Stage 7: Stoke Bruerne to Blisworth

The ‘Needs to Know’

Distance: 3.75 miles (6.03km)

Time to walk: With a bit of path searching, roughly 1.5 hours

Difficulty: Pretty much all off road & a few slight hills, but nothing to be concerned about

Parking: A linear walk, parking is available in The Navigation car park

Public toilets: Pubs in Stoke Bruerne at the start, or the Blisworth ones at the end

Map of the route:

map

Stage 7 of the Round is a short one along paths that we’ve walked before. It’s also through some of our nicest countryside. It’s likely that you won’t see another soul on this stretch

So…

Let’s Walk!

1. Stage 7 starts on the road bridge over the Grand Union Canal. Facing the busy centre turn left & walk down & past The Boat Inn

IMG_9146

IMG_9148

2. As the road starts to climb turn left up Church Lane

IMG_9149

There’s some classy gardeners in this village

IMG_9151

3. Before arriving at the church, look for a signpost besides a bench which leads down a rather overgrown, narrow path…

IMG_9153

…opening up into a large field that’s used as an overflow carpark for the village

IMG_9154

4. Keep to the left-hand edge of the field passing the church

IMG_9155

The Church of St Mary the Virgin was built mainly in the 14th & 15th centuries. Walk to the top left corner to exit the field

IMG_9157

5. Once out the path is much clearer so follow it & pass through the gate…

IMG_9158

IMG_9159

…where we’re now out of the village limits & heading towards Shutlanger

IMG_9160

6. On reaching the road cross straight over & keep the fence on the left through the next field

IMG_9162

Look out for a bit of quirkiness in this field under the large tree. We walked here a few years ago & came across this small vegetable plot in the middle of a corn crop!

IMG_9164

7. At the bottom of this field pass through the gap in the corner & through the gate into the next one                                       IMG_9166

Walk straight down the next one & cross the bridge into a meadow

IMG_9167

IMG_9168

8. Walk up the right hedge this time looking for a path that goes diagonally right about halfway up the hill through the gate below

IMG_9170

The outskirts of Shutlanger’s now ahead so keep right to the final gate out of this stretch of fields

IMG_9171

IMG_9173

On the right here once stood a great medieval house called the Monastery. It actually wasn’t one, just a house. The property on the right carries on the name

9. On reaching the road turn left & walk down to the crossroads…

IMG_9176

Sounds interesting

Sounds interesting

…turning right into Bakers Lane. If you fancy a refreshment break keep straight on for 100 yards as we can recommend The Plough

10. Follow Bakers Lane up the hill to the junction with the High Street…

IMG_9177

…where we turn left passing the Reading Room

IMG_9179

At the T-junction turn right up the lane to exit Shutlanger

IMG_9181

11. Next stop then is Blisworth. Follow the narrow lane up the hill for roughly 10 minutes looking for a barn & footpath sign on the right…

IMG_9184

The path keeps to the hedge on the left & then passes through a gap into another one…

IMG_9186

IMG_9187

12. Same again to the end of the next field to arrive at a crossroads of paths. To the left is one that we walked a couple of years ago as part of a Shutlanger walk. Today we need to turn right…

IMG_9190

 Over to the left’s a view of Northampton & the Lift Tower

IMG_9191

But don’t look at it for too long as, after roughly 60 yards we need to turn left through the gap

IMG_9194

13. We can now just make out Blisworth in the distance…

IMG_9195

Initially the path runs through the open field until it picks up a lane which, even on a day like today, was very muddy

IMG_9197

Keep to the left of one final open field before exiting through a gate

IMG_9199

14. This next stretch into the village is quite delightful as the path follows a brook as it winds its way through the edge of the fields…

IMG_9202

IMG_9203

Our route is actually following the Blisworth Tunnel & across to the right you can see the ventilation towers

IMG_9204

At 3,076 yards the tunnel is the third-longest navigable canal tunnel on the UK canal network. Work began in 1793, but errors by contractor left a wiggle in the tunnel, & 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

In March 1805, the tunnel was finally opened & until the 1870s travel through the tunnel was only achieved by men lying on their backs pushing the boats with their feet (legging). From 1871 steam tugs were used to pull boats through, & extra ventilation shafts were installed

Due to changes in the shape of the tunnel over time, the tunnel became unnavigable. There was some major rebuilding of the tunnel in the 1980s, with sections 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 is on display just outside the south entrance

15. Pass through two more gates to arrive at a T-junction. Turn left & follow the right side of the field looking for another gate on the right…

IMG_9209

IMG_9211

On the right now is the canal in a deep cutting as it’s just exited the tunnel

IMG_9213

16. The path bends round with the canal & we pass through a gate & climb up to the road bridge

IMG_9216

IMG_9217

And…welcome to Blisworth & the end of Stage 7

This was an easy stroll, which was most welcome after the trials & tribulations of Stage 6. Next it’s on past Gayton to Bugbrooke

Go Walk!