Category Archives: Plan Your Stay

Surprise Day Trip to Stoke Bruerne – from Barbara Clydesdale

When my husband gets an idea into his head it’s nigh on impossible to get the damn thing out.

Before the kids moved out, his grand schemes were limited somewhat by the financial costs of raising them, but now they’ve gone he’s got free reign to tackle any project that he feels like – hooray!

Thankfully, as Gerald has advanced in years his ideas have grown steadily more conservative – perhaps he’s more conscious of his ever slowing rate of work. The latest project that he decided to take on, namely our ever decaying kitchen, has been gnawing away at him for a few weeks now.

Living out in Northamptonshire, I don’t really mind taking the car out on a Saturday to a hardware shop. It gives Gerald the chance to blow off some steam and waste the valuable time of the unlucky shop assistants who mistake him for a high-value customer; most importantly, it gives me the chance to take the car out for a spin and visit one of the many beautiful villages that our local area has to offer. Last weekend it was Stoke Bruerne, where I had the good fortune to enjoy a whole summer’s day watching the canal boats pop in and out – and Gerald even had the opportunity to talk the ear off a rather unlucky blacksmith!

The official reason for our drive was to find spare cooker hood filters for our Belling oven, a task that was Gerald was a little disappointed to have completed so quickly.

The internet and all it’s conveniences have somewhat scuppered my husband’s usual rhythm of how how he goes about his little tasks. On our way to the shops, he was rather dismayed to find out, using his phone, that not only did the store we were travelling to have none of the particular filters in stock, but that it was in actual fact much easier to simply order the part he wanted online and wait a couple of weeks for it to be delivered.

With our goal completed before we’d even reached our destination, we found ourselves in a rather odd situation: aimlessly driving around the countryside with no real purpose.

I knew that Gerald needed some cheering up, so instead of driving straight home, I pulled off the A5 at Heathencote and took us on a long straight road over to Stoke Bruerne. I’d been told that this little canal village was the perfect place to spend a Sunday afternoon, with a couple of canal-side pubs to choose from, as well as a few other little things to look at. Gerald had clearly drifted off into his own head after the trip to the hardware shop had been cancelled, so it was with a little start that he looked up to find himself in an unfamiliar land, when we parked up in this quaint little village.

As we stepped out in the glorious English countryside, I could tell that I’d made the right decision to come here. The smell of pub grub drifted down the river along with the canal boats and laughs of the patrons. In the distance, the sounds of a metalwork forge could be heard, peaking the interest of my husband and a smattering of colour caught my eye as we walked past a stained glass workshop.

This weekend, we rediscovered the joys of a lazy Sunday and we’ve got Stoke Bruerne to thank for that.

Every now and again we’re lucky enough to have visitors to Stoke Bruerne send us writing about their experiences in the village. These opinions are all original and do not reflect the opinions of those residing in Stoke Bruerne. Should you wish to send us your own piece you can get in touch with us on the ‘Say Hello’ page. 

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Places to Stay near Stoke Bruerne

Stay over night to get the true Stoke Bruerne experience

Unless you’re lucky enough to own your own narrow boat, like our guest writer Jeff, you’ll more than likely be needing a place to stay whilst you visit Stoke Bruerne.

Although the village is a little far from most major chain hotels, there’s a decent selection of accommodation options which should suit most tastes and budgets. Everything from spacious campsites to cosy little B&Bs can be found in the local area – we’ve done the hard work for you and sought out the best value places that will give you a good night’s sleep.

Each of these places are only a short distance from the quaint village of Stoke Bruerne, where you’ll be able to while away many a peaceful Summer’s day – just don’t forget to book well in advance to avoid disappointment!

The Walnut Tree Inn, Blisworth

Recipient of Trip Advisor’s Certificate of Excellence for four years in a row, this super traditional pub, restaurant and inn is a perfect choice for families or older travellers. The rooms are well furnished, the menu on offer has a great selection of pub grub and we’ve heard tell that the locally sourced ales could give our very own Navigation Inn a run for their money!

With room rates starting as low as £65 per night, the prices are very good value – head to their website to get the best deals.

Graham’s B&B, Shutlanger

You may have to pay a pretty price to stay at Graham’s B&B in Shutlanger, just a short walk away from Stoke Bruerne, but every penny will be well spent at this fantastically plush overnight accommodation.

Graham’s prices start from £120 per night, with a choice of four rooms to pick from including a double with an ensuite – you can find him on AirBnb right here.

