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.
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.