Category Archives: Plan Your Stay
More than just your average Northern town – Stoke Bruerne is an historic canal village filled with charming characters, interesting diversions and typical British hospitality.
If you’re passing through by canal boat then you’re going to float right through one of the town’s biggest sights, Blisworth Tunnel.
One of the longest tunnels in Britain, Blisworth Tunnel runs from just outside of Stoke Bruerne and ends at Blisworth, our neighbouring town. Running 3,076 yards, the tunnel is the third-longest of it’s kind in the UK and as such has become something of a local attraction, especially for canal boats. The tunnel attracts thousands of visitors every year, with canal boats crossing each other frequently, the town is kept busy with a constant stream of boats entering and leaving.
The story of Blisworth tunnel is an interesting, if not tragic one. If there’s one thing that should be said about this feat of early 19th Century engineering, it’s that it was by no means easily done. Work on the original tunnel (it was rebuilt in 1984 using modern materials) began in 1793 – but the task would prove to be a mite too challenging for both the designers and the workmen tasked with completing the construction at the same time as the rest of the Grand Junction Canal.
Building anything larger than a garden shed during these technologically simple times was a task almost inevitable invited danger and sometimes death.
In the case of the Blisworth Tunnel, both of these were visited upon the men building the tunnel. With nothing in the way of mechanical aid, the workmen drafted in to build the tunnel were severely unprepared for the daunting task ahead of them. Despite meticulous planning and heavy toil, construction was put to an abrupt halt by an error in calculations that led to the deaths of 14 people.
Three years into construction and already behind schedule, the tunnel had literally veered off course. Unknown to the tunnellers, each day that they dug away, they inched ever closer to a lethal quicksand deposit. Of course, without the help of any kind of scanning technology, these hapless builders kept on digging until the inevitable happened. In 1793, the roof for the tunnel collapsed burying 14 men alive. With this setback, construction was halted and planners had to decide on a new route that would run straighter and not lead to the same loss of life.
The Grand Junction Canal was opened in 1800, but the Blisworth Tunnel wasn’t ready to open alongside it.
In fact, it was one of just two sections of the canal that remained incomplete at this time, despite the tunnel already being under construction for 7 years. For this period of time, the canal continued to operate as usual with the tunnel section being temporarily replaced by a horse-drawn tramway (the first of its kind in the county).
By the time the tunnel was finished in 1805, the overall death toll of workers had risen to over 50. This wasn’t to be the end of the tunnel’s tragic history though, in 1861 an incident involving a canal steamer and a narrow boat led to the deaths of several people – ghost stories and legends have run amok ever since. You won’t have to worry about any of this when you come to visit the Blisworth Tunnel for yourself, though, as the rebuilt tunnel has been reinforced with concrete rings, one of which can be seen near the South end of the tunnel.
Come to Stoke Bruerne for yourself to see this feat of engineering with your own eyes!…
See for yourself what Stoke Bruerne has to offer…
Stoke Bruerne is accessible from two directions by road. Take a left at Rookery Lane off the A508 to get the quickest route to the village.
A longer, but more scenic, drive can be taken by following the northbound A5 and taking a right turn at Heathencote. From there you can drive through the Main Road which will take you through Shutlanger and on to Stoke Bruerne. To experience Stoke Bruerne as it was traditionally visited in times of yore, you will need to hire a canal boat from one of the many companies operating out of the local area.
To fully appreciate the majesty of the canals of England, you should hire out a boat for at least 3 or 4 days. Ideally, you’ll have a week to spare so that you can take your time moving from village to village, mooring when you please, with time for a small break in Stoke Bruerne of course.
It’s worth scheduling a whole day and night in Stoke Bruerne, should you wish to take advantage of all there is to see and do there. No visit to our village would be complete without a visit to one of our traditional pubs which – like the rest of the village – date back over two centuries. Moor your canal boat up next to either one of our fantastic historic pubs to get a glimpse into what life might have been like for folks travelling on the canals in the 19th Century.
The Boat Inn, the oldest of the two public houses, has been established since 1807. Run by the Woodward family, they hold the unofficial record for the longest running family pub with their name having been kept on the license for over 130 years. Like many of the historic pubs in the UK, The Boat Inn has managed to survive this long on the back of fine hospitality skills, well-sourced ales and a loyal group of drinkers from close and far away.
On the opposite side of the river lies The Navigation Inn, built just 15 years later, it’s been providing some healthy competition with the pub on the other side of the water ever since.
Now owned by venerable brewer and publicans, Marston’s, the pub might feel a little modern in comparison to the Boat Inn across the way, but it’s still a great option for anyone looking to have a nice pint and watch the world go by.
Regardless of if you have an interest in Canal Boats or not, there’s something for everyone at the National Waterways Museum, which you can access half of for absolutely nothing.
Their delightful collection brings together canal-boat related items, clothing and tools – making this a truly cultural experience. The canal and the traffic it brought through Stoke Bruerne was crucial to keeping the village’s economy afloat throughout the rise and fall of Britain. The Museum presents a perfect opportunity for visitors to the village to gain an understanding of how our society used to function.
Have you ever wondered what it’s like to be a real life blacksmith or how a horseshoe is made?
Well you can get all of these answers right from the horse’s mouth or, more appropriately, the Blacksmith’s mouth. Bob Nightingale has been operating as a blacksmith out of his own traditional workshop since 1990 and has since become a fixture of the local community. His workshop is open most days and he’s always happy to welcome in curious visitors.
Just a walk outside of the village you’ll find Rookery Open Farm, a peaceful haven of farmyard animals with the added bonus of a purpose built indoor play ground. With a massive variety of animals, from water-fowl to pigmy goats and even alpacas, families can easily spend a good few hours at this traditional countryside tourist attraction. Just remember to bring cash along with you as they don’t accept any form of card!