Sunday 18 September
The people of Stone in Staffordshire should be very proud of their town. Why? For a number of reasons…
Firstly, there’s a real sense of community. Stone is known as a ‘Canal Town’ – I didn’t know this until a few days ago.
There are a number of permanent moorings, where liveaboards go about their daily chores with more smiles and greetings than I remember seeing from ‘house dwellers’.
The old workhouse – located on the canal – has thrown off its old stern and dowdy coat, added some uplifting features, and houses some pretty apartments.
The towpath carries a constant stream of walkers; some with their human-pups; some being dragged along by over-zealous canines.
The people are very friendly – often the case in the north-Midlands and it appears that lots of the locals really are locals – banter and chat and familiarity and dialect are all proof of this. My humans ate at a canal-side pub last night. The food was good so they are going back for Sunday lunch with today’s visitors – bhf’s (besthumanfriends) Di and Bill. The pub, namely the Star, has a pretty garden and has been brimming with customers for the last two days since about eleven in the morning onwards.
The town itself is a delight! The main high street is pedestrian-only with a wonderful range of independent shops and eateries.
As you know (if you have read any of my previous ramblings) Leigh loves, I repeat loves, small independent retailers. She supports them, she enjoys them. I guess I could say she feels like I do when I am in a pet-treat shop.
The thrill of finding something individual, the surprise of coming across something unexpected, adds to the experience. This is enhanced by knowing that you are going to buy from someone to whom itmakesadifference; often leading to excellent personal service – and a chat into the bargain.
Leigh didn’t get time to go into many shops, as we were expecting visitors yesterday afternoon, but here are four independents that she loved.
1. Bap and Oatcake cart – spotted on entering the High Street. Leigh and Tom looked at each other, nodded, then queued up for a bacon, cheese and tomato oatcake. Oatcakes are ‘a thing’ in Stone (probably in Staffordshire). The result was a mouth-watering, flavoursome, mix of softness and heat almost dribbling down their chins, as the melted cheese caused the oatcake to collapse.
2. Home and Colour centre – an Aladdin’s cave, full of everything from frying-pans to furniture. Leigh is sure that the couple working the store are the owners; they were extremely helpful and knowledgeable about their stock. She told the lady that she could while away a day just mooching through the shop. The lady replied, ‘People actually do just that!’ This is the sort of shop Leigh remembers from many years ago; a shop where you could become ‘a local’- dropping in for a chat and a mooch on a mouldy old day. Bliss.
3. Posy – a dream of a shop for anyone looking for a gift or a special treat. Again, Leigh was sure she was being served by the proprietor due to the superservice she enjoyed. Offering to wrap Leigh’s purchases, and explaining that the pretty jewellery was part of a new collection, featuring ‘Autumn’ (little acorns and the like as charms which Leigh wouldn’t have necessarily noticed without her specs) all made the experience extremely enjoyable.
Note: It’s a good job we won’t be here on Monday as Leigh was eyeing-up several potential purchases…
4. R. Mountford Ironmongers – we didn’t actually purchase here, but this is a wonderful, proper, old-fashioned Ironmongers. Leigh delights in shops like this. Nuff said!
5. Stone Boat Building Chandlery – I know this wouldn’t appeal to land-lubbers but…it’s by far the best chandlers we have visited. Recommended by other boaters that we have met over the last few weeks, Stone carries a great range of product and the staff are helpful too. Leigh purchased a life-jacket for me. She didn’t get one for Rosie. Rosie is less adventurous and not likely to jump off the boat when she sees water. I tend to get over-excited around locks, so pose a bigger risk….
I would definitely recommend Stone for a weekend break. On the other side of the canal is a small nature reserve and we have enjoyed a few walks there over the last couple of days, so, lots to do and see in this relatively unknown yet super little town. Look out for farmers markets and other events too if you are planning a visit as, according to a guy who share the table at the Bap and Oatcake Cart, there is always something community-driven happening here. Yelp!
Before I go I must tell you what happened early yesterday evening…after buying the life-jacket Leigh decided to take a stroll with me and Rosie. We all jumped off the boat and off we went. Rosie on-lead, Leigh on the other end of the lead and me off-lead.
Now, remember that scene as the ‘usual order of the day’ is that Rosie and I are both on-lead when we come aboard, or jump off the N.B. which means if I mis-judge, and fall in the canal, Leigh simply hoikes me up by my lead.
Returning from our walk this evening – me off-lead – I mis-judged the distance of the jump. Boosh, splat, wholebodyinthedrattedcanal. Brrrrr. Leigh could not believe her eyes. There I was, a floating mass of fluorescent orange, little legs going tentothedozen. Luckily, my life-jacket has a handle so Leigh simply grabbed it and pulled me out. Just those couple of minutes in the cold canal meant that I wasn’t happy at all. I blame the blinking life-jacket. To add insult to injury Leigh then showered me…and I was only showered last week. I’m bequeathing that jacket to Rosie. Yelp!