We arrived in Stoke Bruerne on Monday evening with the forecasts suggesting biblical style downpours for Tuesday and Wednesday. In the event we arrived in the Long Pound (below the two locks which read into Stoke Bruerne proper) and found the bank line with moored boats so we pulled in as soon as possible.
Replica Butty cabin
As forecast, it did rain but fortunately it was for 40 hours and not 40 days. We spent the Tuesday making jam using the 5kg of Mirabelle Plums we picked in Milton Keynes and transformed them into the most gorgeous translucent yellow jam.
In between preserve making we decided to pay the CRT museum a visit, something we had never done before. Well, I say never but that's not strictly true. I did visit the museum when I was eight (1969) on board Nomos and we undertook the Thames Ring. This would usually be followed up with a comment about not remembering a thing but I do have vivid memories of the replica back cabin of a butty, and I was delighted to discover that nearly 50 years later it is still there and in immaculate condition. In fact, I am told that due to its age it is included on the Historic Boat Register!.
Full moon without a tripod
Whilst I am not majorly into "historics" I have acquired more than a passing interest particularly since we acquired Montgomery. I dont plan to go to town on dressing the back cabin, but given the accuracy of its construction I am minded to start to make a few additions here and there and maybe make a bit more of a show of it, at least on the outside. We therefore look lots of photos and you may see some elements appear on the Jam Butty next year - starting with the elum and maybe the brass portholes which could be brought back to a highly polished state to match the one mushroom went. In fact, a CRT employee took a long and loving look at the butty yesterday and sadly observed that I have "a lovely shiny knob, but my portholes let me down...").
The museum is nothing like the size of Ellesmere Port or Gloucester, but in spite of this it contains a good selection of artifacts, models and stories. No matter how many times I visit a canal museum I always seem to find something interesting and new. On this occasion it was a map of central Birmingham showing the location of every bomb which fell in 1940, ordinary, incendiary and unexploded. The density of the distribution is scary and is amazing that anything (or anyone) survived at all. I also spied a copy of this quarters Narrowboat magazine and couldn't resist an impulse purchase to see my latest Canal Finder article in print.
Ovaltine Boat cratch board - the inspiration for our own.
During our visit we took advantage of the adjoining coffee shop and whilst in we met Katherine Dodington, an authority on all things canal. In the event we ended up seeing her several times and even had a guided tour round her cottage which is in the terrace next to the museum, sharing our enthusiasm for canal history. Meeting charming people like this is one of the great benefits of being able to take time out as we travel.
Wednesday was another wet day and with all the plums used up our attention turned to the more mundane matter of washing. A bit odd I appreciate on such a wet day, but the forecast was good for Thursday and we needed to get the job done before Blisworth Festival at the weekend.
During the day a steady procession of trade boats arrived, all gathering in preparation for the festival. Most moved to the top pound and we joined them at 7.00pm, after filling with water and taking advantage of the disabled bay which was clearly not going to be used that night.
Thursday did dawn clear and bright and so the gaggle of trade boats moved off through the tunnel and onto the festival site in Blisworth. Its the first time I have been through 3075 yard Blisworth Tunnel in my adult life and I was surprised by the length of the "new" section. The old profile was ok from a towing perspective but when we hit the new bit we flew along and much to my surprise the hire boat which entered just behind us never managed to catch up!
More of the Blisworth Festival another time.