The smell of smoke from the many wood burning stoves; crab apples litter the path, being pecked at by Blackbirds and other Thrush; Moorhen bob their way across the murky, green brown, water. Classic signs to me of the Grand Union Canal, once the highways of our industrial nation, now a green corridor snaking its way through the heart of England. The old industry complexes remain on the peripheries, either as husks of their former glory or reclaimed as tenements for the affluent. Today I took a walk through history from Fenny Stratford to Old Wolverton along the Grand Union Canal.
Fenny Stratford to Old Wolverton Grand Union Canal Walk
The weather forecast told me today would be a bit dull, grey skies and little else, so rather than attempt photography on the patch I thought I would build up my miles and take a long walk following the meandering path of the Grand Union canal as it weaves its way through Milton Keynes.
I joined the canal in Fenny Stratford (having walked from the Bus stop near Tesco in Bletchley – the number 6 bus runs to the bus stops at either end of this walk), the sun bright in the sky, the first day of spring defying the weatherman.
|Grand Union Canal at Fenny Stratford|
Joining the canal here led me down passed a tangle of barges, some homes to wanderers, free to roam the network of locks and marinas; or tools for workers, dredging the water way or carrying goods to market, yes believe it or not there are still items transported by barge today (OK it was fuel for other barge owners, but none the less a great flashback to a bygone era).
As i strolled the friendly people of the canal folk, waved and nodded, like me happy to be out breathing the fresh air rather than stuck in some stuffy office.
|The only lock on my walk, and it was a drop of under 1 foot!|
|Back lit Barges|
|Modern industry still flanking the canal|
|Typical Grand Union Canal on my Fenny Stratford to Old Wolverton Grand Union Canal Walk|
Following the towpath I soon realised my ideas of a smooth walk along gravel paths was not to be, as thick mud caked the path, wide puddles spreading from waters edge to blackthorn hedge, the going at times hard as my feet slipped and slid over the perilous sludge.
Making a steady pace, I enjoyed the interactions with people today, from the two gentlemen I met early on who were as pleased as I was to see another walker, and stopped for a short chat about the virtues of walking, to the friendly faces of the canal folk, who all seemed happy to say hello, without questioning the intentions of others friendliness.
|One of the many Old Bridges|
Signs of Spring
All along the canal Blackthorn is blooming, snowdrops and crocus have pushed their way through the mud and grass adding colour to the walk, while daffodils are nearing opening time. the local birds have also sensed the change and begun to pair off, mallards viciously copulate while Moorhen skulk together in the over hanging branches. Robins seemed to sing from the tops of every bush, and Great Tits call out to each other in loud raspy voices.
After a while of struggling along the thin towpath I reached an area where a wide, concrete path (known as the canal boardwalk) mirrors the path of the canal, I joined this smooth surface to continue my walk, preferring the steady pace I could manage on the firmer path, than staying true to the canal walk, the truth being that nothing more than a thin strip of grass separated me from the muddy towpath for much of this walk.
|Canal Boardwalk Path|
|Grand Union Canal|
|Gulliver’s Land Peeking Through The Trees|
Heading Further off Track
My intention was to stay true to the canals accompanying path, however shiny things pull my attention and I found myself crossing the canal at the sight of an unusual bench, a large frog, and followed a slightly different route.
This new route allowed me a few experiences I was not expecting, following as it did the Gyosei Art Trail for a little while, the bench being part of this trail. Seeing the few items of art I did, whet my appetite for the full trail, which I am sure the family and I will follow at some point later in the year.
Heading off my planned path also allowed me views of the rear of the marina and boat yard in Great Linford and the wonderful old Brick Kilns, an area I have visited a few times, and have some great photos of my kids at. It still amazes me that people think Milton Keynes is all new builds and concrete.
|Rob Griffith Frog|
|Andrew Kay’s Shire Horse|
|Brick Kilns at Great Linford|
|Flat topped Kiln|
|Not easy to see but the swathe of yellow are all Crocus|
|Horses Beside the Canal|
|Snowdrops Under Trees|
A Walk down Memory Lane
My walk took me on to areas that were my stamping ground as a young child and teenager, the Manor House at Great Linford is an area I’ve visited many tomes, the nearby ponds an area I would catch tadpoles and minnows, the stone circle an place I climbed and played. The whole area and place I walked with teenage friends.
The old building beside the church and the church itself, sadly reflect the run down, austerity ridden times we live in, the stunning old windows covered in perspex to prevent disenfranchised youth from breaking the intricate panels. It is such a shame that there exists and element of our young people who see no beauty in these old places, but instead see their only fun to be had in destruction.
|Great Linford Manor|
|Ponds I caught Tadpoles in|
|Church and old buildings|
|Stunning Old Building, such a shame they need to protect them from harm|
|More of the ponds|
|Stone Circles (Man Made)|
Areas of my Youth
Having grown up in Stantonbury I walked the Railway Walk (the cycle path that was once a branch line between Wolverton and Newport Pagnell, where Newport Nobby pulled carriages between stations) more times than I can remember, I have traveled from end to end many times, visiting the shops in Wolverton or spending time with “friends” in Newport Pagnell. I have visited the Black Horse pub with family as a child or for more nefarious reasons as a young adult.
It amazes me that the area known as Stonepit Fields is so rich in wildlife, and stunning looking, in my youth it was nothing but farmers fields, and I can recall on more than one occasion the local “bad Boys” setting fire to the straw crops in summer. The area known as Stanton Low country park, were yet more fields where we used to run as youngsters the new housing area once farm buildings where friends and I snuck to play amongst the hay bales.
|Railway walk bridge|
|Stonepit Fields – not quite how it looked in my youth|
|The Black Horse Pub, still looking great|
|Views over Stanton Low Park and Linford Lakes Nature Reserve|
The Final Stretches
As the canals path finally brought me nearer to home I was soon walking through New Bradwell and on into Wolverton, these two old towns, built on the back of the railway line between London and Birmingham once industrial and now very much part of Milton Keynes commuter belt.
Passing over one of the countries newest Aqueducts I was soon heading under the bridges, and passed the train mural, that I know existed when I was young but has a date of 2011 on it? and on into Wolverton’s historical past.
Wandering passed the newly built flats and the renovated railway works buildings, it is great to see the progression, but sadly only mere metres away the old buildings are covered in ivy, the reclamation of nature well underway.
|The New Inn at New Bradwell|
|New Bradwell’s Aqueduct (not a patch on the Iron Trunk)|
|Mural Through the Bridge|
|Old becomes New|
|Grand Union Canal|
I finally reached the end of the canal and headed to the last bus stop, to complete my walk. I didn’t need to go to the bus stop living near by myself, but it completed the walk for my View Ranger app. A total of 12.6 miles walked on my Fenny Stratford to Old Wolverton Grand Union Canal Walk.
Route Map of Fenny Stratford to Old Wolverton Grand Union Canal Walk
You can find more Milton Keynes walks on my dedicated page – MILTON KEYNES WALKS.
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