We made an early start this morning and were up the 7 Stoke Bruerne locks by 8.45am and ready to enter the tunnel.
Blisworth Tunnel is 3,076 yards (2,813m) long and is the third-longest navigable canal tunnel on the UK canal network after Standedge Tunnel and Dudley Tunnel (and the ninth-longest canal tunnel in the world). At its deepest point it is143 feet (43m) below ground level.
Work began in 1793, but errors by contractors left a wiggle in the tunnel, and after three years work it collapsed due to quicksand, claiming the lives of 14 men. It was then decided to begin again with a new tunnel. By the time the rest of the Canal had opened between London and Braunston in 1800, the section from Blisworth to the lower end of Stoke Bruerne locks was the only section unfinished. This was despite the tunnel having been under construction for seven years: the gap was filled by a temporary horse-drawn tramway over the top of the hill, with goods being transported from boat to wagon and back again.
In the 1980’s British waterways carried out some major rebuilding of the tunnel which was completed in 1984 at a cost of £4.3million. The middle section, approx. 950m from each end, is lined with pre-cast concrete rings. It was also used to test out the materials that were later used on the Channel Tunnel. One of the unused rings on display just outside the south portal was featured on yesterdays blog, you can clearly see the water line protection points in the bottom RH photo. The LH photo shows the original brick construction section of the tunnel.
I was surprised at how straight the tunnel was as you could see the other end as soon as you entered it and we followed another boat through very slowly as it did not appear to have a tunnel light.
At the northern end of the tunnel we came out into a short cutting and then passed Blisworth Mill and the yard of Blisworth Narrowboats.
This lovely old wooden boat called Jenny Wren was spotted on route today; I loved the front window etchings.
We passed Blisworth Marina and then the Junction where you can turn to off go to Northampton and the River Nene. The Mountbatten Crusader was moored across the canal to pick up some clients at the wharf, but posed no problem to navigation. The next bridge is a Turnover Bridge which was constructed to allow a horse towing a boat to cross the canal when the towpath changes sides by placing two ramps on the same side of the bridge, which turned the horse through 360 degrees.
We moored up in Bugbrooke and went to the Wharf Inn and Restaurant where we had a splendid lunch, definitely a place we will visit again. After lunch we walked into the village of Bugbrooke and visited the local shop for a paper and provisions. Taking a back lane we came to St Michael and All Angels Church. There is an hourly bus service from the village to Northampton which is only about 5 miles away by road.
On Jimmy’s evening walk we passed by Hayford Fields Marina and the views over the Northamptonshire countryside were lovely in the evening sunlight.