From Great Horwood, I followed the route leading first north to Nash (which is not a Regency folly as it sounds), then east. On this stretch I was very glad that I was using the full 1:25 000 scale Ordnance Survey Explorer map; Ordnance Survey Explorer 192 (Buckingham and Milton Keynes). The subtlety required to find the path is only at that scale. Here as elsewhere, the path (I was following the North Bucks Way all day) was alternately clear and broad and completely invisible. It would vanish at a field boundary.
Eastward then I came to Waddon, a goodly village and the last before the vast, swallowing bulk of Milton Keynes. There is a broad cordon sanitaire between the two, at present. The great town is clearly visible to the east from the path as it leaves the village, and I had to walk towards it.
Before diving into Milton Keynes, the path stops, and meets a north-south track along the edge of the town; I followed that north. Here it is a footpath and bridleway carved with the needs of the mighty town in mind, so I is good and convenient walking, if not of great fascination. On occasion there are new developments springing up right to the edge of the path. How the developers would long to overleap the fence are pour concrete onto acres and acres more! For now they are constrained by that boundary.
Eventually I emerged on a road and walked to a path which led through a couple of neighbourhoods. If I have to be honest, the back end of Milton Keynes is not where chose t spend my walking time. It is a convenient route still, and through I went just for a sort time, as eventually the path entered a park and led to the Grand Union Canal, which I followed to the station.
The whole route is 22 miles. That was Day 3 done. The rest of the way is more complicated, but should be shorter.
Straight out of Waddesdon north, and the first village is Quainton. Never has a village been better named. It is famous for the pretty cottages along the green, which looks its best in the sunny weather in which I began. At the top of the village is a working windmill. However I could not tarry. Much.
(Quainton Road,, incidentally, used to be a station built for private purposes and linked to the ‘Brill Tramway’. It is now a rather good heritage railway centre. It is not on the actual route though.)
Still due north, by Quainton Hill, where the landscape is shaped by earthworks – possibly clay mining or similar. On the next hill the path disappears completely, and can only be followed with a compass and keen map work, to emerge at the right gate.
There are few villages on this stretch, and the recently harvested landscape serves very well as a charm. The few villages could be very pretty, which made me wonder why had never explored this part of Buckinghamshire before.
On and over and eventually to a hamlet at what was a railway station, Verney Junction, which was once the terminus of the Metropolitan Rail – the Met Line. Here there are several red warning signs against trespassing; but there is no track. Maybe one day it will be unbeeched, but for now it looks very odd.
After Addington (dominated by an equestrian concern) the path runs along with the Midshires Way, and in company they reach Great Horwood.
Here there is a pub with a large sign saying ‘Swann Inn’; so I did. It did well for lunch.
It has been a few weeks since I completed the first half of the Buckinghamshire Way first walk; in between times I have had a walking holiday and the shock of going back to work, which quite put out of mind actually writing about walks. I can write about those family walks another time. I have been meaning too to write more on the art of the picnic, as long promised, having lived on well-chosen picnics through all that time. But not today.
I am conscious that this time the day’s route is 22 miles and that I would be carrying more weight than before – I have not gone back to hauling electronic equipment with me, but it was a good holiday, the consequences of which I must struggle to work off.
I began this morning in Waddesdon, north-west of Aylesbury, which is where I finished Day 2. It is just as well that I was diverted that day, as the actual North Bucks Way path which I was following appears blocked off on the route north to the village, possibly by a new close of houses being built. The plan for today was to head due north from Waddesdon and continue to follow the North Bucks Way all the way to Wolverton, once a modest industrial town but now an integral part of Milton Keynes. The route here continues through the low ground that is the Vale of Aylesbury. The route chosen also plays footsie for several miles with the Outer Aylesbury Ring, which is a 53 mile route in itself though some fine parts of the county.
I was cagey about the sections by Milton Keynes, but in fact the route runs along the side of the town, and only cuts through the town’s suburbs n its last few miles. More of that later though. For now, I will leave it hear and write separately about the walk as it went.
