Walk 46: Fenny Stratford Circular: Parks, canals & lakes – a bit of everything

The ‘Needs to Know’

Distance: 4.5 miles (7.24km)

Time to walk: A couple of hours , although there’s a few ‘refreshment’ opportunities en route &, if it’s a nice day, there’s an opportunity to extend the walk around Caldecotte Lake

Difficulty: Pretty much all on hard track or canal path so suitable for all weathers

Parking: We’d recommend using the free car park in Fenny Stratford which isn’t the easiest to find. Pass through Fenny Stratford centre &, opposite Dobbies Garden Centre, turn into The Irish Centre in the grounds of Manor Fields Sports Ground. Follow the road past The Irish Centre & sports fields to the allotments on the right where the road opens up into a car park

Public toilets: Pubs, cafes etc

Map of the route: @Walkingworld map

Although not in Northamptonshire, this walk’s only just over the border, about 40 minutes drive from Northampton. It’s also a corker!

We start in Fenny Stratford, a village on the outskirts of Milton Keynes & just far enough away to retain its own identity. Originally an independent town, it was included in the Milton Keynes “designated area” in 1967. From 1895 it formed an urban district with Bletchley, until 1974 when it became part of the borough of Milton Keynes

The town name is an Old English word meaning ‘marshy ford on a Roman road’. The Roman road in this case is Watling Street, which we meet on another of our walks near St Paul’s Cathedral in Central London. Traces of the Roman settlement Magiovinium can still be seen & possibly the oldest known gold coin in Britain was found here, a gold stater of the mid-second century BC

The town was recorded in manorial rolls in 1252 as Fenni Stratford, though previously it was just known as Stratford, the prefix being added to distinguish the town from nearby Stony Stratford

Being an ancient market town, Fenny Stratford was the location of a weekly market for many years until 1665 when the town was badly hit by the bubonic plague. As a result the main road that ran through the town was diverted away from it & the market died as a result. The market was never reinstated; the town was very much in ruins by the early eighteenth century & had by this time joined with both Bletchley & Simpson

So…enough of the history lesson…

Let’s Walk!

The car park’s not easy to find, but if you get to Dobbies (no relation to Harry Potter) Garden Centre, the entrance is pretty much straight over the road…

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The start of our walk’s into the park at the far end…

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2. Take the left path & follow it down to the river…

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On reaching the river turn right & continue along the path by the side of it

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Lots of colour around

Lots of colour around

3. As the river turns left continue on the path straight ahead towards the tall birches…

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…& on reaching the perimeter of the park take the left path past the small tunnel…

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4. There’s a superb alley of birch trees to pass through & admire…

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5. After the trees take the left path which enters the Old Mill buildings…

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…where we turn right & join the road over the canal

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6. At the junction turn right & pass through the village to the thatched cottages…

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…turning right into Larch Grove

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7. The path bends round to the left & passes through some grand old trees…

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…to arrive at a busy main road

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8. Cross the road at the pedestrian crossing & turn right over the bridge…

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Fine allotments along here

Fine allotments along here

9. Look for a small path heading off to the left immediately after crossing the bridge…

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…which turns into an alley running between some gardens

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10. At the end cross straight over the road into Leon Recreation Ground…

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11. Yet another lovely little park full of playgrounds & skateboard ramps etc. Firstly follow the path through the avenue of trees…

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…& at the end turn left passing the playground & the school on the right

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We didn’t bring our skateboards with us today, but if you do…

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12. At the end of the path, turn right towards the main road…

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13. We’re in the town area of this walk now, so turn right & pass several commercial shops including one where one of Spandau Ballet used to ply his trade…

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It’s ‘TRUE’…pass the Methodist Chapel…

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…& then the Masonic Hall…

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14. Turn left up Victoria Street…

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…& if you fancy a cuppa there’s Mister Tea’s Cafe

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And then, if you fancy a wash down & quick clip there’s Mucky Pups

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15. Continue to the junction & cross straight over down the station entrance…

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16. It’s time to ‘walk the platform’ as it’s straight ahead & out the other side…

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When’s the next one coming?

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17. Head up the ramp out of the car park…

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…turning left across the rails at the end

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18. Time for a change of scene & a walk along the Grand Union Canal so turn right into Lock View Lane

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At the bottom on the left’s the Red Lion pub, which unfortunately lost our trade as it doesn’t accept cards…

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…plus they backed the wrong horse

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19. Cross the swing bridge to the other side of the canal where you’ll see that this lock’s got the smallest rise of any in the UK (about 1 foot)

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20. After crossing the bridge turn left & follow the canal path until Bridge 92

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There’s some lovely canal-side properties along here…

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…plus an opportunity to gather bucket-fulls of crab apples for a crab-apple jelly

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21. Pass under the bridge with the industrial estate on the left…

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…& then under the next road one

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Continue ’round the bend’ to arrive at what we’ll now call ‘Heron Bridge’ as we’ve seen him there twice…

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More crab apples

More crab apples

22. Here he is…

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23. Carry on under that bridge towards the next, uglier main road one

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But what we don’t want to see on our walks are sights like this…

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24. Luckily after passing under the road bridge we get the opportunity of a great snap of the reflection in the still canal

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But, instead of passing under this bridge, turn right up the side path to the right to arrive at the road…

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25. It’s time to move away from the Grand Union Canal & head across into Caldecotte Lake…

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26. We walked this in Autumn so there was loads of colours in the trees etc…

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…but keep heading across the concrete bridge over the Ouzel…

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27. What’s that windmill doing over there then?

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It’s actually a Premier Inn Hotel & not a real windmill at all so turn right down the ramp & enjoy the wildlife posing on the barrier

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And then carry on up the hill on the left…

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28. At the junction of paths take the right one towards Caldecotte Lake South…

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…passing under the road bridge…

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….& up the right path to the South Lake

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29. Now simple follow the lakeside path around the lake watching out for waterfowl including Gannets & Crested Grebes…

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30. On arriving at the bridge below with the two benches, leave the lakeside path & cross it…

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…bearing left & passing under the next road bridge…

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31. The path narrows somewhat here, but is still hard surface & easy to follow. Although you can’t see it, Tesco Distribution Centre is on the right which was once Milton Keynes largest building…

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32. Keep following it until it reaches the canal again opposite the pub we passed earlier – they still don’t accept cards!

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Don’t cross the swing bridge, but turn left & follow the canal path

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33. This path passes through the centre of Fenny Stratford…

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There were some great photo opportunities along here…

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34. There’s some lovely developments along here including a little Marina we wouldn’t mind an apartment in…

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…& mind the pig on the balcony

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35. There’s about 200 yards of canal walking to go now…

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…& at the above bridge take the steps up the left to return to where we left the car

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So there we are! Because it’s all on hard surface, this walk can be done at anytime of the year & in all weathers

At the end there’s always Dobbies to have a cuppa & a bite – they take cards!

Go Walk!