My journey down to Stoke Bruerne, which had seemed so difficult at one stage in the planning process, turned out to be a piece of cake. The problem was that I couldn't get away from Lancaster early enough to get to Northampton in time for the last bus, and that later buses from Milton Keynes passed within half-a-mile of the village without stopping.
The 14.57 Virgin train to Birmingham was 5 minutes late, but had made up the time by Wolverhampton. From Wolverhampton the line runs alongside the Birmingham Canal Navigations' "New Main Line" most of the way to Brum - a stretch I always enjoy - where we arrived at 16.55.
The 17.12 "London Midland" train to Northampton doubles as a commuter service to places such as Coventry and Rugby and was consequently busy. Regular passengers know exactly whereabouts on the platform to stand so that they can be first on and get a seat. Casuals, like me, don't and have to stand - but it my case only as far as Birmingham International, where a large number of passengers alighted. There were "overhead line problems" in the Stechford area, which meant we were about ten minutes late at Northampton, but I was still well in time for my connecting bus. At a late stage in the planning I had discovered the 33 bus, run by "Z and S International". Despite the exotic name it turned out to be a very ordinary bus and the only hint of adventure came when after joining the A45 outside Northampton the driver turned off all the interior lights! As an ex-bus driver myself I know that the saloon lights on a bus can cause reflections that make driving on unlit roads difficult - and bus lighting has got better - and brighter - than in my day; but most drivers seem to be able to manage by reducing the amount of lighting, rather than switching it off altogether.
Actually, I didn't mind because it made it easier for me to see out of the bus window and know when we had arrived at the small village of Ashton, where I had to alight for the two-mile walk to Stoke Bruerne. The road turned out to be very quiet and not too hilly, so despite the dark and the rain, which soon stopped, the walk wasn't too unpleasant and I arrived ten minutes earlier than predicted, at 19.50.
I found "Sunshine" tied up near the Canal Museum and after a meal Bernard and I went for a drink. We decided against the "Navigation" on the grounds that it's a "clone pub" that could be anywhere and is consequently devoid of any interest although the alternative "Boat Inn" these days seems somewhat schizophrenic with it's museum-piece front bar and characterless lounge/restaurant. Despite being in Camra's Good Beer Guide I was less than impressed with my pint of Marston's Pedigree as well. Poor reward for my journey I thought, perhaps I'd do better tomorrow.