The Best Laid Plans

We’d dawdled rather longer than expected on the Caldon Canal, what with trains, cars, towpath walks and the like, and some things were needing attention. The dirty laundry pile was becoming excessive, a pump-out would soon be urgent, and we really needed to get the car back home: dragging it around was becoming a drag.

And then SWMBO said “Jackstraws Morris are dancing at Bromyard Folk Festival in 10 days. Without Biggles to look after, if we kept the car up here for a bit longer, we could go, couldn’t we… I’ve brought my kit!”

Stoke’s Festival Park Marina had helped out several times before: moorings with electric for the washing machine – tick; relaxed about leaving cars – tick; pump-out facilities – tick. Except that they were full when we wanted to be there. We could probably get a pump-out, but as for mooring, no chance. CaRT have self-service pump-out machines at Park Lane Wharf (on the way but broken) and Etruria (on the way), but you need a special “credit” card to operate those. Handily, these are only available by mail order (useful when on a boat) or from very rare retailers nowhere near the facility. And these pump-out stations a rare enough that carrying spare cards around is a bit like giving CaRT a long term loan – we haven’t needed one in three years, and the Environment Agency ones on the rivers use a different card. And in any case, that didn’t solve the laundry problem. So we ended up re-planning, and booked ourselves into Aston Marina, just south of Stone for a couple of days, and decided we’d better get a move on.

So off we set. Waving goodbye to The Holly Bush on a pleasant Bank Holiday Monday morning we climbed back up Hazelhurst Locks, pottered past Park Lane Wharf, down through Stockton Brook Locks (the abandoned railway there still had its tracks, but trees were growing through them there) and managed to moor at Milton again. Milton on the Tuesday after a Bank Holiday was much like Milton on a Monday, apart from the café being open. They needn’t have bothered…

And then we finished off the Caldon Canal, and moored up at Etruria Junction, frustratingly close to the pump-out facilities, frustratingly far from any means of using them. It’s a major CaRT depot, but no-one was able or interested in helping us out. Apparently the Park Lane Wharf one had been fixed earlier that day, but the chap said the biggest cause of failures was misuse of the magic cards, so perhaps it’s all a plot to persuade the powers that be that they are so under used there really is no demand for them. After all, they charge more for you to do it yourself than most boatyards/marinas charge to do it for you. One of life’s mysteries.

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