Buckinghamshire walk at Slapton and the Grand Union Canal
PUBLISHED: 09:41 10 March 2017
© Steve Davison
Follow Steve Davison as he heads towards North Buckinghamshire for a walk to the south of Leighton Buzzard, passing through Slapton and following the Grand Union Canal
The walk follows the Grand Union Canal northwards for a while to reach bridge 118, passing Slapton Lock (30) on the way. The canal was formed from the amalgamation of several independent waterways between 1894 and 1929 and one of these waterways, along which the walk travels, was the Grand Junction Canal; the canal ran from Braunston in Northamptonshire to the River Thames at Brentford and was built between 1793 and 1805.
About half a mile to the west of the canal is Bridego Bridge where the railway crosses a minor road. It was here, in August 1963, that the Great Train Robbery, classed at the time as the ‘crime of the century’, took place, when the Glasgow to Euston Royal Mail train was stopped and robbed; the gang made off with £2.5 million.
We leave the canal behind and head through fields to arrive at Slapton, home to a church and a picturesque thatch-roofed pub, the Carpenters Arms, which dates from the 16th century. The church – the Holy Cross – dates from the 13th century, although it has been much altered over the years.
First mentioned in the Domesday Book, when the village was known as ‘Slapetone’ meaning ‘farm by a slippery place’, the manor was held by a convent at Barking in Essex until passing to the Crown after the Dissolution of the Monasteries in 1547. The manor later passed through various owners, including the Duke of Bridgewater in the 1700s.
After meandering through the village, we follow a short section of the Two Ridges Link; an 8 mile walking route connecting the Ridgeway National Trail at Ivinghoe Beacon and the Greensand Ridge Walk at Leighton Buzzard. Then we head along Slapton Lane and through several fields before rejoining the canal at Horton Wharf Farm, beside the Keeper’s Cottage and Horton Lock (31). From here, it’s an easy walk alongside the canal back to the start.
• Start/finish: canal bridge south-west of Slapton, 0.5 miles north-east from the B488 at Horton; limited roadside parking (SP929201)
• Map: OS Explorer 181 and 192
• Distance: 4.25 miles (6.8km)
• Terrain: stiles and gates, fairly level, paths and tracks, minor roads
• Time: 2 hours (excluding stops)
• Refreshments: The Carpenters Arms at Slapton (01525 220563)
1. (SP929201) – From the roadside parking area, cross over the road and follow the surfaced access track parallel, then pass a gate to join the canal towpath. Turn left and follow the canal for two thirds of a mile, soon passing Slapton Lock (30) and later keeping alongside the canal as it swings to the right. Go under the bridge (118) and immediately turn sharp left up to a stile beside the bridge and turn left across the canal. Pass the large gate and follow the path ahead through the field, keeping left at the split mid-field, to reach the far side of the field. Cross the stile and head north-eastwards across the next field.
2. (SP927211) – Go through a gap in the hedge and bear right along the track following the hedge on the right (over to left is Bury Farm). Keep straight on towards the houses and at the field corner turn left and follow the enclosed path as it quickly swings right and goes between houses to an estate road. Turn left to the main road in Slapton with the thatch-roofed Carpenters Arms opposite. Go straight on along Church Road for 250m and just after the left-hand bend, fork left along Knyghton Close and go through the lych-gate towards the church. Stay left of the church and leave the churchyard over a stile. Cross the footbridge and keep ahead across the narrow field. Continue through the bushes to cross a stile and enter the field.
3. (SP937207) – Turn right following the right-hand margin along two sides of the field and at the next corner go left for a few metres and then turn right through the hedge and cross the footbridge. Head through the field to the opposite side and turn right along the left-hand margin to a large gate and lane.Turn right along the lane for 600m, passing Whistle Brook Farm and at the sharp right-hand bend fork left over a stile beside the large gate. Turn right along then gravel track and then keep ahead over a stile. Continue alongside the hedge on the right, with the solar panels on the left beyond the high fence.
4. (SP939198) – At the far right corner, cross the stile and then go through a kissing gate to enter a field. Keep ahead through the middle of the field, go through a kissing gate and across the next field to leave through another kissing gate. Turn left along the lane for 125m to the left-hand bend and turn right along the track towards Horton Wharf Farm. Follow the track as it swings right past the farmhouse. Immediately after crossing the bridge over the canal, turn left towards Keepers Cottage and the lock (31), and then left again to go under the bridge. Follow the towpath northwards for 650m. Go under the road bridge and immediately turn left past the gate and follow the surfaced track to the main road and the parking area.