An excerpt from Wind in the Willows

Nice? It's the ONLY thing, said the Water Rat solemnly, as he leant forward for his stroke. Believe me, my young friend, there is NOTHING - absolute nothing - half so much worth doing as simply messing about in boats. Simply messing, he went on dreamily: messing - about - in - boats; messing----'
From 'Wind in the Willows' by Kenneth Grahame.

Wednesday, 18 December 2013

Old dog - New tricks

David Blagrove on the
counter of Sculptor before
leaving for the A508
winding hole
I have always wanted to learn the art of handling a former working boat.  I had a little try with the Canal and River Trust's small (Star class Northwich) GUCC boat Sculptor just before the Stoke Bruerne Illuminated Boats evening but had a greater chance yesterday as there was a need to wind Sculptor in order that it was facing towards Blisworth Tunnel.  It is kept this way round so that, in fine weather, the rear doors can be left open, for the public to look inside, but still be seen from the Canal Museum.  So it was down four locks to the pound above the A508 bridge (first place you can wind a 71' boat) in the company of Rob Westlake with our lock wheeler for the first two on the way down and that last two on the way up being David Blagrove - thank you to both of them.  I took the boat down and winded it (yes without touching the edges) and Rob brought it back (after fishing a very wet boater out of the cut just below the long pound) with me helping with the locks.  It was a baptism of fire for me pulling and pushing levers (whilst trying to keep a hand on the tiller) and understanding that Sculptor has quite a bit of inertia and is not particularly well ballasted at the moment. I also had to learn how to start it (reasonably easy) and to stop it (fine when you know where the off lever really is!).  I thoroughly enjoyed the experience and I suspect if I were 20 years younger I might consider selling my current boat and buying a former working boat but that's not going to happen!  My thanks to Rob and David for the opportunity to learn.

The history of Sculptor, as provided by David Blagrove, is here.  Sculptor is still one of the very few (only 2?) remaining composite boats (Steel with a wooden bottom - sadly not Elm but I understand it is either Oak or Eke).  I have a nice small bowl made from some of Sculptor's original Elm bottom.

Monday, 16 December 2013

Bob the Blacksmith - Stoke Bruerne

Bob Nightingale, also known as Bob the Blacksmith, in Stoke Bruerne has endured a tough time this Autumn.  Two of his diesel generators have failed and with the restriction on mooring in Stoke Bruerne his footfall has been particularly low.  Please may I encourage you to support Bob if you have a need of his services.  All the details are here.

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 under 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 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.