Greetings Fellow Adventurers!
Last week my nautically-mad daughter did her GCSE work experience at the Canal Museum in Stoke Bruerne, Northamptonshire.
Needing no excuse for a trip out and a walk, on Friday evening we set off in the Ratmobile pick her up after work, with the intention of taking advantage of the stunning weather and stretching our legs. We decided to take a stroll around the canal, with the likelihood stopping off for a glass of wine to look forward to afterwards.
The museum, opened in 1963 in a restored corn mill at the centre of the village, is right next to the ‘Grand Union Canal’ and not far from the Blisworth tunnel. It is owned by the ‘Canal and Rivers Trust’ and is one of the country’s oldest dedicated canal museums.
Although I’ve not been inside it for a number of years, it’s a small but entertaining museum that tells the stories of the canals, it’s people and the crafts and industries that surrounded it. It has an excellent little café and shop, and also has its own boat, ‘Charlie’, that regularly takes people on a trip along the canal to the mouth of the tunnel and back.
Having prized our daughter away, we walked along the canal in the direction of the tunnel, passing all of the wonderfully coloured boats and grabbing a quick ice cream from a pub/coffee/café boat we passed. Before long we turned off the towpath and walked up into some woods overlooking the water that led us right up and over the tunnel before eventually bringing us back out by its mouth.
The nearly three-mile-long tunnel was opened in 1805 and restored in the 1980’s after it had become unusable. There’s a large section of the circular tube that was used to rebuild it displayed outside, which is interesting to see – the rebuilding work having been used to test materials for the construction of the Channel Tunnel.
As we sat on the wall by the entrance, listening to a boat deep from within, we waved to a bunch of boy scouts in a tour boat as they disappeared inside, whilst the boat that was making all the noise appeared from the gloom. Neither of the intrepid crews, I hasten to add, had to foot their boats through the tunnel like the boatmen of old – these diesel engines have made them all soft!
Leaving the tunnel, we walked back down the towpath, back past the museum, through the village and past its busy pubs and café’s towards a flight of locks.
The flight consists of seven locks, and it’s always a nice to watch the boats passing through them, their crews getting plenty of exercise as they work their way through all those gates. Sensibly, by the time we got there, most of them had moored up for the night and cracked open a few bottles of something alcoholic – no doubt having a well-earned rest.
Halfway down the towpath we were cornered by a large family of Mute Swans – demanding Digestive biscuits!
Once we reached the A508 that passes over the canal, it was time to turn back. Alli and Maddie heroically crossed via a lock gate, whilst Nathan and I walked over the road bridge. We then headed back along the towpath to the village, skillfully avoiding the fisherman and the drunken sailors, until we reached a rather splendid pub called the ‘Boat Inn, where we, in good Templeton tradition, enjoyed a large glass or two of something cold.
What a really pleasant way to spend a Friday evening!
Farewell my friends!