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Bedford and Milton Keynes Waterways Trust

Creating a brand new waterway for the twenty first century

Kevin Whately doing the voice over for B&MK Waterways Trust Video

The idea of building a canal linking the Grand Union Canal in Milton Keynes to the Great Ouse in Bedford was first proposed by Samuel Whitbread, brewer and Bedford MP in 1810. In 1995 The Bedford & Milton Keynes Waterway Trust was formed to resurrect the idea of a broad waterway linking Milton Keynes with Bedford. This short stretch of 24km is the missing link in the national waterway network and would allow navigation form the North Sea to the Severn revitalising communities along the route including that of the Fens and is recognised by British Waterways as of national strategic importance. Over the years the project has built support from local MPs, all political parties, local councils and the public and has been written into the local plans.

It is of course a major and very expensive project, the first completely new waterway in two hundred years. Money is difficult to come by, so the B and MK waterways trust has developed the strategy of building a series of linear lakes or waterway parks in stages along the designated route. Area groups have been created to provide impetus.

Milton Keynes area group is a very lively and determined one. A 6km stretch from Milton Keynes towards the M1 has been waymarked and interpretation boards have been sited along it. Last autumn this section gained outline planning permission from the local council and includes an area designated for a future marina. Last year also the group was granted £250,000 by the Big Lottery Fund and was on the shortlist for £25 million which unfortunately went elsewhere. However the £250,000 enabled significant progress to be made in working up detailed route plans and undertaking the complex studies needed to build the waterway.

The Trust has also turned its attention to the section the other side of the M1 which covers land in Mid Bedfordshire and in Bedford Borough, passing through villages such as Brogborough and Marston Moretaine. With funds from various sources members are working on the establishment of a “permissive path” which will track the route of the waterway and be a green route between urban spaces. This section needs to be signposted and publicity generated.

This year’s walk will cover some of the central section with a 4 mile walk from the top of Brogborough Hill to the Forest Centre at Marston Moretaine. There will be an exhibition at the Forest Centre where we hope to have a model of the “Brogborough Whirl”, one of innovative ideas to overcome the obstacle of the hill which nonetheless provides wonderful views over the Marston Vale.

For information contact [email protected] or visit The Trust’s website at www.B-MKWaterway.co.uk