Stoke Bruerne Canal Partnership
A group of local stakeholders working towards  the establishment of a flourishing community which welcomes visitors to share its history, waterway and canal side setting.
Projects & Activities

Since 2006 the Partnership has implemented, or assisted its partners with, a number of projects and activities some of which are detailed here...

Over and Under the Hill Walk & Boats 2018

Two walk and boats took place in July and September 2018. September's event was particularly well supported with 21 participants.

Helping with winter maintenance 2017

Open Locks Weekend 2017

Over and Under the Hill Walk & Boat 2017

The Partnership had a presence at the Canal and River Trust's free open weekend at Stoke Bruerne on 11-12th February when visitors had an opportunity to take a look inside one of the drained locks and walk along the bottom of the lock chamber, learnt about the works being done to repair the lock flight, could have a go at angling and take to the water in a canoe.
Visitors met members of the Partnership, to learn about what we do and find out what's involved in becoming a volunteer caring for the canal at Stoke Bruerne.
August and September's Over and Under the Hill was a great success with over 30 people taking part in the first walk and about 12 on the second. 

When Stoke Bruerne lock flight was drained for maintenance during the winter of 2016/17, serious erosion was discovered under the towpath between locks 16 and 17. 
The Canal & River Trust were fully committed on manpower so the Adoption Group were asked to help. 
IWA members also came from the Ashby to help (Dave and Ann-Marie Burdett). Neil Cave and Elliot Hampson made up sandbags in Museum car park and ferried them to site where they were put in place by the Adoption team.

History Mystery Challenge

Scout Camp Activities

How many hands fit on a roll of wallpaper?

The Big Draw returned to Stoke Bruerne
in 2017

Activity packs  funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund and supported by the Inland Waterways Asociation's Northampton Branch and The Friends of the Canal Museum as part of our two year long Stoke Bruerne Interpretation Project are now available from the Canal Museum. Consultants Carol Parr Associates and The Maltings Studio were consultants and designed the heritage challenge packs for adults and families with children with help from Partnership members.
In early May 2017, Scouts from the 1st Middleton Scout Group set up camp in the Quarry Field at Stoke Bruerne and as part of a weekend of planned activities participated in a 2 hour session sprucing up the canal corridor thus ensuring that it is a great place for local people to visit .

The Scouts, aged between 10 and 14, carried out washing and cleaning of signs, including the interpretation panels and
repainting of the cycling barriers at the bottom of the woodland walk as part of The Scout Association’s A Million Hands initiative.  The work was supervised by volunteers from The Stoke Bruerne Adoption Group and staff from The Canal and River Trust.

Walks volunteer and Adoption Group Leader Rob Westlake also accompanied the Scouts and leaders on NB Charlie in an Under and Over the Hill boat trip and led a walk back to base with a heritage commentary.

Share the Space and Drop your Pace

Not just for children, but adults too - 2017's Big Draw benefited from sunshine and relatively warm temperatures - and a big turnout of around 80 participants of all ages. Led by local artist Deborah Thompson, as well as adding personalised hand doodles to a giant roll of wallpaper, our budding artists produced a huge colourful collection of artworks which stretched along the canalside pegged out on a washing line between the trees.

Prizes for best artwork in four categories were won by:

Under 9s: Caleb, age 4
9-16s: Eleni, age 11
Adult: Lin, OAP
Family: The Harris's
At the end of July and September 2017 Partnership members teamed up with The Canal & River Trust over two days at Stoke Bruerne to help promote their campaign to get all of us to slow down, chill out, relax and enjoy our canals.

Bobby, a sleeping policeman on the towpath re-inforced the message that we all need to be mindful and considerate of others when using the towpath.

BBC Look East came out to film the event which was later broadcast on the 6 o'clock news.

