Easter Pootling

You know how you make a mistake and then make it again, well yet again I forgot the USB (micro to standard) cable that downloads images from my SLR when we went to Stone over Easter, so yet again I have to resort to posting retrospectively as opposed to daily. Hey-ho!

We have had a great Easter away from home on Albert pootling around Stone and Great Haywood. In fact some of the pootling has verged on inactivity. Last Wednesday we travelled up to Stone by rail and spent that day and the next around the marina polishing Albert and carrying out some improvements. The most significant was fitting a 240v socket in the smaller of our two wardrobes where we keep our new rechargeable vacuum cleaner. We have purchased a Hoover CO180B2 18V Rechargeable Handheld Vacuum Cleaner on the recommendation of a friend of our daughter Emily. Keeping it in a cupboard when charging up, and not cluttering up the place, appeared a good idea. I worked out a wiring scheme that appeared to be straight forward and didn't require ripping out of lots of cabin fittings, only getting under the double bed and feeding a cable through into the engine room. All went well but it did require a new rechargeable drill since after only a few years of use the batteries of our small Bosch drill failed. I managed to buy another "cheap and cheerful" drill from the ironmongers in Stone. I reckon that if I require any serious drilling I will use my more high-spec drill that I keep at home.  The job was completed with no real problems except I had to slightly change tack when I realised that the point I had chosen to tap into the 240v electrics was not live when not connected to shore. A small change was required but no change in basic wiring. Let's hope the new vacuum gives good service. It is certainty far more convenient than the small mains it replaces. It was quite clumsy and the accessories were not well designed. 
Mouse on the towpath near Aston - quietly eating.

On Wednesday afternoon we made friends with Tug and Kirsten from NB Golden Eagle who moor along the same section of pontoons. We managed to help them consume some home-made cider and they gave us some sausages that Tug had made. They turned out to be delicious. On Thursday we also had some of Tug's home-made black pudding when we shared a brunch - very sociable.   
Aston Marina's friendly swan

Later on on Thursday our friends Mike and Janet Kinnings arrived at Aston Marina on NB Blue Pearl. They arranged to drop in on us on their way around the Four Counties Ring. 

On Good Friday the weather was glorious and the Bistro and Deck were doing great business. A lot of boat owners had taken the opportunity of the public holiday to "visit their boats" and quite a few left the marina. We had arranged with the marina office for Blue Pearl to moor up for one night but in the end the they stayed two. Luckily the mooring next to Albert was free so for the first time we had both boats moored up alongside each other. 

Maggie, Janet Kinnings and Sandy
(Albert and Blue Pearl behind)

Having a drink on the deck at Aston Marina

We went walking with Mike, Janet and Sandy, their new dog, around Aston village exploring the local footpaths. The sunshine was glorious and the weather warm. A buzzard circled above the marina but was mobbed by a crow (can a single crow mob - I wonder). Buzzards always appear to upset other birds and get hassled.

Buzzard (left) being mobbed by a crow

That night we had a very sociable meal at the marina Bistro with Mike and Janet. Sandy, who was left on board, manged to behave himself. 

On Saturday NB Blue Pearl left for Stoke and we said hello to another set of visitors - our daughter Lucy along with husband Chris and our grandchildren Amelia (4) and Florence (2). They had arranged a holiday over Easter near Stone so we could all get together. They stayed near Market Drayton in tented accommodation - it can be called "glamping". They really enjoyed themselves with the children very keen on the farm animals (pet lambs, chickens and cows), the zip wire that crossed the site, and sleeping in a cupboard bed.

Arriving at  Aston Marina at lunch time, our family joined us for lunch in one of the Cedar Cabins. They were ideal for a family with children. The next cabin was hired out for a larger group celebrating a 90th birthday. Later we took Albert out onto the cut and headed for Stone. This enabled the girls to really experience boating and operate a lock (Aston).  Opening the lock gates was a little too hard for them, so Dad helped out. Amelia liked the whistle on her life jacket, although she found it hard to make a loud enough noise.

Boating near Stone

We winded Albert just below the lower lock at Stone (quite tight for a 60 ft boat, but manageable) and then headed back to Aston. As the afternoon progressed the weather improved. 

On Sunday morning we upped-sticks and boated down to Great Haywood in dull windy weather and then spent the rest of the day with the campers over in Shropshire enjoying their facilities and just having fun - Easter egg hunts and feeding pet sheep. 

On Easter Monday the weather was very good and the family returned to enjoy Shugborough Hall with us. We had a great time at the 1810 farm and in the gardens. The animals we a hit with the grandchildren and the staff in the kitchens "in character" were fascinating.

Shugborough Hall

At the farm there were a couple of inquisitive (and hungry) goats. One decided that it wan't enough to eat some of the food pellets from an open palm, he wanted the lot. He grabbed the whole paper bag and after some minimal chewing he swallowed the lot! 

A greedy goat eats all the food and the bag too!

The day finished with ice cream on board Albert. Maggie and I stayed overnight on board Albert at Great Haywood whilst the rest of the family returned to Shropshire and then home. We moved Albert back to Aston on Tuesday, in the rain (mostly). That afternoon Alastair and Lynda Taylor came over  from Market Drayton for tea and a chat. 

