Photo: Sculptor in the Blisworth Tunnel
Unfortunately, due to Covid-19, we are cancelling the Branch meetings for April and May. The speakers that are booked will be rescheduled for the next talks season that we hope will start in October 2020. All Task Parties are also cancelled until further notice.
Of course our canal is still there for all to enjoy - why not go for a towpath walk!
Sculptor is an 85 year-old canal boat, which played a key role in fighting fires in London during WWII, it has once more come to the rescue to help with an emergency inspection of Blisworth Tunnel. She is ordinarily moored outside the Canal Museum at Stoke Bruerne, the Canal & River Trust needed to check the tunnel after a suspected sinkhole was reported near one of the tunnel’s construction shafts. Sculptor was nearby and was up to the job, once special permission was granted - since she is part of the Trust’s museum collection and on the historic ships register.
The inspection, carried out in accordance with social distancing guide-lines, found a small amount of displacement in the tunnel’s concrete lining but nothing of immediate concern. More thorough investigations will be done but the Trust is reassured that the tunnel is safe.
Built in 1935, Sculptor is one of a small number of working boats that still lives on the canal. Originally owned by the Grand Union Canal Carrying Company, she was used to carry a variety of cargo such as cotton and coal from London to the Midlands. During WWII Sculptor was called into action to help with firefighting duties in London, helping to pump water from the city’s canals to extinguish fires caused by bombing.
After the war, she was used as a canal maintenance boat at Northwich before being taken out of service in 1985. Today, Sculptor is an important exhibit at the museum and is lovingly cared for, on behalf of the Trust, by volunteers, including a number from the Friends of the Canal Museum.
Neil Owen, regional engineer for the Canal & River Trust, said: “Although boat traffic is very limited at the moment due to coronavirus, it was important for us to get into the tunnel to make sure that everything is safe.
“It was really helpful for us to be able to use Sculptor as it enabled us to get in there quickly, have a good look, check there was no significant damage and alleviate any concerns. It was also a bit of a treat for us to spend time on this amazing historic boat and it was wonderful to see her back in service again. We’re really grateful to the Friends of the Canal Museum for their support in making it happen.”
Back in 2017 the Crusader Community Boat charity started fundraising for a new boat. We contributed £10,000 from our John Faulkner legacy fund. The new boat will be called 'Community Spirit', it will accommodate 35 passengers intended to cater for school trips, and is believed to be unique in the passenger boat field. It is due to be delivered to Crusader in February and we are very proud to have helped in this project.
The branch had its annual Dinner on Saturday 16th November. We enjoyed a fabulous meal at the Boat Inn Stoke Bruerne, many thanks to The Boat staff who catered for us so well. The event was attended by Chris Howes, Chairman of the Eastern Region IWA, who talked to us about exciting plans to open up a new waterways link between Ely and Boston, via Peterborough.
The John Faulkner award, an award bestowed upon the volunteer who has been an outstanding contributor to the volunteer work of the Branch, was presented to our youngest (by far!) volunteer Lottie. Lottie and mum Laura are now great members of our volunteering team, since the time Lottie saw our team working at Pineham lock and asked what they were doing, she was keen to join in and has given much time and enthusiasm. She also instigated her school taking part in the latest mural project (see below).
The 2nd draw of the 100 Club also took place at the dinner. The Prizes are currently £80, £30 and £15 and were won by Monica and John Burnage; Bernie and Sandie Morton; and Geoff Wood respectively. The 100 Club has raised £215 in 2019, which will go into branch funds to contribute to the work the branch does along our waterways.
Our branch has again teamed up with a local Primary school, this time Rothersthorpe, to create another story in pictures under the M1 Bridge. This month (June) Rothersthorpe school children painted a mural depicting 'Our Canal through the Seasons'. They had a great time splashing paint around and did a wonderful job - Thank you children of Rothersthorpe Primary! Thanks also go to Blisworth Art Group who designed the mural. The project was also supported by CRT who provided enssential equipment.
There was an official opening ceremony on Saturday 13th July - see news article
Branch Chairman honoured at Prince Charles's 70th Tea Party
Bernard Morton, Northampton Branch Chairman was chosen as one of 70 inspirational volunteers to share in Prince Charles's birthday celebrations. Read more...
