Weston on Trent to Etruria
9th October 2012
16 miles - 16 locks - 9 hours
Maybe that mooring just above Weston Lock wasn't the best decision I ever made. The busy A51 wasn't far away and it kicked up quite a bit of road noise overnight - possibly a better choice would have been to stop closer to the Saracens Head.
A prop fouled Spey entering Lock 37 at Stone.
It was a cold night bringing with it on of the first real frosts of the season and ice coating the towpath as we left at 8.30am. The sun was dazzling as it rose behind us and it was quite amusing to see southbound boaters all wearing sunglasses in the frost, but the last laugh was against me. Just beyond Sandon Lock I was astounded to see a boat from the Stafford Boat Club pull out into the channel right in front of me - literally less than a boat length ahead and in no time at all I was all over his stern. I am usually pretty easy going but I was incensed at the rudeness, especially when he had the gall to turn and ask if I wanted a tow! Cheeky bugger.
I was going to post a photo of the offender but on reflection maybe he didn't see me against the glare of the sun. Its probably best for my karma right out if I take this point of view and anyway - he is from a neighbouring boat club and I will be wanting to use their slipway again in the near future.
Our boats became spaced out by Aston Lock and we made gentle progress, picking Sloes from the bushes as we passed - probably about 1.5 kilos which will make good jam.
But my boater troubles were not over. I must have woken with a the words "canal hooligan" tattooed on my forehead. My route into the second lock of the Stone flight was impeded by a boat moored at the waterpoint - his stern well out into the cut by the entrance bridge and a strong flow entering from the bye wash. No matter how careful a touch of metal was inevitable, and for my pains I got more sarcasm! By this time I was starting to doubt my approach to boating.
The rest of the trip into Stoke was uneventful and foraging continues:
Sloes - a steady trickle from lightly fruiting bushes
Crab Apples - loads, even in a bad season there are always lots around
Rose Hips - a steady supply from the lock sides, picked one pocket full at a time.
Water Mint - found, of all places, growing out of a bottom lock gate!
But I had promised apples and they were proving elusive. Then finally I hit the jackpot. On the approach to Stoke near the Brittania Stadium I found a cooker with a good crop leaning right over the canal. I just had to put the boat onto the mud and gather in a bucket full of superb green Bramleys.
The day did offer a final setback. By the time we were approaching Stoke I was working solo and I moored just below lock 37, beyond the low railway bridge which covers the entrance. I walked up and opened the paddles and returned to move the boat in as the lock emptied. Imagine my consternation when the flow out stopped and the lock started to fill again. Yes, you guessed it - a boater had reversed the flow without looking and didn't hear my hooting an account of the headphones he was wearing. At least he had the grace to apologise!
We made it to Etruria at 6.00pm with time to eat, cook up some Elderberries and settle in for an episode of Morse before an early bed. Tomorrow it is the Caldon, one of my favourite canals.