Just beyond Stoke Bruerne is the Blissworth tunnel the third longest canal tunnel in the UK. It’s 3,076 yards (2,813 m) that’s about 13/4 miles long.
Before the tunnel was built, a horse drawn tram was used to connect the two sections of the canal and today there are some attractive sculptures commemorating this route, the track is a popular footpath now.
The tunnel was completed in 1805, joining the north and southern section’s of the Grand Junction canal. It’s construction was beset by problems including wiggles that made it difficult to navigate and a collapse due to quicksand which cost the lives of 14 workers. We are constantly amazed by the engineering skills and sheer physical commitment used to build the canal system. The museum at Stoke Bruerne has lots of information and displays about those ‘good old days’ .
In the 1980’s the tunnel was restored using preformed concrete rings. One was laid out on the embankment so we could see the dimensions. It barely seems plausible that 2 narrowboats can pass by safely. But we can testify that yes it is possible. And what’s even better they have straightened out the kinks making it a relatively easy tunnel to traverse.
The average time it takes is supposed to be 45 minutes. However when we the the Harecastle, our first long tunnel, the C&RT tunnel keeper advised us to go quickly to help prevent us bashing the sides. We’ve stuck with this advise and it took us 26 minutes. Although I am always very glad to see the light at the end