Gone Fishin’. Or Shootin’. Or Dancin’.

Leaving Etruria, we pottered up the mile or so to Festival Park Marina, expecting to find it full of Black Prince Boats, but the hire-boat pontoons were empty, the place locked up and seemingly deserted. WInding the boat and tying up outside, a phone call extracted the duty chap who explained that they had umpteen boats arriving later that day (hence they couldn’t accommodate us), but he was able to relieve us of all our black water. To our great relief. And so, considerably lighter, we headed back down to Etruria, descended Stoke Locks with little fuss and a little rain, and trekked round Stoke-on-Trent.

Beer O'ClockShingles

We’d passed this intriguingly scruffy Stoke boatyard on numerous occasions over the years, but never with camera in hand. Wood shingles for a cabin – whatever next?

Line DancingShooting Range

Many boatyards provide loos and maybe a shower. Quite why this one feels the need to provide this rather bizarre collection of facilities, let alone get the spelling wrong, has always been a puzzle. One of these days I think we’ll call in…

Still, one can’t help thinking of Brad Paisley’s utterly wonderful Fishing Song I’m Gonna Miss Her.

Continuing on we reluctantly came to the conclusion that we wouldn’t make Stone that day so moored up at the bottom of Meaford Locks.

Thursday saw us locking down into Stone itself; a quick trip into the chandlers to replace a piling clip lost in the mud, and – first time ever – we moored up in one of the few prime spots in the middle of town just above the pub. A shame we weren’t staying other than for lunch and a quick shop – they’re never available when you want to stay for a while.

And so to Aston Marina, where we got plugged in, got the washing machine on, and started on the laundry pile. Then went for a splendid dinner at their very excellent restaurant. Two weights off our mind in one day, but a weight on the waistline…

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