Grand Union canal hike – Milton Keynes to Blisworth

Tuesday 16 June 2015

My new kit

My new kit

Yesterday I had a shopping splurge day at Open Air in Cambridge :-) I bought myself some new Salomon Xa Pro 3D trainers with added Superfeet carbon insoles & Darn Tough socks. I also bought a new Osprey Exos 38 lightweight framed rucsac and a Pack-It toiletries bag. So after spending all that money  I thought I had better continue my walk…

I left late so didn’t start walking from Milton Keynes until 12.45. I decided to head of to the Grand Union Canal via Campbell Park which is certainly heaps better than the walk through Springfield I did last week. I stopped at the unusual Camphill Cafe for tea & a cheese scone.

Iron trunk aqueduct

Iron trunk aqueduct

The canal does an amazing loop around the edge of Milton Keynes to obviously avoid the hill, so you walk 5 miles to almost get back to where you started. At Wolverton, once past the huge and decaying rail carriage works it starts heading North once again, through very pleasant countryside with the canal carried over a couple of amazing aqueducts.

However, I’m finding it all a bit of a tramp & keep wishing I had my bike! My right foot still has a small blister which doesn’t help. Also having a sphincter spasm after every pee is painful and very annoying :-( Lets hope both go away soon.

When in Milton Keynes I had booked The Windmill Cottage in Blisworth they had recommended me to stop in Stoke Bruerne for my evening meal before venturing to the top of the hill and their property. I eventually climbed up beside the 7 locks in Stoke Bruerne and settled on The Boat Inn for an excellent meal, NOT Fish and chips tonight.

A short walk up over the tunnel took me to my resting place for tonight. The Windmill Cottage is excellent with the owners Caroline & very friendly.

The new kit seems OK although with the blister it’s hard to tell about the shoes. The toiletries bag is pretty hopeless as everything ends in a huge muddle. The rucsac seems OK and the tent etc fits inside OK.

Todays 17 mile Strava is here and all the days pics are here 

 

 

 

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Grand Union Canal hike – Tring to Milton Keynes

Friday 12 June

George the albino peacock

George the albino peacock

After a not much better sleep that in my tent :-( but at least with clean clothes & body I tucked into a breakfast of Brixham kippers, marmalade, toast and followed by fruit. George the albino peacock  provided a fine display of plumage outside on the lawn.

Euan was waiting for me in reception, we had arranged to meet up as he lives locally and fancied another attempt at walking with me :-) Our previous attempt was thwarted by an amazing mountain storm at Praz de Lys in France. Today promised to be better weather but much tamer terrain than he is used to walking!

We joined the Grand Union Canal in the 30 feet deep cutting at Tring, built in 1797 it was a major engineering feat at 1.5miles long. We started our steady descent, at Lock 42 I even saw a b&b notice, for the first time, on a lock house, amazingly it has no wheeled vehicle access!  It was very enjoyable walking & chatting with someone as knowledgeable about social networks as Euan.

Lunch at The Globe Inn

Lunch at The Globe Inn

The weather although threatening rain held of until we reached Leighton Buzzard where no open cafe by the canal could be found. Euan scooted off to savour the delights of the Milton Keynes Apple store and I continued walking. Eventually i found The Globe Inn, an open canal side pub, serving food.

After a good few more miles (walking is really slow and painful compared to biking, especially on flat even surfaces) I eventually came to the outskirts of Milton Keynes and zig zagged through estates that are beginning to look very run down & slum like. I eventually found the X5 bus stop to get my free bus to Cambridge just as the heavens opened up.

I was pleased to be coming home for a while as my right foot blister was hurting plus my Saucony Excursion TR7 trainers are worn out plus the Osprey hornet 46 backpack shoulder straps are uncomfortable carrying 10kg. A visit to Open Air is called for.

