Day 3, Thursday 17th June

An early (0735) departure so as to get ahead and keep ahead of the queue-jumping convoy and to get some miles south of Stoke-on-Trent. The towpath throughout Stoke is in superb condition, frequently used by cyclists. The water is deep and fast time can be made on the longer sections between locks. The canal passes long empty warehousing, atmospheric as birds fly in through the bare window holes. Some fat bottle kilns are besides old china-loading wharves, others standing either solitary or amid more recent buildings. From factories rhythmic swishing and thumping is heard. Further on the post-industrial landscape stretches over vast acreages, the open spaces interrupted only by mountains of rubble. One vast grey building comes into view, covering a huge area of land: what is it? Oh, orange word, Sainsburys.

At Barlaston trees line the watersides, even one willow bending right across the canal at one point, form a frondy screen to navigate through. The dappled shade offers relief from the hot sun. All gardens, large or small, are well-tended, few totally screened from the water’s edge.
Then Stone: welcome signs on towpath and bridge, even a mini-narrowboat filled with flowers on the town’s bridge. Several boatyards – working; a canal cruising club. Have we passed the place where the Phyllis May met her sad end last November? (Reference to the boat taken by Terry and Monica Darlington from Stone to the Med and down the East Coast US Inter-Coastal Route to the Gulf of Mexico). At the bottom lock a pub garden extends on either side of the lock. The pub is The Star: isn’t this the pub referred to where Jim the narrow dog (whippet) so loves his pork scratchings? Stone is a town worth mooring up at for a proper exploration, rather than just the dive into a supermarket afforded today. An hour later a pleasant rural mooring is found, a sunny position for a towpath dinner.

Domestic report from the day:
Ken – repair to bathroom light; repositioning of the fire blanket in the galley; de-rust paint on the stove flue.
Sue: water mint and basil pots; compile shopping list; packhorse supplies from supermarket to boat…

Wildlife report:
Two swans, various ducks and cows in the field opposite were sniffing at appetising smells from the galley tonight. This afternoon, while moored in Stone, a confused Old English sheepdog puppy jumped aboard one end, emerged at the bow, concerned perhaps that this boat smelt differently from his own!

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