In August 1994 we hired a canal boat from 'Black Prince' in Stoke. We completed the 110 miles and 94 locks of the 'Four Counties' ring. On board was Me, Adrian Seal, Sarah Withey, Anna Whitehead, William Bugg, Kate, Ann-Marie Gregory, Chinney, Rich Martin, Steve Martin, Matt Smith, Ste Hanson.
Saturday 27th Aug 1994 Stoke to Stone, 9.5 Miles, 14 Locks
Meet at noon, a lot of waiting for Ste Hanson to get his CD player, Adj's money and Anna's petrol. Set off at 2pm. My car overheats on the way, lose the others. Adj takes the other on a tour of Stoke. On the move for about 3 p.m. Go down the deepest lock in the country after 5 minutes. Not make a very good job of it. The boat is called the 'Sea Witch'. Push on to Stone, stop at about 8pm, by a BW water point, we don't bother to fill up. We all go to 'The Star', drink Pedigree, make lots of noise. Eventually we get our own room. During the day someone shouts to William 'I think that you have lost your water-skier', I have to explain to him that they want us to slow down. Play three-card brag later. Adj and I sleep in the kitchen. Adjy gets into bed and remarks that he is 'Hot already', I think that he says that he is 'Red Hot and ready' and I give him a funny look.
Sunday 28th Aug 1994 Stone to Penkridge, 20.5 Miles, 7 Locks
I get up at 8am and set off. Bright sunny morning. Sarah brings me a cup of tea. Surprisingly a lot of people get up before 9am. Run out of water while Anna is in the shower. Turn off the Trent and Mersey onto the Staffordshire and Worcestershire at Great Haywood. Fill up with water at Penkridge, amazed when it takes three quarters of an hour. Stop at Weston for a Sunday paper. Stop and look at Acton Trussell looking for food shops, very posh. Anna buys food at Penkridge. Have salad for tea on the move. Anna and her team go into town for a Chinese. We all go to the 'Cross Keys', I feel that the floor is moving. Play Trivial Pursuit my team ( Me, AMG, William and Kate) against (Adjy, Sarah, Chinney and Rich), we win.
Monday 29th Aug 1994 Penkridge to Gnosall, 28 Miles, 12 Locks
Off at 8am again, fine morning. Intend to get water at Gailey Wharf but it is too busy. I jump off and some bloke tells us take there is water further on. Get told off when we steal some water from a private yard. Anna navigates round a lot of bends. Drive on to Hatherton junction. Turn on to the Shropshire union at Autherley. Stop for ice creams. I unblock the shower. I also hit a low bridge. The canal becomes very straight. The toilets become very full. Go through Gnosall tunnel at the end of the day - do some very narrow cuttings. Arrive at about 8.30 p.m. Walk to the 'Boat Inn'.
Tuesday 30th Aug 1994 Gnosall to Audlem, 20.7 Miles, 22 Locks
8am start, just me and Sarah for a long time with a cup of tea. Nice views to the south west. Becomes a very hot day. We look across to the Long Mynd and the Wrekin. Should have had a pump out at Norbury but no-one else is awake to help. Stop at Tyrley expecting a pump out but no, I get snapped. The picture shows the half-way point of the trip at Tyrley locks. Some very narrow cuttings. Stop at Market Drayton, go into town to buy chips. Do a lot of shopping at Kwik save. Fill up with water, have to turn the boat around twice. Drive on at full speed, I want to be at the Shroppie Fly tonight. Do Adderley locks, five in one hour. Start Audlem flight of fifteen at 7.30pm, good team effort. We have them all to ourselves. Chinney runs ahead and fills up the locks. Put the lights on when it gets very dark. Get some very hard stares from other canal boat users. Moor up at 9.30pm, walk back up to the Shroppie Fly, I am very revealed to have made it down the flight without incident.
Wednesday 31st Aug 1994 Audlem to Middlewich, 19.2 Miles, 9 Locks
8am start. Mist and rain all day. Very busy near Nantwich, stationary boats both sides. Stop for a pump out. Reverse a long way down a small branch to a British Waterways yard, only to find that it is shut. Drive into Barbridge. Stop for water. Chin, Rich and William go for a galleon in the Barbridge Inn. William struggles down four and a half, Chinney has nine, Rich has ten. Do the route planning for the rest of the week. It appears as though we still have two long days ahead of us. Push on to Middlewich takes from 5pm till 8.30pm. Rich sleeps all afternoon, William looks ill. Chinney asks Anna politely if he may throw over the side. He waits for Anna to give permission before going ahead. Last locks and difficult turn onto the Trent and Mersey in the dark. Go to the King's Lock for one and then up to the Kinderton Arms, they have no intention of stopping serving. Chinese for supper.
Thursday 1st Sept 1994 Middlewich to Rode Heath, 10 Miles, 18 Locks
8.30am start. Not a good start to the day. I drive past a shop. Adjy and Sarah walk back to it and I drive ahead slowly. Stop after a couple of miles when they have not caught up. Sarah does not talk to me for the rest of the day. Stop at Wheelock for water. Me and Anna walk into Sandbach, see the Ancient stones crosses. Do some food shopping, carry it back for over a mile to the canal. Stop at Hassall Green, Anna buys canal maps for her team. Arrive at Rode Heath for 6pm. We all go to the Broughton Arms. Matt has his beer taken off him and vows to seek revenge some day. Have lots of drinks. Adjy walks directly towards the canal and only stops when we shout to him, he insists loudly that he had seen it. Back to the boat for some Southern and some Ouzo from William and Kate.
Friday 2nd Sept 1994 Rhode Heath to Longport, 8 Miles, 12 Locks
Set off at 9am, all the other Black Prince boats have gone. Drive to Church Lawton, stop for water and ice cream. Queue up to go through Harecastle tunnel from 1 till 2 pm. Takes half an hour to get though. We try to grab a stalactite from the roof, it collapses and covers Ste Martin in brown mud. Stop by a nice park, lots of swans, play frisbee. Fish fingers for tea. Go to the Railway Inn, very much a 70's pub.
Saturday 3rd Sept 1994 Longport to Stoke, 2 Miles, 0 Locks
Set off at 7am. Anna leads the cleaning team inside. Nice sunny day. Arrive at about 8am. Anna is worried about the damage to the Formica and other bit and bobs, but they say nothing.
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