Strava says I did 22.1 miles (to the MK bus stop) and burnt 3601 cals. Moves made it 26.3 miles (Inc walk back home) 54,087 steps and 2,316 cals whilst good old Fitbit said 57,650 steps 26.44 miles and 6,174 cals

The days pics are here

 

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Grand Union Canal hike -Watford to Tring

Thursday 11th June

Camping

Camping

I woke up at 5.30 after nearly 7 hours in the tent, slept better than I had hoped but Fitbit told me a different story of being awake 3 times for 12 mins and restless 14 times for 35 mins :-(  A perfect night for camping though.

I was on my way just after 6am weirdly I could see someone else was camping 100 yards away, visible from the Grand Union Canal towpath. My phone beeped, from the IFTTT recipe, at 08.12 to say I had already walked 11,126 steps. The earliest I have ever achieved that yet :-)

A great thing about starting so early is that everyone you meet is so friendly, early risers are a really cheery bunch :-) I tried to get some breakfast at Hunton Bridge but the only place open was the newsagents, I plodded on and felt very smug walking under the M25 with it’s jams & noise, eventually at 8.30 I managed to find a cooked good breakfast at Sainsbury’s in Hemel Hempstead – interesting how pubs and cafes don’t seem to be open until Noon :-(

You get a real feeling of going “Up North” as the locks steadily climb up the Chiltern Hills to the highest point at Tring. The canal is more like a river with water spilling over the top of the lock gates and in fact at Berkhamstead they call it a port.

Not camping

Not camping

At Tring i spied on the map Pendley Grange with it’s swimming pool and luxurious offering! Calling them up they had a room cheaper than the boring place in Watford! So I decided to splurge, never having slept in a tent on consecutive nights,  so I booked the room and got the dinner there too. All very grand except the bathroom was rather tired looking with the obligatory loose shower :-(

According to Strava I walked 17.3 miles and burnt 2,809 cals , Fitbit made it 17.93 miles from 38,831 steps burning 5,268 cals.  Moves made it 33,019 steps 17.6 miles and 1,553 cals. So a pretty wide variation in the calorie counts. But still a very pleasant day’s walking in just about ideal conditions, although I picked up a small blister on the outside of my right heel :-(

The pictures are here

 

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Greenford to Watford on the Grand Union towpath.

Bulls Bridge Junction

Bulls Bridge Junction

Nephew Phillip kindly dropped me back outside The Black Horse in Greenford at 9.30am ready for the first full day of walking along The Grand Union canal. Last night he cleaned up his 24 or so entries in my address book :-) and maybe found out why his son Marcus embeds himself into my Google photo albums wherever I am in the world :-)

It was a lovely day and as always canals offer fascinating glimpses into town life, past Sotheby’s modern storage depot on an industrial estate to the Mohammedi Park Masjid Complex but then I had to resort to peering over the vast fence that stretched for miles by using Google Earth, t to find out it’s an Heathrow car park! Maybe I will have to carry a drone in future :-)

At Bulls Bridge you hit the main Grand Union canal and do an abrupt right turn, must have been hard for the horses towing the barges! How did they manage not to muddle up all the towing lines at junctions like this?

The canal is a great mixture of industrial complexes where I play the guessing game and modern flats which have been built on derelict sites. Interestingly how the canal role has changed! now its an asset so the flats face the canal whereas industrial places always have huge fences shielding them from the canal.

The canal then gets more rural and is totally fascinating that it is so rural and you are totally unaware of cars etc. and only the noise of trains.

The first lock

The first lock

At Rickmansworth I thought it would be good to start looking for a b&b, alas the owners of such places can’t be bothered to answer their phones :-( booking.com could only find expensive places miles away. It was a pleasant evening so I kept walking, in the knowledge I was carrying a tent. Just before Watford i met a freindly walker out breaking his new shoes in. He told me of a great wild camping place near the Watford Rugby pitches so I was happy. I dropped off the canal to try eating at The Harvestor PH – nightmare place so I walked over to the Rising Sun and had my fish & chips there, the adjacent Premier Inn wanted £125 for a room :-( I politely declined and rejoined the towpath. I met the same guy returning from his walk and he gave me precise directions. I found the spot. Watford Rugby Club were still practising but I snook into a corner pitched the tent and had a great nights sleep for £0

A very enjoyable day with perfect weather. The Strava is here and the days pics here

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