Wednesday, 13 April 2016

Stoke Bruerne

We had not planned to move today, but having finished breakfast at 1045 hrs, the sun was shining and the day was shaping up to be glorious. Initially we would aim for Blisworth but our plans changed. Soon after setting off, the canal wiggled its way back towards the railway line, which then stayed with us until we reached Gayton Junction six miles further on. We needed diesel and a pump out so we turned left at the junction in order to visit Gayton Marina. After settling the bill we took the opportunity to fill the water tank, which in turn gave us time to have lunch.

                                                   Gayton Marina services dock.

We continued along the Northampton Arm of the G.U. until we reached the winding hole at the top of the locks. This flight consists of 17 narrow locks, leading all the way to Northampton town centre some four miles away. At the terminus of the canal, navigation continues on the river Nene, pronounced 'Nen or Neen' depending on where you come from. This river eventually takes you to The Wash and the North Sea.

                         Top of the flight with Northampton retail park in the distance to the left.

We are currently not equipped for rivers, so we winded here, saving this route for another year. It was then back along the arm to Gayton Junction, turning left to continue our journey south.

                                                           Gayton Junction.

                                      Junction Milepost, London only 77 miles away.

After rejoining the G.U. mainline we said goodbye to the railway, and in no time were approaching our intended mooring location of Blisworth. It seemed however that Blisworth, had suffered some recent heavy rain as the towpaths looked like a quagmire. The four legged crew member is not very good at wiping his feet so we decided to press on.

                          Travelling through Blisworth. Former warehouses now luxury flats.

Soon we were entering the 3057 yards Blisworth Tunnel. This tunnel is the third longest navigable tunnel in the country. As we entered the north portal we could see the south portal ahead. This tunnel unlike some we have been through is arrow straight. We could also see that we had no oncoming traffic and so our passage only took approx 30 minutes.

                                        Approaching the northern portal of Blisworth Tunnel.

The tunnel was fairly wet as we passed through especially in the area of the ventilation shafts, and at various point drainage channels were allowing water to pour in through the brickwork. The centre section of the tunnel was the subject of a massive restoration project in the late 70's early 80's and is now lined in concrete. As we exited the southern portal there is a plaque to commemorate its reopening in 1984.


At each end of the tunnel is a hut originally used by the leggers, men who lay on a planks and walked the boats through, whilst the horses used to pull the boats nipped over the top. Thankfully for the crew, 43 horses of diesel power now does the job.
We arrived at the famous canal village of Stoke Bruerne and found a mooring a hundred yards or so from the top lock. We are time restricted here to 48 hours, but will probably move down two locks of the flight tomorrow to the 7 day section. There are several pubs and an Indian restaurant here, all of which I am sure will benefit from our custom over the next few days.

                                              Our mooring at a busy Stoke Bruerne.

Totals 9 Miles 1 Tunnel

Running total 41 Miles 32 Locks 3 Tunnels 


  1. Did you spot the side shaft in the tunnel? Going south, it's about two thirds of the way through, on the left hand side, and appears to have a light at the end -- as it leads to an offset airshaft. It's actually much easier to spot on the way north, although sometimes I still miss it even though I know exactly where it is!

  2. No I did not spot that but will keep a look out on our return. What I did spot though was the waterfall emerging from the roof at one point. Fortunately we were able to steer round it, but if two boats were passing at that point I pity the poor steerer travelling north, they would be drenched.

    1. That'll be the one is always refer to as the 'horse piss' one! After rain it can be more like an elephant.