Milton Keynes Challenge Walk


The Parks Trust is a charitable trust that looks after all the open space in Milton Keynes. This year, as part of the 50th anniversary, they set up a ‘challenge walk’ - a signposted 25 mile walk around parts of the city. It’s basically a park crawl.

After a minor illness, R wasn’t feeling up to travelling long distances to walk, so we decided this local walk would be more suitable instead - given that we did it in lots of short sections. Which does make it, arguably, slightly less of a challenge!

21st May

The walk starts in Howe Park Woods, which are ancient woodland. Conveniently, the visitor centre where the route begins is directly opposite Westcroft District Centre (aka Morrisons).

There’s a whole frog band; this is just the singer.
1/500 at f2.8, 23mm, ISO200 52°0′11″N 0°47′26″W
Nice knobbly branches.
1/250 at f8, 23mm, ISO200 52°0′0″N 0°47′10″W
Large burnt-out house on edge of wood, with newt fence.
1/500 at f8, 23mm, ISO200 51°59′57″N 0°47′33″W

We were led on a brief trip to Kingsmead Spinney and through Tattenhoe Park, which is not actually a park but a a new estate they haven’t yet finished building.

Nice tree.
1/1000 at f8, 23mm, ISO200 51°59′48″N 0°48′2″W
1/1000 at f8, 23mm, ISO200 51°59′44″N 0°47′56″W

The path then followed Loughton Brook through the long linear park along its length.

V1 underpass.
1/125 at f8, 23mm, ISO200 51°59′31″N 0°47′23″W
1/250 at f8, 23mm, ISO200 51°59′48″N 0°46′56″W

On reaching Furzton, we left the walk route and headed for a (not very) convenient bus stop to end our walk for the day.

A5 main road passing under the H8.
1/250 at f8, 23mm, ISO200 52°0′46″N 0°45′1″W

28th May

We began from a similar bus stop and returned to Furzton.

Steps up from an underpass.
1/500 at f8, 23mm, ISO200 52°0′45″N 0°45′5″W

The walk route circled entirely around Furzton Lake, finishing near the large star sculpture.

Star sculpture in the distance.
1/1000 at f8, 23mm, ISO200 52°0′54″N 0°45′37″W

We then followed a footpath beside the National Bowl venue.

Yellow gates.
1/1000 at f8, 23mm, ISO200 52°1′3″N 0°45′45″W
Gate and cones.
1/500 at f8, 23mm, ISO200 52°1′13″N 0°45′49″W

Leaving the Bowl site, the route then took us along the Teardrop Lakes (another park, featuring lakes presumably dug in order to stop the Loughton Brook flooding).

H7 bridge (despite the ‘V’ letter).
1/500 at f8, 23mm, ISO200 52°1′19″N 0°45′48″W
In Teardrop Lakes park.
1/500 at f8, 23mm, ISO200
Looking out from a large floodwater-overflow underpass below the H6.
1/500 at f8, 23mm, ISO200
Reflections in water channel.
1/500 at f8, 23mm, ISO200

We walked through Loughton village (which unlike most of Milton Keynes has been there since at least the 15th century) and eventually to Lodge Lake, where we decided to stop and get a bus.

Lodge Lake, covered in fluff (from the trees).
1/30 at f8, 23mm, ISO200
Lodge Lake from fishing platform.
1/125 at f8, 23mm, ISO200

3rd June

Starting from the bus stop at Lodge Lake, we walked beside the lake and continued following the path by the brook through what is apparently called North Loughton Valley Park.

H4 underpass.
1/500 at f8, 23mm, ISO200 52°2′22″N 0°47′24″W
More tree fluff.
1/1000 at f2.8, 23mm, ISO200 52°2′51″N 0°47′36″W

The route then crossed under the West Coast Main Line railway in a rather exciting tunnel. Perhaps originally designed only for the brook, it took the redway through on wooden support beams that held it up above the water.

Tunnel arch with footpath.
1/60 at f8, 23mm, ISO200 52°2′52″N 0°47′34″W
Leaving the railway.
1/500 at f8, 23mm, ISO200 52°2′52″N 0°47′33″W

We crossed the corner of Bradwell to reach a highlight of the walk, the famous concrete cows.

H3 bridge.
1/30 at f8, 23mm, ISO200 52°3′3″N 0°47′39″W
One of the concrete cows.
1/1000 at f2.8, 23mm, ISO200 52°3′3″N 0°47′42″W

A little further along is the site where Bancroft Roman villa (built about AD 100) was excavated.

Light on a tree.
1/250 at f8, 23mm, ISO200 52°3′5″N 0°47′49″W
Villa remains.
1/500 at f8, 23mm, ISO200 52°3′19″N 0°47′42″W
Formal gardens on the villa site.
1/500 at f8, 23mm, ISO200 52°3′19″N 0°47′40″W

We continued near the route of the brook.

Footpath with moving shadows. (But no helicopter.)
1/250 at f8, 23mm, ISO200 52°3′34″N 0°47′27″W
Interesting graffitied building near the V6. (Left tag: DERT, right one maybe BRIKT?)
1/500 at f8, 23mm, ISO200 52°3′37″N 0°47′28″W
Pretty flowers by redway near V6 underpass.
1/1000 at f5.6, 23mm, ISO200 52°3′40″N 0°47′33″W

Our route joined the canal near the aqueduct over the V6. We followed the canal for a short distance, then left it to get a bus on Newport Road near Asda.

1/1200 at f8, 23mm, ISO200 52°3′42″N 0°47′31″W
Car park entrance (canal in background).
1/1000 at f8, 23mm, ISO200 52°4′3″N 0°46′46″W

10th June

A short walk from the bus stop took us down to the canal.