Aston Marina's new residents - we counted thirteen

We left for home via train on Wednesday. A great week not boating very far but enjoying ourselves nevertheless. We shall probably do more of the same.


Braunston to Stone

We moored up Albert at Braunston from March 28th until Wednesday 2nd April when we began the second part of our journey to Aston Marina. With family commitments we had only five days for the journey. I had intended to post daily during the journey but having forgotten the vital cable that allows me to download photos to the laptop, I decided that blogging would have to wait until we got home.

Day 1 saw us take Albert up the North Oxford Canal to near Marston Junction on the Coventry Canal where there is a quiet mooring we have used before. The weather was relatively kind and going through Hillmorton Locks it was actually pleasant.

Gates engraved with thoughtful messages - Hillmorton Locks

Grantham's Bridge

Nick Wolfe from NB Aldgate was uncovering some old stone work around the balance beam of the middle lock at Hillmorton. After the locks we took on water and had lunch. With an accurate water level gauge we tend to fill up less often.

NB Aldgate at Hillmorton

At Clifton we passed bloggers Derwent 6. As we approached Rugby the rain began and it continued for the rest of the day

As always an immaculate NB Derwent 6 near Clifton Wharf

It remained showery and windy all the way through Brinklow to Hawkesbury Junction. On a wet mid-week late afternoon it was quiet. 

Sutton Stop

The rain abated a little as we travelled through Bedworth, passing the famous Charity Dock, and we moored up just North of Marston Junction where the Ashby Canal branches off. 

Charity Dock

Marston Junction, Coventry and Ashby Canals

On Day 2 we left early in the morning and worked our way through Nuneaton and Hartshill to Atherstone. The weather was dull. On the Atherstone flight a group of CRT volunteers was busy tidying up and rubbing down the gates ready for painting. We always enjoy the Atherstone flight with its easy lock mechanisms and pleasant environment. Chatting to the volunteers it appears that the flight will have a volunteer lock keeper throughout the summer.

Curious (and useful) set of steps on the Atherstone Flight

Pooley Hall, Polesworth
Fine collection of working boat fore-ends outside the Samuel Barlow at Amington

Having met hardly any boats the whole day it came as something of a shock to find a small queue for the locks at Glascote. It is probably because the two locks are "piggy-bank" locks to quote the Pearson Guide - slow to fill and quick to empty.

A WWII gun pill-box on the Thame Aqueduct

Fazeley Junction had changed a little since we passed through last year. Although the construction work on one of the buildings was still continuing slowly, a piece of decoration now adorns one of the industrial buildings.  

Birds at Fazeley Junction

Wishing to make as much headway as possible we boated on to Hopwas arriving about 6:30 and mooring close to the village school. A long ten and half hour day - but still enjoyable. 

On Day 3, Friday, we had another early start. We have travelled through Hopwas Woods in spring before so I got the camera ready. As before there was a fine display of wood anemones. in the military area.

Wood anemones in the Military Area at Hopwas

Short Boat on the Coventry Canal

The morning had started with a disappointment, we had for the very first time run out of gas in both bottles. I had assumed that the bottle not in use was full and failed to check - not a good idea. Fortunately it wasn't cold like last spring and there was a prospect of getting replacement bottles fairly easily. As we headed towards Fradley Junction we came across the brand new Kings Orchard Marina. Last spring when we passed by soil was still being shifted. The services wharf was very handy and we went for works - gas, diesel, coal and pump-out. The pump-out was very quick. The wind was not very strong, but it was in the wrong direction, and we had to reverse off the landing stage and turn in the centre of the marina.

The very new Kings Orchard Marina - lots of free berths

Fradley Junction was busy with people but not many moving boats. We turned onto the Trent and Mersey feeling that we were making good progress. There had recently been a vintage car rally and in the car park was a delightful red Austin Chummy, probably dating from 1929. 

Operating the pedestrian swing bridge at Fradley Junction

We had lunch on the move. Here is another boatmen's lunch picture - a bacon sandwich with fresh tomatoes.

We passed through Armitage and Rugeley without any problems and made Great Heywood around 5:00, another long but successful day's boating. Great Heywood was very quiet, not to say deserted. We found an excellent mooring overlooking Shugborough Hall. Being dry we polished some of the external brass-work that had become rather grubby over the winter.

Moored at Great Heywood

Day 4  was not going to be difficult because we only had to travel to Aston, a journey of about three hours. We had a more leisurely start and headed north. A few boats were moving, since it was Saturday, but it was by the usual standards quiet. At Weston we were attacked by an aggressive swan who pecked at the rear fenders for over half a mile. It appears that he hadn't singled us out for treatment since NB Caxton received the same treatment later on

As we passed near Burston  NB Caxton (a.k.a Manley Ferry) and NB Ferndale, both Aussie bloggers who had just finished over wintering at Aston Marina were going south. We exchanged cheery waves. 

We finally moored up at Aston Marina just after midday and sorted out our berth, electric hook-up etc., and generally got familiar with the place. 

Moored up (and hooked up) at Aston Marina

We just had to visit the bistro that evening.

Fine dining at Aston

On Sunday, Day 5 of the journey, we travelled home by train from Stone. Only 1 hr 40 mins to Milton Keynes.