Saturday, 14 December 2013

Right place, right time, right equipment

It happens sometimes that everything comes together as it did this morning when I went out in search of a photo to help support the work that Bob The Blacksmith undertakes at the southern portal of Blisworth Tunnel. There's a bit more to that story here. As I walked up to the tunnel I turned and saw a most beautiful scene which I managed to take a photograph of.  I don't think it does what I saw justice but near enough.

Friday, 13 December 2013

Shell advertising using Stoke Bruerne

During the 1960s the oil company Shell undertook an advertising campaign using various locations as their theme using the byline 'Off the beaten track'.  One of them was Stoke Bruerne.  I was having a look on EBay recently and saw the Stoke Bruerne advertisement (Illustrated London News 1968) was available to purchase but it was in Whitewater, Wisconsin.  I took the risk and bought it (£7:90 at the current exchange rate with about the same for postage).  It arrived yesterday.  I was expecting an A4 version but it seems to be much closer to A3.  It is quite delightful and 'of its period'.  Louise in the museum tells me that the sign illustrated on the building is currently stored in the museum.

The wording on the advertisement is as follows:

Take the A508 from Northampton, and after a few minutes' drive you'll see a signpost to Stoke Bruerne, home of the Waterways Museum.  In its placid Canalside setting, opposite a picturesque Inn much favoured by narrow boat people in the early nineteenth century,  you can reminisce over colourful souvenirs from long-ago days when the canals enjoyed unrivalled supremacy over any other industrial transport.

This is canal country.  The Gand Union Canal (pictured above), joins up with the Oxford Canal some fifteen miles west of Northampton; near here you can seek out the 'Napton Flight', an intriguing flight of locks running through delightful countryside.

And while you're in the area, there are other features worth exploring. Wellingborough's Church of St. Mary, a modern masterpiece of ecclesiastical architecture by Sir Ninian Compur, is only 15 miles from Stoke Bruerne.

If you enjoy discovering new places by car, Shell is all ready to help you. Most Shell stations can provide you with local maps; and there are many Shell books available to help you find out-of-the-way spots all over the country.  And Shell even arrange 25% discount holiday insurance to cover you against accidents, illness, theft, and breakdowns. For more details of maps of Western Europe, books or insurance, please write to Shell Touring, 11 Dingwall Avenue, Croydon, CR9 2UN.

And when you are exploring, please remember to leave the countryside as beautiful as you found it.

Bernard Carter, London-born, studied at the Goldsmith's College of Art, and now teaching.  Has exhibited with the London Group, the Royal Academy RBA and has three one-man shows at the Portrait Gallery.  Features in a Los Angeles Exhibition this year.

Wednesday, 11 December 2013

A cold and foggy day

After the brightness of the Illuminated boats event on Saturday evening today has been one shrouded in mist and fog but still very beautiful  The sun did make an appearance at lunchtime but, seemingly embarrassed by its performance this morning, went off and hid this afternoon.

Sunday, 8 December 2013

Illuminated Boats - Stoke Bruerne

Stoke Bruerne at night
(Copy write James Rudd
Towcester News)
I became introduced to the Illuminated Boats 'scene' by Byfleet Boat Club where things were very competitive.  Having moved to Stoke Bruerne I became involved with the Illuminated Boats evening but was initially disappointed by the number of boats taking part - soon dispelled when we all had to manoeuvre outside the Boat Inn in the darkness!  We had four boats, the Friends of the Canal Museum boat Sculptor, Hoperidge, Inchy and Leo No2.  There was a Christmas market at the Navigation Inn.

What a lovely evening it was.  The boats foregathered at the southern portal of Blisworth tunnel - a very dark and quiet place - and titivated their Christmas lights to the sound of Guildford Cathedral choir singing traditional carols.  We were awaiting the Stoke Bruerne trip boat Charlie to make a trip to the tunnel and then lead us back into the village - it was very dark!  The children from Stoke Bruerne primary school sang (and marched) beautifully and we had a most enjoyable evening brought to everyone by the Friends of the Canal Museum.

Wednesday, 4 December 2013

Stoke Bruerne as was

I came across this postcard on EBay; I bought it and have scanned it in.  It shows Stoke Bruerne as it was - I understand the chimney was demolished in the early 1960s. The bridge on the towpath led to a dock on the land that is now the Museum Green.  You can see the lines of each side of the dock on the Green. The remains of the chimney now fill the old dock.

