Walk 27: Milton Keynes, Willen Lakes Circular: So much more than just water

The ‘Needs to Know’

Distance: 4 miles (6.44km)

Time to walk: If you fancy a really quick stroll then this will take you about an hour. However, it offers a really good easy meander, taking time out for coffee, bird-watching etc so it’s possible to take a good 2/3 hours

Difficulty: Very easy, all on flat, purpose made hard paths. We walked this just after Xmas &, even though it had been raining heavily, didn’t need walking boots just sensible footwear

Parking: There’s several car parks around the lakes. We parked in the Pay & Display near the Premier Inn

Public toilets: Pubs & cafes towards the start & end of the walk

Map of the route: map2

With over 1 million visitors each year, Willen Lake is Milton Keynes’ most popular park. As well as a great place to walk, it’s also home to several watersports activities, cycling, a high ropes course &, if you’re feeling really energetic, a wake boarding centre

Together with the River Ousel, it forms part of a complicated drainage system which prevents flooding in much of eastern England & reaches the sea just outside King’s Lynn

So as it’s a glorious sunny winter’s afternoon come on…Let’s Walk!

1. Our walk starts at the car park near to the Premier Inn which also has a Fayre & Square Restaurant which we’ll save for a coffee at the end of the walk…

Willen Lake is actually split in two – the South & North Lakes & this is the South one

What’s immediately plain is that this place is teeming with birdlife, & there’s also still plenty of colour around…

2. We’re going to turn left & head clockwise around the Lakes & immediately come to a designated bird feeding area. What was disappointing is that most people were feeding bread which is a massive mistake as it swells & can kill the birds

The authorities should put up signs or something to educate people…

It certainly was a feeding frenzy…

3. Heading further on towards the childrens’ play area there’s an interesting statue on the left – not too sure what it is though…

Also on the left is one of the entrances into the open air theatre…

If you fancy a quick cuppa then the Park Cafe’s on the right – nice to sit outside on a sunny day

4. We’re now approaching the ‘activity’ part of the Lake as on the right’s the amazing WakeMK which is one of the UK’s largest cable wakeboard & waterski centres. It’s basically a moving cable where you get towed around the lake on a board with the opportunities to do tricks

Sounds simply? If it’s running just sit & watch as those that can do it are very clever. Today it wasn’t running until later so check out the link to see…

5. Oh well…maybe next time then…

Come on, we’ve an appointment with the UK’s first Buddist Temple so we continue to head around the Lake over the bridge…

Beautiful winter birches

Beautiful winter birches

…& there’s some friendly chaps along here…

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6. It’s time to leave the South Lake & head under the underpass towards its northern colleague…

…& we now have the option of continuing straight ahead round the Lake or turning left towards the Buddist Temple – there’s no choice really is there?

 

7. The Buddist Temple here is a well kept secret although you’re more than welcome to walk down the drive, have a look in & also wander round the back to see the gardens

On the left’s a beautiful water garden which looks better in the spring & summer…

…& then head straight up the steps to peer through the window into the Temple…

Isn’t that fantastic & such a hidden secret…

8. Wanna see something a couple of other special things? Well head back out of the drive & turn left where on the right we see the stone circle…

The Circle of Hearts Medicine Wheel takes the form of a North American ‘medicine wheel’, a universal symbol of peace. It was created by local volunteers in conjunction with Landscape Town & Country as a meeting place for Milton Keynes residents to celebrate the New Millennium with wishes for global peace in the 21st century

The medicine wheel consists of two concentric circles of stones, with longer stones at the north, south, east & west points. The grass space between the circles is divided into four sectors & a depression for occasional fires is located in a smaller circle covered in gravel & planted with wild flowers

The design was inspired by the legends of the Hopi Nation in North America whose prophesies foretell an age of peace when all nations from the four corners of the earth join a common effort to live in peace & harmony. The Hopi are now a small tribe based in the ‘four corners’ region of the USA of Utah, Colorado, Arizona & New Mexico