Quarry Field

Under 9s prizewinner: Caleb (artwork on left)

Owl Boxes

A part of what is known locally as the Quarry Field, lying adjacent to the towpath between the Museum Green and the start of the Woodland Walk, was made available for informal public open space by the Canal & River Trust. In Spring 2016 Adoption Group volunteers planted over 400 hedge whips which have taken well and in August 2016, Adoption Group volunteers helped installed two new gates crafted by Stoke Bruerne's blacksmith assisted by CRT staff along with graded access. The field came into use for the first time for The Friends of the Canal Museum's Village at War Weekend last September and will be a valuable asset in providing more space for events and activities, picnics, and increasing public enjoyment of the canal environment.

In 2017, a Scout Camp and IWA Boat Gathering made good use of the space and the Village at War event used it for re-enactments in September.

The Partnership is working jointly with The Canal and River Trust, The Friends of The Canal Museum and the Northampton Branch of the Inland Waterway Association to investigate the possibility of running an electrical supply to the field to facilitate events.
Roade Scouts were involved in a project to make and install owl boxes to replace those originally installed on the Woodland Walk and which were time expired.

The boxes were installed in spring 2018
Adult Prizewinner:  Lin
The Canal Partnership would like to thank the following organisations and businesses for their generous sponsorship of the Big Draw Event.

The Boat Inn
The Canal Museum
The Canal & River Trust
The Inland Waterways Association
(Northampton Branch)
South Northamptonshire Council
The Stoke Bruerne Boat Company
9-16s prizewinner: Eleni
Family prizewinners:
The Harris's

Volunteer Organisation Recognition Award 2016

Living Waterways Awards 2016

Big Draw 2016


Rob Westlake, Adoption Group Leader (centre) with Sonny King (left) and Lee King (right) of The Canal and River Trust
Our Adoption Group led by Rob Westlake were the proud recipients of The Canal and River Trust's VORA (Volunteer Organisation Recognition Award) for 2016 at December's volunteer get-together at The Canal Museum for their work caring for the canal and its environs at Stoke Bruerne.
Congratulations go to to our volunteer team for all the hard work they have put in to ensure the canal corridor is well maintained and attractive for visitors.
The Big Draw held on Wednesday 26th October 2016, organised jointly with The Canal and River Trust, was arguably the most popular ever with amazing artwork, much of it Halloween themed, created by all ages and abilities.
Prizes were awarded for four categories this year and winners were as follows:
Under 9s: TBA
9-16s: Edward Hargrave (Age 11)
Adult (over 16): Simon Hargrave
Family: The Willock Family
A big thank you to The Canal and River Trust, The Canal Museum, Stoke Bruerne Boat Company and The Inland Waterways Association, Northampton Branch for supporting the event.

Canal Partnership members Helen Westlake, Chairman and James Clifton, CRT with our Commended Award
The Stoke Bruerne Partnership’s Interpretation Project was announced as Commended in the Art & Interpretation category at the 2016 Living Waterways Awards ceremony, held at Birmingham Town Hall on 14 September 2016.
Launched by the Canal & River Trust in February, and sponsored by Kier, Arcadis, CPC Civils and Fountains, the Living Waterways Awards seek to recognise the most exciting and inspiring waterway-based improvement projects across the UK. 
Richard Parry, chief executive of the Canal & River Trust, explains:
“The Living Waterways Awards celebrate the individuals, communities and organisations that have done the most to make a difference to the nation’s rivers, canals, lochs, lakes, reservoirs and docks, making them exciting places to live, learn and spend time.”
Stoke Bruerne, with its Canal Museum, Blisworth Tunnel and collection of canal heritage structures, is a popular destination but previously lacked outside information to help visitors engage with canal history and further enjoy their visit.
This two-year interpretation project backed by Heritage Lottery Funding, first staged a series of events designed to involve local people in the project, including a Reminiscence Day, guided walks, two canal heritage festivals, a Geocaching event, two ‘Big Draw’ days and school photography project. 
Twelve interpretation panels, information posts and directional signs have been created, with help from the local blacksmith, Bob Nightingale, who fabricated the frameworks on site and introduced a series of intriguing waterway creatures made of wrought iron.
Helen Westlake, Chairman of the Stoke Bruerne Canal Partnership, says:
“We are delighted to have received this award, which recognises the quality and value of the new information for visitors we’ve installed along the canal towpath at Stoke Bruerne. 
“The canal here is a busy visitor attraction with an estimated annual footfall of around 300,000 people.  Prior to 2015, it lacked any outside interpretation to explain the canal-related features, interpret the historic significance of the site or help visitors engage with the canal heritage. Thanks to the support and involvement of a wide range of partners, particularly the Heritage Lottery Fund, our consultants Carol Parr and Associates and a number of enthusiastic local volunteers, we now have a fantastic series of attractive and informative interpretation panels for visitors to our canal to enjoy.”