Sunday, 1 December 2013

A lovely golden sunrise heralds the start of December

I popped my head out of the front door this morning to be stunned by the colour of the trees on Blisworth hill - it reminds me of the song A Perfect Day.

It's also a good opportunity to remind everyone that Saturday 7-December is Illuminated Boats Day in Stoke Bruerne together with Carols on the Cut and a Christmas Market at the Navigation Inn.

Thursday, 28 November 2013

Getting a little Christmasy

It is not a time of year I particularly like but as my house is in the centre of the village I have decided to start to add a little brightness to the towpath.

Wednesday, 27 November 2013

Towel Rail

I have finally found a towel rail that I think will do the job.  I found lots of lovely ones but most of them would have needed to go in front of the window and I didn't want that.  I eventually found something in Glasgow on the Internet which seems to work and will hold enough towels for me and any visitor I may have.

Wednesday, 13 November 2013

Lovely autumnal sunshine

There's been some lovely autumnal sunshine this year.  This afternoon I managed to get a picture of the poplar trees in Stoke Bruerne reflecting their autumn glory (although I think they may be a bit late in turning this year) with the museum, the four cottages and Sister Mary Ward's old house (now the Spice of Bruerne) reflecting the seeming warmth of a cold autumnal afternoon.

Sunday, 3 November 2013

An update as most stuff is now completed

I have now arrived at the stage where I think most of the important work has now been completed on the house.  The original sales brochure is here.

This is the outside of the house taken from outside the Boat Inn - mine is the one with the bright red hanging baskets by the front door.

The kitchen - the kitchen is below the level of the towpath so although you see three floors there are in fact three floors and a basement.  There is a back door to the house in the kitchen.

The Sitting Room - the sitting room is at towpath level and has a front door leading out onto the towpath

The spare bedroom


The Bathroom

The top Bedroom


Saturday, 2 November 2013

Wardrobes finally done

The fitter from Ikea came today to assemble and fit the new wardrobes.  I think they look good but did have a bit of an anxious time before the mirrored doors were fitted - that then brightened everything up.

Sadly one of the mirrored doors arrived broken (well broken when we opened the packaging) but as luck would have it the one spare bit I retained from an Ikea wardrobe from 10 years ago was a mirrored door - it is not exactly the same but it fits very well and will be fine until such time as Ikea can deliver a suitable replacement.

Wednesday, 30 October 2013

I am almost there with all the work

The new cupboards are on the left of the bed
I bought some doors for the Ikea bookcase which was a close (ish) match for the cupboards on the other side of the bed bearing in mind the costs!

I have ordered the wardrobes - I decided on standalone rather than built in as I think that is more in keeping with the age and style of the house.  Ikea also offer an assembly process so I have opted for that.

The wardrobes come tomorrow (Thursday) and the assembly man comes on Saturday so everything should be finished this weekend - that's something else off my mind!

Thursday, 24 October 2013

More on curtains and a visit to the Parish Council

I now have curtains up in the sitting room which has made it so cosy in the evenings. Almost like home!  

I attended the Stoke Bruerne Parish Council meeting on Tuesday evening.  I found it very surprising and came away with a feeling that I could join the group and help.  I am lucky in that BA trained me (relentlessly) how  deal with meetings and the different personalities, and I must say that the one I attended on Tuesday evening just made me realise how lucky I have been in life.  A lot of meetings I have attended recently (even just 1:1 meetings with my bank) have left me feeling there was room for improvement perhaps.  Put your money where your mouth is I hear you say - I can't at the moment because I have to have lived in the village for 12 months before I can take part - I may well put myself forward but not until I understand Stoke Bruerne more intimately!

A season of mists and mellow fruitfulness - a picture taken from my doorstep this morning is below.

Tuesday, 15 October 2013


I have finally got around to putting up some curtain rails, made for me by Bob the Blacksmith, in Stoke Bruerne.

They are just right for the house but I have shied away from trying to put them up as I am never sure if the wall I am drilling in to is hard or soft!  Anyway the two bedrooms are done now and I like to the look of the curtain rails and it makes such a difference having curtains up.

