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Walking over Blisworth Hill

Author: Lynda Payton Published: 13th October 2021 10:52
Waymarking project connects two ends of canal tunnel for walkers Photo: Geoff WoodWaymarking project connects two ends of canal tunnel for walkers Photo: Geoff Wood

The two ends of a two hundred year old canal tunnel under a hill between Stoke Bruerne and Blisworth have finally been connected by waymarked footpaths thanks to Stoke Bruerne Canal Partnership, with the help of funding from West Northamptonshire Council’s Community Fund and volunteers from the Inland Waterways Association’s Northampton Branch.

The nearly two mile long Blisworth Tunnel was built without a towpath, so boats were legged, or walked through, while boat horses, which towed the boats, were led over the top. To start with the route was along a toll road built by the Canal Company in 1797, but these days it’s a busy main road unsuitable for those on foot.

In recent years, the Grand Union Canal Towpath Walk, which runs between London and Birmingham, has become very popular with walkers, many of whom reported that they had gone astray trying to follow the different footpaths and bridleways which cross the tunnel top.

Sue Day, Chairman of the Horseboating Society said: “I’m very glad the footpath route has been marked as I get muddled every time I do it”.

As well as marking the route, the Canal Partnership has installed a series of QR codes linking to web based heritage information and photographs of historical features of interest along the way, so ramblers can learn more about the area.

Paul Simpson and Nigel Lowdell, two of the IWA volunteers assisting with the project said: “There is definitely a need for waymarker signs as we got lost doing the installation. We took a wrong turn and ended up in a field of horses who, fortunately, seemed more interested in the contents of our rucksacks than us. Hopefully now, future walkers will fare much better and will enjoy the views and absorb some of the history surrounding this interesting walk”.

Helen Westlake, Chairman of Stoke Bruerne Canal Partnership said: “We have been listening to stories for some time from hikers and walkers passing through Stoke Bruerne, some of whom told us they had got totally confused and ended up in Towcester, so we are very grateful to West Northamptonshire Council for awarding funding to enable us to mark the correct route and to the IWA volunteers for carrying out the installation”.
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