Graffiti on Newport Road bridge.
1/500 at f8, 23mm, ISO200 52°4′2″N 0°46′50″W
Canal overflow weir.
1/500 at f8, 23mm, ISO200 52°4′24″N 0°46′54″W

We left the canal and headed for the remains of St Peter’s Church, which were surprisingly busy with people - a family picnicking, kids climbing over it, others passing by. (The last time we visited there wasn’t a soul for miles. To be fair that was in November and it rained all day.)

Dark and light green trees.
1/500 at f8, 23mm, ISO200 52°4′33″N 0°46′57″W
View from small window in church.
1/500 at f11, 23mm, ISO200 52°4′36″N 0°46′55″W
Large west end window.
1/500 at f8, 23mm, ISO200 52°4′36″N 0°46′55″W
Doorway in centre.
1/500 at f8, 23mm, ISO200 52°4′36″N 0°46′56″W
General view of church without flowers.
1/1000 at f8, 23mm, ISO200 52°4′35″N 0°46′55″W
General view of church with flowers.
1/500 at f11, 23mm, ISO200 52°4′36″N 0°46′55″W

Leaving the church, we followed the track diagonally across Stanton Low Park back toward the canal.

Nice clouds.
1/1000 at f8, 23mm, ISO200 52°4′33″N 0°46′33″W
Tree choked with ivy.
1/1000 at f8, 23mm, ISO200 52°4′27″N 0°46′11″W

We crossed over the canal using an old railway bridge from the line to Newport Pagnell, which closed in 1967 and is now a redway.

Bridge (1).
1/500 at f8, 23mm, ISO200 52°4′19″N 0°45′54″W
Bridge (2).
1/500 at f8, 23mm, ISO200 52°4′19″N 0°45′54″W

The path crossed through Great Linford before rejoining the canal.

Almshouses (built 1696), roof.
1/500 at f8, 23mm, ISO200 52°4′21″N 0°45′33″W
Great Linford manor house.
1/1000 at f8, 23mm, ISO200 52°4′20″N 0°45′30″W
Hole in tree.
1/125 at f5.6, 23mm, ISO200 52°4′22″N 0°45′30″W
Sunlight reflecting from a narrowboat on the canal.
1/500 at f8, 23mm, ISO200 52°4′19″N 0°44′47″W

We continued along the canal all the way to the park around Willen Lake.

Restored brick kilns, featuring a basketball.
1/125 at f8, 23mm, ISO200 52°3′58″N 0°44′48″W
Brick kilns from outside.
1/500 at f8, 23mm, ISO200 52°3′57″N 0°44′48″W
Rows of tall trees lining the ‘broadwalk’ alongside the canal.
1/500 at f8, 23mm, ISO200 52°3′35″N 0°44′13″W

We walked past the peace pagoda (it’s impressive, first in the western world and all that, but we didn’t have a close look this time, since we visited quite recently) and around the North Lake a bit before heading for a bus stop.

18th June

We started by walking a little way around Willen South Lake. The path then crossed Newlands toward Campbell Park.

Splash park under construction.
1/2000 at f8, 23mm, ISO200
‘Head’, by Allen Jones, 1990. (In Campbell Park near the canal.)
1/500 at f8, 23mm, ISO200 52°2′59″N 0°44′2″W

The route circles Campbell Park anticlockwise, starting with the north side.

Green Lane roundabout.
1/500 at f8, 23mm, ISO200 52°3′3″N 0°44′10″W
Bridge over dry water channel.
1/1000 at f8, 23mm, ISO200 52°2′54″N 0°44′34″W
Tree-lined steps.
1/1000 at f8, 23mm, ISO200 52°2′54″N 0°44′38″W

After returning along the south side of the park, we crossed the canal again and took a different route to return briefly to the south side of Willen South Lake, before leaving it along the River Ouzel path.

‘Onwards and Upwards’, by Robert Koenig, 2011. (Definitely not a totem pole.)
1/1000 at f8, 23mm, ISO200 52°2′52″N 0°44′19″W
Pretty light and greenery in an H6 underpass.
1/125 at f8, 23mm, ISO200 52°2′49″N 0°43′52″W
Bridge probably designed to allow floodwater under the H6.
1/125 at f8, 23mm, ISO200 52°2′47″N 0°43′8″W

We followed the river as far as Monkston Park, then left the route to walk home.

16th July

For this final section we were able to walk the entire route without using public transport, starting by heading back to Monkston Park. The Challenge Walk follows the River Ouzel past the Open University and down to Caldecotte Lake.

Black and white trees.
1/250 at f8, 23mm, ISO200 52°1′50″N 0°42′44″W
Graffiti on bridge carrying the H8 over the river.
1/60 at f8, 23mm, ISO200 52°1′43″N 0°42′42″W
Caldecotte Lake halfpipe.
1/500 at f8, 23mm, ISO200 52°0′56″N 0°42′20″W
Circular bench.
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Bench and tree.
1/1000 at f8, 23mm, ISO200 52°0′26″N 0°42′7″W

The route circles most of the lake before finishing by the Caldecotte Arms pub, which was built in 1992 and, for some reason, has a full-size windmill built into its roof. We went in to get a cold drink then stayed slightly longer than intended to avoid a sudden rain shower! After that, with the official walk finished, we only had to walk home...


Overall this was a surprisingly interesting walk including several stretches I’d never walked before (and I’ve lived here a while), especially in the earlier sections. It’s a little surprising just how many historical features and interesting parks they managed to include on the route - on the other hand it’s also quite impressive that there are still several other interesting places they didn’t fit in, given a 25-mile route!

All images © Samuel Marshall. All rights reserved.