Sunday, 6 October 2013

Moving Leo No2 back to Stoke Bruerne (Day 8 - Final Day)

Braunston and the promise of
a lovely day
Quite a cold night in Braunston but made up for by a beautiful morning and day.  My friend Bob arrived promptly at 08:00 so we had time for a tea and then off.  There were quite a number of boats heading up to the tunnel.

We had some trouble with Lock 4 with the off-side lower gate blowing badly but we made it in the end.  Bob left me at the top whilst he moved his car from Braunston to Whilton.

The weather was quite glorious and we had an enjoyable trip down Buckby in the company of a hire boat and crew made all the better by a 'breakfast' baguette at Buckby bottom lock - bacon, eggs, sausage and mushroom - so naughty but very enjoyable.

Leo No2 is now moored safely on the Stone Wharf in Stoke Bruerne and I am at home without the car!

I am really quite proud of the achievement of moving the boat virtually single handed all the way from Addlestone.

Next week Leo No2 goes in to have her bottom blacked.

Miles: 20 (144)
Locks: 13 (84)
Tunnels: 2 (2)

Saturday, 5 October 2013

Moving Leo No2 back to Stoke Bruerne (Day 7)

The final destination for tomorrow
Stoke Bruerne

A fairly easy day today.  I set off from Marston Doles top lock at about 07:30 and was grateful for the help given by the crew of Zulu who followed me down.  Once I had done three locks the boats coming up made it far easier by leaving the upper gates open.  I was down by 09:10 which is exactly six days since leaving Weybridge.  The trip across from Napton to Braunston was easy and uneventful save for the last mile or so when the boat in front refused to let me past but insisted on travelling at tickover - fine when we were going past moored boats but the whole distance - no not on.  Thankfully, at the junction, they turned north and me south.

Braunston is very busy and I only just managed to find a mooring - about 100 yards short of the first of the Braunston flight of locks.

Tomorrow Bob is joining me and we should make Stoke Bruerne without too much problem despite the Buckby flight of locks and the two tunnels - and yes I have checked the tunnel light!

Miles: 10 (124)
Locks: 9 (71)

Friday, 4 October 2013

Moving Leo No 2 back to Stoke Bruerne (Day 6)

Still not much colour around
but this one stood out - it was at
Fenny Compton
A nice comment on my blog today from James and Doug on Chance who I am going to miss on their 2nd trip through Stoke Bruerne since I moved there.  Thank you for the comments James and Doug.  I will be there next time.

Another early start today (07:00) mainly because the mooring I was on in Banbury last night was required for the Banbury Canal Day this weekend.

I had most of the locks in my favour on the way up to the summit pound.  It was a fairly uneventful day apart from the boring summit pound until I met Nuneaton and Brighton of the Narrowboat Trust.  I knew to expect them but I was surprised how much water they took from me - I reckon I heeled over to about 30 degrees but I just kept going forward and just slid off the side when they had gone.  They were fully loaded so must have had about 20 tones of coal each.  I imagine they are moored outside a pub by now!

I was going to go down Napton to the Folly but when I saw three hire boats at the top lock in front of me I decided to call it a day and enjoy a leisurely late afternoon in the sun at Marston Doles top lock - I'll tackle Napton tomorrow morning and then it is just a short hop to Braunston.

Miles: 18 (114)
Locks: 13 (62)

Moving Leo No2 back to Stoke Bruerne (Day 5)

Industrial lock waiting areas
Off early (07:00) again today with the aim of getting to Banbury for a food shop and to moor early on the moorings above the lock.

It was with some trepidation that I approached Somerton Deep lock - it has a fearsome reputation for the lower gate being difficult to close.  I had all sorts of ideas as to how to close the gate but in reality I just leant on the gate and it closed.  Got to be lucky sometimes.  I found Anyho Weir lock more challenging as it is an odd shape (to give volume from the river Cherwell to the canal).  No problem in the end and I arrived at Bridge 168 (Morrisons) at 11:15 and on to the first mooring above Banbury Town lock just as the rain came - lucky again - I expect I shall get wet tomorrow!

I think some of the lock waiting areas are just a little industrial for a narrowboat - this one the last swing bring on the Wolvercoate section at Dukes Cut.