A new canal mosaic nature trail, featuring 34 mosaic designs, has been installed along the Northampton Arm of the Grand Union Canal. This wonderful new feature is made possible by the work of volunteers from the IWA Northampton Branch, pupils from two Northampton primary schools – Briar Hill and Delapre, and mosaic expert David Bowers.
At each of the 17 locks on the 4 ¾ mile Northampton Arm you will find two mosaic plaques set into the grass. One depicts an aspect of canal heritage, the other has a letter with an associated image from nature.
Download the form to collect all 17 letters and work out the phrase, then submit your form by email or post to earn yourself a Certificate of Achievement.
With help from Lemon Pop Workshops and our own volunteers, pupils from Delapre Primary School have completed a 70 metre long colourful mural under the M1 bridge over the Northampton Canal Arm. The artwork designed by the children themselves, records a history of Northampton starting with Northampton Castle, moving through events like the Battle of Northampton in the War of the Roses, the Great Fire of Northampton, the importance of the boot and shoe industry and the building of The Guildhall to the floods in 1998.
Work parties ard held on the first Sunday and the third Tuesday in the month.
The Branch Club 100 raises funds for Branch activities. It is a great opportunity for non-boat owning members, and those who live some distance away, to become more involved in the Branch. It is only open to IWA Northampton Branch members.
The Club runs annually, we ask for a single payment for each year for each share. Each member can have up to four £15 shares. (A total of four for couples with joint membership.) The more people who become members, the bigger the prizes on offer. There will be two public draws per year, one at our annual dinner in November and one at our AGM in March.
There are cash prizes to be won in each draw, and the remaining monies will go into Branch funds to support local waterways causes. We are aiming for 100 members, when we reach this the prizes will be: 1st prize £250, 2nd prize £100, 3rd prize £50.
There are currently 31 shares bought, prizes are £80, £30 and £15.
For your chance to win join up! Get your membership form submitted and payment made by 29th February 2020 to be included in the next draw. (Click here for a form, and here for Rules). If you have any questions, email Paul Lynam, Branch Treasurer, email@example.com
We are sorry to announce that this year's event is cancelled. After significant consideration, the Friends of the Canal Museum have temporarily suspended hostilities in Stoke Bruerne. The Village at War Weekend, due on 12th/13th September cannot unfortunetely go ahead in the current circumstances, and also the boat gathering that would be part of it.
However, after the battle with the covid virus has been won, the Friends of the Canal Museum are pleased to say that our entertainers, living history groups and re-enactors will be joining us once again to keep the home fires burning on 11-12th September 2021 and we look forward to welcoming you all again then.
The Northampton Branch area covers the Grand Union between the Iron Trunk Aqueduct at Cosgrove to Braunston; the Leicester Line (Grand Union) from Norton Junction to the Welford Arm; the whole of the Northampton Arm (Grand Union) and the River Nene between Northampton and Thrapston. For more on the River Nene you can visit www.visitanglianwaterways.org
Also in our area is part of the Buckingham Canal which is currently the subject of some restoration by the Buckingham Canal Society; the Westbridge Branch of the River Nene, which since 1984 has been the subject of regular clean-ups and rallies to encourage its use and keep it open to navigation. The proposed new Daventry Canal is unfortunately not now being pursued.
Northampton Branch holds regular meetings on the second Tuesday of the month during the winter at The Walnut Tree PH, Blisworth at 8pm. The Branch also organises Boat Gatherings and other social events throughout the year.
Members and Non-members are welcome
Refreshments and parking are available at The Walnut Tree PH and the meeting room is fully accessible. There is no charge for attending monthly meetings but we hold a raffle to offset room hire costs and speakers expenses.
As well as a busy social calendar there is a lot of outdoor work by volunteer task parties to maintain our bit of canal. Go to the volunteer page to find out more about our maintenance work and join in the fun/hard work!
See Diary page for details of meetings and task parties.
Links to other local waterways Websites:
Information on closures or restictions can be found on the CRT site
For the latest navigation information on the River Nene please go to the Environment Agency website.
Go to the Volunteering page for more details about the Task parties, and the Diary page for dates.
The Branch has produced a Guide to the Northampton Arm. Copies are available from a box at Gayton Yard Sanitary Station at the top of the Arm.
A Braunston Canal Walk leaflet has also been produced by Branch Member, John Pomfret.