Category Archives: Visitor’s Log

Taking A Break From The Rat Race – from Max Jerome

There are many ways that people blow off steam.

I spend the majority of my life behind a desk dealing with dozens of tasks in the course of a given day.

I’ve been working for an internet marketing company in Liverpool for the last 5 years, a role that has grown significantly in the last few years. I began the job in a junior role, each year I’ve found that my responsibilities have grown and although I appreciate the increased workload (and pay packet), I’ve struggled to get out of ‘work-mode’ once I get home. The world of online marketing never sleeps, there are customers and clients to deal with on a daily basis and the emails don’t stop coming in after 5pm. It can be so tempting to take a peek at your emails in the evening, just to get a head start on the next day and before you know it, you’re making a list of things to do and your working day has well and truly begun.

In a bid to decompress from this seemingly endless work grind, I decided to book a long weekend out in the country; I’d leave my phone and my laptop at home, and surrender myself to a few days of blissful isolation with only the sound of running water and the occasional dog bark to keep me company. The first few steps I took out of my front door were the most nerve-wracking, my pocked felt oddly empty without the comfortable weight of my phone sitting in it. An air of panic set in as I turned the ignition in the car and set my navigation to Stoke Bruerne; was I committing some kind of professional suicide by leaving my lines of communications at home?

Over the course of the 2 hour drive I found myself acclimatising to this new existence. My mind wandered to my work life, but with no point of reference for me to focus on I soon felt stupid obsessing over things that I couldn’t change. As I began to close in on my destination I found that my mind had completely cleared of any work-related thoughts. I obediently followed the directions of the navigation system and found myself increasingly soothed by the countryside around me. As I pulled up outside a charming little cottage that would be my home for the weekend, I found that I’d forgotten all about my marketing life, in fact the only thing on my mind was what I would be eating for lunch.

Stoke Bruerne has everything that a couple, family or stressed out digital marketer needs to keep them entertained for a weekend. The Canal Museum is full of interesting diversions that can take a whole afternoon exploring, there are two pubs with a motley crew of locals to meet and a rafter of ales to enjoy, but best of all there’s a pervading sense of peace that you simply can’t find in the city. After a weekend spent reading, walking along the canal and sipping on ales, I felt more refreshed than ever before and ready to tackle the mountain of work waiting for me. 

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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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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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Race Day Wind Down – from Peter Clements

I’ve been into cars for as long as I can remember.

It’s one of those stereotypical things for young boys to be in to I guess.

As a child, all my relatives knew that a little Hot Wheels car would always be the way to my heart. Every time my grand parents would visit, I’d get one of these precious little toys, until I had a huge crate packed full of the things. Of course, most kids grow out of the interests that they are obsessed with at an early age, moving on to more fantastical things such as space travel or dinosaurs.

I did not, though.

My love for cars and all things mechanical only grew over the years that I progressed through school. Everything that I learned in class was seen through the prism of cars and motors. The battles of World War II were played out in my mind to the roar of engines and dashing officers racing across sand dunes in Volkswagen Kubelwagens. Maths problems were solved by replacing oranges and pear with gears and pistons. Geography was less about the countries themselves and more concerned with the various legendary racetracks that wound their way through treacherous mountain passes and vibrant city streets. I was, simply speaking, infatuated with motors.

This kind of fascination is easy enough to appease at an early age, but there are only so many years that one can sate their thirst for cars with tiny 3-inch toys.

By the time I’d reached my teenage years, my idea of a good time had moved away from toys on the carpet and moved on to engines in the garage. I’d spend hours taking apart motors and putting them back together, all the while dreaming of owning my very own dream car: the Porsche 911.

That day came, roughly 30 years down the line. After working my socks off at University and securing a decent job as a Technical Engineer, I was finally able to purchase my 911. Although I’d toyed with the idea of buying an older model, the thought of spending all that extra money on official Porsche 928 parts and restoration made me balk. In the end I ‘settled’ for a brand new 911 R, fresh off the line and extremely expensive.

Living just a few miles away from Silverstone, you’ll often see me taking her out for a spin on the track and putting myself through my paces.

As much as I love opening her up on those long straights, I prefer the simple act of taking her out on to the country roads of England. It was on one of these relaxed country drives that I stumbled across Stoke Bruerne – a village that couldn’t be at more odds with my high performance vehicle.

This is a place that feels like it hasn’t changed for at least two centuries. Driving my sleek sports car into Stoke Bruerne is always a surreal experience. I always make sure to keep my speed down as I enter, so the noise of the engine doesn’t ruin the tranquillity for the other visitors, and then I slowly park behind the pub. Watching the boats drift by, I can truly relax and feel perfectly at peace with the world.

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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