Miles: 9 (96)
Locks: 6 (49)

Moving Leo No2 back to Stoke Bruerne (Day 4)

The 7 day moorings in Oxford at 07:15
Unable to post last night due to a 2G signal just below Sommerton Deep Lock.

A long day again today.  I spent last night on Christchurch Meadows just downstream of Osney Lock.  Off at about 07:00 this morning as I was awoken by the rowing crews training in the dark with very bright lights on their skiffs.

The first decision was to use the Sheepwash Cut, which was very last minute - I almost went up to Dukes Cut.  I was surprised how empty Oxford was - one of the 24 hour moorings was completely empty - I wonder if that is because of enforcement, or just, maybe, a sign of the times.

The Agenda 21 moorings looked much tidier than I remember them but I suppose we all acquire huge amounts of ‘stuff’ – I know it applies to me as I have just moved and became good friends with the man at the dump!

I also noticed that CRT has been addressing the issues with overgrowth on the Oxford and cutting some really nice boat sized mooring slots. There area some areas though that need addressing before the spring nesting season as the overgrowth makes the channel quite narrow.

I had trouble with Mill Lift Bridge as the mooring is on the left hand side of the canal, the hinge for the bridge on the right and there is nothing to hold the bridge in the open position.  I fiddled it in the end but it really wasn’t easy single-handed.  I understand the best way is to use a Banbury Stick.

The plan for tomorrow is to move on to Banbury (and have a break) and post this as I have a shocking connection at Somerton this evening.  No TV and almost no connection – I’ll dig put my DVDs!

Miles: 18 (87)
Locks: 12 (43)

Tuesday, 1 October 2013

Moving Leo No2 back to Stoke Bruerne (Day 3)

Painted Lady - see information
at end of this blog
Well quite a lot happened today. I set off at 06:45 just as the moon was setting in the West and the sun showing behind the clouds in the East.  The first three locks (Whitchurch, Goring and Cleeve were all on 'Self Service') and then there was the long haul to Benson.  On that reach I saw a number of skeins of Canada Geese setting off for their days food gathering and a ballet of swans (yes that is one of the many collective nouns for swans and one I quite like) heading down river.  At Gatehampton railway bridge there were three EA mud barges but two had been loosed off on their front ends and took up at least half the waterway and put a huge strain, I would think, on the rear ropes.  I rang the EA and they were seemingly unaware of the issue.  Goodness only knows what would have happened if there had been any sort of stream running.

I bought some local honey at Benson, and made my way towards Clifton but at the same time my friend Steve (who looks after my car) rang about an alternator issue I have and I missed the turning into the lock cut but luckily managed to easily find a winding place and was back on track quickly despite my red face!

On to Abingdon for some diesel (it's a tad expensive there) and then on to just below Osney ready to either have a day off tomorrow if the promised rains come or start to tackle the southern Oxford.

I am surprised how little water there is in the river and how very few boats are enjoying what, has been so far, a lovely autumn.

I am quite pleased with having made Oxford in three days from Weybridge.

The photo shows a narrowboat called Painted Lady - many years ago Painted Lady was moored on the Woking pound of the Basingstoke Canal, ran public trips and was beautifully looked after.  She seems to have sunk recently but is such a sad sight.

Miles: 32 (69)
Locks: 10 (31)

Monday, 30 September 2013

Moving Leo No2 back to Stoke Bruerne (Day 2)

Autumn is coming
I was up early and off by 07:35 knowing I would have to work Cookham lock myself but what I didn't bargain on was that the last boat through had left the upper gates open, the sluices up and of course the lock full.  Never mind I had a volunteer operate Sonning for me during his lunch hour so what you gain on the swings you loose on the roundabouts!

I was a funny day weather wise.  Jacket on, then off, then on, then off and I eventually lost count of the number of times I put it on and took it off.  It was a lovely still day but I find myself quite tired so called it a day at about 17:00 at Pangbourne.  I still feel as if I am way ahead of my orginal planned (GU) schedule.

