Friday, 25 February 2011

Short Break at Half Term - Third Day

(Posted by Cath)

Stoke Bruerne to Stantonbury, Milton Keynes

We didn't want to rush back to the home mooring at the same speed as we'd come up to Stoke, and I also wanted to look at the Museum.  Alan was not so keen on the museum, but agreed to come with me.  

We had to wait until 11 am for the museum to open, so Charlie got a couple of walks, and I got an hour or two of coursework marking done - sadly, the pile I am working through is not going down nearly as fast as I'd like.

The museum has a gift shop, full of the kind of things that were a magnet to our kids when we used to visit museums and castles with them when they were younger - bookmarks, fridge magnets, pencils, pens, erasers, etc. as well as a very good canal oriented bookshop - we found ourselves picking up book after book and deciding that we really did need it in our collection.  We were told that if we signed a gift aid certificate for our entry fees we could have a season ticket for the year - not a bad idea as we hope to be in Stoke several times this summer.   We were given audio 'interpretation' devices - but found that we preferred to look at the exhibits without being directed at various key points - we know enough of the basics, we were more interested in looking in detail at things.  I'm sure these are very useful if you don't have much experience of the canals, but there is only so much detail they can give you.

We think that there is a basic problem with canal museums - it is very difficult to bring something like this up to the modern standards.  So many museums these days are filled with interactivity, games, and animated interpretations.  Children are used to having a lot to do - our sons used to love the Science Museum in London, particularly Launchpad and the activities in the basement - there was so much to do, so many ways of exploring science.  What is there that you can do in a canal museum?  There is only so much you can do with 'worksheets', particularly for a generation brought up on interactive games.  While there seems to be a steady stream of people through the museum it is difficult to know how it can compete against the outside world in the current economic climate.

What did I find interesting?  The painted 'ware' - comparing the different styles (and qualities).  There was a water can from 1901, showing scenes of canal life, including four little dogs - although the paint was quite old and faded I would like to have been able to see the other side.  The 'Idle Women' exhibit was interesting, as well as the information about the canal 'navvies'.  There is a huge wheelbarrow on display - surely no-one was ever strong enough to use it?  A peculiar leather and wood device proved to be the innards of a bilge pump - it didn't look very efficient.  I was also interested to get the chance to pick up and examine a modern replica "boatwoman's bonnet" - I had no idea that they were constructed like that - they must have used huge amounts of cloth.  I loved the notice about 'locomotives and other ponderous carriages' - taken from a bridge that could only handle the normal 'local traffic'.

On the second floor is the reconstructed boatman's cabin of a butty.  It doesn't look right - you can't go inside to get a proper look, but the cupboards and stove just seem wrong.  I'm sure the museum know what the proportions and measurements should be, but from outside they look odd.

Coming back down the Stoke Bruerne Locks.

We spent an hour in the museum, stopped at the Cheese Boat for some supplies, then back to Chalice, a snatched lunch of toasted cheese on crumpets, and off down the locks again.  We shared with a single hander from Blisworth, passing a number of boats going up - far more moving than yesterday.

It was grey, and drizzly, and by the time that we were through Cosgrove it was clear that we weren't going to be able to get much further before dark.  We moored next to a spinney of trees near Stantonbury, almost in the dark by the time were were there.  Wine, and spaghetti bolognese, then sleep.  We need to buy some food, or stop for a pub meal this evening.

Stoke Bruerne to Stantonbury, Milton Keynes
Miles: 10.3, Locks:8

Total Miles: 43.2, Total Locks:31

1 comment:

Jelunga said...

I also thought the Stoke Bruerne Museum lacked something - information about the canl boat weighing device opposite. There cannot be many of these still around and there was such a dearth of info about it. The people in the museum didn't know much about it either. I would love to see it restored to working order.