Further details of the 2016 Living Waterways Awards can be found at

Helping to celebrate The Canal & River Trust's 5th Birthday

Members of our adoption group were on hand in July 2016 to help Canal and River Trust staff celebrate their 5th Birthday as a charity caring for England and Wales’ canals & rivers, with a very welcome cake.
Winner - Under 9s Category
Winner - 9-16s Category
Winner - Adult Category
Winner - Family Category

Open Locks Weekend & Fish Rescue


Every Drawing Tells a Story

School Photography Project

Winter 2015/16
February 2016
October 2014 & 2015
The Partnership supported an initiative to purchase and install a defibrillator at the Canal Museum. This valuable community facility was made possible by donations from a number of organisations and individuals who most generously funded the unit in memory of David Henderson, ex Museum Manager who sadly suffered a fatal heart attack in January 2014. Training for villagers and volunteers took place in early June.

The Canal & River Trust drained a lock pound which  enabled children from Stoke Bruerne Primary School to come and watch the catching and rehoming of stranded fish before work to the top lock commenced. There weren’t too many, the sight of a skateboard in the mud probably caused equal interest! During the two open days members of the public could climb down into the lock to see quite how deep it is and see the remarkable Victorian engineering and brickwork still surviving. Over 1200 visitors made the descent despite one of the days being wet and miserable. During the open days the Partnership manned an information stand about the work of the Adoption Group which attracted a lot of interest, we signed up two new members and many more took away contact details which is encouraging.
About 50 families interacted with CRT's Explorer, 45 young people learned to fish with the Northampton Nene Angling Club and a whopping 31 Friends were signed up by CRT's East Midlands Fundraising team.

As part of the HLF funded Interpretation Project, two "Big Draw Days" were hosted during the autumn half terms with Partnership members supervising a wide variety of drawing activities using the canal environment as inspiration.
These activity days proved very popular and further days are planned in future.

During 2015 groups of schoolchildren from Stoke Bruerne Primary School took photographs of the changing seasons along the canal as part of the HLF funded Interpretation Project. The best photographs were incorporated into a calendar for 2016 which was sold in the Canal Museum.

Geocaching Event

July 2015

Over and Under the Hill

Picnic Benches

September 2015, May, July and September 2016
Organised with help from IWA's Northampton Branch a Geocaching Event with Heritage Trail and evening BBQ at one of Stoke Bruerne's local pubs proved a great success with almost  60 people attending. These were a mix of experienced Geocachers, who acted as GeoBuddies, and would be Geocachers who wanted to learn more about this global treasure hunting activity.
SIX NEW picnic tables were installed in 2015 to replace worn out benches on the Museum green, including one specially adapted for disabled use. Our thanks go to Stoke Bruerne Parish Council, The Friends of the Canal Museum, Canal & River Trust, Canal Museum, The Inland Waterways Association (Northampton Branch) and Stoke Bruerne Boat Company for sponsoring the new benches.
Two boat trips through Blisworth Tunnel with historical commentary, followed by a return walk over the tunnel top were organised in September 2015 in conjunction with Blisworth Canal Partnership. They proved successful and are being repeated 2016 .
The activity is guided by our heritage walks volunteers trained as part of the HLF  interpretation project.
It is hoped to repeat the walks on an ongoing basis.

