I managed to get Meg out for a walk in a dry spell first thing, and of course it stopped soon after we moored for the day. Typically…
Damp and gloomy as we head towards Blisworth village and tunnel.
Blisworth Tunnel Boats and Blisworth Mill
The mill was built for grinding corn in 1869, and has gone through several incarnations since. It was used by the canal company for storage at one time, and latterly as a spice factory. It’s now, of course, apartments.
Around the corner to the tunnel
At least that’s one boat we won’t meet! Now, will the tunnel light be bright enough? If not I‘m in for another stressful trip!
Coming towards us is one of the four boats we had to negotiate, but with decent illumination they were no problem.
A CRT work boat was one of those we passed.
We were lucky in that three of the four were met were in the repaired, wider section near the middle of the tunnel. It’s not wider at the water level, but the arch is broader, avoiding damage to handrails.
Out into daylight…
…followed by No Problem
Not only is Blisworth the longest tunnel on the Grand Union Canal (and the third longest on the network), it’s also the wettest! By a considerable margin… Water falls from the airshafts and gushes from the walls, but if you’re lucky you can steer around the worst bits.
It caused William Jessop, the canal engineer, a lot of problems too. Knowing that it was going to be a major undertaking, work began as soon as the canal was authorised, in 1793. Surveying errors led to the bore having to bend and sandstone beds led to a collapse taking the lives of 14 men. Despite having been under construction for seven long years it was abandoned in favour of a new bore, surveyed by Robert Whitworth and John Rennie.
This new tunnel finally opened in 1805, completing the route from Brentford to Braunston. While it was under construction a horse tramway carried goods over Blisworth Hill. Made redundant by the tunnel opening the rails were lifted and used to connect the canal to Northampton, until the finishing of the Rothersthorpe Flight.
Only a short distance from the southern portal the Stoke Bruerne Locks drop the canal 56 feet through seven chambers over about ¾ of a mile.
Stoke Bruerne Top Lock
Stoke Bruerne is a popular stop. It’s always been a major canal centre, and now the old mill houses a museum and café. Two pubs on opposite sides of the navigation vie for custom.
With railway competition becoming more intense, the canal company decided to duplicate the locks in the busy stretches in an effort to carry more trade. But it was a forlorn hope and the paired chambers were only in use for 15 years, until 1850. Most have been filled in, but alongside the top lock is a chamber used for gauging new boats.
This is in fact the original lock, the one in use now is the later addition.
Down Stoke Bruerne Locks
We met a few boats coming up, but the weather must have put a lot of folk off cruising today.
Meg and Penny do a “Pushmi-Pullyu ” impression…
Out of the bottom lock
With the weather showing no signs of improvement we decided to shelve the original plan of aiming to moor near Thrupp Wharf, instead calling it a day between bridges 57 and 58.
The village of Grafton Regis sits on a hill overlooking the canal. In the Domesday Book it was listed as Grastone. The manor house here was once owned by the Woodville family, and it was Elizabeth Woodville that Edward IV married here in 1464.
Their grandson, Henry VIII, acquired the property and spent a lot of his summers here. It was Henry who added the Regis suffix to the name…
The Church of St Mary the Virgin at Grafton Regis
Someone’s having a bad
Our first goslings, across the canal from us
Locks 7, miles 5½