Stoke Bruerne Open Locks & Sun Dogs

Today we visited the Open Locks Event at Stoke Bruerne. The top two locks of the flight were drained but the top lock was fully fitted out with barriers and steps to enable members of the public to descend into the lock and examine the brickwork and gates with CRT and Canal Museum volunteers on hand to provide interpretation.

Swans enjoying the winter sunshine at Stoke Bruerne

When we arrived, shortly after midday, around 450 had already been down into the lock chamber. Yesterday the miserable weather had meant that only 380 had braved the elements. That is not to say that today was warm. There was a brisk wind and the temperature didn't go above 5 deg so the volunteers on the towpath encouraging others to join them we feeling decidedly chilly. In fact, probably the best place to get out of the breeze was in the lock.

In the lock chamber

It is rare that you get to see the more than a glimpse of the lower workings of a lock. Perhaps the top of the circular culvert that carries water from the ground paddle into to the chamber. But here were were able to walk on the floor of a wide lock and see how it had an invert like a tunnel and how at Stoke Bruerne it was made of numerous small bricks, similar to those for constructing Blisworth Tunnel.
Gate, cill and ground-paddle culvert

Rarely seen - the ground-paddle culvert
(and some freshwater muscles)

Evidence of a culvert that may have been used to connect the two Top Locks 

It was fascinating. Many of those going into the lock, and not all did, appeared to be from their questions not to have much connection with boating which bodes well for this type of event raising awareness of canals and waterways. For us the thought of this wonderful well-preserved original brickwork lying beneath Albert as we go through the Top Lock had the biggest impact.

Original brickwork at the base of the lock - in great condition

CRT Volunteers explaining it all

We managed to have our first outdoor meal of the year, a baguette and a ginger beer, sitting on a bench by the winding hole near Blisworth Tunnel - it was out of the wind. We also visited the Museum cafe which was open for the occasion.

Drained pound by the Navigation Inn

We had driven to Stoke and parked near the Bottom Lock to get some exercise so we made are way back to our car down the locks on the off-side with the sun low in the sky. We were treated to a great view of a sun dog (well two but one was quite faint). We were also treated to the sight (and site) of mole metropolis adjacent to Lock 17. I don't think we have seen so many molehills in one place. Each molehill was only about a metre apart. They must be having a party underground! Hopefully they won't cause damage.


Low sun with a clear (right) and a faint (left) sun dog

Sun dogs are halo phenomena caused by ice crystals in the atmosphere and occur around 22 deg either side of the sun. They are mostly seen when the sun is low. I have posted about them before - I am keen on such atmospheric effects.

Close-up of sun dog

Open Doors at Stoke Bruerne and some memories of Bingley

I see that Canal and River Trust are having an open weekend at Stoke Bruerne  on February 13th and 14th where they have been carrying out repairs to the lock flight. I have always thought that this type of community engagement activity is well worthwhile. I also find the idea of finding out more of what goes on below the surface fascinating. A decade ago they drained the flight at Stoke Bruerne and we had a pretty good look, but to properly poke around below the surface should be fun. We aim to be there.

Stoke Bruerne Locks de-watered in 2006

However, the most fascinating example of this type of engagement with the community has to be when the iconic Bingley Five-Rise was open to the public during repairs in spring 2012. The You-Tube videos of the event were great and the numbers who walked up through the chambers over the weekend exceeded 7,000. It's just a shame that access to the BBC report of the event has now been deleted because it was simply brilliant with the local engineering staff doing a great job of explaining the engineering work and the purpose of the event. Nowadays, there would a permanent link to a CRT published video.

I just wished I lived on the doorstep of the Five-Rise - but then Stoke Bruerne and Bingley just can't be compared. I hope you enjoy the videos below.

I see the little sister of the Five-Rise, the Three-Rise at Bingley, is also being opened up to the public but over an extended period from next weekend to the 6th March. 

So to complete the reminiscences of Bingley, the image below comes from our summer 2012 journey along the Leeds & Liverpool and up the Five-Rise.

Albert about to climb Bingley Five-Rise with the lock-keeper waiting