They believe we are living in the fifth world of man when the human race assembled at ‘four corners’ & were instructed to spread out in the four directions – north, south, east & west. Four also represents the elements – fire, water, air, earth

9. Back on the path we soon get a glimpse on the left of another treasure – the Peace Pagoda…

This Peace Pagoda was the first to be built in the Western World. Let’s turn left up the steps to get a closer look…

Milton Keynes Peace Pagoda was built by the monks & nuns of the Nippon Myohoji & enshrines sacred relics of Lord Buddha presented from Nepal, Sri Lanka & Berlin

The Inauguration Ceremony on 21st September 1980 was presided over by the late Most Venerable Nichidatsu Fujii, founder of the Order of Nipponzan Myohoji. Religious leaders & peace loving people from all over the world attended the ceremony

Saplings from the Sacred Bohdi-Tree under which the Buddha attended Enlightenment were also presented. A thousand cherry trees & cedars were planted on the hill around the Pagoda in remembrance of the victims of all wars. They were donated by the ancient Japanese town of Yoshino, famous for the beauty of it’s cherry blossoms

The engravings around the Pagoda tell the story of Budha’s life…

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10. Facing the Pagoda have a look up the hill to the left where we see the decorated ‘One World Tree’ with its messages & prayers – it’s worth a climb…

11. Now it’s time to head back down towards the lake…

…where we turn left & continue towards the woods…

12. On the left now’s another individual area known as The Labyrinth…

The labyrinth was created in 1985 in a design similar to the ancient turf maze at Saffron Waldon in Essex. Here’s an aerial view…

13. The path forks here & we need to take the right hand one still following the shore of the lake…

…the village of Willen lies ahead of us on the left…

The name Willen is probably from Anglo-Saxon or Old English meaning (at the) ‘willows’. The River Ouzel meanders through here making it ideal for willow trees

Also on the left here is Willen Hospice which has great views over the lake – pop a few coins in the brick donation collection point as you pass…

14. If you fancy a look at Willen then take the left fork in the path. Today we don’t have time so we turn right & continue to head around the lake…

…& there’s a view back across the lake towards the Peace Pagoda…

15. We’ve already mentioned that this area’s major contributor to the East of England’s flood defences & we keep following the path across these…

16. Across the lake here’s an island which is normally populated by a colony of cormorants, but there weren’t  many around today. There’s also another story that there used to be a herd of goats on the island too, but we’ve never seen any!

17. The main part of the flood defences are just along here & it looks quite elaborate…

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18. The path now descends off the defences (we’re now walking straight into a low sun) & bears right towards the next junction which is with the South Lake…

19. At the junction below we need to turn left & head through the underpass…

…to emerge by the side of the South Lake again…

Bottoms Up!!

Bottoms Up!!

There’s obviously some big pike in this lake as these two chaps were doing their best with spinners & lures…

20. The path simply continues & on the left’s some local industry…

…plus we can now see our finish point again across to the right…

21. Eventually we come to another junction where we head right following the south end of the lake now…

We saw a Kingfisher darting along here, but couldn’t get his perches for a photo so had to settle for the swans…

22. Also along here’s another activity area…Aerial Extreme, the largest high rope adventure course in the south of England

Now we bear right to head back to our starting point. On the left here’s the station for the narrow gauge railway which wasn’t running today…

23. We’re almost back now & ahead’s the complex of Heath Club (LA Fitness), Hotel (Premier Inn) & Fayre & Square Pub

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…& after a quick warming coffee the light’s still good for a few more bird snaps…

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So that’s the end of our little stroll around the Lakes, both of which are very different from one another

This is either a quick or leisurely walk & ideal for a pre or post Sunday lunch stroll. When we walked it today the winter light was amazing &, at the end, we also managed to get a great photo of the moon…

So…Go Walk!!

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