Stewartby to Milton Keynes


On the spur of the moment I decided to use the Bletchley to Bedford rail line to go somewhere and cycle back.

Getting there

The station at the end of my OS map isn't very far, so I hit up Google Maps and figure a place called Stewartby is a comfortable distance. My trip starts with a slightly unusual sight. I cycle down the hill to Bow Brickhill station on the redways and pass no fewer than three people on horseback or walking horses. It's not that unusual to see horses on the redways but three at once? Maybe Saturday morning is riding school or something.

I already know that as railway lines go, this one is pretty ghetto; so it doesn't surprise me to find a really short platform with not even a machine to buy tickets. The train chugs in (okay, it's not quite steam, but diesel is still pretty chuggy) on time; I get a ticket from the conductor; and I arrive in Stewartby 20 minutes later.


Stewartby isn't quite a one-horse town, more of a one-brickworks town. Huge chimneys tower over everything (although you can't get close enough to the bloody things to take a decent photograph without trespassing more than I wanted). There's smoke coming from some of the chimneys. But there's nothing obvious happening; everything's quiet.

First thing I see when I walk out of the station: a gravel pit and some disused machinery. Second thing I see: a gate to this area. It's closed but could easily be ducked under, if you couldn't just walk around, which you can. There's a sign about a security firm; it threatens guard dogs. Dogs couldn't be loose with a gate like that and there's not a soul in sight.

View from the road, before I found the gate.
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Steps up to the conveyer bridge. Looks like these have been here a while...
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...but this machinery inside looks relatively new. I guess the pit closed fairly recently.
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Not much there really (probably why it doesn't need guarding). I continue along the road into Stewartby proper. There's a gate (properly closed this time) into the brickworks. Smoke issues from two of the chimneys. There's still nobody in sight.

Shot taken over that gate.
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I pass a little residential road and notice that there seems to be a way out at the other end toward the brickworks, so I head down there. Turns out the 'way out' is actually just a gap where a fence has broken, but I climb over it (and heft my bike over) anyhow. There's a couple of people standing outside their hourse down the street, but they ignore me.

I find mys'elf in the car park outside the main entrance to the brickworks. It's empty. At the entrance there are automatic barriers and a guard station. A van drives up, stops before the barrier; someone gets out and talks to the guard, who opens the barrier. Signs of life! I'd begun to assume the place was entirely staffed by robots.

Across from the car park there's an interesting 'London Brick' building. That's not the present name of the company; it's been taken over by some horrific multinational, whose webpage I checked. They don't sell bricks any more, only 'brick and cladding solutions'.
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Beside the London Brick building I managed to get a view over a fence into the brickyard. That's a lot of brick and cladding solutions.
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Turning my back on the brickworks, I cross a roundabout (there's hardly any traffic) and find an ornate rectangular building with pillars - brick pillars, not surprisingly. It looks like a town hall, but I didn't spot any signage. It also looks way over the top for a town that's basically two closed gravel pits and a brickworks.

Is that a bee-hive on the top? Weird.
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I continue on the road around town. At one point there's an opportunity to hop a ditch and walk straight into the brickyards, among towering piles of brick. I take it and, inside, climb a bank to get a better view, but still am way too far from those chimneys. The pictures I get aren't as good as one I already had.

This one, which was taken a little earlier while standing on top of a fence.
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Leaving the works behind, there's edge-of-town crap and farmland. I continue up to a scarily-fast main road, at which point I realise that I didn't mean to come this way, and head back to where I started. No problem, it wasn't very far and I spot a few things on the way back.

Part of a seriously over-engineered farm gate.
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That is one enormous nest. What are they hatching, eagles?
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So, back to the start and across the railway to the other side of that conveyor bridge; cool, same kind of gate. This time, more neat machinery too.

It's small! It's round! It's.... I have no idea.
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Um, a light of some kind.
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The rest

Then beside the second gravel-pit, which had been cleared up and turned into a 'watersports centre' with a public path beside. Along one edge of that and across the scary main road I mentioned earlier (had to wait a minute or two for a gap in traffic then run like hell). After that, onto quiet country lanes for the rest of the trip.

Pretty countryside 1.
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Pretty country- nah, only kidding. I guess this field was just ploughed or something but it looked pretty desolate, probably because it's so huge.
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I stopped by the side of the road and found this on the ground. Hmmm.
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Pretty countryside 2.
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I pass various pretty villages and hugely-expensive 'executive homes', some of which are twee-tastic, before eventually reaching Cranfield. It's a small, crappy town, not that much more than a village itself, but the few people I see standing around as I pass look like chavs, not solicitors, so I guess it's comparatively less expensive. I cycle through the town, heading southward toward home. Leaving the outskirts, I notice the familiar Bow Brickhill radio transmitter (on top of a large hill opposite) for the first time, which means I officially know where I am.

Sheds on the edge of the airfield.
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I found two boarded-up houses in a large plot of land outside town. Surely property prices must be more than enough to make it worth somebody's while knocking these things down and building new houses here.
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Numbered gate to airfield (presumably for emergencies only, doesn't look like it has any use normally).
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This tree beside a field of nothing and an uninteresting ditch claims 'You are being watched'. There's certainly no CCTV; does somebody sit all day with binoculars trained on it? Is it a particularly valuable tree? Or is this whole thing just a nasty trick played on the paranoid?
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The road leads to Salford, which I've been to before, but still find amusing. I don't think it's much like the better-known Salford. I stop to take pictures of the church before continuing to home.

The bell tower, which looks quite unusual (well, I think so).
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I stopped to grab a picture of this 'stealth mode' footpath sign. Weird. They found a paint that fades that quickly? Nice work.
1/125 at f11, 22mm, ISO100

All images © Samuel Marshall. All rights reserved.