Paul and Elaine visit NB areandare

It’s certainly been an interesting weekend here in Stone at another of the Roving Canal Traders Association Floating Markets.

Arriving on Thursday afternoon, we slotted in between ‘Here be Dragons’ and ‘Reverie‘, in the middle of a line of ten trading boats.

Trading and socialising

Barry set up shop on Friday, and there were a few passers by who stopped to chat or make small purchases. I didn’t get my facepainting gear out as I figured children over three years old (my Public Liability Insurance doesn’t cover me for younger children) would be at school. And it wasn’t too warm …

A beautiful thing happened for Kit and Mike, on the narrowboat ‘Here be dragons’, during the festival. A local photographer stopped by and gifted them a print of Mike and their dog Charlie, that he’d taken while they were at the Stone market last year. It’s such a stunning photo.

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On Saturday I braved it eventually, despite the clouds and coolness, but against my better judgment as I had an inkling rain was on its way. Sure enough, five minutes after setting up the first drops fell. I managed to get most things covered and ran to the safety of the boat – I didn’t want my flowers to wash away …

Flowers facepainting

Feeling a little flowery – unlike the weather!

I lasted another hour or so, dodging two further downpours, before deciding it wasn’t worth risking my expensive kit getting ruined and packed up.

Our new friends Barry and Jan from the Art Boat came to the boat for a few drinks last night which was lovely – we even had the fire on as the temperature dropped so much and we’d all got a bit wet during the day.

Today the sun has shone in a bright blue sky. I needed to do a bit of grocery shopping for Barry this morning and of course the supermarkets don’t open till 10am. The location of the Floating Market was a good 25 minute walk into town, so by the time I’d done that and got sorted, it was coffee time.

Stone RCTA Floating Market

Stone RCTA Floating Market

Stone RCTA Floating Market

The Home Brew Boat at Stone RCTA Floating Market

Not long after returning to the boat, our expected visitors Simon and Jane arrived. I haven’t seen Simon for about 24 years, we got in touch on Facebook last year and he’s been reading the blog since then. He saw that Barry needed a hand next week so got in touch and offered his services for Tuesday’s travels.

There’s likely to be a few more shots of Simon on the next blog – if Barry gets time to take any photos on his long journey from Stone to Droitwich! Thank you Simon, good to see you again and lovely to meet you Jane.

Visitors to NB Areandare

Simon and Jane chat with Barry about all things brewing

A short while after I’d cooked oatcakes for us all for lunch (it’s a Staffordshire speciality if you’ve never heard of them, there’s even an ‘Oatcake Boat‘!), a familiar couple approached with two small dogs.

“Paul and Elaine!” I shouted excitedly!

Paul got in touch with us in 2009, from Manly in Sydney, after reading our blog. He and Elaine emigrated to Australia many years ago, met there and married, and Paul had a long-held dream of returning to England for a while to cruise the canals. I seem to recall Elaine took a bit of persuading!

In 2010, on our way to UK for our second six-month canal journey, and on the return to NZ, we had a stopover in Sydney to stay with Barry’s younger brother Peter. On each visit we caught up with Paul, the second one we met Elaine. They beat us back here by a year, and spent two years meandering in their narrowboat ‘Caxton’. But our routes never aligned. Paul continues to write their ‘NB Manly Ferry’ blog.

They’re still in UK, and are about to embark on a second motorhome adventure. The photo at the top of this post is of Paul and Elaine, with their two dogs Sam and Bombo (don’t ask which one’s which!). The other dog is Rico, the other Barry’s dog, who seems to have taken a liking to me – nothing to do with sausages I’m sure …

Fantastic to see you both – thank you so much for coming to Stone and hope we see you again in the not too distant future.

I never did get my facepainting things out again – as I had to leave at 4pm to catch the train back to Malpas to help my daughter out for a few days …

Barry’s been ‘working’ hard with The Home Brew Boat and had a few sales, as always lots of interest so maybe we’ll have a few on-line orders to come.

Not a Stone’s throw away!

Our next festival is St Richard’s in Droitwich, which will mean some very long days for Barry from this evening until Thursday night. Fingers crossed that the River Severn isn’t showing a red light when he (hopefully WE!) gets there.

I’m now back in Malpas. The railway station literally was almost a stone’s throw from the market, and the most delightful building I had to take a photo to show you …

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And Barry’s hopefully a number of miles south of Stone as I type. Driving to Droitwich would take about two hours. By narrowboat four days is pushing it which seems ridiculous but that’s why it’s called the fastest way to go slowly …

Quiet mooring near Stone

Spring is really showing herself at the moment.

The trees are all suddenly sprouting their leaves, the blossom has bloomed, the birds are singing merrily, the bees are buzzing and best of all the sun is shining and even becoming quite warm!

We’d aimed to travel to Barlaston yesterday afternoon, on our way to Stone, but Barry ‘overshot’ the moorings so continued on. That’s not strictly true. There was a mooring but it was too near to a train-line.

Not wanting to go all the way to our weekend trading moorings in Stone until today, we finally pinned up in a good stretch between two locks. Chosen because of it’s country feel, and lack of hedges or large trees to obscure the fading rays. With a wide grassy towpath alongside too, it meant Barry could do a spot more painting on the boat, clean the side we’ve been avoiding – and best of all have an evening sitting outside.

Not long after we’d stopped another Barry, and Jan, from one of the art boats, saw us and decided to spend the night with us – so to speak!