Miles 15: (37)
Locks: 12 (21)

Moving Leo No2 back to Stoke Bruerne (Day 1)

The Autumn colours are coming but
they will be better in a week or so
For all of its life so far, in my ownership and Mick's and Suzanne's Leo No2 has been resident on the Wey, then the Basingstoke and then the Wey again. With my move to Stoke Bruerne the time has come to move Leo No2 to close to my new home and to that end will end up in Blisworth Marina.

I was hopeful that friends may be able to help crew with me up the GU to Yardley Gobion where Leo No2 has her periodic appointment with the 'bottom blacker' but it wasn't possible to fit things in with moving off the Wey at the end of September and the appointment in Yardley Gobion so I changed my mind after consultations with friends and am taking the more circuitous route up the Thames and the Oxford and 'over the top' through Wigram's Turn, Braunston, Blisworth and Stoke Bruerne.  The narrow locks of the Oxford and the 'operated for you' locks on the Thames are very appealing so it was that this morning I set sail from Weybridge, having spent the night on the wall and find myself tonight in Cliveden Deeps just down stream of Cookham Lock.  I don't think that's too bad for one day single-handed.

I was surprised how quiet the Thames is both in terms of flow of water and number of boats - it is almost as easy going upstream and it is down!

Miles: 22 (22)
Locks: 9 (9)

Wednesday, 25 September 2013

Lovely video of our Waterway Heritage

Not much more to say really but enjoy.  It is on YouTube and it is here.

Thursday, 19 September 2013

Village at War Weekend

Marching past my house to the
Drum Head Service in the Church of
St Mary the Virgin in Stoke Bruerne
I really didn't know what to expect from Village at War weekend apart from the amazing enthusiasm of the volunteers from the Friends of the Canal Museum and the CRT staff in the museum (nothing was too much trouble for them) and the point that amongst the facts and figures floating around was one that mentioned 12,000 visitors last year.

We've had a wonderful summer, weather wise, this year but I anxiously watched the weather forecast in the week running up to the weekend.  It didn't look good but how often are weather forecaster not quite right?

My best friend Sue came from Tenby for the weekend and friends Rodney and Valerie came from Byfleet on the Sunday.

There were lovely old boats everywhere and huge numbers of people in all forms of 1940s attire.  I think the only word to describe it is that it was elegant.  Where have all the elegant clothes gone, not just for women but also for men?  The boats didn't dominate the weekend but were a lovely addition to the weekend as the vast majority of them were of the right vintage to fit in seamlessly with the weekend.

We had a wonderful weekend despite the rain that came on Sunday - it was not as bad as predicted.  Numbers, I am told, were down on previous years mainly due to previous years having enjoyed very good weather.

A lovely weekend all round; I am so much looking forward to 2014 which will be over the weekend of 13/14-September.

There are lots of pictures at these addresses.

  • Mine are here.
  • Friends of the Canal Museum are here (Saturday) and here (Sunday).
  • Towcester News photos are here (Sunday).

Thursday, 12 September 2013

Village at War weekend

Whitby (L) and Darley making a
breasted up approach under
the Stoke Bruerne bridge
In the Stoke Bruerne top lock

It's only just starting but the boats are turning up thick and fast.  Whitby and Darley came down, winded, and then back up again as the mooring line between the Museum and the southern portal of the tunnel starts to fill.  No wonder I have no time to do any housework!

Tuesday, 10 September 2013

Preparing for Village at War

A day spent preparing for 'Village at War' weekend.  We trimmed the hedge outside the Indian Restaurant the Spice of Bruerne and then spent most of the rest of the time at Lock 15 unearthing the old Ash Box - see below - and tidying up the rampant ivy alongside the side ponds at Lock 15.

The Ash Box.  According to my local contact they were quite numerous many years ago and were there to allow the steamers to empty their ash from their boiler fires.  The ash was then used, in the main, to 'ash up' the gates - to stop them leaking.  As steam gave way to  to diesel power ash from the solid fuel fires was placed in the ash boxes.  I am not sure how may are now left but one thing is for sure, the one at Lock 15 on the Stoke Bruerne flight can easily be seen now.
A Robin was very quick to take
advantage of the fresh soil

Thursday, 5 September 2013

A season of mists and mellow fruitfulness

With apologies to John Keats.  However it did look particularly beautiful from my bedroom window this morning so I hurried downstairs and took a couple of photos to record a rather pleasant scene.

