The Land

The Lost Footpath

Canal bridge 89  Milton KeynesThe 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.

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.

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Field Day

Ollie and his Diesel TE20Ollie Turner with his Diesel powered 1954 “Little Grey Field Mouse”. It’s only his second match with this particular tractor and mounted plough but he’s been competing for over twenty years.

When I found that some of my friends were in the North Bucks Vintage Tractor Club, I just had to go to the club's latest event; a ploughing match.

I turned up at the match in a field near Castlethorpe on a sunny Sunday morning in February to find plenty of classic and veteran tractors lining up to plough.

Progress was slow to begin with. The first spit or opening (the first furrow) is the most important one and there was plenty of stopping, adjusting, and starting again.

Every other furrow has to line up with the first spit. The ploughing has to be to a consistent depth and width, and be as straight as possible. That’s less easy than it sounds; soil varies, even in different parts of the same field. Moisture content makes a difference too.

The weather had been dry for a few days but a little rain beforehand would have made ploughing easier, one of the ploughmen told me.

International Harvester tractor and steepleClosest to the camera is an International Harvester B414. These tractors were built in Bradford between 1961 and 1966. Further away with Hanslope’s steeple beyond it, is a Massey Ferguson 65; big brother to the 35 (see the photo below) they were made in Detroit between 1958 and 1964.

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Getting the Bump

Bowl barrow  Church Hill  Whaddon

The Monday Photo

What is this mound on the top of Church Hill, at Whaddon?

It may be a mill mound; the Ordnance Survey think so and it’s marked as such on at least some of their recent maps. Historic England agrees. OS maps from around 1900 show the mound, but say nothing about a windmill.

It’s a good place for a windmill, high up on a hill and facing into the prevailing winds. But it is also a good spot for a bowl barrow, and that is how it’s listed, in the records of scheduled monuments.

A bowl barrow is a burial mound. Most of them were constructed between 2400 and 1500 BC; so that’s from the Late Neolithic period to the Late Bronze Age.

This barrow, like many, had a surrounding ditch. In a bowl barrow there may be just one burial or there may be several.

Unusually, the top of the barrow was much later flattened and levelled, with a shallow central depression. There’s also a causeway to the top on the South West side. These two features suggest this bowl barrow was modified later to become the mound for a Medieval post mill. It might have been 3,000 years old by then.

The mound is just along the footpath from the churchyard, and easily in sight of the remains of the important World War II wireless station the operators called Windy Ridge.

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Aylesbury Vale in the Mist

Tree in hedge and mistSome of the new estates at Aylesbury can be seen on the other side of the valley. The Chilterns are just visible in the background.

 

The wet weather last week foiled my plans to take photos for another Secrets Of… post, so I just accepted my fate and took photos of the wet weather instead.

I knew exactly where to go to get the sort of views I wanted; the back road from Whitchurch that runs West along the top of the ridge.

Junction at Oving  BucksEven the trees on the other side of the field beyond the road sign are starting to disappear into the mist.

 

This hill is a watershed; streams on the North side feed into the Great Ouse and the water ends up in The Wash. To the South the streams feed the Thames; water from here will go through London.

I enjoyed taking these photos, but I’m looking forward to sunnier weather now it’s Summer.

Aylesbury across the valeAylesbury town centre is still visible through the mist, even though it’s five miles away. The solid block of the council offices is easy to recognise.

 

Side road  Oving  BucksThis narrow, twisty road lead to Pitchcott and Quainton. Part of this road (beyond the bend) runs along a Roman road.

 

11kv lines  Aylesbury ValeThese 11,000 volt cables on wooden poles are common in Aylesbury Vale, taking power to farms and other rural locations.

 

Aylesbury Vale in the mistYou might be able to make out a farm near the top of the picture in the hill top gap between the woods. That farm is near Waddesdon.

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All the way to London

Welsh Lane  Bucks  a drover's road

The Monday Photo

If this cyclist turning right near Stowe School could follow the route he’s just turned on to all the way to the end, he would be at Bangor in Wales.

As the sign says, this is Welsh Lane and it’s a drove road, once used to take livestock from the far North West of Wales all the way to London.

This drove road comes into Bucks just to the West of Biddlesden. From this crossroads it heads onto the A422 and into Buckingham, heading for the capital.

If you look down Welsh Lane you can see that the hedges are far apart, this was ideal for drovers as it provided plenty of grass for their animals as they travelled. So important were the drove roads that enclosure acts stipulated a minimum distance between hedges on these routes.

The last known long distance drove was in 1900, taking Welsh sheep over 200 miles from Tregaron in central Wales to Harrow in London. It probably didn’t come this way, being more likely to go through Oxford and the South of Bucks.

The Other Way

The other road at this crossroads is Stowe House’s Oxford Avenue, and its trees were originally planted in the 1790s. This avenue is well over a mile and a half long. It leads from a stone gatehouse with entrance pillars on the Buckingham to Brackley road right up to the North side of Stowe School.

At the gatehouse end there’s a turn opposite to Water Stratford, where I found the tiny Norman church of St Giles for last week’s Monday photo.

I didn’t know at the time but the Boycott Farm Shop (see the sign in the photo) does very good sausage rolls, and it seems from their website that they sell pork pies too. I do like a nice pork pie, so I’ll be going back that way soon.

If you want to know more about the drove roads in mainland Britain, the Local Drove Roads website is the place to visit. I’ve spent already some time on it and I’ve barely scratched the surface.

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Where Did the River Go?

Ducks feeding at Willen lake Feeding the water birds at South Willen lake is very popular, and the birds know this. They are always on the lookout for likely bird feeders and will come quite close. If you want come to the lake to feed them, access is off the V10 Brickhill Street.

 

Willen lake in Milton Keynes is a popular spot to visit, but  before they built it, Milton Keynes Development Corporation had to move a river.

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