Reminiscence Day

Heritage Training Days

Cool Walks

Raising the flag

April 2014
July 2014
July 2014
March 2014
Our guided walks volunteers led a heritage and wildlife walk for Grandparents and Grandchildren along the canal corridor and into the Wildlife Reserve.

Guided walks and oral history volunteers attended training sessions at Stoke Bruerne Village Hall funded through the HLF Interpretation Project. Oral history recording equipment was also purchased.

Part of the Interpretation Project, visitors were encouraged to come and share their memories and experiences of the Grand Union Canal and Stoke Bruerne from years gone by and trained volunteers were on hand to record them.
During the day several working boatmen and son of Charles Hadlow (who helped set up the Canal Museum) popped in, as well as people who remembered trade still being carrried by water.
A display of historic artefacts stimulated conversation and a village resident brought in the enclosure book which has now been deposited in the Northamptonshire Records Office.

On St. George's Day our local Morris side helped us celebrate the raising of the Union Jack on a flagpole  brought back into use after 30 years due to the efforts of Partnership member Kathryn Dodington working with BT Openreach to divert telephone cables which had prevented it from being  used.

New Bus Service


Red Wheel

Thanks to Partnership member Roy Sears, the X4 bus between Peterborough, Northampton and Milton Keynes began calling into Stoke Bruerne on Sundays. Before this, buses only ran between Monday-Saturday.

August 2014

Blisworth Hill Tramroad

We participated in the  celebrations for the awarding of a Red Wheel Plaque by the Transport Trust to Blisworth Tunnel on the 30th anniversary of the tunnel re-opening after major repairs in 1984.
The Red Wheel Plaque recognises the historical importance of this 200 year old feat of engineering  and has been mounted on the wall of the old forge next to the tunnel portal.

Stoke Bruerne Canal Corridor Management and Improvement Plan

December 2014

Wildlife Safari

August 2014
Our guided walks volunteers led an activity based wildlife walk in the reserve adjacent to Stoke Bruerne Lock Flight.

Interpretation Project funded by HLF

We published our 10 year Management & Improvement Plan for the Stoke Bruerne Canal Corridor setting out our priorities for it's  future conservation, management and development.

Thanks to HLF funding and donations from The Friends of The Canal Museum and IWA Northampton Branch a two year project is launched to provide information panels along the canal corridor in tandem with a series of participative activities, purchase of equipment and training of volunteers.

Partnership member Brian Collings produced the 4th of a series of leaflets on behalf of the Partnership which is now on sale in the Museum.

Locks and How They Work

Weighing Machine returns to Wales

Blisworth Tunnel

A boat weighing machine from the Glamorganshire Canal was relocated from Stoke Bruerne to its new home at the Museum of Wales Swansea. The machine, which is the only remaining example in existence, was built for and used on the Glamorganshire Canal. It has now been completely restored by Penybryn Engineering and is now at Swansea where it is on display in its national context.
The boat weighing machine came to Stoke Bruerne in 1963 for safe-keeping. It is hoped Station Boat May which remains in position will be re-located  later. The Canal Partnership intends to work with local partners in future to repair the Grade II top side lock, which retains its original paddle gear, with new interpretation.

One of three leaflets produced in 2013 by Partnership member Brian Collings on behalf of the Partnership which are now on sale in the Museum. This one about  the History and Building of Blisworth Tunnel.

One of threee leaflets produced in 2013 by Partnership member Brian Collings on behalf of the Partnership which are now on sale in the Museum. This one about  Locks and How They Work.

Stoke Bruerne Visitor Guide

Locks and How They Work

Partnership member Brian Collings produced a Visitor Guide for Stoke Bruerne which is on sale in the Canal Museum shop to plug the gap in interpretation while an application for HLF funding for information panels was prepared. Some  images produced for the booklet were subsequently used on the 10 interpretation panels installed along the canal corridor.
One of threee leaflets produced in 2013 by Partnership member Brian Collings on behalf of the Partnership which are now on sale in the Museum. This one about  the Museum boat NB Sculptor.