheeling today.
At the top lock a 'vintage' cycle tourist parked his elderly but quality (Reynolds 531, Campag etc) bike and pulled a flask of tea from his pannier. Then he sat down on the grass and rolled himself a fag! Don't think Bradley Wiggins would have approved...
After all that energetic stuff we moored early by the Wedgwood factory and went for a look around the visitor centre – fascinating stuff but leave your wallet behind unless you're an American or Japanese tourist. Even the greetings cards in the gift shop are expensive!

PS Saw some very nice tugs around Stone -- very jealous of the Roger Fuller built 'Zulu' , ditto of another 'Zephyr', a bit less so of a RW Davis 'Beast' (I sense these as a bit of a 'clique craft'), admiring of a historic ice-breaker tug 'Tardebigge' and finally there was 'Eric Bloodaxe', diminutive and pretty despite the blood curdling name, being lovingly spruced up by its owner – a thoroughly cheerful Kevin Keegan look-alike!

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