Environment Magazine

Tring to Milton Keynes Canal Walk

Posted on the 22 September 2017 by Ashley Crombet-Beolens @Fromanurbanlake
Tring to Milton Keynes Canal Walk
Disclaimer - Photo Heavy post.
Sometimes pushing your body to its limits is a pain worth having, it is with that in mind that I set out yesterday (I needed to recover before posting) on my longest walk to date. My aim, to walk from Ting to Milton Keynes along the Grand Union Canal, a 30 mile walk in all the name of self flagellation. 
Actually I quite like walking the Grand Union canal, but 30 miles is a long way, and with the state of my body after my last long walk (MK Challenge walk - 25 miles) I knew this one would take its toll too.

Tring to Milton Keynes Canal Walk


Arriving at Tring (Hertfordshire) station at 09:30 it really wasn't long till I was tramping the gravelled surface of the Grand Union canal towpath and striding with purpose along the first miles of my latest epic walk. I should say Tring is a great spot to head off for a walk from, on a main line from London to Birmingham and with several great areas to walk, from the Ridgeway (a long distance path I would love to walk one day) to Ivinghoe Beacon.

Grand Union Canal

Grand Union Canal


Now you would think following a straight route along a canal wouldn't throw up any opportunities to actually get lost, but at the first bridge I came to the path heads upwards, looking under the bridge I couldn't see an obvious path on the other side so assumed I would go off route for a bit till the path reconnected, odd considering there would have had to be a tow path at some point, but hey, whatever I'd be fine, and as I reached the top of the bridge a path lead straight off in front of me, so I took it. after about 5 minutes I figured this must be wrong as I was not heading back to the canal at all.
Squinting through the bushes I could see someone fishing from across the water, so realised my error and quickly backtracked. The tow path is indeed picked up across the canal, just from a little further along, so I was soon back to my steady walking.

Great Gorge

Great Gorge


Canal Willows - there is a car on the back of one of those barges!

Canal Willows - there is a car on the back of one of those barges!


As well as the regular locks, and associated lock keepers cottages, and pubs & Inns that you can often find along the canal, there are often stunning old buildings that were once part of the huge industrial complex, the latter part of this walk includes the old railway works at Wolverton, but even early on there are units that have been modernised as new businesses or the likes.

Old Buildings on the Grand Union near Tring

Old Buildings on the Grand Union near Tring


Iron Sculpture makers - old buildings

Iron Sculpture makers - old buildings


Old Canal building

Old Canal building


Lock

Lock


Grand Union Canal Lock

Grand Union Canal Lock


Tring Reservoirs


It wasn't long before my monotonous footfall had taken me to the complex of lakes know as Tring Reservoirs, and area I know well from my late teens when my dad lived opposite them, although my last visit was twitching a Least Sandpiper a number of years ago.

Marsworth Reservoir

Marsworth Reservoir


Walking passed the lock keepers cottage and on to Marsworth Reservoir, I suddenly became acutely aware that things have changed, although partly due to my age since I last visited, the lakes did seem much smaller, the largest changes seem to be around the car park (I have no recollection of the building that now houses a tea room), and the changes to the White Lion which is sadly boarded up. Further huge changes around Marsworth Wharf, which I must admit I don't remember at all, that is now a VERY modern housing complex.

Lock Keepers Cottage

Lock Keepers Cottage


Don't remember this building when I was young and certainly no tea room

Don't remember this building when I was young and certainly no tea room


My old man's old house

My old man's old house


White Lion (my step mom used to work here)

White Lion (my step mom used to work here)


Marsworth Wharf buildings

Marsworth Wharf buildings


Marsworth Wharf

Marsworth Wharf


Dredging The Canal


As I strolled along the usually green/brown waters of the Grand Union, I noticed it was taking on a gray tinge, and spotted up and down there were barges carrying thick gloopy mud, long armed diggers and signs warning of the dredging that was well under way.

Dredging

Dredging


Grey Canal water (doesn't really show well)

Grey Canal water (doesn't really show well)


It's not hard to see why the waters were turning gray when you see the thick, clay like substances that have been dug from the bottom of the canal, the workmen then spreading the muck across nearby fields.

Mud spreading

Mud spreading


Bye to the Chilterns


Walking on I could see the Chilterns and, I think, more specifically Ivinghoe Beacon off to my right, the long stretch of hills cutting through the countryside. At moments it appeared in front of me, framed by the canals high hedges, at other times I followed its distant route.

Dull skies over the canal

Dull skies over the canal


Ivinghoe Beacon in the distance

Ivinghoe Beacon in the distance


Chilterns

Chilterns


More bridges

More Bridges


Distant Hills

Distant Hills


Eventually I left the hills behind and pushed on into Leighton Buzzard, but not before I had a well earned lunch break at a place called "Peace Meadow" it looks lovely from the map and sign, but in reality was a little bit of grass with 2 slightly damaged picnic benches.