Wednesday, 28 August 2013

Getting ready for Village at War weekend

The cleaned up lock
Well two things happened yesterday.  I spent the morning in the company of some local people, including Dave Blagrove (Chairman of the friends of the Canal Museum), to clear out the summer weeds from the disused top lock (and the inevitable mess from the removal of the boat weighing machine). It does look so much better now - one of those quick jobs that has a huge effect.

The bucket in place
it will be locked!
Also my WWII fire bucket (won on EBay) arrived so that's ready to sit outside my front door over the Village at War weekend.

Saturday, 17 August 2013

Stoke Bruerne at War

The weekend of 14/15-September is Stoke Bruerne at War weekend.  It looks like it will be a fun weekend but perhaps quite crowded.  I am certainly going to get involved - I have a sign which says 'Air Raid Shelter, max 150 persons' and I have won a red fire bucket on E-Bay.  Those two items along with putting masking tape on my windows should ensure an authentic look.

Thursday, 8 August 2013

Stoke Bruerne Visitor Moorings

Just received this from CRT - some fairly major changes to visitor mooring in Stoke Bruerne and surrounding areas which everyone needs to be aware of I think.

Map is here
Ts and Cs are here

Wednesday, 7 August 2013

Settling in well

One of the views from my front door

I feel very settled in Stoke Bruerne now.  The number of people who have stopped and introduced themselves is almost countless - almost certainly as a result of the 'introduction' I put in the local GRASS newsletter.  I walked past the Boat Inn on Monday and was 'accosted' by one of the joint owners (Nick) and had a lovely chat with him - always good to know the publican!

I went out to look at my garden (all 4 sq metres of it) last night and ended up sitting on the lockside having a drink with a couple (Kath and Trevor) who own a B&B in the village.

The house is starting to feel like home now. I still need to get to grips with wardrobes - very difficult with the very narrow winding stairs, and sort some bookcases - Valerie and Suzanne (boating friends) suggested some shelves under the windows which would work very well.  I want to rework the front garden and turn it into a patio with glass over the opening down to one of the kitchen windows.  The advice I have received from more than one person is to go slowly as it does front the canal and Canal and River Trust property.  I will start with asking the Stoke Bruerne Parish Council for their views and go from there.

The bed never went up the stairs - despite many attempts so is now waiting for Age Concern to collect it (nobody wanted it for some reason).

Was it the right move for me - absolutely.

Thursday, 1 August 2013

The final bill

Today I have received the final bill from the builder - very close the original estimate and much as I expected.  I have to say that I have been delighted to work with the company (DJ Hutchings) especially as I am single, female and was doing it from a distance.  They have been honest and straight with me, have been clear with what they can and can't do and the reasons why they can't do some things (for example the vaulted client in the top bedroom that I would have ideally liked).

I now have a house that I am proud of and I hope the builders and tradesmen are equally as proud.

By Way of Introduction

There's a lovely local newsletter which covers the Stoke Bruerne and the villages around here.  I thought that as the 'new' house was in the middle of Stoke Bruerne that I should perhaps introduce myself to the people of Stoke Bruerne so I have had something published in the August edition which is here.

Friday, 26 July 2013

A new lamp

Whilst I was at the IWA Festival at Watford I came across some rather nice replica (but quite old) brass lamps at only £15 each.  I thought one of them would look good in the towpath level window of my house.

It's not an easy thing to take a photo of but hopefully the one to the left shows that the lamp does look in keeping with the house.

I think it may look better in the winter with the curtains drawn.

Thursday, 25 July 2013

Sitting Room sorted

I think I have finally got the sitting room sorted to my satisfaction. I moved the bed that won't go up to the second floor this morning (into the kitchen - via the outside of the house) and adjusted the 'French' doors - they caught the tiles when they opened but the internet had information on how to adjust them.

The picture on the wall is an enlargement of a picture taken by the Ministry of Information of my Aunt (Daphne March - later Daphne St Joseph) stowing the cabin strings on her working boat Heather Bell at Tipton in the West Midlands on 28-April-1941 for an article in 'Illustrated' magazine to show the effort the women were putting into the war.

I am so pleased to have got one room to my satisfaction - seems the easy way to do it (for the benefit of my friend Rodney) is to make trips to the dump!