We had a jolly evening sampling Barry’s beer and wine, and star gazing on an amazingly clear night.

There was a stunning crescent moon that we all delighted in seeing it’s craters more closely with the binoculars my dear dad had given Barry, Venus was shining brightly as was Jupiter, and I spotted Sirius, the ‘Dog Star’ – the brightest in the solar system. No-one actually believed I knew such things, until Barry used the app on his iPad and said in amazement I was right!

Back in New Zealand, many of Barry’s friends spend a few weeks camping ‘on the coast’ in January each year. On clear nights, we’d sit and chill, watching the stars and waiting for satellites overhead.

It was far easier there, because we didn’t have ANY planes flying to confuse us as to which was a satellite and which was a 747 filled with families on their way to a package holiday in Mallorca!

Eventually, I spotted one. Then another. Then Barry saw another. I think we found five all together over the course of about half an hour, at just the right time when the sun’s gone below the horizon but is still reflecting on the satellite.

Apparently there’s ‘a few hundred’ of these currently orbiting the earth – here’s what Wikipedia has to say, it’s fascinating!

About 6,600 satellites have been launched. The latest estimates are that 3,600 remain in orbit. Of those, about 1,000 are operational; the rest have lived out their useful lives and are part of the space debris. Approximately 500 operational satellites are in low-Earth orbit, 50 are in medium-Earth orbit (at 20,000 km), the rest are in geostationary orbit (at 36,000 km).

So look up into the sky, if you’re away from the light pollution that obscures the possibility of seeing these in a lot of places, and on the few occasions we get a clear sky, and see if you can spot one watching us watching them!

Trading recent and future

Our spontaneous trading at Westport Lake last weekend with a few other lovely boating businesses went very well. It’s such a popular spot, you’d not imagine such a place was amongst the hustle and bustle of a quite industrial area.

We met some new traders Dan and Kerry-Leigh, who are a little different to the majority in that they’re a young couple in their late 20s to early 30s doing their best to make a living while moving around. You’ll find them on Facebook under ‘Reverie‘ so check them out and give them some support. Good on them for not getting sucked into the ‘norm’.

The Home Brew Boat

The Home Brew Boat all set up for trading at Westport Lake

Funtastic Facepainting at Westport Lake

A great spot for both our businesses

Today we’ll meander the short distance to our reserved mooring above Lime Kiln Lock in Stone, ready to trade over the weekend.

I’ll be heading over to my daughter’s on Sunday evening to do more granny sitting, as my eldest grandson is having a small operation on Monday if all goes well.

Barry will then be motoring speedily towards Droitwich for St Richard’s Festival – where he’s the ‘face of the festival’ so may get overcome by fans wanting his autograph. Maybe in his dreams …

St Richard's Festival Droitwich 2015

 Hopefully I’ll find a way to re-join him mid-week, potentially in Kidderminster!

NB Areandare at Etruria

Barry did a stalwart job of moving Areandare back up the 35 (or is it 36?) locks of Heartbreak Hill from Middlewich by Sunday, so he could meet me at the railway station at Kidsgrove on Monday. I had a fun-filled-fix of grandmotherly love last week.

I’m always in awe of his abilities to ‘lock-alone’ (apart from a couple that a very kind soul assisted with this time), though I’m aware many boaters manage it – and some of them are lone women! Maybe if I HAD to I’d be okay. Not sure I’d choose to though, but I’m full of admiration for them as well …

Since then we’ve moseyed on down to Etruria and spent the last night there, returning to Westport Lake this afternoon ready to do a spot of towpath trading over the weekend with a few other boats. It’s a stunning place to be moored up, right next to the visitor centre and lake. The walk around the water is tranquil, apart from the noise made by masses of ducks, geese, grebes and other wildlife. And there’s a large children’s playground. A popular local attraction, so we’re hoping for a fair amount of footfall …

Barry’s given me a few of his images to post – some are a bit random (but fabulous) to catch up, i.e. nothing to do with the post title.

Most though are from his walk around Etruria yesterday evening.

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The Wardle Canal Lock, Middlewich – the shortest canal on the system at just 100 metres long

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The Kings Lock pub Middlewich on the right where we danced to Seamus O’Blivion at last year’s FAB Festival

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Barry got a bit of help from Andy, off NB Festine Lente – thank you! What a cheery smile ;-)

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We may only travel at speeds of up to 4 mph, but some days we go faster than cars, vans and lorries at a standstill on the motorway!

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Some stunning spring sunsets at the moment

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Images of Etruria …

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In 2009 when we went up these locks, Barry had barrage of apples thrown at him by a few local children. Her shrugged it off and shouted ‘Is that the best you can do?’ as their aim wasn’t too good! Pretty harmless really, bored in the school holidays …

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If you look closely you’ll see the bottles with turps and paintbrushes on the shelf in the catch – oh and the shiny new paintwork on the bow that Barry’s been slaving away doing for a while, bit-by-bit as it’s so weather dependant

 

One day we may even manage to be at the location when the Etruria Industrial Museum is open – a pretty rare occurrence. The next one’s 30th to 31st May – we missed the last by a few days.

The Etruria Canal Festival, that we traded at last year, is sadly not taking place this year. There’s still going to be a historic boat gathering though.

The sun’s promising to bless us with his presence tomorrow, so we’re looking forward to meeting more people and sharing  stories with them.

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