Canals

Lost Footpaths of Milton Keynes

Canal bridge 89  Milton Keynes(16) The canal bridge. This is the view just before you cross into Woughton on the Green; if you’ve come along either footpath you’d be nearly at your destination.
The bridge isn't on this post's map, but is on the map in part 2.

The Half Lost Footpaths
Part 1

(Edited, with photo numbers added to text and drainage ditches etc added to map)
This is an accommodation bridge, built so that fields and minor routes were not cut off by the canal. When built it was at the edge of a village, but now it’s in the middle of Milton Keynes.

This is bridge 89 over the Grand Union canal, and it’s near the pair of roundabouts where Marlborough Street (V8) and Standing Way (H8) meet.

Now it just provides access between the Peartree Bridge and Woughton on the Green housing estates, but before Milton Keynes there were two trackways or paths that met at the bridge.

These routes, marked as footpaths on 1950s maps, were both lost with the building of the new town. But parts still exist and can be found today.

Mostly these footpaths followed field boundaries, so it’s likely they date from just after the enclosure act was signed for Woughton on the Green in 1768. Hedges still in existence make them a little easier to follow today.

Lost footpath map  BletchleyThe route in about 1900, but showing the photo locations and some modern roads. By the way, if you’ve ever wondered about a strange feature of your local area, or just wondered what was there before all the houses were built, the National Library of Scotland’s online maps like this one may well be able to tell you.
Drainage ditches, ponds, and wells have now been added to this map; I now understand there's a relationship between the routes of footpaths and the routes of drainage ditches, see part 2.

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Anchor the Canal Bridge!

Grand Junction Canal Co. wall plate

The Monday Photo

This wall tie anchor plate tells us which company installed it, and in what year; this was an easy post to research. It was the Grand Junction Canal Co, and the anchor was installed or at least cast at the foundry, in 1913.

The company formed in 1793 and built the canal that runs through North Bucks and crosses the River Ouse over the Iron Trunk aqueduct at Wolverton. We know it as the Grand Union Canal; the name changed on January 1st 1929 when several canal companies merged.

These plates are used in pairs with an iron rod between them, and they stop the sides of the bridge from spreading; the rod has threaded ends and large nuts hold the anchors.

Hot Stuff
I think the rod is heated up when it goes in so that it expands. Then the nuts are done up nice and tight. When the rod cools it contracts; the anchor plates are pulled in even tighter.

This plate is on canal bridge number 123 which carries the B488 over the canal just North of Ivinghoe. Two pairs were installed here, and there’s another pair on the bridge at Simpson, Milton Keynes.

I expect there are plenty more but I haven’t spotted them yet. If you like canals there are more posts on the North Bucks Wanderer; just look at the categories list in the sidebar.

If canals aren’t really your thing there are over 400 other posts, here on the NBW.

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Far From the Sea

The Wey  a boat built in Stony Stratford

The Monday Photo

This is The Wey, one of the last boats ever built by Hayes’ Boatyard, at their Watling Works site in Stony Stratford. The boatyard, though about as far from the sea as you can get in England, built vessels for tidal waters and large rivers.

The Diesel engined Wey, first called The Pat when it was built in 1924, was trailored North from the boatyard by a steam lorry. At the end of Wharf Lane in Old Stratford, just inside Northants, was a small branch of the Grand Junction canal. The Pat was launched sideways into the narrow waters.

From there it travelled down the Buckingham Arm to the main canal, then to the Thames at London, to be used for moving timber.

In 2004 The Wey returned to North Bucks, when it was donated to the Stacey Hill Museum (now the Milton Keynes Museum) by the Environment Agency in 2004. It's still at the museum.

The white wheelhouse we can see here was a later alteration, but the boat would have gone down to London with the superstructure partly dismantled, so it would fit under the canal bridges.

Gone
The Watling Works is now gone, though at least one building survived until around 2009, as part of a car dealership. Looking at old photos, it might have been their fitting shop. The site is now Hayes Mews, and is just South of York House on London Road.

Hayes built boats that went all over the world. They made tugs, gunboats, steam yachts and even a paddle steamer. Boats too big for the canal were transported in sections, then rebuilt in London.

Boats went to Archangel in Russia, to the Nile, and to South America; including a “light draught passenger steamer” for the Amazon.

I can’t discover when boat construction started in Stony Stratford, but the first Edward Hayes (of three) founded a firm of agricultural engineers in 1840. They first gained a name for building reliable steam engines, then moved on to marine engines, then progressed to complete boats.

By the early 1900s they were building vessels up to 80 feet long. The last vessel they made, a tug boat named The Sparteolus, left the works in 1925.

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The Year, In Pictures

Here's a look at some of my favourite posts from 2022, just to whet your appetite for next year.

If you can think of any new subjects you would like me to cover (In North Bucks of course) please get in touch! I can't guarantee to use them, but I'll certainly look into each idea.

Half a House is Better Than None


Market Square and Horn St. widening

From February, a road widening scheme in Winslow from over 100 years ago. It had been a “a very sharp and dangerous corner” said the Buckingham Advertiser and North Bucks Free Press, when the work was completed.

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The Shortest Day

Lane to Peartree BridgeThis lane leads to the Peartree Bridge; named, it’s said, after an orchard. Possibly the “orchard of half a rood” (an eighth of an acre) referred to in a 1639 terrier, a book recording land boundaries and contents. It’s bridge 88 on the Grand Union canal.

You’ll have been told by all and sundry yesterday that it was the shortest day; the winter solstice. What else could I do but go out with the camera just as it was getting dark?

I have to admit, I have a new camera and lens and so I’ve been busy seeing what it could do. The old one was good in low light, but I’ve found that this one is better.

Yesterday we had a whole 7 hours and 44 minutes between sunrise and sunset. Not a lot, really. The summer solstice next year is on the 21st of June, and on that day we shall have 16 hours and 44 minutes, with sunset at 9:28 pm instead of 3:54 pm. Much better.

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High Water in Bucks

Canal pumphouse  Horton Wharf  BucksThe pump house at Horton Wharf is set back from the canal, and built on to the bridge causeway. It has a large window on the right hand end, (not visible here) twice the size of the door in this side. It has the usual hipped roof.

The Northern Engines Part 2

The nine Northern engines were placed along the Grand Junction canal between the River Ouse valley at Old Wolverton and the canal summit at Bulbourne, near Tring.

These steam powered water pumps returned water to the summit, which had an inadequate water supply.

Going South you rise up a total of almost 112 feet through the many locks; apart from a few miles through Bedfordshire, that stretch of the canal is all in North Bucks. I told you more about the Northern Engines and their pump houses last week in part one.

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