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Buckinghamshire, Milton Keynes and West Middlesex Area

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Uxbridge (or West Drayton) - Denham - Harefield - Rickmansworth -2.5 to 10.5 miles

The Grand Union Canal Walk simply follows the towpath all the way. The Colne Valley Trail is slightly more varied and adventurous, but is generally well signposted or waymarked where it is not on the canal. Most of the walk is through relatively unspoiled country, with a variety of water features. Several parts of this route are included in some of the walks fully described on this site.

Distances

West Drayton to Uxbridge

3 miles (5km)

Uxbridge to Denham

2.5 miles (4 km)

Uxbridge to Rickmansworth

7.5 miles (12 km)

Starting or stopping at Denham, other intermediate lengths are possible

The Grand Union Canal Walk is flat. There are two small hills on the Colne Valley Trail.

Travel

Uxbridge is on the Metropolitan and Piccadilly lines, and is on a number of bus routes.
Denham is on the Chiltern Line from Marylebone to High Wycombe and the Midlands.
Buses can be caught near the road bridges NE of Denham and NW of Haresfield.
Rickmansworth is on the Metropolitan line to Amersham and the Chiltern Line from Marylebone to Amersham and Aylesbury. West Drayton is on the line from Paddington.
Detailed travel information for the whole of this area is available from the Traveline South East website www.travelinesoutheast.org.uk or telephone 0871 200 22 33.

Ordnance Survey Map

This walk is all on Ordnance Survey Explorer map 172, Chiltern Hill East.

Refreshments

Fran's Tea Garden at Denham Lock is closed on Monday and Tuesdays except at Bank Holidays. It has no loos.
Various opportunities for refreshment near most of the road bridges, and others fairly close to the route at Uxbridge and Rickmansworth.
Please always be considerate about muddy boots in pubs etc; either take them off, or cover them up.
Never eat or drink your own provisions on pub premises (including the garden, if there is one).

Route

Uxbridge station is at grid reference TQ056841, Denham at TQ027878 and Rickmansworth at TQ057945 (and West Drayton at TQ061800).
As you can see from the map, the area from Uxbridge southwards is more urban, and you may choose to omit this unless it is more convenient for you to stop or start at West Drayton, or you want the extra distance, or you are particularly interested in the canal and its boats.
Signage of the Colne Valley Trail between West Drayton and Denham is a bit perfunctory, and the trail gets rather close to the motorway. Another option is part of the London Loop (shown only on the most recent maps) which is attractive between the junction with the Slough Arm of the canal and the B470, less so from there to the A4007.
If you are starting or stopping at Denham, the road NE to the canal has a footway, but you may find it nicer to go south of the railway over the golf course.

Points of Interest

The Grand Union Canal came into being on 1 January 1929. It was formed from the amalgamation of several canals, including the Grand Junction Canal from Braunston in Northamptonshire to the River Thames at Brentford, with a number of branches. The main line was built between 1793 and 1805, to improve the route from the Midlands to London by avoiding the upper reaches of the Thames and by shortening the journey by 60 miles (100km). 
By 1790, an extensive network of canals was in place in the Midlands, or under construction. However, the only route to London was via the Oxford Canal to the River Thames at Oxford, and then down the river to the capital. The river, particularly the upper reaches, was in a poor condition for navigation and suffered from shallow sections and shortage of water leading to delays at locks, with conflicts with mill owners over water supplies common.
In 1791-92, two surveys of a route were undertaken, and two Bills were put to Parliament, but it was that for the Grand Junction Canal which was passed on 30 April 1793, authorising the company to raise up to £600,000 to fund construction. William Jessop was appointed to take charge of construction, which started almost immediately from the two ends. On 3 June 1793, James Barnes was appointed Engineer, at a rate of two guineas (£2.10) per day plus half a guinea (£0.52) expenses.
The main line was open in 1800 with the exception of Blisworth Tunnel, at the north end, where there were problems; quicksand was encountered, errors were made in alignment which meant that the tunnel had a pronounced wiggle, and the tunnel collapsed in January 1796, so construction (on a new line) was not completed until March 1805. (from Wikipedia, edited and condensed.)

There are a number of marinas and basins where a variety of boats can be seen, as well as moored on the canal itself. 

There is plenty of bird life on the various lakes near the route, especially in winter. 

The works 2 miles (3 km) from Rickmansworth are not everyone's idea of a thing of beauty and a joy for ever, but they are an impressive sight if you look down on them from the Colne Valley Trail, which is a little distance away.

Last Updated on Monday, 30 April 2012 19:44