Colin’s Cottage, Stoke Bruerne

You don’t get much closer to the centre of the action than this. Colin’s Airbnb property is right slap, bang in the middle of Stoke Bruerne, set just back from the edge of the canal. Although it’s all traditional stone wall and slate on the outside, the inside is super modern and ultra stylish.

When you stay within the grounds of the 17th century Dove cottage you’re just a minute’s walk away from the museum, cafe and pubs that make up the heart of Stoke Bruerne.

No. 3 and No. 4 Canalside Cottages, Stoke Bruerne

These two privately owned properties were originally built to house the workers of the local corn mill. After the mill closed down in 1913, they were turned into residential accommodation and so they have remained ever since.

At around £300 to £550 for a week’s worth of accommodation, these 4-bed cottages are great for a comfortable, cosy stay in Stoke Bruerne – plus you’re close enough to the canal to almost touch it.

Waterways Cottage, Stoke Bruerne

Just set back from the canal, the Waterways Cottage offers a variety of studio apartments. Although the experience is closer to that of a B&B rather than a hotel, you’ll find that your stay at Waterways will still feel secluded and calm.

With a place to relax outside, as well as jacuzzis in some rooms, this is a great choice for anyone looking for a romantic break away for the weekend. 

There are plenty of other accommodation options, so make sure you have a good poke around online before you book! 

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Devon to Skipton, via Stoke Bruerne – from Jeff Manners

Living on a canal boat can get lonely at times.

I often get asked by old friends, passers by and occasional drinking companions, why I chose to live by myself.

It’s a good, if personal, question and it’s rather hard to answer simply. After all, living out one’s retirement years on a canal boat is hardly a conventional way to grow old.

As I write this, I’m docked up at Stoke Bruerne: one of the most quaint little canal villages I’ve visited in a long time. My journey started in Devon, months ago now, and has taken me up through the epic Grand Union Canal. Tomorrow morning I will continue North and connect to the Liverpool-Leeds Canal and then it’s on to the Oxford Canal. My final destination, a long way down the line, will be Skipton, where I shall meet my son and his young family for a little holiday over at Bowland Fell Park. This pleasant stop will give me the opportunity to sleep on dry land for a few days before heading back onto the canals once more.

The truth is, there are many advantages to living alone on a canal boat, advantages that, in my opinion far outweigh the negatives on boat life.

For a start, life on a canal boat forces one to live very practically. With limited space for extraneous belongings, your life becomes much simpler. Whereas other men my age might be umming and aahing over buying their first sports car or a new widescreen TV, I have no garage to park a Porsche and my 18-inch flat-screen monitor already dominates my little living area. The same applies to the consumable luxuries that one associates with retirement. I’ve no space for a wine cellar or whiskey collection and I only buy as much food as I can eat in a few days.

With no rent or mortgage to pay on the boat, my overheads are extremely low. I paid off my mortgage on my 3-bed home in Devon some years ago and now rent it out. With my only child, Simon, long gone and raising his own family, I was never going to use all that space. Living on the boat you pay no council tax and, for the most part at least, you can tie up on the side of the canal for absolutely no charge. I live an almost monastic kind of life only really paying for food, fuel and gas.

I understand that for many people this existence might seem like a living hell – but at the age of 63, I really can’t imagine anything better.

From my 60-foot vessel I can observe England from it’s prettiest angles. On the rare occasion that I don’t like the look of a particular village or town, then that’s fine. I just moor up for the night and leave early in the morning, or put on a fresh pot of coffee and while away the evening, drifting on to a more pleasant docking spot.

The down sides of living the canal boat life are very few.

Obviously, if you like your space then it’s probably not the lifestyle for you. The limited space in the typical narrow boat is something that requires a certain level of determination to adapt to. If you’re living by yourself on the boat then you’ll no doubt have more space but, if you’re anything like me, you’re not going to spend much time under deck.

Tonight, for example, I docked up at Stoke Bruerne and ventured out to the Boat Inn where I was met with a warm welcome and a good pint of ale. Over a wonderfully filling meal, I got chatting to the locals at this charming pub and spent the evening discussing the possibility of me writing a piece on what living on a canal boat is really like.

In short, life can get lonely on this boat, but days like these more than make up for those isolated moments.

Every now and again we’re lucky enough to have visitors to Stoke Bruerne send us writing about their experiences in the village. These opinions are all original and do not reflect the opinions of those residing in Stoke Bruerne. Should you wish to send us your own piece you can get in touch with us on the ‘Say Hello’ page. 

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A Trip Back in Time through the Blisworth Tunnel

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!

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Experience Stoke Bruerne – The Traditional Canal Village

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!

Whatever the weather, you can be sure to enjoy yourself here at Stoke Bruerne.

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