There's nothing better than getting out of your homeschool classroom, and visiting somewhere for a hands-on learning experience. It's more fun for the kids, and I really believe being able to associate learning with a place you've visited, something you have touched and seen for yourself, makes it easier to remember in the future.
We've been learning about canals and rivers so it made perfect sense to head out to a real canal that has a bit of history behind it. We visited Stoke Bruerne Canal in April 2021, before everything re-opened, so there wasn't much to do, but I can't wait to come back when the world opens up. This place is a MUST visit! Check out my review below.
Use this link to find out all the info you need on the Stoke Bruerne Canal, including how to get there: https://canalrivertrust.org.uk/places-to-visit/stoke-bruerne. This link also gives you a free downloadable map and free nature guides too. We printed one that allowed us to try to find various birds, fish, and insects.
The postcode in the link above takes you to the museum car park which is right on the canal. It's £2.50 to park. Sadly, the museum wasn't open at the time we visited, but after checking out the video on the link above, I think it would be worth visiting, especially as it's free. There's also a cafe next to it too and some handy picnic benches outside.
The Stoke Bruerne Canal is part of the Grand Union Canal. It is steeped in history. We looked at a PowerPoint on Twinkl before we went to the canal and learned some basics which really enhanced the experience once there. When you arrive and walk up the steps towards the museum, you want to turn right and head towards the woodland walk. Enjoy looking at the beautiful boats as you walk, the green water, and check out the colourful jugs on the boats, that were once used in Victorian times to fill with fresh water.
Along the way there are information boards that are a great source of learning, telling you all about the Stoke Bruerne Canal, and how people traveled the canals in Victorian times. We had already learned that horses pulled the boats because they weren't powered then, but to get through the tunnel, people called 'leggers' had to push their feet against the tunnel walls to get the boat through. It was great to see this information on the boards which include pictures too. There are also QR codes you can scan on the boards, for films and pictures.
You will soon get to a fork in the road where you can continue along the canal or follow the woodland walk. I would suggest the woodland walk and come back via the canal. There are some cool wire sculptures along the woodland walk which the kids will love. The walk is really peaceful and the surroundings feel thick and fertile, different shades of green and English ivy like a carpet underneath your feet. It feels like an enchanted forest as you walk the path. If you want to, you can follow it all the wall to Blisworth, but we came off the path and followed the canal back in the direction we came instead.
If you follow our route, you will find the blacksmith building which is supposedly still in use but was closed when we were there. You will also find the Blisworth tunnel. If you want to, hold on to the iron rung and hang over the canal to see inside the tunnel, it's really long! Can you imagine the leggers having to push the boat through? Apparently, it would have taken them 1.5 hours! Make sure to take some rolled oats or rice with you to feed the ducks on the canal as you head back the way you came.
At the start of the path, where the museum is, you will find plenty to do. Take a look at the locks or enjoy an ice cream. There's also a restaurant and public house and if you're there late, an Asian restaurant where you can sit outside overlooking the canal.
If you walk in the opposite direction, you can head to the Nature reserve and perhaps stop at the Navigation pub for a refreshing drink. They have plenty of outdoor seating, a huge children's play area, and an outdoor bar serving ice creams and soft drinks too.
If you really want to make the most of your stay, there's even a holiday cottage you can rent right on the canal. Perfect to base yourself for some cycling fun and enjoying what I am sure, is a true hustle and bustle when everything is open in the summertime: https://www.thedovecote.website/
All in all, this is a lovely day out and can be as cheap as you like if you bring your own packed lunch. Download the free nature guides using the Canal River Trust link above and have fun in the great outdoors!
If you liked this post, check out my Educational Field Trips post: https://www.hogwartsandallhomeschool.com/post/home-ed-field-trip-ideas