Thursday, 21 March 2013

A really wet tunnel.

We left our rural mooring, between bridges thirty three and thirty four on the Grand Union, at about nine thirty this morning. Another cold start and as we travelled the wind started to get up making it feel even colder. Our intention was to stop at Stoke Bruerne, looking at tomorrow's weather forecast we really don't want to be on the move.

By the time we passed Gayton Junction and the Northampton Arm (Maybe next year?) the wind chill was really starting to bite, but we pressed on.

 At Blisworth Tunnel Boats they were reversing the green boat into the wet dock, caught me on the hop and hovering without the wind blowing us into the moored boats was a bit of a challenge.
The building in the background is Blisworth Mill, a flour mill built in 1879 by Joseph Westley, it was subsequently bought by the local co-op who, in the nineteen thirties, sold it to the G.U.C.Co. who converted it to a warehouse, causing much local unemployment. During W.W.II it was used as a food store but is now converted into flats.
Blisworth's main claim to fame is, of course, the tunnel,

Started in 1793 but three years later there was a major collapse caused, apparently, by quicksand. Fourteen of the navvies were killed. As a stop gap a tramway was laid over the hill and goods had to be transshipped from boat to tramway, hauled over the hill and loaded onto another boat. A second attempt at digging was more successful and in 1805 the present tunnel opened to traffic. It has been reported by some that, at the point where the original tunnel would have crossed the line of the new one, they saw two tunnels with ghostly navvies still digging the old tunnel by candlelight. Hmmm?
The tunnel never had a towpath so all boats had to be legged through, the professional leggers at Blisworth were in the habit of threatening boat's crews who did not employ them and so, in 1827, the leggers were registered and issued with a brass armlet for identification and it was probably at that time the shelters

at either end of the tunnel were built for them to wait in while they awaited the arrival of the next boat.
Blisworth has always been a wet tunnel but today it surpassed itself,

water cascaded in solid jets from the roof and walls.

By the time we got to the other end we were well glad that we have decent waterproofs.
The tunnel was closed for four years in the 1980's for repairs, re-opening in 1984. A lengthy section was relined with concrete rings,

one of which is on display outside the southern portal.
Having traversed Stoke Bruerne we are now moored below the second lock of the flight.

Watch this space.............

1 comment:

Adam said...

A favourite mooring of ours, and so much nicer than the gloomy cutting up by the tunnel.