Peace Meadow

Peace Meadow


A couple of sandwiches and a change of socks (and sweaty t-shirt) and I was back off along the canal, reinvigorated by the food and fresh clothes I was soon eating up the ground ahead of me. 

Storm Damage

Storm Damage


Through the Trees

Through the Trees


Wooded Hills

Wooded Hills


Three Locks


As I neared the Three Locks (the location of three locks, a pub and a huge golf course) the rains started to really fall, starting as a light drizzle to begin with it soon became a heavy down pour, reducing the views but quite some way.

Three Locks

Three Locks


Rain on the Grand Union

Rain on the Grand Union


Tring to Milton Keynes Canal Walk

No idea where this is between three locks and Fenny stratford


Rain shrouds the countryside

Rain shrouds the countryside


Eventually I reached Water Eaton, and pink or blue Arriva busses signalled that I was back into my home town, a short walk through Bletchley, with the Lakes Estate across the canal but nothing my side, I arrived in Fenny Stratford, the point I had decided I could halt if I wished, or push on to home.

Second Half Fenny Stratford to Home


Deciding I was still feeling fit enough I pushed on.
This route follows one I have previously walked - Fenny Stratford to Old Wolverton, feel free to have a read of that one as well.

Then the Rain Came Down


If I'd thought the rain was bad earlier, it really came down, all be it briefly, while I made my way through Milton Keynes, at one point I even had to take shelter under one of the many bridges just to stay dry.

Raining on the canal

Raining on the canal


Bridge over the canal

Bridge over the canal


Bridges of Milton Keynes

Bridges of Milton Keynes


Pushing Through


Thankfully the rain didn't last long and soon the sun was out (the first time all day), always annoying when this happens towards the end of the day.

Sun shine

Sun shine


With the sun came some real pain as well, the kilometres between 35 and 40 were some of the hardest I have walked, while my feet were not blistering, as they had on my 25 mile challenge, or as sore, thanks to my wonderful Salomon shoes! My hips and calves were starting to burn and the less said about my shoulder the better. 
Pushing through the pain, and slightly motivated by the joggers, who passed me occasionally I fought through the pain barrier and started to pick the pace back up. In fact at the 40k mark, I felt much fresher, although by now sunset was only an hour or so away and I still had a long way to go.

Owl Mural

Owl Mural 


Changing weather

Changing weather


Low Sun on the canal

Low Sun on the canal


Sunset and Dark Walking


As I walked through the Great Linford area the sun was starting to get very low, it actually made seeing a little tricky as the bright evening sun glared off the still waters of the canal. and I was starting to worry.
As I passed the Black Horse and approached Stanton Low CP the sun was well and truly setting, the sky quickly turning to fire as I wandered.

Twilight on the Canal

Twilight on the Canal


Sun is Setting

Sun is Setting


Torn between wanting to enjoy the beautiful sunset that was unfolding before me, but very worried that the sun would go and darkness would envelope me, I tried to keep up a decent pace, while also grabbing some photographs of the evenings events (not that easy).

Golden Skies of Sunset over the Grand Union Canal

Golden Skies of Sunset over the Grand Union Canal


Sunset through a bridge

Sunset through a bridge


Ball of Fire

Ball of Fire


Fire in the Sky

Fire in the Sky


As I walked through New Bradwell the sun had gone, a glow still remained in the skies (just) and I was able to continue navigating the canal path by the eerie twilight, but knew if would not be long before there was not enough light and things could potentially become a little dangerous. Walking next to a bod of water with an uneven path in the dark isn't something high on my list to recommend.

Sunset in New Bradwell by the Grand Union Canal

Sunset in New Bradwell by the Grand Union Canal


Bridge over the canal

Bridge over the canal


Wolverton was dark when I passed under the railway line for the final time, my path lit only be the lights from the near by apartments, or the floodlights lighting teh industrial estates, some light pollution that I am thankful for.

Wolverton new builds in the dark

Wolverton new builds in the dark


As it transpired it was only the last couple of hundred yards of canal that I had to use my phone torch to navigate, and then mainly to make sure I wasn't walking head long into a low hanging branch!
I soon arrived home, sore, and ready for some food and drink (and bed).

Stats


It took me 10 hours 27 minutes to walk 30.01 miles (48.36 km) I had done it Tring Station to my home!

View Ranger Maps


You can download the route I followed in two maps, one Tring to Fenny Stratford and One Fenny Stratford to Old Wolverton.
I'm Walking 2500 miles in 2017 to raise money for Birding For All - Read about it here - Please consider donating through My Donate
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