14. Oct, 2018

FOOD BEER AND KINGFISHERS

We left Alrewas after a very enjoyable visit to the Arboretum and continued on our way to Stoke-on-Trent, home of the potteries.

Our reason for going to Festival Park in Stoke was to meet up with the Captains daughter Hannah, and little Stanley his latest grandson.

We had to pass through various towns and villages to get there, and of course us being us had to stop off and try the local hostelries.

We stopped off first at Rugeley, which is really handy for shopping as Tesco is right next to the canal, and there is a very nice Wetherspoons called the Plaza, which as the name suggests is an art deco cinema opened in 1934, and the refurbishment has been done to the highest standard, and has kept all the art deco features. The addition of old and new film posters harks back to its past too.

Then on to Stone, a very nice little town with a good selection of shops and pubs. Our favourite pub is the Swan, a proper real ale pub, we also tried the Poste of Stone (a Wetherspoons) which is ok, and the Star which is right on the canal and has a rather interesting history. The pub was fully licensed in 1819, although the building predates the canal by some 200 years. The building has in its time been a butcher’s shop and slaughterhouse. Stabling for boat horses was available up to the 1950s, and the business relied heavily on the canal for trade.

 We moored on the offside right next to a car park, and of course Bubbles had to get off and made himself known to people using it. He strutted his stuff, and bathed in the admiration of his subjects.

Whilst in Stone we heard there was a Food and Drink festival being held the following weekend, so the decision was taken to return and attend.

Then on to Barleston, and a favourite pub of ours The Plume of Feathers, owned by Neil Morrissey of Bob the Builder fame, he saved it from closing, and now it is a popular local serving very good food, if a little on the pricey side. It is said he likes popping in and helping in the kitchen from time to time, but we have never seen him. Oh and they have a good selection of real ales on which are very well kept.

We met Hannah at Festival Park and had a great afternoon catching up, and I got to meet Stanley for the first time, he is lovely.

Then we retraced our steps and got back to Stone on Thursday, already for going to the food festival on the Friday.

The festival was great, with a wonderful selection of artisan foods and drinks. I didn’t mention before, but the reason the Captain really wanted to go was because Titanic brewery had a bar there, along with a few other local breweries. But first we had to sample the food and oh boy what a choice, all sorts of cheeses of course, chutneys, jams, and all manner of chilli sauces and flavoured oils. I was in heaven. Chocolates, cakes, breads, wine, gins, the list is never ending. One stall which I must give special mention to sold Thai curry pastes, and had warm pots of each so you could try them. I bought a Chiangmai one, it has a slightly aniseed flavour and is quite hot and spicy (a bit like me).

We also picked up 5 different cheeses for Christmas (if they last that long) a limoncello flavoured one and another is horseradish.

We didn’t try any of the fast food stalls, but again there was a great selection.

So on to the beer, first Joules brewery and Slumbering Monk. Then on to Titanic and the Captain was in 7th heaven, he had eventually tracked down the Plum Porter Reserve (6.5%), and it was beautiful, with a deep plum flavour and very rich. They also had on Cherry Dark, Cappuccino stout and Chocolate and Vanilla stout. He was spoiled for choice, and to top it all he found out that the Royal Exchange in Stone is one of their pubs. After trying a couple he moved on to Weals Ales Brewery and Centwealial, a very nice milk stout.

On the Saturday there was a farmers market, but the weather wasn’t looking great so we stayed put until late afternoon, before venturing out to try the Royal Exchange, again we weren’t disappointed at all. We finished off a very enjoyable weekend in the Poste of Stone, were I got to indulge in my recently discovered enjoyment of flavoured gin.

After such a busy (or should that be boozy) couple of days we decided to moor in the middle of nowhere the next night, and this is where we had a visit from a cheeky little kingfisher, who decided our front ropes was the best place to eat his tea. We always love seeing these beautiful and extremely colourful birds. However even though they are bright neon blue and orange they are very difficult to spot. They dive from branch to branch at such a speed that all you catch is a fleeting view. We have seen a few on our travels, and the Captain has managed one clear picture in that time and, that’s all.

He didn’t get a picture on this occasion, we were sat with the front doors open watching the sun slowly setting when he spotted a bird flitting about the front of the boat, eventually it landed on the t-stud and he could see it was a kingfisher, me, I was engrossed in candy crush so missed its first appearance. He went to the back of the boat in time to see it sitting on the roof before it was gone again. Then he made his mistake and decided to nip to the loo on his way back. I was looking out of the front thinking our little cheeky friend had gone, when something dived across the front of the boat and then reappeared on the front ropes. The kingfisher was back, this time with a silver fish wriggling in its beak. It tossed the fish in its beak until it was in the right place to be swallowed whole and then it was gone, the fish and the bird. And this time it didn’t return. What an amazing sight.

We are now on our way back to Coventry for the winter. We stopped off at Rugeley again but only for shopping this time. Before setting off next day Bubbles ended up on the roof and was mistaken for a missing cat from the area, luckily the Captain saw the notice on facebook and was able to put them right, I hope they find their cat, Angel (a long haired ginger and white cat) soon.

Then on to Fradley junction were we turn on to the Coventry canal for the final part of our journey. We moored up just through the swing bridge and were soon joined by a couple of other boats. One a hire boat from Anglo Welsh, with 3 dogs on it which they let run free whilst mooring up. The reason I mention this, is that Bubbles when we stop, likes to have a quick look round his new domain but his exploration was cut short as one of the dogs spotted him and came to say hello, (being a bit polite here) I was concerned as the dog seemed very interested in something in the water between the boat and the bank,  I got off and shooed the dog away, and checked to make sure it wasn’t Bubbles, but of course he is more sure footed than that, and was sat in the cratch well out of the way of the dog.

We went off and tried the Swan, we had been very impressed last year and had had a very good meal there, but it didn’t have the same welcoming vibes as last year which was  shame, so after a couple of pints we headed back to the boat.

That’s all folks for now.