(7) The gap in the hedge is where the old footpath ran, and I don't think this gap has ever stopped being used. There’s a ditch to cross and a length of the old hedge between fields is still in place; the footpath ran alongside the hedge. The cyclist is heading towards Simpson.
The Half Lost Footpaths
Two footpaths converged on bridge 89 of the Grand Union canal before Milton Keynes came, and a surprising amount of their routes can still be found.
Since I published Part One, it’s now been explained to me that footpaths across the fields often follow drainage ditches. The ditches ensure the path is well drained and passable on nearly every day of the year.
That’s certainly true for the footpaths on this post’s map, on the wet ground Milton Keynes is built on; just look at all those ponds on the map.
The footpath routes in about 1900, with photo locations and some modern roads added. If you’ve ever wondered about a strange feature of your local area, or just wondered what was there in the past, online maps like this one (which I’ve modified) from the National Library of Scotland may well be able to tell you.
(Below) the map key.
Look For the Ditch
Where these routes do not run alongside ditches, they are generally on higher, better drained land. But there’s almost always a ditch at the base of a field hedge. Perhaps it stays dry most of the year so it's not marked on the map.
Thanks to Mary French for explaining this to me; it made finding these old paths rather easier.
I’ve added ditches, ponds and wells to the base 1900 map, but from a 1950 map. These dates are approximate.
One footpath came from the direction of Watling Street, the other from the old village of Bletchley. We looked at the Bletchley footpath in Part One, but only as far as Watling Street. Let’s look at the rest of that path first.
Photo numbers carry on from last week’s numbers.
The Bletchley Path
From Watling Street, the route of this footpath is now under Granby and the big roundabout for the A5(D) until we get into Beanhill. Once there, apart from some sections of remaining hedgerows in Netherfield there are only a couple of places where I could locate the route.
(8) The path followed the hedge on the left, which has become much wider through planting. I found a ditch in the hedge. A redway signpost pointing to the underpass can be seen above the pedestrian’s head.
One spot still in use as a footpath today is in the most Southerly corner of Beanhill where the route crosses the old road from Watling Street to Simpson. (7) The other spot is on the most Northerly corner of Netherfield, next to the Redway school. (8)
From Netherfield, the footpath doesn’t quite line up with the underpass, and on the other side of the road houses now occupy the short stretch to bridge 89.
The Watling Street Path
The second footpath starts on a corner of the minor lane from Nomansland on Watling Street, now just inside the Bleak Hall industrial estate. (9)
From there the route crosses the dual carriageway of Grafton Street (V6) then runs diagonally across Coffee Hall. (10) It’s still, in part at least, signposted as a public footpath. (11)
A bit further on, Coffee Hall farm could be seen on the far side of a small field, away to the North. It’s in a dip near the top of the hill so you might have been able to see the first floor and the chimneys. Christ the Vine Community Church is now on the site of the farm.
At Saxon Street (V7) the underpass is exactly on the route, (12) though on the other side of the road the modern redways do not follow the old footpath.
But the route can still be found; much of the drainage ditch is still there, a local inhabitant told me, and parts of the old hedgerow still remain. (13,14)
In the middle of an overgrown copse between the hospital and Standing Way (H8) I found a mature, though dead tree right on the edge of the ditch. At the end of May, quite a few days after we’ve had rain, this ditch (marked on OS maps)was still slightly damp. (15) The route of the footpath crosses the V8 then the marina but there’s nothing left to see now until you get to the bridge. (17)
(16) Is a photo in the first post on these footpaths, Lost Footpaths of Milton Keynes. The map in that post doesn't come up as far as the bridge so I've shown its location here.
(13) this is Lampitts Close, near the hospital. That’s a bridge parapet on the left, over the old ditch. The path ran past the camera position, along the hedgerow from just to the right of the bridge, then past the left end of the house in the background.
As you can see, Milton Keynes has been shaped by what was here before, with lanes and paths and hedges at least partly remaining.
If you want to find out what was here before for yourself, The National Library of Scotland has a large collection of online maps. Click on the link in this paragraph to see an example, a one inch map from 1955-61 of Winslow.
(15) This dead mature tree is right on the edge of the ditch, and it’s just by the point where the footpath cut across the field to join the Bletchley path, close to the bridge. The top of this tree is just visible for the H8, close to the bus stop.
At the link you can type in a modern place name or select a different map series, or just drag the map to a different spot. There's a slider; "Change transparency of overlay". Move the knob to the left and a modern satellite view fades in.
There's far more you can do; I'm just giving you a taster. I chose Winslow as an example because it's almost exactly in the middle of North Bucks.
If you have any comments or questions about this post, please leave a comment below.