The Hertfordshire Border Path from Ashwell heads east then south-west along the Shire Balk, marking the county border, before nipping through the outermost corner of Cambridgeshire at Odsey Hall to emerge on the A505, which marks the border of Hertfordshire with Cambridgeshire for several miles. I walked along the verge of the A505 for two miles, on the southern, Hertfordshire side, but found it to be not only unpleasant but dangerous: for the first mile or so it is a narrow verge with thorn bushes in places projecting out to the carriageway of a frequently busy, 70 mph road. After a mile it becomes a broad sward, but we cannot have the Border Walk involving a lethal mile.
Odsey was the centre of my walk this morning. It is a hamlet in the south-westernmost corner of Cambridgeshire. There is a grand house here, Odsey Hall, and surrounding estate houses, and a station, Ashwell and Morden, with a pub and adjoining cottages, and little else. The name is also that of the neighbouring Odsey Hundred of Hertfordshire – whether there was an original village of Odsey south of the road in Hertfordshire I do not know, but the hamlet of today is firmly on the Cambridgeshire side of the road.
I rejoined the route at a point (TL290382) where the south-west path crosses the railway on an unguarded footpath level crossing, and here the two alternatives split.
Along the A505, north side
I first followed the path south, through a meadow belonging to Odsey Hall emerging at the A505. This time, instead of crossing, I walked along the north side of the road. I kicked myself for not having done this before: the verge is far better for walking. The first two hundred yards or so are a bit narrow, but quite walkable and with no hazards; it can be uncomfortable when a tractor or a lorry bowls past at speed but you are off the carriageway at all times, which I could not say for the south side verge. The shrubs do not project over the path, and it looks walked. Parts are gravelled and soon there is a tarmac path, leading to the mouth of Station Road.
Continuing past station road, the verge is very wide, green and kind underfoot. This I followed for about a mile and a half. Eventually I came to the Horse & Groom, a pub which for as long as I remember has been abandoned and boarded up – it is now at the time of writing a ruin, broken open and smashed by vandals and the weather, but now bearing a “Sold” sign, which promises a long overdue demolition. That is a distraction though: the pub is a landmark but do not go that far as beyond it the verge becomes impassable safely, and I did not try. Instead, I crossed the road before the pub, at the crossing-gap in the central reservation by Thrift Cottages, and continued east-northeast on the south side of the road to The Thrift; whence the route continues up the drive and over fields, but that did not need resurveying.
(Crossing the A505 takes speed and a good look-out but there are no bridges or tunnels.)
The railway path
The alternative path is one running immediately north of the railway. As you might guess, I walked this back to the original point, but I will describe it forwards.
From the point by level crossing, turn left, and take the path east-northeast, parallel to the railway. This is not apparently a public right of way, but a resident of a house that backs onto it told me that it is used frequently by the public for dog-walking and normal walking. (He mentioned a sign saying it is not a right of way, but I did not spot it.) This path is a good, broad path that has been used by vehicles and horses. It continues past a gate as a driveway access to a number of houses, which in turn emerges on Station Road opposite the station access for Ashwell and Morden Station. The station access is a public right of way, leading straight through the station car park and turning into a good footpath.
It is a pleasant enough path, if you ignore the scrapyard behind the station and chalk-quarrying, which are a brief interruption. It runs mainly between a hedge and the railway before emerging into a field edge (the main picture on this page), then turns south on a tarmacked farm track to meet the A505.
At this point, it would be tempting to try to cross the road, but do not: follow the broad grass verge until the wrecked Horse & Groom comes in sight, then look for the crossing-gap in the central reservation by Thrift Cottages: cross here (carefully) and continue east-northeast to The Thrift.
The railway path is the more pleasant path in that it is away from the road, but there is little to choose between them in the walking otherwise. The A505 route is along the county boundary, one side of it; the railway path is a little away from it, but in sight. The railway path starts on a frequently used path but not a public right of way, and you do not get to enjoy the brief scoot over the Odsey Hall Estate.
A compromise could be to take the original route, across the level crossing and the meadows to the A505, walk the verge on the north side of the road as far as Station Road, and then go up that road to join the railway path at the station.
Both of these routes, in particular the railway path, are outside our county, and run through Cambridgeshire for a mile and a half or more, which is a long ‘Trespass’. Nevertheless it is as Brooke explained, ‘Cambridgeshire, of all England a shire for men who understand’, and I am sure they would understand – no one came running at me with spears or mortarboards.