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Tuesday, 11 September 2012

A Spitfire Week

ASpitfire Week

Mon-Wed We were away from Lily, having left her in Aston Marina near Stone. It was an impressive place with a very good, but expensive farm shop. We had concerns that our power supply had dropped out as we tried to poll our alarm system but though it responded on Saturday, it didn’t on Monday. To our relief all was well when we got back, the alarm just doesn’t seem to want to react to text messages any more, another job to sort out when we get home!
Aston Marina entry, don't try to get in by turning right and over the bridge
as the sign above Aston Lock tells you!

On our way home we stopped in London to meet Rowan & Suzanne from Wellington NZ whom we met while descending Hatton Locks 4 years ago. We had a lovely natter but neither the coffee nor the meal we shared was up to much, I intend to write and complain over both.
With Rowan & Suzanne in a pub nr Trafalgar Square

Why a Spitfire week? Well on the train from London I looked out the window of the train and saw a Spitfire flying over. Then on Friday I heard that distinctive sound of a Merlin engine, but trees obstructed my view, but on Saturday as we moved away from the Etruria Staircase Locks I heard the sound of two of these engines and saw a pair of Spitfires flying over. I suppose it was around this date 72 years ago that they were battling away over Southern England.

Thursday 6th September was a bright day, warmish but with a cool wind. We used the mains power we had paid for to clean the boat and polish around before setting off for Stone. We cruised there and moored above lock 29 and re-provisioned at Morrissons, enjoyed a coffee and a Thursday curry. We were surprised when Mick from Aligator, (and we’re sorry we can’t remember his wife’s name), sat down at the table next to us! Earlier this year they were moored alongside us in Debdale whilst they completed work on their new home, living aboard, and with her having her ankle in plaster! What a coincidence!                         2miles & 4 locks

Friday 7th and the weather was lovely with much less wind. Aligator passed us at 7.30, it was much later that we joined a busy set of boats climbing and descending. It was steady work and we met boats at most locks halving the work. After the late start it was 5 by the time we moored at the end of the Caldon. 81/2 miles and 11 locks.
The end of the Caldon

Saturday 8th a fabulous day of weather. Overnight one of our gas bottles became empty and just past the end of the Caldon towards Etruria Marina, on the towpath side there is a firm selling gas at £17.50 inc VAT!!! I wandered along to replenish our stock, then we walked to the Costa at Festival Park before returning to view the Etruria Museum. It was a Steaming Day, but not till 1pm and having enjoyed steam in many places, we made do with viewing the preserved works. Quite interesting but not very photogenic, though whilst I was finishing off my viewing, Carol was sitting on some steps alongside the canal arm and watched a kingfisher flying to and fro.
Water pours between the gates within the staircase locks

We enjoyed our lunch then reversed to the junction and turned into the Caldon Canal and up through the staircase pair, after using the services to top up our water. Two Spitfires flying over gave an emotional sense to this bit of the cruise. We stopped at Ivy House lift bridge so I could walk to Screwfix to replace our water filter cartridge. I had bought 2 cartridges around Xmas as they need changing every 6 months and had no idea whether I’d be able to buy one at replacement time. When I fitted the new one, it leaked!!! I have not previously checked closely for leaks after replacing them, thank heavens I did so this time. Fortunately when I refitted the one I had removed, it was water tight, and fortunately too Screwfix has centralised computer records that showed when I bought the faulty one.......except they had none in stock, I need to call by on our return cruise. I also bought some oil from the motor spares shop next to Screwfix, an oil change is due.
Bottle Kilns near the Caldon

Fantastic plants by some apartments

This bit of the Caldon far from attractive and is narrow. Old pottery works have largely been demolished, though some of the grander office buildings have been converted to other uses, but several of the typical bottle kilns have been preserved to retain some of the old character. We carried on to bridge 15 and moored up with several other boats in a near rural setting. The fine dry weather had resulted in Lily becoming very dusty so I washed off the towpath side in the evening after watching the qualifying for the Italian GP.   Just 3 1/2 miles. 3 locks and one lift bridge.
This old level crossing was alongside our mooring
I can't remember how long ago it was since I saw gates like these.
The mighty river Trent flowed near our mooring

Sunday 9th another lovely day, warm and mostly sunny with little breeze. I walked to the nearby village to get my Sunday Times fix, Google Maps showing a shop nearby, but I asked a local just where it was & he was guiding me far away, so I returned & we set off around 10.15. We stopped at br 18 in Milton & I got the papers on a short stop, during which I saw a very old car, I’d guess from around 1915 but couldn’t spot its badge, driving through the village. Away again we caught up with a boat at Engine lock, in the country now. I could hear water flowing under the grass along the off-side edge of the lock, is this a problem for the future for C&RT?
This lock side sculpture shows images reflecting the history of the area
It mention the Spitfire.

The other boat opened the first lift bridge, I did the second then we had the 5 locks at Stockton Brook near where R.J.Mitchell, the designer of the Spitfire was born with iInteresting sculptures at lockside. We stopped for lunch just past and then after using the services we moved onto the Leek branch, but it was incredibly shallow. 
Turning right towards Leek

We met Alligator just after the junction, were discussing as to whether to bother going along it with it so shallow, but stopped just past the Hazlehurst Aqueduct to watch the GP.
Mooring at Hazelhurst Aqueduct

6 locks, 2 lift bridges & 6 miles.

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