Two For Every One, or No Rounding Up The Foxes! 25th September

Stone Bottom Lock Winding Hole to Brook House Winding Hole

A restock for the next few days was in order and M&S Foodhall called. Yes we could have walked to Morrisons and saved ourselves a few pennies, but the time factor was more important. We were still quarter of an hour late to join the Geraghty zoom after which it was time to head off and climb up through Stone.

Star Lock was mostly set against us, so I topped it up for a single hander who was coming down. Mick brought Oleanna into the lock and as I closed the bottom gates a lady from the next down hill boat arrived, she stood by the gate paddle and said something. Engines and leaking gates meant I couldn’t hear her so I asked her to wait and then asked her to wind the ground paddle up rather than the gate which she seemed keen to do. I’d rather do the gate paddle myself, yes the locks are long and Oleanna can sit towards the back of the lock, but I’d still rather know that the water wasn’t coming into our bow.

Star Lock

As often on bottom gate paddles these were painted white, so that you can see if the paddle is down fully from the other end of the lock. I’d already spotted one hadn’t looked quite right and checked it when the single hander had gone down, so I knew it was closed. But Mick didn’t. As Oleanna got to a height where he could step off he did so with a windlass, lifted the pawl and tried winding the paddle down. The lady from the boat ahead was totally aghast at how STUPID someone could be to be emptying the lock they were coming up in! I explained that he was just checking it was down, I knew it was down, but he didn’t.

With a boat waiting to come up behind us Mick informed them that there was one waiting to come down, even if it was waiting by the lock above and not obvious about it’s intentions!

Yard Lock looking huge!

Yard Lock was already full again a second boat starting to come down. As I walked up I realised it was Helen from NB Avalon 2. We shared some of the locks on the Regents Canal a few years ago and moored behind them at The Globe Inn at Linslade four years back. We had a chat and I realised I’d not seen her blog for a while, she has moved it to blogger and our blog roll needed updating. If you ever want to know where to go for a decent pint on the network Helen’s blog is the one to follow. Nice to see you Helen and have a good trip southwards.

Crown Wharf

Above the lock a boat was about to turn into the boatyard for some welding as another arrived behind it. Today the flow on the Four Counties was most definitely clockwise, for each lock we did there were two boats coming down. This did however mean not having to close gates behind us.

Newcastle Road Lock with its horse tunnel

The new Joules Brewery pub, Crown Wharf, looks very enticing. A new build with plenty of space both inside and out, shame we’ve a schedule to keep to.

Lime Kiln Lock with the handy bridge

I like Lime Kiln Lock as you can stand below on the bridge to open and close the gates. Here we met another two downhill boats. Busy!

A cat watched us from a window sill as we crossed the longish pound to the Meaford Locks. The bottom two just about empty, but so was the pound between them. This necessitated running some water down for Oleanna to get over the cill, thankfully the level in the next pound was good.

Meaford Locks

Only one boat coming down the four locks and we swapped right in the middle pound. A lunch break was required so we made use of some armco a short distance on. Our aim for the day had been to get up Trentham Lock, leaving the final ascent up into Stoke for tomorrow, but being as close as we could. But the rather nice moorings just after the Plume of Feathers pulled us in, a popular place.

Tilly had an extra rule before she disembarked for the afternoon, ‘No Rounding up Foxes!’ She once refused to come home for hours after dark here. I could hear her bell and noises that suggested that she and a fox were having a stand off and I think she had it cornered!

However, She was far too interesting to leave this afternoon. She emptied the well deck and gave it all a jolly good wash and dry all over. Some things were hidden away, others put on the roof where I had to keep guard. She was very busy! We’re expecting visitors who may be better off sitting up at the front, so the layers of mud needed removing. This was followed by a quick sweep through. All spick and span again, well as spick and span as we get!

9 locks, 4 miles, 10 downhill boats, 1 blogger, 4 zoomers, 1 newspaper, 1 chicken, 3.5 hours, 1 clean welldeck, 2 many patches of rust, 1 supervisor, 0 foxes.