Grand Union at Fenny Stratford

Fenny Stratford is now part of Bletchley which is part of Milton Keynes. Watling Street which was the old Roman road going north from London goes right through it. There is even buried remains of a Roman villa just as one drives into Fenny Stratford. Another interesting and useless bit of trivia: the village was so badly hit by the plague that Watling Street was diverted around the village at one time to avoid the Black Death. OK, I got some of that from Wikipedia I think but it is still fun and probably true.

The route today shall start from the carpark shared by the Rugby Club and the Irish Centre. There is also a park at the end of the carpark called Waterhall Park which is part of The Parks Trust here in Milton Keynes. As we want to get out to the canal we need to make our way between the allotments and the community orchard just to the right of the brick bridge. Follow the little path on the side of the paved footpath and turn left onto the towpath. This is bridge 97.

Path to canal is the dirt path on the right. The allotment is on your left and the community orchard on your right.
Bridge 97

Turn left and go under the bridge. We are just following the canal down to bridge 102 and then coming back via Waterhall Park. This isn’t a complicated walk at all. Nice straight line of canal on the way down. This post is mostly a vehicle for pretty pictures. I actually live nearby to this walk so for me it was about 7.5 km (bit more than 4 miles) but from the carpark it was probably about 6.5 km (just under 4 miles) so an easy enough walk which was mostly flat.

I think the Willowbridge Marina was around bridge 99. This is also the last turn off for the park if you don’t want to follow along with me to the next bridge. Alan wanted to show me a campsite he came across that is near bridge 102. See we are thinking about ways to reduce expenses and simplify our lives and one of the many ideas (unlikely dreams probably) is living in a travel trailer or a narrowboat. We tried the idea of living in family property to which we got non-commutable maybes that felt like a definitive no to us. Have to find another option.

Why are we looking at a rather drastic change? The fact is that if we have any hope of one day in the very distant future being able to retire we have to learn to live on nothing and save everything in site. Every penny for decades now has gone to housing and raising our family. There was never been anything left over. We are now in our mid-forties and the reality of that is setting in. No one is giving us a house. We have always had to be responsible and do it ourselves which has meant we get by and nothing more. We have to find a way to make something more.

As more income does not look to be the solution as that just means more taxes and more expectation. The solution needs to be less expectation and living on less. So, this is why we are randomly talking walks to look at campgrounds. This is also why we love the canal so much. This interest has not come out of nowhere either, we have been dreaming of an off grade life for probably a decade. About 5 years ago we met people living that life but our kids were not interested. Our last child will be an adult by next summer so we are now getting serious.

At bridge 102 turn around (or peek at the campground off the left side of the other side of the bridge). Walk back the the bridge just after the marina (bridge 99) and follow the cycle route 6 sign up to the right. You will find yourself in a carpark for an allotment (British way of people have vegetable gardens without digging up their lawns organised by the local government). Go right into the carpark, past the allotment on your left and into the park.

Follow the park path around keeping right at any turns. This is called the Riverside walk and the river is the River Ousel which runs just about parallel to the canal for a good ways in this area. This is a lovely relaxing park with ell maintained paths. Lots of lovely trees, a pond that has nesting swans in the spring and a river along the side. Can’t really beat that.

In that last picture you can see a crossroads to which you go straight over. I forgot that was there. Just head for the big house at the end of the path. I think it was once a mill and why the road there is Mill Lane but it really is just a guess. I like the house quite a bit so maybe I am imagining interesting histories for it.

At the house turn left toward the bridge and just walk up the road until you get to the carpark for the park. It is before the bridge and only about a 50 m walk. In the park again we have some choices. As we were hungry we walked back up toward the canal and joined cycle route 6 through the park. It is lovely a tree lined which you will see in the pictures below. You could turn right and follow the path keeping the river to your right and you will end up in the same place we did but with a little longer walk. Up to you. I had planned that way but Alan’s stomach was so loudly rumbling it sounded like a freight train was upon us.

In the second to last picture above you can see where a stream goes under the canal. The canal is going over the bridge and the stream under. I know to many Brits that might not see that interesting but this is not something seen often in the US where I was raised.

One of the things I love about walking on the canal is that it is almost impossible to get lost. It is all just a ‘straight’ line. If you kept walking in our outbound direction you would eventually end up in London and if you walked in the opposite direction Birmingham would be your landing point. If you want a longer walk that doesn’t end up 50+ miles away than walking down to Leighton Buzzard about 11 miles down the road might be a good bet. I have enjoyed a longer walk about half way to Leighton where we stopped for drinks at the Three Locks pub and then headed home (that was about 10 miles round trip).

The other great thing about canal walks is that they tend to be quiet. If you come to a road it is likely a momentary blip as you walk under it and you are back to silence, water, and trees. If I can’t have sitting on the rocks as the Atlantic Ocean crashes then this will have to do for a happy place. Walk on my friends!

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